The Hartford Courant, a once-fine newspaper, recently fired 40 year employee and consumer watchdog George Gombossy because he was about to print an article critical of an advertiser. While the NYT article maintains neutrality, it’s devastating to the Courant especially since the story has now gone national.
Gombossy was fired because of a column he wanted to write about Sleepy’s, a mattress chain and major Courant advertiser, being investigated by the Connecticut Attorney General for selling used mattresses as new and in one instance, with bedbugs. The article now appears on Gombossy’s website.
This was my column, as approved by my editor, that the Courant refused to publish about one of its biggest advertisers. It was scheduled to run on Aug. 2 but was held without an explanation. This was the first time in my 40 years at The Courant that an investigation by the attorney general was withheld from the public.
Let that sink in. Gombossy was reporting on what the Attorney General doing, and the Courant killed the story and fired him because it made an advertiser look bad.
Here’s a few choice quotes from the NYT by Courant executives desperately trying to spin things so they don’t appear totally ethically compromised and craven.
Ms. Hazell, who also attended the meeting, had a different recollection. “We said we wanted to go to more helpful news, and less gotcha news,” she said.
Right. Like how to buy a mattress rather than this mattress might have bedbugs in it?
A few months ago, Mr. Gombossy said, he was called into a meeting with Courant executives. He had written columns about a Connecticut contracting company that was also a Courant advertiser. Mr. Levine said that he had received a letter from the contractor about the columns, and asked Mr. Gombossy to meet with the company and to “be nice to them” because an advertising deal was at risk, Mr. Gombossy said.
“At that point, I told them I’m refusing and I said, ‘You’ve got to fire me if you insist on me doing that,’ ” Mr. Gombossy said. According to him, Mr. Levine then backpedaled on the demand to meet with the advertiser, but said that he could not write about a major advertiser unless it was cleared by Mr. Levine.
Courant executives appear to have no journalistic integrity left.
Mr. Gombossy said he had the column approved by his editor. But the article did not run, and on Aug. 3, he said, he was called into the office. “I was told that my position was being eliminated, and they were going to have a different kind of consumer columnist”
One who never acts as a watchdog, presumably.
Gombossy continues to write at his website, Connecticut Watchdog.