Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Hartford Courant's Strange Bedfellows

Lately the Hartford Courant has gotten attention for firing its consumer columnist, George Gombossy, after he proposed a column on a major advertiser, the Sleepy's bedding chain. You might wonder if this once-great newspaper could stoop any lower.

Apparently it has.

A reader brings to my attention a rather interesting arrangement that was announced last month, but has gotten little attention, that puts the Courant and its sister TV station in bed with a pink sheet company called Organic Alliance to provide "multimedia content" and "programming."

It's all spelled out here, in a press release issued last month by a company called Organic Alliance Inc., which trades on the pink sheets. That's the root cellar of the financial markets, where the tiniest and riskiest companies are to be found:

Organic Alliance, Inc. (Pink Sheets: ORGC) has announced the company is working with Hartford Courant, WTIC Fox 61 and WTXX to produce multi-media content (television, newspaper and web) focusing on the beneficial aspects of natural and organic and lifestyle choices. Programming will focus on the use of natural and organic products, include cooking demonstrations, health and fitness tips, visits to natural and organic product producers and places where the natural lifestyle is flourishing.
Hey, I'm all for organic food. But this arrangement raises several questions. What exactly are the Courant's obligations under this arrangement? What exactly are they talking about here when they say "content"? Advertisements? I would think not. That's not content. Advertorials? Or, heaven forbid, news content? What about the "programming"?

I emailed the Courant yesterday morning to ask about this, and received no response. I'm still hoping the folks there will respond and clear the air.

I also hope the Courant did proper due diligence on this company before signing on the dotted line. I really don't know anything about this company and have no idea what it's up to. However, one familiar name that cropped up in registation statements filed with the SEC in 2008 (such as this one) is Michael Wachs of CEOCast.

Wachs was described by Bill Alpert of Barron's a few years ago as a "big time financial felon."

Hey, this would be a great George Gombossy column, don't you think? Too bad, and too convenient for the Courant, that he's not there.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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