Three veteran reporters at the New Haven Register took buyouts last week, ending their decades-long presence at the paper.
Mary O’Leary, Randall Beach and Joe Amarante plan to leave the publication by the end of the year. The trio all began working at the Register in the 1970s, accumulating more than a century of experience. Most recently, O’Leary has covered city issues, Beach has reported on local courts and Amarante has served as the publication’s Arts and Entertainment editor. The three took buyouts from the paper’s current owner, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, citing age and the new reporting conditions brought upon by the pandemic. HCMG, as the owner is known, offered the voluntary buyout program at a number of its newsrooms. It is meant for employees seeking a career change or retirement.
“It’s been very difficult with COVID-19 and then they offered us this buyout, and I’m almost 65, so I thought maybe it’s time to get out,” Amarante told the News.
Buyouts are not new at the Register, whose previous owners have included junk bonds and hedge funds. Among the previous owners is the Journal Register Company, which filed for bankruptcy alongside 26 of its affiliates, including the New Haven Register, in 2009.
According to Paul Bass ’82, editor of the New Haven Independent, the Register has a “bloody” history of layoffs.
“The Register was Exhibit A for hedge funds who were hollowing out newspapers,” Bass said of past ownership.
According to Bass, HCMG has acted differently, making efforts to invest in the publication. The group, which owns seven other daily newspapers across Connecticut, including the Connecticut Post, Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate, has said it plans to invest in some 20 newsroom positions.
Nonetheless, the departure of three experienced reporters will be felt in the newsroom, according to other local journalists.
Allan Appel, another reporter for the Independent, reinforced the importance of veteran journalists, describing O’Leary, Beach and Amarante as “real New Haven reporters who have been around for a long time. … They knew where all the bodies were buried.”
O’Leary, who declined to comment, has been working at the Register since 1970. She has covered the metro beat and past Connecticut gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns.
Amarante began his time at the Register in 1975 when he was still a senior in college. After spending 10 years as a copy editor, he transitioned to writing about television and entertainment and joined the national Television Critics Association. He told the News that “rough times” at the publication forced him to take on roles he was less comfortable with as a features writer, like city news. Most recently, he has served as the Arts and Entertainment editor for the Register.
Although Beach began working at the Register in 1977, he left after a few years to do freelance work, returned briefly, and then settled at the paper permanently in 1997. Currently, Beach writes a semiweekly personal column and covers the New Haven Superior Court.
“I think it’s too bad whenever institutional knowledge leaves a newsroom. … That is a loss for the community,” he said.
Amarante told the News that managing and reporting for the Arts and Entertainment desk has proven especially difficult during the pandemic.
“We tell people what to do that week, and when most of the things have been cancelled, that’s been pretty hard to do.”
The pandemic has also put a stop to trial proceedings, and for Beach, who “misses the courtroom drama,” this contributed to his decision to retire.
Beach noted that the pandemic is taking a toll on all reporters. The Register closed its newsroom in early March and its reporters have worked at home since then.
“The newsroom is an important social place,” said Beach. “Being with your colleagues and bouncing ideas off them is important and makes the work more fun.”
Amarante, who said he’s struggled to keep up with the shift toward digital journalism and social media news consumption, also expressed concern about the decline of traditional media.
“There’s a whole other skill set that has come up in the last 5-10 years,” he said. “It is not something an old print person does so easily.”
HCMG bought the New Haven Register in 2017.
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