Thursday, September 30, 2010

Help Wanted at The Courant, Please!

It should come as no surprise that the downsizing of the nation's oldest continuously published newspaper resumed today. You can keep track of all of that at Hartford Courant Alumni, a faithful website run and updated by ex-patriots of that once-fine newspaper.

I've written locally about this trend before, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised at what I saw today on the Courant's website. A headline in the breaking news section caught my eye: "Big Y Supermarkets Around Connecticut and Milford Red Robin Restaurant Hiring."

"What could this be?" I asked myself while chomping on my sandwich. Lo and behold, the headline is an example of truth in advertising — literally. It is a notice — bylined by one of the paper's best reporters — that two businesses are looking for workers.

No, it wasn't a trend piece about employment picking up or the state of the retail food industry in the wake of the closure of several A&Ps — although the lead did mention the latter briefly. This "story" had such journalistic nuggets in it as:
Big Y offers paid holidays, paid time off, medical insurance, disability and life insurance, tuition assistance, scholarships, a 401(k) plan, and a work/life care program, a company spokeswoman said.
Also included were the hours of operation of the four "hiring centers." This is nothing but a help-wanted ad dressed up as news. And it raises all sorts of troubling questions. Was ace reporter Janice Podsada directed by an editor to offer this pablum to the Courant's readers? Who told her to do it? And were there any deals made to the effect that if the paper ran this "news story," then paid ads would follow from Big Y and the Red Robin?

I understand that the Courant's once-proud newsroom has been decimated, but is this what we have sunk to? Dressing up a help-wanted ad as "breaking news?" Wow, I am appalled. But I guess that's obvious by now.


  1. As a former Courant business editor for 12 years and a frequent critic of The Courant (infact I am suing the newspaper for wrongful termination) I think you are barking up the wrong tree. The fact that a company or companies are hiring is NEWS, its dog bites man. Janice Podsada and The Courant was doing public service, letting people without jobs know that there are openings. There are many things that one can fault Courant management on. This is not one of them.

  2. Jon Lender on 35-cent coupons on Tide detergent at Waldbaum's
    Dave Altimari on Vietnamese fingernail parlor bargain: Four fingers $6, the thumb for free!!
    Dave Owens on Taco Bell doubles down on taco cheese!!!!
    Chris Keating on Town Fair ...Tires hires handsome clerk at Newington site

    and watch for bold editorial stance: CVS is one great-ass store!!!!!

  3. This is a legitimate business story. Why didn't you mention the part of the story about the 700 jobs lost when Big Y purchased branches of A & P and Waldbaum's? Those are a lot of jobs lost in Connecticut, and the fact that Big Y is now starting to hire for those same branches is of some interest, certainly, to those who were terminated.

  4. Denis, thanks for the comic relief.
    George and Janet, you're right that "this is a legitimate business story." The fact that businesses are hiring IS news. The problem is that this has not been developed into a news story -- not even close. It is 80% a reprint of a couple of new releases from the companies, including a lot of bulleted info that should have been in a help-wanted ad. I did mention, Janet, that there was brief word in the story about the closings of the A&Ps.
    I am at a loss as to how good news people can defend this practice. If it is simply a case of winning the good graces of advertisers by helping them fill positions through the use of the news pages, then at least a little honesty would help. Something to the effect of: "Hey, we're in a a bind here and we've got to come across as advertiser-friendly in our news hole. It's good for business."
    P.S. I see that the Courant has now added info on Comcast hiring 50 people, mostly part-timers. But there's still no story or context -- just more info about how to contact the company

  5. Right. Maybe you should go back to reading the print version. They didn't have any of this today. Maybe it will show up tomorrow in print, but better fleshed out. One can hope.

  6. Yah, it was posted late this afternoon, so if it's in print it will likely be tomorrow.