Added: Sherrie Yi - Date: 19.01.2022 17:49 - Views: 25755 - Clicks: 2327
The New Haven Advocate, a weekly newspaper once known for a mix of gutsy investigative journalism, edgy political commentary, magazine-style feature writing, and savvy arts coverage, died Wednesday following a long illness. It was 38 years old. The cause of death was a changed media landscape combined with corporate cluelessness and cupidity. A Hopkins and Yale graduate named Geoffrey Robinson founded the chain with a former fellow Hartford Courant copy editor.
The papers tapped a baby boomer audience that had graduated from the underground newspapers of their college years and was settling into adult work and family lives, but still eager for media that reflected their values and tastes more than staid corporate-owned mainstream daily newspapers. For much of its life the Advocate championed third parties, legal dope, gay and civil rights, underground local music, and public support for the arts.
It broke stories on City Hall corruption, slumlords, real-estate scams, political campaigns, police brutality, emerging trends in music and theater and food. People sometimes lost their jobs or landed in federal court as a result of stories; other times the paper itself ended up with egg on its face for overreaching. It was the kind of place where reporters were encouraged to write stories like this one. By the time of its death Wednesday, the Advocate no longer had local news reporters or New Haven news stories. It never mentioned the past two city elections.
It had some original local arts coverage; it was otherwise filled with stories produced by a skeleton staff in Hartford. It had long stopped playing a role in the local news and civic-debate ecosystem. The papers eventually convinced the mainstream to inject more voice and color and depth into its reporting.
They also developed, sometimes in spite of themselves, enviable balance sheets. Like other alt-weeklies, the Advocate by the time of its death has gradually shrunk in size, innovation, and relevance since succumbing to corporate ownership. The Tribune Co. Then, as the internet changed the face of journalism, the Advocate—which had introduced online story-chats and interactive news-oriented games before the corporate takeover—sat out the revolution.
Corporate dailies had put rock critics on their staffs, as well as restaurant and theater critics who understood the fare they dissected. They incorporated color and feature layouts into some of their des. Some mainstream writers could even write in the first person, though not as excessively as in the altweeklies of yore.
The sex industry no longer needed altweeklies to sell its wares or hook people up. Many altweekly writers graduated to nationally prominent journalist perches. Not a tear was shed. There were no regrets, just thankfulness for having had the chance to work in a great newsroom. And lots of fond reminiscences. I found myself thinking back not to cover stories or high-profile controversies, but rather to a small news item I wrote for the Advocate back in It was my first asment there—and a powerful lesson on the power of reporting outside the confines of mainstream corporate media.
A college junior at the time, I had been reporting on New Haven news in between classes for the daily New Haven Register, at the time one of two dailies owned by a local right-wing family and sharing a downtown newsroom on Orange Street. The other paper was called the Journal-Courier.
The publisher discovered that the city editor had been draining his freelance budget asing me stories, and chewed him out; the editor told me to lay low for a while. The news: the mayor at the time, Biagio DiLieto, had engineered a vote by the Coliseum Authority to bail out the local hockey team, the Nighthawks, so they could stay in town, one of a series of bailouts over the years that failed to keep hockey, or a Coliseum, in New Haven.
Houlding had written those stories for the Journal-Courier before ing the Advocate. DiLieto went on to run a successful revenge campaign for mayor by playing on the East Shore resentments against long-hairs, liberals, and African-Americans. He had the lowdown: The mayor had made a deal with a Newhallville alderman on the authority named Chuck Allen to win the bailout vote. Allen had ly announced he opposed the bailout. Back at the Advocate, it was deadline hour.
Sort of. It felt like a world of difference from deadline hour at the Register. The Advocate had just one deadline a week, not several a day, like at the Register, which had multiple editions. At the Advocate, they were still typing them on manual typewriters. The Register newsroom was smoke-filled too—just with tobacco smoke.
I told Harr about the tip from the Journal Courier reporter, and how it turned out to be true. So I wrote him a short that after some requisite anti-civic-boosterism snark, mentioned the bit about the cleaning contract. After the article appeared, another alderman, named Anthony Williams, showed up at the office to speak with me. He was African-American—and perpetually at war with other black aldermen, like Chuck Allen, over patronage deals. Tony told me a low-level bureaucrat had given him the he-up about this deal because of a back story: the guy getting the cleaning contract had just broken off from the family business.
The family business used to have the Coliseum contract. The guy was now allegedly stealing that contract from his sister and other siblings. I went to see the bureaucrat who has long since left government.
He gave me copies of internal paperwork that showed the deal to be shady. He was scared for his job; we talked about how to protect his identity. I then met both the brother and one of the siblings who had sued him. I heard from Chuck Allen. He asked me to meet him for tea at this new coffee shop downtown called Atticus, the first of its kind in town. He introduced me to Earl Grey tea. We spoke at length about the story, about politics in general. Sounded like a fair deal.
For the next two decades he became an invaluable source. He also taught me a lot more about politics than I ever learned in college. He knew where bodies were buried or money, actually , and who was making deals with whom behind the scenes. He stayed true to his word. He continued to give me great stories up until the days shortly before his death when, in a Harlem hospital bed, where, suffering from AIDS, he spoke at length about what it was like being a gay public figure and a member of the church in the black community.
Tony Williams kept visiting, too, offering a different take on the games politicians play, and specifically the costs that small-fry political deals can have for the broader community. From that one small asment, I saw how the freedom to tell a fuller story, unencumbered by the financial or philosophical dictates of corporate newsrooms, can lead to other good stories, to a deeper understanding of how a city works. I saw how, small story by small story, reporters can get to know a city and its ongoing issues more deeply, accrue an ever-expanding roster of teachers from all walks of life and points of view.
This was fun; I could see myself continuing to report news stories in New Haven the rest of my life. Thirty-two years later, I still can. The Advocate had its own sacred cows and contradictions, of course, such as its promotion of sex slavery and objectified women in back-of-the-book ad columns while espousing feminism in the news columns. Like most altweeklies, it suffered at times from excesses of youthful arrogance and snap judgments, not to mention an overuse of the first person singular and, in the early days, a few too many decisions made while in altered states of consciousness.
But overall I found almost limitless freedom in reporting there on and off in the s, then full time on staff from through , as the paper went further above-ground and grew in quality, influence, revenues, and readership. They challenged me to dig deeper, to reexamine my assumptions, to rewrite stories more clearly and compellingly, to experiment with new story structures, to spend extra time to write 5, words when a story warranted it, to tighten columns to words when that made more sense. They taught me how to make a point in a story, how to figure out why I was writing it in the first place.
They nurtured newsrooms where what mattered above all was the work. Publishers Geoff Robinson and Gail Thompson stood behind us faithfully when influential people in town howled about unflattering stories.
I would find myself arguing with Mamis for weeks on end about Fidel Castro or about the viability of making change from within or outside the Democratic Party or the wisdom of a pending strike—but never about what time to show up for work or what to wear. I was continually inspired by the creative, talented, idealistic staffers I worked alongside as is the case at my current job, too , in the editorial, production, and advertising departments. I remember one day when someone agreed to dictate to me over phone the detailed contents of a confidential internal report on a police sexcapade at the West Hill substation.
The story was juicy, but also over-the-top raw and salacious. Fortunately, I could just pitch the transcript over to Miss B, who transformed the tale into virtual poetry. They did it in search of transcendence—or at least a witty lede, or the chance to make a difference. And, god forbid, to have fun while working as a reporter. The New Haven Advocate and the alt-weekly industry overall are survived by a new generation of not -for-profit online daily news sites in Austin , New Orleans , San Diego , Montpelier , Minneapolis-St. Paul , Branford , Ansonia , and New Haven.
Your :. Message: Sent: Oct 12, pm. Godspeed Advocate. Mercy killing is an apt description. We were both amazed at how god-damned thick those weeklies once were…. The Advocate,. Memory, vaguely told me, apparently in error, that you had been Editor back then but I guess now my memory mistake was because of your good stories on important New Haven issues. Two things I recall in my short time working for these folks.New haven advocate classifieds
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