For over 30 years the Westport News was the proud anchor of Brooks Corner, among downtown’s most prime real estate.
Current tenant Brooks Brothers has nothing to do with the corner’s name; it’s just a coincidence. “Brooks” is B.V. Brooks, who founded the News. It was, its motto clunkily declared, “A hometown newspaper in a town of homes.”
In the mid-1960s the News was a feisty tabloid upstart — David to the staid, gray Town Crier Goliath.
The Westport News earned its chops early. Fearless editor Jo Brosious led a spirited fight against United Illuminating — the public utility that hoped to buy Cockenoe Island for use as a nuclear power plant. Thanks to the paper, our shore today is pristine — and Westport is not Three Mile Island.
That crusade made the News indispensible. For 3 decades it chronicled town life. Its downtown location was geographically smart, and journalistically symbolic. It pulsed with Westport’s beat, because it sat right there at its heart.
The move a few years ago to Sconset Square was symbolic too. Brooks Corner could command higher rents from 2nd-story office tenants (the paper had long since moved from its ground-floor space). Though the News’ new newsroom was just a few steps away, the rickety staircase and shrinking staff lowered its profile, lessening its impact throughout town.
Last year the paper moved from Westport entirely. No longer owned by B.V. Brooks — the “Brooks Community Newspaper” name is a final, vestigial nod to the local past — the News decamped to an antiseptic office building in Norwalk. True, it was right over the Westport line — but the symbolism was again strong. The “hometown newspaper” had left its “town of homes.”
Yesterday the News moved again. Hopscotching Westport, it leaped over to Fairfield. The paper now shares office space with the Fairfield Citizen, and is overseen by Citizen editor Frances Moore. Two key staffers — editor Will Rowlands and lifestyle editor Carol King — were among 44 Connecticut journalists whose positions were eliminated Friday by Hearst, the current owner.
Another 80 jobs are on the chopping block soon, according to reports.
A new chapter has begun in the Westport News’ long history. For news lovers’ sakes — and the best, most informed interests of our town — let’s hope this story ends well.