Mark Stencel was previously GOVERNING's executive editor and deputy publisher.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Journal-Register Co. in Connecticut has axed its last full-time Capitol reporter, veteran New Haven Register political writer Greg Hladky. As the New Haven Independent noted, Hladky was "the sole daily eyes and ears under the dome" for the newspaper chain, which also publishes the New Britain Herald, Torrington Register and Bristol Herald.
Governing's Rob Gurwitt wrote about the slow demise of government coverage in local newspapers in a December 2006 cover story (Blackout: Big-city newspapers aren't telling citizens the things they need to know). And as Rob pointed out, the trend is as alarming to many in government as it is to those who cover it.
That seems to be the case this week in Connecticut, where some public officials denounced the Journal-Register group's decision to give Hladky his walking papers after 28 years on the beat.
"Today, as a result of layoffs and cutbacks, with fewer eyes keeping watch, the public and electorate will be less well informed," Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz told the Hartford Courant.
Courant political bloggers Mark Pazniokas and Christopher Keating gave some sense of what would be missing in the halls of the Capitol:
"Hladky's irreverent and uncomfortable questions sometimes grew into a fine entertainment for his peers in the press corps when an official would give a less-than-responsive answer and Hladky would begin revving up with follow-up queries that grew sharper as he went along. On the best days, he would play the official like a hooked marlin until the subject of his interrogation left indignant or dispirited."
Apparently, even some of those "hooked marlin" will miss Hladky's tough questions, based on some of the reader comments posted by people who said they had tangled with the reporter. "Having been on the receiving end of some of Greg's tough questions, I can say it sometimes wasn't fun. But it was always fair," one official said. "This is bad news -- for Greg, of course, but also for people who care about good, decent, honest, fair journalism. Bad day for journalism, bad day for the people who care about it."
Another said, "I wouldn't call my relationship... with Greg Hladky over the last ten years or so friendly, but I had enormous respect for his reporting, his experience and his uncomfortably sharp wit. As a New Haven resident, I despair of my hometown rag which is a sad excuse for a newspaper."
Of course, the reader comments from insiders were not universally positive. "What goes around comes around!" one politico posted.
(Thanks to media watcher Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute for calling our attention to Hladky's departure.)
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.