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. #
I yesterday began my fourth year of being married to this beautiful Spaniard. Brains (‘Doctor Professor’ is how European academics address her); beauty (well, just look at her picture!); a marvelous personality (no wonder that some folks know me as ‘Mr. Rodriguez’); and the patience required to live with me (no explanation necessary). I love her dearly. Happy Third Anniversary, Emma!
I am proud that the New England Newspaper & Press Association has inducted my late mother and my late brother into the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame. Please click this link to see photos of the induction dinner and event, which was held in the Park Plaza Hotel, in Boston, Massachusetts. Besides my surviving family, many people from the New England newspaper were there. Charles Ryan, editor of the daily Chronicle in Willimantic, Connecticut, gave the nomination speech. Patrice Crosbie, Kevin’s widow and his successor as Publisher of the Chronicle, accepted the award, which was given by Gary Ferrugia, publisher of The Day, of New London, Connecticut.
As my wife has long suspected, I’m part Neanderthal!
“American lives have no second acts,” wrote the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. His fellow novelist Ernest Hemingway disagreed, as do I. My life is now in its fourth chapter or act, I’ve realized as I start another new year. My first was as the eldest child of newspaper publishers in a New England small town. I was skinny and studious, which made bullies prone to pick at me. Indeed, I was told by my parents that I needed to behave well due to their positions in town. And I was over-protected by them, forbidden to join any school sport team lest I get injured. I chafed during this chapter of my life. Going away to college began the second chapter, marked by liberty, bits of exuberance, and romantic and career disasters. I became wild in college, the opposite of studious and over-protected. The liberty of living on my own, unrestrained by parents or their legacy in my hometown, was too seductive to resist. I got into a lot of trouble in college and eventually stopped attending classes. I left college because I didn’t know what I really wanted to do for a living. I went to work for my family’s newspaper for a few years. During that time, I met a coed at a nearby university, who I then lived with for eight years. She also wanted to work for my family’s newspapers, but there was something about her that troubled my surviving parent, who said no. So, I chose her over family and left my family’s business. I joined a brand name journalism company which unbeknownst to me was failing after 70 years. She and I bought a house; the company I joined went bankrupt twice; and the stress of saving it and my mortgage strained my marriage. Next I knew, the woman I lived with had had multiple affairs, ultimately running off with a guy when his wife alerted me to my woman’s second (or third?) adultery. I lost my love, home, and job. Rebuilding my life from that rubble was the third chapter. I repaid the financial debts from my failed mortgage and marriage (my ex- also ran away from the former) and built from scratch a career in New Media (fortunately from its early days). Within ten years, I was speaking professionally at conferences worldwide and had clients on five of the six settled continents. Within 15 years, […]