I recently received a fundraising plea from the CT Mirror claiming they have 60,000 unique visitors a month. I was shocked that the number was so low. This online news entity covers news of importance to the entire state and their monthly readership is less than the population of Hartford. Meanwhile the Hartford Courant claims 651,345 readers with a majority of them reading the paper offline. With Connecticut’s population sitting at 3.58 million people who means the Courant is reaching about 18% of the entire Connecticut population and the Mirror is reaching 1.7%. This is in spite of the fact that in 2010 86.5% of the state had an Internet connection and 47% had a Facebook account.
These statistics matter because it is the job of news people to tell our stories. They document our history. Reporters highlight the challenges we face and their writings can rally people together to tackle them. Yet for the most part this is not happening. The majority of reporting occurring in mainstream outlets like NBC Connecticut or The Courant focuses on crime or minor things like when the Wethersfield Library got self-checkouts. The majority of people are not thinking about the same issues that Connecticut’s leaders are thinking about. This is why it is easy for an insider like Chris Donovan or Jim Amann to believe they have a good chance at winning a major office but then drop with a quick thud. We live in different worlds.
We need to fix this. I do not have all the answers for the journalists that might be reading this post wondering why I am complaining. The journalists probably have a better idea than the owners of their papers. All I know is what I enjoy. Websites like The New York Times, New Yorker, and The Verge produce fantastic longform pieces that dive deep into important issues facing our country. They publish powerful editorials that push their readers to think. Articles are written that create context and force us to reconsider our policies and values. Good journalism makes the reader feel slightly uncomfortable. Discomfort causes people to talk and think. Talking and thinking sells more papers or builds online readership. The community grows; our worlds collide.