Kent News, Inc., is a small, non-profit organization, dedicated to community journalism, endeavoring to bring back the “Good Times Dispatch” to the Kent, Connecticut community.
The “Good Times Dispatch” began in 1952 as a Boy Scout troop project and was initially called “The Good Turn Daily.” When the Kent Boy Scouts got in trouble with the national organization for carrying ads from liquor stores, veteran AP reporters and husband-and-wife team John and Jane Greene took over stewardship of the little paper, changing the name to “The Good Times Dispatch,” or as it was affectionately known: The G.T.D. The Greenes ran the paper out of their home on Bluff Road in Kent. Each week, with the help of a small part-time staff and volunteers, they turned out a newspaper using a typewriter, 14×17 sheets of paper, and a mimeograph machine; the pages were assembled by hand and stapled together in the left-hand corner.
The Greenes insisted on covering town affairs and quickly ran into resistance from the town’s many boards and commissions that often went into “executive session” in order to avoid being reported on. Due to the Greenes’ persistence, The G.T.D. had a significant role in Connecticut’s General Assembly adopting its Freedom of Information Law. The newspaper and its editors gained a reputation well beyond the confines of Kent.
The G.T.D. grew up with its second owner, Ed Rapp, who bought it when the Greenes retired. The mimeographed pages were replaced by a tabloid-size newspaper, printed on newsprint on a real printing press. In deference to its past, an image of a staple was printed in the left-hand corner. Ed also gave an aspiring young illustrator, Seth McFarlane, his first job as a cartoonist, paying him $5 a week for his cartoon strip called ”Walter Crouton.” Around 1986, Ed sold The G.T.D. to Paul and Nanci Fitzpatrick, who ran it for several years, adding computerization to its production, before selling it to its last owner, Housatonic Publishing, which was owned by the larger Journal Register Corporation.
Over the years, The G.T.D. had competitors, most notably “The Kent Forum,” “The Kent Tribune,” and “The Kent Weathervane.” The G.T.D. managed to survive the competition, but not the 2008 recession and corporate America. In January of 2009, along with closing 26 other small newspapers, the Journal Register Corporation ended The G.T.D.’s 57-year run as Kent’s Newspaper, which had been dedicated to the “Militant Practice of Independent Journalism.”
Thirteen years later, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, it became clear to both long-time residents and recent arrivals that the town needed a newspaper. That’s when Deb Schlee, who retired to Kent to help care for her grandchildren, asked if there was anyone interested in starting a newspaper. A handful of people, including Carl Raab, Andrea Schoeny, and Karen Chase, indicated interest. Deb, Karen, and Carl showed up at the new Wilson’s Bakery & Cafe on Main Street on a cold Friday morning in January 2022 and spent the next two hours talking about how to start a newspaper. Would it work? Would the Community support it? Should it be online, or print, or both?
Andrea suggested they meet on Zoom to facilitate schedules (and be aware of increased illness in the community). Several meetings later, in February, the small group sent out a limited distribution survey via Facebook. The response was overwhelming: 92% of over 200 respondents wanted a newspaper. A large number of people (68%) said they would support it financially, and over 60% wanted to volunteer to help. Over 20 local businesses have pledged to advertise. Everyone is excited and wants to know when and how we will be able to bring back this local publication.
In order to provide trusted local journalism, in May 2022, Kent News, Inc., was incorporated in Connecticut as a non-profit, obtained its Public Charity Certificate from the CT Department of Consumer Protection, a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS, and opened a bank account. Over the summer, KNI obtained pro bono legal assistance for applying for its tax-exempt 501(c)3 status with the IRS through the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice.
In September 2022, Kent News, Inc. signed a contract with a Fiscal Sponsor, in order to provide donors with a tax deduction immediately while they work on their own 501(c)(3) application (which can take many months). By February 2023, KNI received its own 501(c)(3) designation, and as of the end of the first fiscal year (June 30, 2023), KNI has raised over $30,000 in donations and grants. The small group has grown and changed, with 5 members on the board of directors as of July 2023. We now have life-long Kent residents, new full- and part-time residents, and decades of experience in journalism!
We continue to meet twice a month as a Board, and meet regularly with a SCORE mentor. There is more “behind the scenes” work which needs to be done… and in short, a tremendous amount of money that needs to be raised. We are just as excited as you are, to have a news source dedicated to our beloved Kent, CT, and have been working hard to ensure there is a sustainable, capable business to support journalism for many, many decades to come.