It is no secret that local newspapers have struggled mightily in the age of digital media, which has gobbled up the advertising revenue that once made them very profitable. Since 2005, 2,500 papers have closed. That includes the 360 that have gone out of business just since the pandemic. The local papers that have survived have done so by creating an online presence while still cutting staff and limiting the reach of their coverage. When we moved from southwestern to southeastern Connecticut, we were eager to subscribe to the Day, the daily paper based in nearby New London. The Day has been an independent newspaper since 1881, and operates as a trust. Its profits are distributed as grants to local community groups. Both my wife and I worked at the paper more than thirty years ago, and getting reacquainted with the print edition is a morning ritual that has reintroduced us to the vagaries of life in the region. Southeastern Connecticut has increasingly become a tourist destination since we left here in 1999. Major attractions include its shoreline towns, beaches, and marinas, as well as the Mystic Seaport Museum and Mystic Aquarium. But the biggest draws are the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resorts, two casinos operated by Native Americans. Foxwoods is the largest casino in the world, rising incongruously high over a still largely rural landscape.
The daily paper is a good deal thinner than it was thirty years ago, but many things remain the same. There are, of course, the police logs, which we scan with a beady eye, looking for familiar names. Lots of arrests for DUI, driving with a suspended license, and violating protective orders. A steady number of arrests for drug possession as well. The columnist in the paper’s Region section doggedly tracks various municipal controversies, including alleged corruption at the Connecticut Port Authority. The authority oversees the State Pier Project in New London, a joint public-private enterprise that will provide a staging area for wind farms to be built offshore. The cost of this project has increased from an estimated $93 million to more than $250 million, and is understandably the source of much skepticism. No indictments yet. Local high-school sports are a big focus, with both boys’ and girls’ teams given plenty of space. If you want people to subscribe, it’s a good idea to mention the athletic prowess of their children in the paper.
A lot of space is devoted to obituaries, sometimes several pages in any one day’s paper. It is a community service provided by the paper and written by relatives of the deceased. Not long ago we read the obituary for our family’s former allergist, an endearingly eccentric person. He once memorably described my dry-eye problem as “persistent ocular lachrymation.” His accomplishments were impressive, including graduating from the Coast Guard Academy, which is in New London. There are a lot of former military people in the area because of the Navy’s submarine base on the Thames River in Groton and the gigantic Electric Boat plant nearby. EB produces nuclear submarines and is the largest employer in the area after the casinos.