Journal Register/Digital First operates media companies in 10 states. In Connecticut, along with the New Haven daily, it owns Connecticut Magazine, The Register Citizen in Torrington, The Middletown Press, and weeklies.
The Courant, founded in 1764, is not part of the conglomerate. It was for many years the oldest independent newspaper in America. Today it is owned by the Chicago-based Tribune Corp., which purchased Los Angeles-based Times Mirror in 2000, some 20 years after that chain had taken over The Courant.
The Register, the online-only New Haven Independent and Connecticut Public Radio covered the final press run in New Haven. A search of the Courant website turned up no story about the press run, but did locate a story on the planned printing takeover when it was announced in January. That item said the Courant was also negotiating to print other Journal Register titles. Stories:
- New Haven Register presses run for last time as printing moves, pressmen reflect on end of era (Register, with video, photos)
- The Last Headline Rolls Off The Presses (NH Independent)
- New Haven Register Celebrates its 200th Anniversary
…AND CLOSES ITS PRINTING PRESSES FOR GOOD (WNPR)
- New Haven Register to Lay Off 105 as Courant Takes Over Printing (The Courant, Jan. 10)
Note: Embracing the “Digital First” philosophy, I used Twitter to check with Matt DeRienzo, group editor for Journal Register in Connecticut. He confirmed that the Courant will be printing the New Haven, Torrington and Middletown dailies, plus weeklies. “Backup in NY, plus historic gentlemen’s agreements in CT,” he added.
“It sounds like something out of the 25th century, but it’s here now” — announcer, 1983.
From the AT&T Archives, here are two video views extolling the “synergistic” development of the future of online news, 30 years ago at Knight-Ridder: The Viewtron project.
AT&T was Knight-Ridder’s partner in the Viewdata Corporation, and its first video takes us into the Miami Herald building for a tour of the system with Viewdata Corporation’s President Albert J. Gillen, previously a senior vice-president at Knight Ridder.
The phrase “up to the minute news” is used, but the old-fashioned word “newspaper” doesn’t turn up much in his presentation, which goes into more detail on home-shopping, looking things up in online encyclopedias and making transactions with your E.F. Hutton account.
The AT&T Archive includes some background information on its YouTube page:
A second film has more to say about AT&T’s Sceptre TV-terminal hardware.
Viewdata began in Florida with a test market and grew to around 15 cities and 15,000 users, according to the AT&T text, which mentions that before the end the company had developed software that would allow IBM, Commodore and Apple computers users to access the system.
- ITWorld recapped the history of Viewtron in a short article about the videos on YouTube: Time Machine: Why didn’t Internet on TV take off in 1983?
- For a robust, if sometimes baud-rate-centric, discussion of the videos, see Slashdot: News for Nerds. More than 400 comments were logged in the first day of the discussion, including comparisons with the French Minitel system, predictable observations that porn might have saved Viewtron, and a 1982 article by a system architect arguing that powers-that-be rejected his plans for a more open community service, complete with hierarchies of editorial staffs (Videotex Networking and The American Pioneer, by Jim Bowery).
- From other archives: Your library’s access to The New York Times archive will give you more of this story, but it’s where I checked on Gillen’s title at Knight-Ridder Think Electronic, Publishers Urged (May 2, 1982):
The American Newspaper Publishers Association was warned last week to prepare for a day when the very notion of a news ”paper” may be outdated by information transmitted to video screens. ”If you don’t get into the business, someone else will,” said Albert J. Gillen, senior vice president of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, who was one of several speakers to sound the theme at the assocation’s meeting in San Francisco.
- For an even earlier view, here’s a 1980 InfoWorld magazine interview with Gillen:
“We made the decision to proceed for two reasons. First, defensively, this new media form could have a negative impact on the newspaper business. Second, offensively, we saw a new opportunity to take advantage of the abilities we already know how to use very well.”
The past may be prologue and newspapers may be the first rough draft of history, but less of that past will be searchable with Google. The company has informed newspaper publishers that it is ending a partnership project that had begun scanning about 2,000 newspapers’ microfilm and morgue collections.
The ambitious project, announced in 2008, originally hoped to put billions of news pages online, adding original scans to existing digital archives it had been cross-indexing since 2006 in conjunction with partners like Proquest and Heritage. “We’re looking for all the world’s primary sources, and the older, the better,” was the invitation on the project ‘about’ page.
The already-scanned archives are still searchable at http://news.google.com/archivesearch, including 19th and 20th century American and European papers, but Google said it will not be adding to the collection, and will return some unscanned materials to the publishers.
The Boston Phoenix, New England’s veteran alt-weekly, and the SearchEngineLand blog started getting the word out about Google’s decision to pull the plug on the scanning project. By Saturday no announcement had been added to Google’s original News Archive Partner page.
The project had made it possible for smaller papers to provide archive search to readers and researchers. Through Google’s search engine, users could combine a search of its full-text databases with the pay-per-view archives at The New York Times and other papers indexed by Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Carly Carioli of The Phoenix wrote:
News Archive was generally a good deal for newspapers — especially smaller ones like ours, who couldn’t afford the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it would have cost to digitally scan and index our archives — and a decent bet for Google.
It threaded a loophole for newspapers, who, in putting pre-internet archives online, generally would have had to sort out tricky rights issues with freelancers — but were thought to have escaped those obligations due to the method with which Google posted the archives. (Instead of posting the articles as pure text, Google posted searchable image files of the actual newspaper pages.) Google reportedly used its Maps technology to decipher the scrawl of ancient newsprint and microfilm; but newspapers are infamously more difficult to index than books, thanks to layout complexities such as columns and jumps, which require humans or intense algorithmic juju to decode.
Here’s two wild guesses: the process may have turned out to be harder than Google anticipated. Or it may have turned out that the resulting pages drew far fewer eyeballs than anyone expected.
AFP reported that Google had digitized more than 3.5 million daily or weekly editions, ranging from a 1752 edition of the Halifax Gazette and the 1895 London Advertiser to 85 years of the Milwaukee Sentinel.
The Guardian headlined its story Google euthanizes newspaper scan plan: We will organize the world’s information. Except the old newspapers.
Here’s how Google described its News archive search to users on its help page:
News archive search searches across a large collection of historical archives including major newspapers/magazines, news archives and legal archives. Search results include both content that accessible to all users (such as BBC News, Time Magazine and Guardian) and content that requires a fee (such as Washington Post Archives, Newspaper Archive, and New York Times Archives). In addition to crawling content online, we’ve also worked with newspapers to digitize materials via our News Archive Partner Program. Through partnerships with newspapers around the world, the News Archive Partner Program makes unique and previously-unavailable newspaper content searchable and browsable online.
The general search results include a timeline in the left column, so that searchers can select recent years or decades into the past.
(This blog’s precursor had the story in 2008, complete with an attempt to find The Titanic in the archives, and a comparison with Proquest’s pay-per-view services. Here’s an updated version of that Titanic search, so that you can see timeline results. I recommend a visit to Dunkirk, NY, to see how The Grape Belt and Chautauqua Farmer covered the story.)
A new American Civil War Newspapers website has been launched by Virginia Tech in time for observance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.
William C. Davis, professor of history and director of programs at the university’s Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, says graduate students have thoroughly indexed the site’s first journal, the Macon, Ga., Daily Telegraph for the period July 1860 to June 1865.
“There are already some excellent website newspaper resources for Civil War newspapers,” said Davis, in a Virginia Tech press release, “but most have limitations.”
Rather than rely on a headlines-only index or a keyword search program, Davis says Tech’s approach can produce cross-references and locate concepts or ideas. “Our graduate students have greatly enhanced the digital search for Civil War newspaper clips,” he said, “as their own eyes have captured every name and keyword.”
The Tech press release said the project plans to index 10 or more papers –”Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western, urban and rural, white and black — for a balanced cross-section of opinion, observation, and experience.” As each journal is completed, its index will be consolidated with the master index, accessible in a single search.
Access to American Civil War newspapers was been funded in part by a grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation with the cooperation of ProQuest of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Under the headline “At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture,” David Carr at The New York Times offers a 4,000-word analysis, complete with unflattering anecdotes about new executives along with the more quantitative picture.
It’s an amazingly sad story — and would be sensational enough without working the phrase “show him her breasts” into the first stick of type in an anecdote attributed to “two people at the bar.”
At a time when the media industry has struggled, the debt-ridden Tribune Company has done even worse. Less than a year after Mr. Zell bought the company, it tipped into bankruptcy, listing $7.6 billion in assets against a debt of $13 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry. More than 4,200 people have lost jobs since the purchase, while resources for the Tribune newspapers and television stations have been slashed.
A later comment:
“They threw out what Tribune had stood for, quality journalism and a real brand integrity, and in just a year, pushed it down into mud and bankruptcy,” said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc., a consulting firm. “And it’s been wallowing there for the last 20 months with no end in sight.”
Included is a hat-tip to blogger Robert Feder for spreading the word (and Facebook photos) of an executive poker party at the Tribune tower, a scene that seems to echo the “culture” described in Carr’s piece.
Within the story’s first day online, there were more than 300 reader comments attached, including some that refer to what Tribue Corp. did to The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and other papers. (I don’t see any comments from my former colleagues at The Hartford Courant, but they have other outlets for venting — and for passing on a link to a Tribune exec’s response to Carr’s piece.)
While you’re at the Times, check out the comment “Highlights” and “Readers’ Recommendations” feature that let you browse a selection of comments, if you don’t have time to wade through the whole collection of sympathetic sighs and screeds against fat-slob capitalism.
More than a dozen years ago, I did a media history class report on Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley, and ran into Dunne’s often-anthologized Dooley column titled “On Newspaper Publicity,” which had great fun with the mighty power of the turn-of-the-century press… observing, among other things, that…
Th’ newspaper does ivrything for us.
It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks,
commands th’ milishy,
controls th’ legislachure,
baptizes th’ young,
marries th’ foolish,
comforts th’ afflicted,
afflicts th’ comfortable,
buries th’ dead,
an’ roasts thim afterward.
I republished that litany on a Web page 10 years ago, lining it out like the “Works of Mercy” I (and Dunne) had learned in Catholic school, and pondering whether the “afflicts the comfortable” line had been applied to newspapers earlier than its appearance in Dunne’s column.
I even added a soundbite of another Irishman delivering a similar line in "Inherit the Wind" — Gene Kelly as the Menckenesque E. K. Hornbeck. (Perhaps that line in the play is why the quote gets attributed to Mencken so often?)
But now I’ve stumbled on one more piece of Dooley in context: A neatly reproduced Dec. 23, 1902, newspaper column from historical archives at a New Zealand national library website. That Dooley sure got around.
(One small typo — or a significant cultural difference: Where the U.S. versions of the column allege that the newspapers run “… the banks,” the N.Z. version says “the bands.”)
“An obituary does not propose a solution,” Richard Rodriguez observes toward the end of his Harper’s Magazine article, Final edition: Twilight of the American newspaper.
“When a newspaper dies in America, it is not simply that a commercial enterprise has failed; a sense of place has failed. If the San Francisco Chronicle is near death—and why else would the editors celebrate its 144th anniversary? and why else would the editors devote a week to feature articles on fog?—it is because San Francisco’s sense of itself as a city is perishing.”
If you haven’t guessed, it’s not an optimistic article, but Rodriguez tells a good story and knows how to save a special phrase for the end of a sentence…
“Newspapers have become deadweight commodities linked to other media commodities in chains that are coupled or uncoupled by accountants and lawyers and executive vice presidents and boards of directors in offices thousands of miles from where the man bit the dog and drew ink…”
Personally (and this is a blog, after all), the article makes me want to go write my own 6,000 word magazine article, mingling nostalgia for my Daily Hampshire Gazette paper route and my old Hartford Courant bureau reporting with something optimistic about the future of journalism.
But I’m too busy catching up on some real news in both those papers… It’s a fire story, of all the traditional newspaper things! And covered by both with all the latest online tools, from YouTube video to Google Maps mashups. That first link was to the Courant (est. 1764), where I saw the story yesterday; here’s the Gazette (est. 1786), and my old hometown paper does appear to be doing a good job of local reporting in a crisis.