With nostalgia and some sadness, my family today announced that after 140 years, it’s leaving the newspaper business on May 1st.
The daily Chronicle of Willimantic, Connecticut, founded by my step-great-great-grandfather John A. MacDonald in 1877, will be sold at the end of next month to Central Connecticut Communications, the owners of the New Britain Herald and the Bristol Press, two other Connecticut dailies.
Following John MacDonald, my great-grandfather George Augustus Bartlett, grandfather G. Donald Bartlett, mother Lucy Bartlett Crosbie, brother Kevin Bartlett Crosbie, and my sister-in-law Patrice Pernaselli Crosbie have in turn, generally after the death of their predecessor, published the paper every day since that week when John founded it — during which Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, Chief Crazy Horse was fighting the U.S. cavalry, and President Ulysses Grant was ordering home the last federal troops occupying the former Confederate states. We have been the oldest newspaper family in New England.
My father Arthur W. Crosbie was the newspaper’s general manager during the middle of the 20th Century. I worked there during the 1970’s, and had grown up in a multi-generational household where the news business and substance of newspaper editorials were dinner table conversation. When I started in the business, we still melted lead to make that day’s printing type (a slug of which, pictured above, I’ve kept from those days) and the newspaper received international and national news via rolls of one-inch (2.5 cm) wide paper tape punched in teletype code. Fire and police radio monitors sat besides our TV. The daily deadlines made it both a satisfying and frustrating occupation. One hard to let go.
Yet Facebook friends who have known me as a news industry futurists/consultant from 1996 onward (and as well since 2008 as Syracuse University’s postgraduate instructor in the New Media Business) will know from my professional and trade journal writings and speeches during the past 15 years that newspaper publishing, with quite rare exceptions, is now an unsustainable business due to epochal changes in how and why people consume news, entertainment, and other information. Times change. Business life cycles end. And we’re closing our 140-year story.