August 20, 2009
George Gombossy: From Column to Blog
This week I heard from old journalist pal George Gombossy about his departure from Hartford Courant, not a pretty one in the eyes of traditional journalists and bloggers alike.
Those who care about ethical journalism and who are trying to protect their credibility inside the walls of their blogs are routing for George. It's already hit the New York Times and countless other sites, so the the buzz is very alive.
He worked at the paper for four decades. Can you believe? Four decades. He writes in an official statement: "the Courant fired me, for speaking out on issues of public concern as the paper’s Watchdog columnist: as the voice and protector of consumers and taxpayers."
More about his story for those who haven't heard the details: "During the past three years, my marching orders had been to expose any institution or authority abusing consumers or taxpayers. Consistent with journalistic ethics and favoring no one, the Courant’s advertisers were fair game and were given no special treatment. In fact there were occasions where my editors were dubious of certain claims by our advertisers and urged me to investigate.
It was a public-interest platform that thousands of readers actively helped build into a powerful voice for consumers. It resulted in profound changes in the way some Connecticut businesses operated, among which are the state’s largest utility company and the nation's largest retailer of consumer electronics."
He received heat over investigating a large advertiser of the paper, the investigation was over a company that may have been taking advantage of the elderly. Apparently the advertiser wrote a complaint letter and Gombossy was urged to play nice in the sandbox because a $500K advertising contract was on the line. (which turned out later to be worth less)
Yikes. The list goes on. It doesn't end there.
I've worked with Gombossy on and off for a decade and a half so the news came as quite a blow. Even though Gombossy has left the dinosaur newspaper world (and trust me, I'm a fan), he has forty years of investigative journalism experience that can be poured into a blog, his own blog and his loyal readers will follow.
CTWATCHDOG.com is now live. He'll be showering us with more tips, complaints and untold stories consumers should know about.
George ends his statement with this reminder: advertisers don’t take out ads because they like the columnists or reporters. They take out ads based on a newspaper's circulation, which is based on its credibility. The less credibility a newspaper has, the less readers it should have. And if that happens everyone will suffer consequences beyond our ability to now measure.
He tells me he'll be on CNN this Sunday so be sure to tune in.
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