On Thursday, HYPE members had the chance to attend a luncheon with Rick Daniels, Publisher and CEO of Hartford Courant Media Group, Connecticut’s premier news and information company and home to the Hartford Courant. The Hartford Courant Media Group also publishes Courant.com and several other media brands that serve the readers and advertisers of Connecticut, including CTNOW.com, Hartford Magazine, New Haven Living, and Reminder Media. Rick has an extensive background in media, having spent 23 years with The Boston Globe, and serving as President of the publication for his last five years with the Company. He went on to serve as CEO of GateHouse Media New England, which published 100 print titles and over 150 websites. While at GateHouse, he took on the role of Publisher for two of greater Boston’s publications, The Ledger and The Enterprise. and oversaw The Norwich (CT) Bulletin. Rick is also one of the newspaper industry’s early digital and multi-platform leaders and was founder or co-founder of boston.com, BostonWorks.com and Globe Direct. Rick received an undergraduate in business at Northeastern University and also holds a Masters of Science in Management from Boston University.
Rick spoke with HYPE members regarding disruptive innovation in the media world. The idea that products can be incrementally improved, and therefore, incrementally increased in charges for the products is how most businesses work. However this can lead to creating a product that people cannot afford, and under consumption becomes an issues. Disruptive innovation can strip away the traditional features of a product and give a slimmed down version of what consumers want. Historically in the newspaper industry, staff was large, features were increased, and cost to consumer was increased as well. With the addition of digital media, many of the services newspaper offered such as job listings and for sale listings became available for free through other sources. These distributive innovators began to pick apart at the services newspapers were offering, and increasing their cost to consumers for. This lead to a change in the newspaper business, with many pairing down offerings in print, and looking to digital solutions. Rick maintains that to be successful in the industry you need to have innovation and development throughout your career, and be open to change. As a supporter of the industry's early digital endeavors, Rick is proof that innovation and change can lead to great opportunities for growth. He believes that when disruptive innovation threatens your business you must “redefine what your core focus areas and competencies are, and pursue them with great vigor".
How is the Hartford Courant positioning itself to compete with other new sources for young viewership/readership?
Rick explained that while many online new sites might attract young readers, most do not create the content themselves, but rather aggregate news and information from other sites. They often times have very few journalists on staff and have very little original content on their sites, despite receiving heavy website traffic. Rick also explained that while they reach a broad audience, local advertisers are still more likely to utilize local media groups in order to specifically market their organization or business to an audience in their target location.
What do you see as the role of the media in crime, specifically spikes in crime? How do you report in it as news, without sensationalizing it?
Rick remarked that this question was extremely important and applicable to the Hartford Courant at this time, and while journalists are not the police, they do try and spot trends in crime in order to report thoughtfully and engagingly. Through a combination of articles and editorials, their goals are to inform readers without causing panic. Rick explained the delicate nature of asking "why" and "what is being done" when it comes to crime, and many don't see the backlash that media groups often face from the asking of this questions. Part of how Rick defines the mission of the media is holding our leaders to standard of effectiveness, and bringing issues to light that are not being addressed.
How is The Courant working to improve the reporting on Arts & Culture, as well as attract young people to these events and to the Courant?
Arts and Culture are easy to cover, Rick explained, because they are news. CTNow.com is dedicated to the arts, music, culture and more, of which Hartford has a vibrant and growing scene. Rick believes that Hartford has enormous assets in so many ways, and the growing cultural scene is critical to the City's success as its "what makes life work living after work". Journalists must still be critical in their reporting Rick reminded, however the growth of digital media has allowed media coverage of arts and culture in a multitude of ways, providing more exposure to the arts community overall.
How has the written word changed in the evolution of journalism?
While the standards for truth and accuracy in journalism haven't changed, the addition of digital journalism has created some differences in media. Rick explained that print creates a permanent record, while digital media can be edited and updated quickly, from just about anywhere. This ease of editing can sometimes lead to laxer standards in grammar and self-editing, because content can be manipulated constantly. Given the growth of celebrity in television media, Rick is please that journalism isn't the entertainment business and "not bound to creating value in entertainment space", allowing for journalistic media to challenge institutions and affect change with quality reporting.
Rick also pointed to a trend of shorter, tighter stories, with the pertinent information being delivered and not much else. However there is still long form journalism when its "needed to develop story fully". Rick expressed the importance of investigative journalism and the demand for it from the media audience. During his tenure at the Boston Globe, Rick oversaw a month’s long journalistic investigation into the Catholic Churches in Boston that lead to a Pulitzer award and a legal investigation as a result of the reporting. The Hartford Courant has received a Pulitzer for investigative journalism as well, a fact that Rick takes much pride in.
Overall it is clear that Rick truly loves what he does, and approaches every new opportunity with a positive outlook and thoughtfulness. His best advice is to figure out what you are passionate about and do it, because "if you're not, life is very long and very boring". Rick has a passion for journalism and media, and has recently taken on the role of interim Publisher and CEO of the Baltimore Sun Media Group and The Morning Call Media Group.
Thank you to Rick Daniels for an amazing luncheon! Check out all of the photos here.