Paul Bass

Oppenheimer on the Advocate

Mark Oppenheimer, founder of the New Haven Review, former editor of the New Haven Advocate, and columnist at the New York Times, comments on the end of the New Haven Advocate: Here's the sad thing: the Advocate was an alt-weekly that could have made it. New Haven is a loyal town, the brand was great, and it was for a couple decades an absolute must-read — not only among the heads, freaks, geeks and other counter-culturalists who loitered on the Green (smoking the green), but in the political and business communities, too. The combination of arts coverage plus progressive politics worked for this publication.

And I Iike to think it was still working in the years I edited the paper, from 2004 to 2006. But we were already owned by the Hartford Courant, which was already owned by the Tribune, and that big, massive, stupidly run conglomerate, now in well-deserved bankruptcy, somehow managed to stymie every possible innovation that could have kept us relevant. It wasn't just starving us for funds, or even mainly starving us for funds. Worse, it was insisting that we be part of a "synergy" strategy that folded our web presence (and ad sales) into that of other publications, including dailies that we were ostensibly supposed to fearlessly cover, and even a local Fox TV affiliate.

The synergy never materialized, of course, and what the suits had to show for it was not higher ad revenue or more eyeballs but just a shitty website for an alt weekly that, a decade earlier, had been early to, and smart on, the web, as well as a generally demoralized staff. And with all that, we still did good work. Our alumni — including people I hired who are now at The New Republic, Foreign Affairs, and (as a free lance) New York magazine and elsewhere, and who are writing novels and recording music and generally making trouble — continue to bear (I hope) the mark of the beast that I branded on their forehead, using a branding iron that had been passed on to me by other alumni, including Paul Bass and Gail Collins and a forgotten cast of awesomes. Good night, New Haven Advocate, and may plights of angels ping you in your dreams.

—Mark Oppenheimer, December 1, 2013