Courant Spin on Watchdog departure

August 17, 2009
By

From: Hazell, Naedine
Sent: Monday, August 17, 2009 12:37
To: Courant News Staff
Subject: Staff update

Since the elimination of George Gombossy’s position at the Courant, there’s been a great deal of conjecture and misinformation floated in the blogosphere. First of all, there is no relationship between the change in that job and any story George was working on.

One of those stories, a version of which he posted on his personal blog is being held by the newspaper to get answers to certain questions. We are all familiar with the practice of stories being held for more reporting or comment.

Our readers and advertisers do and should expect us to report stories we know are accurate and fully reported. Our advertisers have no influence on what we report, including stories that may include them. In fact, George’s farewell column, which appeared yesterday, was critical of CL&P, an advertiser.

And finally, George knew his job was being eliminated while we moved to a Courant-Fox 61 newly-defined consumer reporter position. He did not express interest in the position.

Bloggers may be questioning the Courant and its standards for however long this story lingers but it’s important that we all know that our own journalistic and ethical standards have not, and will not, be compromised or altered by our relationship with the subject, whether it’s an advertiser, a powerful politician or even a former colleague.

*

Anyone who would like to discuss this sensitive subject further, should contact Jeff, Naedine or Lynne.

GEORGE GOMBOSSY’s RESPONSE

I have been waiting for Courant management to get around to explaining to its staff why I was no longer there after 40 years – especially since management told everyone how they loved my column and blog until the first advertiser complaint came in  May.

So let’s look at Naedine’s (Editor of the print Courant) statement and see where she has some issues of credibility in her message to the staff. You think some people on Broad Street might resent being spinned?

I wasn’t asked to apply for the job, nor was it offered to me, and it was set at a significant amount less than my salary.

After being told Aug. 3 that my positition was being eliminated and a new position was being created, I was directed to immediately go to the Human Resource Director who would decide whether he would immediately take my badge and have me escorted out of the building.

Gene Mazur, the hr director, is a decent man, and my former direct boss, Lynne Delucia, is a great editor, and a wonderful human being. They gave me two weeks to wrap up my affairs before having to leave.

CL&P was not and is not a prime advertiser. The new Courant policy which was instituted in May as the result of a complaint against me by Aiello, required me and all reporters and columnists to notify Jeff Levine or Naedine Hazell of any stories or columns that even had a negative tinge about a KEY advertiser. Naedine knows that, she must think she can just gloss over that little fact.

Those stories and columns would get special attention – Just like the Sleepy’s column did.

Maybe someone wants to ask her to show them where CL&P is listed as a prime advertiser.

Maybe someone also wants to ask her for the email that informed me of why my column was not running and what question did I fail to answer. Her problem is going to be that no such an email exists and no such conversation took place between me and any of my editors.

The conversations took place at a MUCH HIGHER level, including Tribune lawyers, when a decision was made that the Watchdog had to go.

I will be on two radio programs this week, I have asked that Courant representatives be invited. Let’s see if Naedine or Jeff or Rich show up. It would be a lot more exciting.

AND THIS I THE LATEST STATEMENT FROM COURANT MANAGEMENT FROM THIS AFTERNOON

I am forwarding our official company statement on the matter. Thank you.

 

The overriding consideration on stories reported by the Hartford Courant is making sure the facts are thoroughly checked out and correct. Our advertisers have no influence on what we report, including stories that may include them. This is a long time Courant policy.

 

Our readers and advertisers do and should expect us to report stories we know are accurate and fully reported.  George Gombossy’s story needs and is receiving additional checking and verification. This is a common practice required by our editors with all Courant news stories, including columns by Mr. Gombossy, and while employed with the Courant, he was well aware of this and accepted and followed this policy over the years.  

 

While Mr. Gombossy’s position was eliminated, he was made aware of the newly-defined consumer reporter position that will be combined with our newspaper, television station and Web site.  He did not express interest.

 

 

Andrea Savastra

Corporate Affairs & Communications Consultant

Hartford Courant/WTIC/WTXX – TV

  860-241-3934   860-241-3934

 

 

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16 Responses to Courant Spin on Watchdog departure

  1. Barbara on August 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    The “He Said/She Said” is demeaning to you. The Courant is losing readers at a record pace due to lack of content and uninteresting story content. I feel worse for those left behind as they are losing credibility quickly. Take the high road. I for one will bookmark your website and spread the word on where to find accurate consumer information. I believe your website will be successful and attract honest business partners as advertisers.

    • Jake on August 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

      The Courant has no credibility left to lose. It’s a dinosaur that doesn’t realize it’s already extinct.

      • George Gombossy on August 17, 2009 at 11:14 pm

        I hope not Jake. The Courant is crucial to Connecticut readers. Once the three top people are gone and a publisher and two editors are brought in creativity, guts, and ethics, the Courant will rise again.
        the dog

  2. […] on his new blog, responds. You’ll want to look at the bottom of the post for his reply, but here is an […]

  3. Bucketfull on August 18, 2009 at 7:37 am

    It is always interesting to see the news eye turned on the news organization. Inevitably, what we see is a seedy, spinning, pitifully and patently dishonest, disheveled and disappointing response to questions and legitimate questions. Nadine’s response is lame at best and just a plain old fashioned lie at worst. For somebody is the news business, she should be both honest and out front with a candid account and nothing but honesty. Spin is for politicians and liars. As for Andrea Savastra – sweetheart, get a new job, perhaps with the City of Hartford or up at the state legislature where gobbly gook and spin will be embraced and loved for what it is: A bucketfull of sxxt.

  4. Anon on August 18, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Are they not concerned about facing a defamation suit making these statements about the flaws in your reporting?

    This is one dying thing that I wish would go quietly into that good night.

  5. Brad on August 18, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    It is me or does Andrea need some English 101 classes? For a “Communications” person, at a newspaper (of all places), basic sentence structure should be a given.

    Just a dumb ole Engineer…..

  6. […] From CTWatchdog: Since the elimination of George Gombossy’s position at the Courant, there’s been a great deal of conjecture and misinformation floated in the blogosphere. First of all, there is no relationship between the change in that job and any story George was working on. […]

  7. Stop It! on August 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    As someone who still works for and loves The Courant, and believes it will rise again, I have read all of this with great interest. What strikes me most though, is that once the barbs started flying, how quickly the innocent got injured in the fray.

    Andrea Savastra is a great lady who has been in a terrible position — a job that someone has to fill — and handled it with grace, dedication and efficiency. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on several projects, and even shedding a tear with her here and there over what’s become of our beloved newspaper. She doesn’t deserve your attacks.

    • SeizuresGhost on August 19, 2009 at 3:16 am

      Sounds like Andrea is a victim of…domestic violence?
      She’s crying? There is no crying in baseball – or in corporate spin-miestering. Is someone forcing her to toe this burden? But that does explain why my newspaper column about those lovable mommy moments among the Channel 61 anchorwomen was all soggy. Let me get you a tissue, Andrea. Don’t email; just honk once if you love George. We’ll understand. You’re doing it for the gipper.

  8. Joe A on August 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    My wife and I are about to buy a bed. After coming across this information online Sleepy’s will not be getting our business. We had a written price quote and were leaning towards going with it.

    I can’t stand how our news media is no longer looking out for citizens and has just become another sleezy, parasitic industry looking for tax havens and corporate welfare.

  9. Former Courant reader on August 20, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Newspapers were originally formed to represent the interests of the people over those of the government. Newspapers were supposed to publish news that people wanted to read and could get from no other source. Go to your public library and read really old versions of the Courant or the defunct Hartford Times if you want to see what I mean.

    It seems that the purpose of today’s newspaper is to protect corporations. Corporate ownership supercedes public interest. While the Courant editors make noises about ethics and journalistic integrity, that is all less important than what Fox or their corporatate advertisers want.

    The real question is: what will now serve as the voice for the people? Where do we go to get what we want to read and cannot get from corporate-owned sources? I’m really seriously worried about that. While I’m cancelling my subscription to the Courant, I don’t know how to replace it.

  10. […] account of an Attorney General investigation into Sleepy's–though it has published a stock defense that "our advertisers have no influence on what we report, including stories that may include […]

  11. Logan on August 20, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Mr. Gombossy, you having worked for the Courant longer than I’ve been on the planet earth, I can readily understand where your loyalty to the Courant would come from. Having known a number of journalists and writers, I suspect you have parallel experiences with them. You feel that the Courant has the potential to “rise again”, that Connecticut needs the paper. The question to ask, though, is how those three people got into their positions?

    In my experience, it is because those positions were retooled for them. They’re not looking for writers and editors. They, as in the powers that be, are not looking for talent of any degree of separation from the skills that comprise a newspaper. They are looking for a wholly different sort of tenacity. They’re looking for people who will do anything in their power, at any cost, to keep their paper afloat. From where I’m standing, it looks like a lost cause.

    The paradigm is changing so rapidly, some people fail to recognize it altogether, condemning themselves to obsolescence. I do not listen to radio, I do not watch television, and I haven’t read a newspaper outside of a bathroom since I was in my junior year of highschool. Of course, talk like that doesn’t even raise an eye-brow coming from my generation. We get everything off the internet. However, my relatively technically ignorant parents, both in their mid-fifties, are about the same. Five years ago, they would scold me for criticizing the Washington Post and their constant attempts to revitalize. They have, since, discontinued their subscription.

    Papers are going to do one of two things, as near as I can tell. They’re going to pull themselves off the internet altogether, in a toothless protest of the inevitable. Or, they’re going to need to change every aspect of their business model. People don’t need to wait until tomorrow morning to get their news. Advertising has long been a fallacious enterprise in the paper, where the money doesn’t quite find its way back to the hand that invested it, and everyone stares slack-jawed, dumbfounded as to how their perfect system could have failed them.

    The rampant availability of the internet is going to dilute the market. The same sort of money people made in the seventies is likely not going to be seen again. Why should we continue to pay, when so many justifications for the original cost have long since ceased to exist? If there is no cost for ink or paper and no cost to distribute, we are, instead, left with the daunting task of assigning fiscal worth to nearly writing alone.

    Time was, someone like you, with a paper for the long-haul would get the bum’s rush on account of some marketing debacle just like this. A friend of my father’s was hustled off a certain DC-Metro newspaper in a flash. It was a couple decades ago, and I struggle to remember the details, but most of them weren’t available, anyway. There was no “he said she said”. There were unanswered letters to the editor and people grumbling fruitlessly in the editorial. A couple decades ago, people like me wouldn’t be able to read what had happened. Now, we can.

    Most of us don’t even say anything to our friends. We just send them the link. It’s a culture of links and research, like the sprawling wikipedia. We get a link, we find the source, confirm the information and ingest accordingly. A bit soulless, but terribly efficient. And if it is without a soul, it is not without a heart. This will spread, and regardless of what happens next, the Courant will suffer for its decision, and the advertiser will suffer at another order of magnitude. The Courant will only feel the burn from its state, for the most part. However, Fleas-R-Us will get to shoulder the weight of bad press for some time to come, coast to coast, wherever the message finds itself.

    I am not in any way, shape or form a professional of your field. Maybe my opinions are slanted or naive. I am not trying to tell you all about your own industry. It seems to me, though, that you were let go by a system that objected to you informing people of a service that delivers mattresses with parasitic insects in them. You are going to find that the rallying cry of “The Hartford Courant shall rise again” may be met with less than enthusiasm.

  12. […] prompted coverage last week from the New York Times, AP, CNN and elsewhere. Courant executives denied lowering news standards in any way. Gombossy plans to describe the changes he witnessed at the […]

  13. Mike and Andrew on radio today! on August 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

    […] prompted coverage last week from the New York Times, AP, CNN and elsewhere.  Courant executives denied lowering news standards in any way.  Gombossy plans to describe the changes he witnessed at the […]





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