Local Newspapers: Too Big to Fail?

Taxpayer Owned?
The Bristol Press: Taxpayer Owned?

UPDATE: Steve Collins at Bristol Blog (which is part of the Bristol Press media empire) reported from his blog today that there is nothing of the sort resembling a bailout at the Bristol Press:

Nicastro said he tells them all that “I’m not recommending 5 cents to the current owner” of the papers, the Pennsylvania-based Journal Register Co. Instead of a bailout, he said, he explains that the effort is focused on making sure any prospective new owner learns about state programs available to any business owner that might lead to tax breaks or low-interest loans to encourage development and preserve jobs. Nicastro said that once he explains what’s really going on, those calling tell him he’s doing the right thing.

I still have not seen a follow up on the original article, so it looks like Bristol Blog scooped everyone else on this one. However, there is something else worthy of note: this whole Bristol Press bailout story ran all day, and was featured on both Drudge and the Huffington Post, but thus far the (no) bailout story has not been featured on the Bristol Press web page. Did everyone (except the bristol blogger) take New Years’ Day off or something?

Best of luck to the Bristol Press, but if you cannot find the time to report on a national story featuring your own paper, well, there always is The Waterbury RepublicanAmerican. . .

I happen to be about five miles from Bristol, Connecticut right now, so this story was too good to pass up:

Connecticut lawmaker Frank Nicastro sees saving the local newspaper as his duty. But others think he and his colleagues are setting a worrisome precedent for government involvement in the U.S. press. Nicastro represents Connecticut’s 79th assembly district, which includes Bristol, a city of about 61,000 people outside Hartford, the state capital. Its paper, The Bristol Press, may fold within days. . .

That is because publisher Journal Register, in danger of being crushed under hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, says it cannot afford to keep them open anymore. Nicastro and fellow legislators want the papers to survive, and petitioned the state government to do something about it. “The media is a vitally important part of America,” he said, particularly local papers that cover news ignored by big papers and television and radio stations.

Marc Levy, executive editor of the Herald and the Press, said he would not let gratitude [for a taxpayer funded bailout] get in the way of reporting on local political peccadilloes.

“It’s the brutal reality,” he said. “You’d say, ‘thank you very much for helping me with that, but now we have to ask you about this thing'” [emph added].

So Connecticut taxpayers, even as your state government is bracing for deficits in 2009, lawmakers are attempting to spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars on “secured loans” for local newspapers that are simply too “important to fail”. Sounds like editorial content at The Press will stay solid though, bailout or not!

Can a federal bailout of the financially challenged New York Times be next? After all, if the tiny Bristol Press* is worth saving. . .

* The Bristol Press‘ top stories off of its website on January 1, 2009:

1. Prediction experts say 2009 will bring big change

2. Owner of blighted property loses court appeal

3.Energy task force will cut back on city power use

Yes, it is doubtful that a taxpayer-funded bailout would taint the editorial process in Bristol, these are the same caliber of stories subscribers (all 200 of you!) will continue to see in The Press, regardless of who owns the newspaper, I’ll wager!

Post Script: This would be a good time for a hard hitting hometown Bristol, CT blogging team to set up shop, no?

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4 thoughts on “Local Newspapers: Too Big to Fail?

  1. There already is a hard-hitting blog in Bristol — mine. And if you read it, you will learn that neither Nicastro nor anyone else is proposing any sort of bailout for The Bristol Press.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for reading my blog and posting. I followed the link to your Blog, too; curiously, it ultimately led me to. . . The Bristol Press!!!

    I will update my own post here shortly, but a question: The whole Bristol Press/Bailout story made national news today, and as far as I could tell, the paper never had a direct link to the story on its web page; what’s up with that?

    Cheers!

  3. The Bristol Press has been writing about this so-called bailout for many weeks. If I ran the paper, it would have had dozens and dozens more stories about this entire issue, but I don’t run the paper. I’m just a reporter.

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