Courant Lousy With Bedbugs, Advertiser Influence

Laura Northrup of (8/15/09) reports that, after 40 years at the Hartford Courant, consumer affairs columnist George Gombossy now says he “‘was fired for doing [his] job,’ after his last column exposed the bedbug-infested mattresses sold by a major Courant advertiser.”

The Connecticut paper killed Gombossy’s account of an Attorney General investigation into Sleepy’s–though it has published a stock defense that “our advertisers have no influence on what we report, including stories that may include them.”

Gombossy exposes “some issues of credibility” when responding to the Courant‘s further claim that he “knew his job was being eliminated while we moved to a CourantFox 61 newly-defined consumer reporter position. He did not express interest in the position”:

I wasnâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t asked to apply for the job, nor was it offered to me, and it was set at a significant amount less than my salary….

I have been waiting for Courant management to get around to explaining to its staff why I was no longer there after 40 years–especially since management told everyone how they loved my column and blog until the first advertiser complaint came in May….

The new Courant policy which was instituted in May as the result of a complaint against me by Aiello, required me and all reporters and columnists to notify [VP and director of content] Jeff Levine or [editor] Naedine Hazell of any stories or columns that even had a negative tinge about a key advertiser. Naedine knows that, she must think she can just gloss over that little fact.

Those stories and columns would get special attention–Just like the Sleepyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s column did.