Consumer Columnist Sues Paper, Says Advertiser Criticism Squelched

Consumer watchdog George Gombossy this morning filed a 1st Amendment lawsuit against his former employer, Tribune-owned Hartford Courant. There’s some gangbusters stuff in the filing, like the part where he says the new owners told him to “be nice” to one of their key advertisers:

(To recap, Gombossy says he was wrongfully terminated for writing critical articles about paper advertisers. Courant counters that Gombossy’s job was redefined as a newspaper-TV role and that Gombossy didn’t express his interest in it.)

The filing (PDF) details an unsavory backstory:


Courant’s official statement on the suit is:

George Gombossy has consistently mischaracterized the circumstances surrounding his departure from The Hartford Courant for his own personal gain. Mr. Gombossy was not under any contract requiring his continued employment as our consumer reporter and a business decision was made to move in another direction that did not require his particular talents.

It was the Courant’s right to make that decision. We stand by it and we will defend it.

Seems like it’s increasingly hard for some news outlets to pretend that they deliver news to their readers when really they are delivering an audience to their advertisers. That’s probably why Gombossy put out the shingle and has started his own site, CTwatchdog.com.

Hartford Consumer Columnist Sues Over Departure [NYT]
Watchdog Sues Tribune: accuses Courant of violating its written News Mission, by pressure to be nice to major advertisers [CT Watchdog]

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Was Consumer Columnist’s Demise Due To Editorial Cutbacks Or Advertising Interference?
Hartford Courant Consumer Columnist Fired For Pissing Off Advertiser