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Old-Fashioned Newspaper Circulation War on Westport’s Doorstep

An old-fashioned daily newspaper circulation war on Westport’s doorstep has been simmering for some time, but now it is heating up. What effect it will have on news coverage of Westport is unclear.

The latest salvo was fired today by the editor of The Advocate, based in Stamford. In an editorial page column, Joseph F. Pisani called last week’s letter to readers by Chet Valiante, publisher of The Hour, based in Norwalk, “a sad display of whining and demagoguery.”

“Chet Valiante tried to rally popular support by portraying us as interlopers and himself and his cronies as the hometown boys,” Pisani said. “The simple truth, however, is that The Advocate has been in Norwalk much longer than he and his editor.”

In his letter, Valiante said The Advocate’s push into Norwalk had the sole objective of enriching the corporate coffers.” He said The Hour had deep roots in Norwalk, adding: “Only The Hour is this community’s voice. Dont be fooled.”

For media buffs, the battle between The Hour, which had its start in Westport in 1871, and The Advocate, founded in 1829, is especially fascinating because it pits a little guy against a big guy.

Owned by a local charitable trust, The Hour is one of seven independent daily newspapers in Connecticut and the only one in Fairfield County. (The other 10 state dailies, including The Advocate, are group-owned.) It has no other holdings aside from the Wilton Villager, a weekly, and The Stamford Times, also a weekly.

(For circulation purposes, The Hour counts The Stamford Times as part of its Sunday edition. It reports it that way to the all-important Audit Bureau of Circulations —much to the dismay of The Advocate, which has complained to the circulation-auditing organization.)

The Advocate is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Company, whose newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the Hartford Courant. It also owns two television stations in the state WTIC-TV in Hartford and WTXX-TV in Waterbury.

The Advocate, which also publishes Greenwich Time, makes no mention of Stamford on the front page of its Norwalk edition and instead has Norwalk emblazoned in large type beneath its logo.

In addition to noting its Web address as www.norwalkadvocate.com (from which visitors are redirected to www.stamfordadvocate.com), the front-page logo includes the tagline “in Norwalk, Westport, Wilton and Weston.”

In its bid to increase Norwalk readership, The Advocate has opened an editorial office in Norwalk and staffed it with at least four former Hour journalists.

While The Advocate mentions Westport on its front page, its coverage of the town is sporadic. But when its reporters do cover town issues, town officials say their coverage is usually comprehensive and accurate.

First Selectman Diane Goss Farrell said she has been particularly impressed with The Advocate coverage of her efforts to deal with the area’s transportation woes.

The Hour has one reporter assigned to Westport who also gets high marks from town officials for being thorough and accurate. But these same officials say they are concerned that as The Hour devotes more resources to its battle with The Advocate, coverage of Westport could suffer.

Its unclear whether The Advocate is ready to increase its coverage of Westport. Nevertheless, Westporters are included in the same bargain home delivery subscription offer the newspaper is making to new readers of its Norwalk edition—99 cents a week for daily and Sunday editions.

With the Connecticut Post having abandoned daily coverage of Westport, there is plenty of room for competition here as well.

Update Asked whether The Advocate had any plans to expand Westport coverage, Durham Monsma, publisher of the newspaper, told WestportNow via e-mail: “For now we are concentrating on Norwalk.”

Jan. 12 Set as Trial Date for Martha Stewart

A federal court judge today set Jan. 12 as the start date for the trial of Martha Stewart on obstruction of justice charges related to her insider-trading case.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum also set a Nov. 18 date for lawyers to make oral arguments on their pretrial motions and asked them to submit written arguments before that.

Stewart appeared at the federal court house in Manhattan for the procedural action, which some media described as “court housekeeping.”

Unlike her appearance there two weeks ago, the media was kept behind barricades and Stewart was able to enter and leave the court house without incident.

Westports $37 million Riverside Avenue Sale Draws Interest

It didnt draw much local notice at the time, but experts are pointing to the $37 million sale of seven landmark office buildings on WestportҒs Riverside Avenue as indicative of the vitality of the towns commercial real estate market.

New York-based pension fund TIAA Realty Inc., sold the properties to a joint venture of Normandy Realty Partners of Morristown, N.J. and Lexham Private Investors of Stamford, Conn., in April.

The seven-building office complex includes 285 Riverside Ave.; 321-329 Riverside Ave., which consist of five buildings; and 355 Riverside Ave. The complex totals 145,190 square feet of space and was originally constructed from 1981 to 1986.

The space was once home to Marketing Corp. of America, whose founder and former chairman is former Westporter James McManus. The company is now based in Wilton although building tenants include a unit of Interpublic Group, which now owns Marketing Corp.

Among other tenants in the complex is Allied Domecq Spirits North America, part of BritainҒs Allied Domecq PLC, which also owns Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins. The unit is headed by Westporter Tom Wilen (see WestportNow March 11, 2003).

David Welsh, managing principal of Normandy Realty Partners, said the partnership expects to invest a significant amount of capital over the next few years to reposition some of the Riverside Avenue building complex for multi-tenant use.

Footnote: The sale added almost $93,000 to the town’s coffers, pushing the town’s revenue for the month on real estate transactions to about $235,000, one of the highest in recent memory, according to Town Clerk Patricia H. Strauss.

Fairfield County Business Journal: Judy Rovins Connects as Event Organizer

This weeks Fairfield County Business Journal spotlights former Westport educator Judy Rovins and her event organizing business.

Excerpt: ғAs a 25-year veteran of the education field, former Westport schools superintendent Judy Rovins understood the value of an organized presentation.

Today, sheӒs taken that understanding into her Westport business, The Motivators JK Rovins Associates LLC., a large event-planning business whose clients include NASA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Association Port of New York and New Jersey.֔

Westporter Takes Over Helm of Save the Sound

Westporter Nina Sankovitch has always loved the water and moved to Westport to be near it. Now she has a job that allows her to put her love to work improving Long Island Sound.

Sankovitch, a 40-year-old attorney, began working Monday as the new president and executive director of Save the Sound, the environmental education, research and advocacy nonprofit organization based in South Norwalk, according to The Advocate of Stamford.

Sankovitch is experienced in coastal issues, having worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, two nonprofit organizations based in New York City, the newspaper said.

NY Post: Westport in Nations No. 1 Wealth Corridor

The New York Post takes note of this months American Demographics magazine and says it identifies the Stamford-Norwalk area of Connecticut, including Westport, as the ғepicenter of American wealth.

In a story headlined ԓConnecti-Cash, the newspaper said a ԓstaggering 25 percent of households in the Southwest Connecticut area rank among the nation’s ԓupper crust” of richest families.

The Post quoted a survey by American Demographics magazine that it said shows that one in four households in the Stamford-Norwalk area – home to embattled domestic diva Martha Stewart, actor Paul Newman and designer Tommy Hilfiger – have a net worth of at least $2 million and annual incomes over $200,000.Ӕ

It said running a distant second to Stamford is Silicon Valley’s San Jose, Calif., where 12.9 percent of households meet the magzines “upper crust” criteria.

The Post said the survey showed the Stamford-Norwalk areaҒs 35,000 rich households are three times more likely to use Grey Poupon mustard than the average American, prefer Samuel Adams beer and are twice as likely to drive Jaguars, Volvos and BMWs, thumbing their noses at American-made cars.Ӕ

Newsweek: Martha Stewart Should Try for Danbury Prison

The legal pundits are having a field day discussing the likelihood that Martha Stewart may go to prison. Now Newsweek has found one expert suggesting which prison and he picked Danbury.

In its issue hitting newsstands this week, the magazine reported:

֓Sentencing consultant Alan Ellis, coauthor of the Federal Prison Guidebook,ђ says if shes facing prison time, heҒd try to get her sent to the minimum-security prison camp in Danbury, Conn., so shed be closer to visitors from New York.

ғOne small consolation: according to the guidebook, the camp features craft and aerobics classes.

The last prominent Westporter to do time in a federal prison was Stew Leonard Sr., jailed for three and a half years in 1993 in a tax evasion scheme. The founder of the ԓworlds largest dairy storeҔ served his sentence at the minimum-security federal prison in Bradford, Pa.

NY Times: Westport Retains Retail Allure with Old-Time Shopping

Todays New York Times focuses on WestportҒs Main Street and Greenwichs downtown as bastions of old-time shopping.

In a story headlined ғOld-Time Shopping Is in Fashion in Wealthy Towns, Times correspondent Eleanor Charles, who has written often about WestportԒs real estate market, said Westport attracts those who find mall shopping unsatisfying.

It has been a factor in the success and continued high rents ֖ of Main Street for years, but the Times lead paragraph makes it sound as if it is something new:

In some affluent suburbs around the country, people are returning to the old-fashioned way of shopping, urban retail analysts say: strolling along a downtown street, stepping into a store, stepping outside to browse the next few stores, lunching at a cozy restaurant, pausing to chat with a friend in the shade of a sidewalk tree.Ӕ

But the Times then quotes an expert who acknowledges it is a trend in place at least since the mid 90s.

The story includes details of recent Main Street sales transactions but notes that not everything on the street is high-end retail Җ citing Oscars Deli, opened in 1948, and AchornҒs Pharmacy, a Main Street fixture since 1927.

The Times does have an error many Westporters will be quick to spot. It said Westports population is 23,000. The 2000 census put it at 25,749. It has not been 23,000 at least since the 60Ғs. The Times also listed Greenwich’s population as 65,000. The 2000 census put it at 61,101.

Less apparent is the error stating a Main Street property changed hands “last month” for $18.1 million. It was actually April 14 (see WestportNow on April 19, 2003).

Larry King to Martha: We Were So Poor When We Were Kids We Couldnt Say ғWestport

CNN tonight aired a rerun of an interview Larry King did in February 2002 with Martha Stewart and the conversation touched briefly on Westport.

King: YouӒre in Westport?

Stewart: ԓOh, yes, we have a state-of-the-art television studio in Westport.

King: ԓDo you know how poor we were when we were kids? We couldnt say ‘Westport.’Ҕ

NY Times: Mitchells Shrinking its Mens Clothing Space, Part of National Trend

Sundays New York Times takes a look at what it says is smaller space being devoted to menҒs clothing at retailers around the country and zeroes in on Mitchells of Westport.

Mitchells is known around the country as one of the last great men’s retailers ӗ an icon of the traditional carriage trade, a bastion of ribbon belts and club ties, dark green linen jackets and light yellow socks, interspersed with Armani, the newspaper said.

ԓNow this venerable men’s store in Westport, Conn., is shrinking its men’s clothing space and expanding its women’s department. Herms purses at $4,750 are shoving aside Tommy Bahama sport shirts.

Mitchells is hardly the only merchant making a change: last month, Target said it would reduce the floor space for its men’s collections 蓗 to make room for more food.