I posted something Saturday morning about Georgy Gombossy's departure from The Hartford Courant but there have been several updates since.
I don't know all the facts of this case. I did work with George many years ago and find it difficult to believe he would quit, after 40 years at the paper, over a column being held for fact checking. That said, there may well be other issues, and so my main interest in posting is to keep discussion going and perhaps flag a bad decision.
But I do know that the old rules of journalism no longer obtain at all newspaper companies and so what might have seemed unbelievable or truly contrary to good journalism practices may no longer be the case. Some people running newspapers these days--and this isn't aimed specifically at The Hartford Courant--simply don't recognize or respect the value of the franchise as truth-tellers and as the people's source of news, a community resource and institution. And a newspaper founded in 1764 and operated continuously ever since is an institution.*
When I worked for a tech magazine a few years ago, I was surprised by the number of tech company officials who would simply refuse to comment. They didn't believe in the right to know, thought they owned information and the press could go to hell. Coming from newspapers, I certainly wasn't used to that. Now those same kinds of people are often in charge of newspapers, or running companies and controlling the technology and conversation about journalism.
A few years ago, many of us fervently wished that some business type with a stake in the community would come along and buy the paper from the debt-ridden newspaper companies. Well, we got Zell. And plenty of others like him, some even worse.
This isn't good.
*Permit me a little memory. For years, the Courant's slogan was "The oldest newspaper of continuous publication." To which all of us wiseguys added, "to never have won a major journalism prize." But then it did, for 1992 (and did again in 1999). When the Pulitzers were announced for 1992, we Courant alumni then working at Newsday were ecstatic, far happier for The Courant than we were even for our paper's win that day, and even though we had to retire our smart-assery.
There is lingering affection and a need for respect for a grand old institution that can count Mark Twain as one of its own.