New Britain’s “October surprise” has nothing to do with the upcoming municipal election and everything to do with what may be a revival of community journalism in town.
The first edition of Hardware City Journal (HCJ), a 16-page free circulation paper, began circulating Friday (Oct. 16th) packed full of local news and information. The paper, with only a handful of ads upon which free circulation newspapers usually depend, is similar in content and appearance to the Berlin Citizen weekly next door. The upstart HCJ appears to be the brainchild of Robin Vinci, a former Herald reporter who covered Berlin and a native of New Britain. Vinci’s love for her native city comes through in an opening letter on the editorial page. She is a journalist who knows the town she is writing about past and present, a factor which can count for a lot in delivering news you may not find elsewhere.
The front page includes a report on using smaller learning communities (SLCs) and academies in public schools to improve student achievement. The potential of SLCs is all the more relevant because New Britain High School is the largest in the state. There’s also an in-depth story on the rise and fall of manufacturing in the city and the prospects for a town that still clings to a “hardware” image and retains a manufacturing base in need of rejuvenation for the 21st century global economy.
The HCJ mission promises readers a paper that will:
bring an accurate, honest and fair account of all aspects of New Britain. Our sole agenda is to bring residents a greater insight into the city. We will not run away from reporting on controversial news stories, but our goal is to report it and not create controversy.
The emergence of HCJ along with the revival of locally published New Britain Herald — rescued from the plundering Journal Register company — is a welcome sign that residents will have more than one source of local news to become more engaged in their community.
The development of the Journal is taking shape in print only at this time. You won’t find it yet in cyberspace. In a city where many older residents like to get their news the old-fashioned way, a strategy of building a free circulation print paper and worrying about technology later just may work.
A shout out goes to Robin Vinci. No amount of blogs and blogging, including this one, can take the place of a community newspaper.