The Herald’s name game

As a freelance contributor to this paper — and I do mean free — I'm not surprised that I wasn't consulted for my opinion on the recent name change. But the good thing about having a column like this is that I don't have to wait to be asked for my opinions. I can just go ahead and offer them. And here's mine on the new name: I hate it!

Okay, maybe ‘hate’ is a little strong. But I really don't like it. To me, The Herald sounds like a really lame superhero. Or worse, just some guy named Harold who talks about himself in the third person. And of course there's the whole “Hark!” thing. Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to read the news while humming about the herald angels singing.

And, let's keep it real, part of my problem with the change is that I'm one of those Huntington snobs. Only my “attitude” has nothing to do with money, status, or McMansions (since I'm batting 0 for 3 in those departments).

I just think that the name Huntington has a much stronger history behind it than Shelton. Samuel Huntington signed the Declaration of Independence, served as President of the Continental Congress, was chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and was the 18th Governor of Connecticut. Edward Shelton, on the other hand, lived in Derby and owned a company that made boxes. Boxes!

But that's a story for another day. It's not like this paper is being renamed the Shelton Herald.  It's simply dropping the Huntington. Which, to be completely honest, is what most people, myself included, have been calling it anyway. “Hey, nice article in The Herald,” they say.  Or, more commonly, “Did The Herald get here yet? I want to know how much Beechwood's pork chops are this week.”

No one refers to it as The Huntington Herald, just like no one under the age of 80 orders a Coca-Cola. They ask for a Coke. But you don't see Coca-Cola forgoing its heritage by changing its company name to Coke. Sure, they fully embrace the nickname (while ignoring the connection to cocaine), but they don't try to erase their history.  Or hide the truth, unlike Kentucky Fried Chicken, which in a much ridiculed move, shortened their name to KFC to try to hide the fact that their food is fried.

Not that it can't be done successfully. A few years back, Federal Express decided to officially change its company name to FedEx, which, like The Herald, was what everyone was calling it anyway. But they had much more at stake. And much bigger plans. In an effort to appeal to a worldwide market and bolster their image, they shortened their name, implying speed, and softened the potentially negative connotations of the word “federal” which suggested government oversight, by simply, but expensively, changing their name. And it worked out very well for them.

So I guess time will tell how things will turn out for The Herald. I remember the uproar when the Bridgeport Post renamed itself the Connecticut Post, and it's still around. So most likely things will remain the same. But who knows? Maybe it will be a success and hundreds of people in Shelton that will start reading The Herald — instead of just starring in the police blotter — now that it's no longer linked to Huntington. Then again, it could go the way of the Evening Sentinel, which went on to become The Sentinel, and then suddenly stopped coming.

But like those who still keep their bright orange Sentinel mailboxes as plastic tombstones to the defunct paper, I'll always have fond memories of The Huntington Herald, no matter what it's called.

Mike Wood is a life-long Shelton resident and author of the coming-of-age novel, Alchemy, available locally at Written Words and nationally at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

(See Wood's comments about Huntington vs. Shelton by clicking here: Proud to call Shelton — and Huntington — home.)