Reading about the New London Day, an independent newspaper held in trust

I’ve been ill.

Sickbed reading has included Gregory Stone’s The Day Paper: The Story of One of America’s Last Independent Newspapers. It is a history of The New London Day, the prosperous newspaper in southeastern Connecticut which just so happens to be held in public trust, a non-profit paper, if you will, that cannot be sold to a conglomerate or newspaper chain, thus keeping it under local control.

Local control is a subject suddenly too familiar to me.

My illness has been the natural aftermath, I suppose, of the crescendo’d frenzy that started for us in August when a State Marshall appeared at 14 separate addresses in town, serving papers in a federal lawsuit (pointly not a local /state lawsuit -- the state governs elections and would probably have thrown the lawsuit out) to the chairs of both the republican and democratic committees, the town clerk, and the candidates in the municipal elections who had been cross-endorsed. Down in the wealthy part of the state, the secretary of the state and the state elections chair were also served.

The lawsuit requesting an injunction against the upcoming elections was denied in the beginning of October; immediately appealed to the 2nd court of appeals in New York where in a highly unusual move, the three-judge panel ruled unanimously and instantaneously to uphold the lower court’s denial; and finally at the end of November, the lower court moved to dismiss. Though surely prepared by all Dr. Shields’ work documenting the politicization of the justice system at the local level, I found myself now learning about SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Political Participation) suits, the history of fusion candidates, the use of the judicial system to create a "news event" for press releases aimed solely for political purposes… and other arcane factoids.

In the end, all the Democratic candidates won – all of them with vote margins almost two to one.

But more about that another time.

The aftermath was that I succumbed to the nasty cold/virus/flu bug going about, but managed to get well in time to spend an entire day flying cross country as part of work. Yet, within hours of getting off the plane, I again started sniffling and sneezing, a definite handicap for a work week where I had to stand for 9 to 10 hours a day, talking to a group of folks I had never met before.

But at the end of that very long week dragging myself about, popping Sudafed and Benadryl, I got to meet Ms. Susie Dow – a meeting that was a lovely hiatus, a memorable and happy event.

On Saturday, it was back to the “what else could possibly go wrong theme”: I got to stand in line for an hour and half only to learn that my flight home had been cancelled because of the severe weather in the Midwest. I finally got home, two days later, in the wee hours of Monday morning.

So I have been ill.

As part of my sickbed reading, I confess I have only begun the Stone book about The Day ... still, it's intriguing to me on many levels, partially because I am interested in reading the histories of middle-sized papers...such as Earl Zarbin's All the Time a Newspaper: The first 100 years of the Arizona Republic, partially because there are so few histories of specific newspapers and more importantly, because I know a couple of folks who have worked at them. The Republic, I believe, is still part of the small 7-newspaper Central Newspaper Foundation chain, a for-profit newspaper outfit with the Republic, the biggest and the most well-known, the engine of the profit.

The non-profit status of The Day, is what most compells me, however. Charles Lewis's 2007 working paper for the Center of Public Integrity "The Growing Importance of Non-Profit Journalism" cites The Day along with a handful of others such as the St. Petersburg Times, The Christian Science Monitor, the Anniston Star-- lionized here -- and The Manchester Herald as dedicated to reporting and newsgathering free and clear of corporate fixation on profits to fuel million dollar homes and other consumer addictions. Theodore Bodenwein, the owner and publisher of The Day who had the great vision to save his paper from such a fate, decided to create the trust in his will. More than just prescient or merely visionary, given the Murdochs and the Disney corporation, Bodenwein set up the trust and the board in 1938.

More too, about this later. But so far one of my favorite quotes -- given the factoids about fusion candidates, partisan politics, and the "news," is this from The Telegram, a rival paper to The Day.

The ownership of this newspaper is in the hands of a Democrat and two Republicans, each with different personal bias and political tendencies as between conservatism and progression. Among these three are the editor and the business manager.

Our genial chief newsgatherer, Joseph Smith, 2nd, is a wildly enthusiastic Democrat....There is a faint suspicion that Mr. Smith attended the Democratic rally the other night.

Another important staff official may be a mixed socialist and ananarchist. As far as possible we keep him off political assignments. But he writes satirical verse which is so really clever we feel obliged to print it, albeit with the blue pencil in pretty constant use.

There are others.

Out in the composing room we have every shade of political opinion known since Brutus slew Caesar.

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Several thoughts in the order of their importance, maybe, but definitely so on POINT NUMBER ONE. Cho Please take care of your health. Plane rides are hell people with health issues because of the poor air quality. I had a sore throat transform into a severe ear infection and a close friend who had had abdominal surgery in the past suffered mini-hemorrhages. So TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF,

SECOND-- I was fascinated by the story of SLAP suits. A much more primitive version of this occurred during the McCarthy period, where being called to testify before HUAC was a great punishment in itself, without regard to thecontempt citations which might follow. Then where was the chilling effect of FBI surveillance, which lost me several jobs.

But perhaps more interesting is the way the ABCAM-BRILAB hearings and other corruption scandals were used to control the trade unions and pro-union politicians in congress and so on. I am sure that there is plenty of petty corruption throughout the pores of our society which creates a vulnerabilty but if we step back and look at where we are now, it seems to me that breaking up the liberal-labor coalition along with weakening the trade unions by replacing the top leadership with "clean" technocrats, and so on, has been part of the neo-con (call it what you will)game plan to turn back the clock in America to the days before TEDDY Roosevelt and the Progressive movement of that time.

I remember the role of the American Labor Party ticket in NYC which was set up to allow "ideologically pure lefties" to vote for Roosevelt. Other similar indpendant quasi-fusion parties in NY served the same purpose later on. And the creation of Lincoln's Republican party of course.

The question of local politics interests me. It should be encouraging grass roots democracy (small D) to effect progressive change, but my personal experience here in northern Virginia does not bear out the promise.

I am looking forward to what more you have to write on the subject of the independant local press. A subject dear to my heart.

Well life is serendipitous. If being sick takes you back to writing then that will be a GOOD thing.

GET WELL SOON.

carol

The kind thoughts are very very appreciated.

I got some good "medicinal advice" from Ilona, standingup, Lefty and Roxy... but it was too late to stave off the stuff from moving down into my chest.

You are correct, it was indeed the plane rides, the stress, and then the danged cancellation of flights ... plus the series of snow/sleet/ice storms.

I am better, but taking it easy for a while...

Thank you again!

Get lots of rest and get well soon!

Since I have family in your neck of the woods! I can't wait to do it again, only this time, when I am well!