The managing editor of a Connecticut newspaper is now being criticized by peers after publishing a column blaming single mothers, non-English speakers and the poor for his industry's financial problems.
Jim Romenesko.com reported on Tuesday that Chris Powell, managing editor for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, argued in a Sept. 28 column that "social disintegration and decline in civic engagement" posed just as much of a challenge to newspapers as the worldwide surge in Internet use.
"Newspapers cannot sell themselves to households headed by single women who have several children by different fathers, survive on welfare stipends, can hardly speak or read English, move every few months to cheat their landlords, barely know what town they're living in, and couldn't afford a newspaper subscription even if they could read," Powell wrote. "And such households constitute a rising share of the population."
Powell did not cite any sources to bolster his argument, though he did allude to a December 2012 study by the Charles A. Dana Center (PDF) showing that 70 percent of community college students and 50 percent of all college undergraduates take at least one remedial course. But as Slate pointed out, the national illiteracy rate has not changed in a decade.
The Columbia Journalism Review also noted that Powell's column seems to define journalism as a print-only medium.
"What makes Powell a dinosaur (besides his bizarrely hostile attitude toward the poor) is his inability to recognize that journalism happens, too, outside the hallowed halls of the newspaper," Noah Hurowitz wrote in CJR. "He takes the print nostalgia and the fetishization of the newspaper to its extreme, and in doing so exposes his own irrelevance."
And Matt DeRienzo, who serves as group editor for three other newspapers in the state, accused Powell of harboring "a special kind of misogyny" and "a spectacular kind of denial" through his statements.
"There is another way," DeRienzo wrote. "Embrace and learn about the diversity of your community. Make your newsroom more diverse, including positions of leadership. Use the power of the web and mobile devices to reach new readers in new ways, increasing the civic engagement of your community in the process."
According to Nationwide Advertising, Powell's newspaper currently has a circulation of 42,888.
[Image: "Angry Businesswoman Crushing A Newspaper" via Shutterstock]