In 1999, the Hartford Courant announced they were purchasing five weeklies in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. At the time, Mike Allen wrote a story in the New York Times that detailed the purchase. The Courant was aiming to increase its youth audience, purchasing the five papers that reached a combined circulation of 270,000. Although the publisher of the Courant said at the time the publications would remain separate, readers were concerned about the Advocate’s future. Alyssa S. Peterson, the owner of web design firm, was quoted in the article saying, “This is big brother taking over. The Advocate is everything The Courant isn’t. Where do we go now?”
The five papers purchased were the Hartford Advocate, New Haven Advocate, Fairfield County Weekly, The Valley Advocate and the Westchester County Weekly. Today, only The Valley Advocate still exists. The Westchester County Weekly folded into the Fairfield County Weekly in 2001. In 2013, the Hartford Advocate, New Haven Advocate and Fairfield County Weekly merged into a single publication: CTNow.
This was hailed by the Courant as a “strategic realignment of our suite of entertainment products”. This statement shows a sad truth about the devolution of the once journalistically-strong alt-weeklies. The 1999 story in the Times about the takeover of the alt-weeklies noted the “tough political coverage, including unflattering recent cover articles on major figures in both major political parties, and persistently critical takes on the state’s deal to bring the New England Patriots to Hartford. The environment and campaign finance also get heavy coverage.” CTNow, on the other hand, is solely an entertainment publication.
However, it is not all bad news for the independents. The Valley Advocate is still going strong, over forty years after it was founded. According to the Valley Advocate’s website, the paper “invests time developing stories about people, places and topics that the mainstream media doesn’t have the time or, in some instances, the desire to pursue.” As I wrote in February, a couple of independents have arisen to in Hartford to cover the state capitol, and The New Haven Independent was founded by a former New Haven Advocate reporter dedicated to continuing independent journalism in New Haven. Although the alternative weeklies have disappeared from the state, new independents have risen to fill the gaps.