It’s not every day that an angel investor offers to fund a local newspaper.
Five months ago, that investor was David Kelsey – a successful real estate investor based in Old Lyme, a finance board member, and head of the local Republican Town Committee. That I am a lifelong Democrat makes it all the more extraordinary.
No doubt a Democrat and a Republican working together inevitably sets an expectation that one or the other of us is somehow selling out. “Follow the money” as they say everywhere except in the pages of All the President’s Men. That was the movie.
The truth is, I think, more inspirational and prosaic. In a town split roughly down the middle between left and right, a Republican offered to fund a Democrat to start a paper.
Our agreement is a simple one.
The Connecticut Examiner was born to a shared belief that small towns die without local newspapers. CT Examiner will focus on ‘hard news,’ not breaking news. We believe it is more important to get it right than get it first. The pure digital format is more than a financial convenience, it reflects an understanding that limited staffs and print deadlines are a bane of quality journalism.
In terms of coverage, Mr. Kelsey and I agreed that our ‘bread and butter’ stories will focus on town government, development, education and the environment, with a solid mix of art and culture. He pushed for local news. I pushed for regional news. We arrived at a goal of 2/3 local coverage and 1/3 regional coverage.
At the time of our launch, we will be the only newspaper in the region that will offer ‘hard’ news coverage on daily basis for Lyme and Old Lyme, but we will write our stories as much as possible to be relevant to the entire region. We will not accept advertising and we won’t simply reprint press releases.
In terms of editorial content, we will remain nonpartisan. We will neither endorse candidates, nor will we provide a platform for third parties to endorse.
Now take a marker and draw a dashed line – – – – – – – – – – – –
Mr. Kelsey has no control, input, or special access to the staff or news content of CT Examiner. In fact, until six days ago just before a reception, Mr. Kelsey had not even spoken to or communicated in any way with our reporters. He played no role in the selection or the hiring of staff. He has not suggested or advocated for any particular stories or coverage.
Mr. Kelsey will read this editorial, and read the news from CT Examiner, at exactly the same time as you. That’s a remarkable leap of faith.
In terms of editorials, they are entirely my own. If you don’t like them, you can’t blame our advertisers – because we don’t have any — and you shouldn’t blame Mr. Kelsey, because he’ll see them when you do.
As a matter of simple fairness, I have offered David Kelsey and Jane Cable, the head of the local Democratic Town Council, the opportunity to identify voices or columns for our opinion section. As you can see, the opinion section is a work in progress. Whatever your politics we welcome your letters and opinion pieces – just know that our goal is to inform not inflame, to concern ourselves with matters of local and regional interest, to be rigorous, and civil. Our mission is to “ask big questions in small places.” Please join us in that endeavor.
In terms of staff, I have hired working professional reporters, and Mr. Kelsey insisted that we should compensate them fairly. We will provide them with quality healthcare, reimburse their mileage properly and provide them generously with paid sick leave and paid time off. Good practices start at home. We will be second to none in our employment practices in the region. I am very proud of the people that I’ve hired.
Our staff reporter Julia Werth has written for CT Mirror and Hartford Courant. She edited the college newspaper at the University of Connecticut. She has great interest and a body of knowledge on issues related to education and health. She comes with the best possible recommendations. We are lucky to have her.
Our senior reporter Cate Hewitt was an award-winning reporter for the Westerly Sun. She has a specialty and expertise on topics related to zoning and development. She has an enthusiasm and a sophistication with the arts. I know her work. I believe in her work. She will provide a foundation for our reporting.
And finally, briefly, about the editor in chief…
I grew up in a city neighborhood in Rochester, NY into an extended family of physicists. I went to public school, and not a fancy one. I graduated from Oberlin College, lived in Russia, earned a Ph.D. in history, taught at Bennington College, worked in small theater on Nantucket Island, moved to Old Lyme in 2012, founded SECoast, worked as Director of Special Projects at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. You can find a profile of me here.
I welcome your letters, comments, suggestions.
Editor in Chief
NOTE: A special thanks to Joe Standart who provided all of the photographs above of the 2019 Tour de Lyme