November 12, 2008

City leaders vow to fight to save Bristol Press

Community leaders said Wednesday they’re determined to find a new owner for The Bristol Press because losing the daily newspaper that has served the city for 137 years would be a devastating blow to Bristol.
Mayor Art Ward said he will “do everything in my power to look at any and all means of keeping the Bristol Press alive.”
The corporate owner of the paper, the Pennsylvania-based Journal Register Co., told employees this week that it planned to close the Press, the New Britain Herald and 11 weeklies in Central Connecticut if they are not sold by January 12. There appears to be at least a little interest in exploring the option of purchasing the Press. But whether any potential buyers will turn out to be serious is unclear.
More than 100 people would be laid off at the newspapers if they close, company officials said, including 50 in Bristol, most of them working for the Press.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who served as mayor for a decade, said that “we should pull out all the stops to try to help the Press remain in Bristol.”
Nicastro said the city lost its sole radio station in the mid-1990s “and the last thing we want to do now is to lose our newspaper.”
Nicastro said that “all the top people” in the city and the state need to sit down and figure out how to preserve the threatened newspapers.
“We need our local newspaper,” said city Councilor Ken Cockayne. “Otherwise, we’re not going to know what’s happening in our city.”
City Councilor Cliff Block said that for the city to be without a newspaper “would be pretty sad.”
Block said that without a paper, people would not know about meetings, taxes, school projects and much more.
Information about sports, politics and education “is going to be lost if we don’t have that reported on a regular basis,” said former Mayor William Stortz.
Block said that he hopes “a white knight” will step forward before the deadline for closure of the 99 Main St. paper.
Jay Manewitz, the historical research librarian at the Main Library, said that he “cannot imagine Bristol without the Bristol Press.”
Manewitz said that it is through past editions of the paper, people who can discover “what the city was like 50 or 100 years ago.”
“It’s all on the pages of the Bristol Press,” Manewitz said.
He said that he hopes someone “plunks down the money and buys the Press” because losing it would be a blow.
“C’mon, let’s be honest, a newspaper out of town doesn’t have enough reporters” to detail much of anything that goes on in Bristol, Nicastro said.
The idea of closing it “stinks,” said developer George Carpenter.
State Rep.-elect Chris Wright, a Bristol Democrat who won election to the House this month, said he views the potential closure of the paper as a crisis that demands the attention of officials. He said he would do whatever he can to keep the paper alive.
A reporter at the Press, Adam Benson, formed a Facebook page to rally support for the paper. His Save the Bristol Press! page has already attracted 144 supporters.
“I passionately believe that local joujrnalism is the heart and soul of American discourse,” Benson said, “and it is disconcerting that a 137-year-old tradition is set to fall victim to corporate greed, incompetence and malfeasance.”
Benson said that he doesn’t want to see the paper close “at least without a fight” to preserve it. He said the support he’s received “has been touching and appreciated.”

Update: The Yale Daily News has a story today that, if nothing else, is probably as close to the Ivy League as I'm likely to get anymore.
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Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Save the Press! Save the Press! Save the Press!

Anonymous said...

I definitely don't want to see the BP go but until someone figures out how to make the operation profitable it's D.O.A.

Anonymous said...

How much do they want for the company?

Anonymous said...

Yes, we can!

Anonymous said...

Chris Wright?

Stortz with two failed Administrations?

Pack Your Bags Steve!

Bob D'Aprile said...

Yes, it will be a sad day if/when the Bristol Press no longer exists. I grew up reading the paper in the 60s, 70s and 80s ... spending Career Day in 1977 with Chuck McCarthy and Jack Lautier in the sports department. I tried to get a job there in the 80s, but I was judged to not have enough experince to work in the sports department. I later moved on from the Willimantic Chronicle to the Stamford Advocate ... and have sinced left the industry.

One correction, WBIS did not last to the mid 1990s ... it was gone in the mid 1980s ... it's been more than 20 years since WBIS went off the air. That was a big loss for the city, to lose it's own radio station.

Anonymous said...

The city won't do diddly. Maybe open another dunkin donuts or pizza joint. (A 4 star resturant you can take people too, I don't htink so.)
Anyway, back to the press.
What exactly is for sale? Why would you buy it instead of a start up? The name? Worthless stock? That old building? Ad accounts? Please explain what is for sale.
This is the age of new media...that's got to be the cornerstone of any phoenix-ilke rise.
I'm glad Steve is writing this blog...it'd be nice if the editor or publisher would put a note to readers in the paper, not just some snippet of an AP story.

Steve Collins said...

As I understand, the building is not for sale, or at least it's not part of this sale.
So a buyer would get the paper's name, which is worth something, and its circulation, ad accounts, staff, computers, files and more.
How much is that worth? I have no idea. I know I'd haggle over the price.
Any buyer would need to arrange a printing contract and would need to set up a new office somewhere else in town, with at least some new equipment and software to put the paper together. It wouldn't cost that much to do it, really.
As I've said, if anybody is serious, we're all eager to talk about what we know of the process and what might be needed or desirable.

Steve Collins said...

Getting me, of course, is priceless. ;)

Anonymous said...

Please please please city leaders, Stay out of this one. You have proven in the past you know nothing about what it takes to make a business profitable or to make responsible decisions concerning spending. Let a private company come along and save what is left of the paper if it is worth saving at all. Enough of this "Bail Out" mentality in government.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to you, Steve. You do a great job. I wish the company that owned your paper had valued your skills and cared half as much about my town as you do.

Steve Collins said...

I don't believe the city has any thought of bailing out the paper. What it is trying to do -- rightly, I believe -- is to focus attention on a looming catastrophe for the community and to beat the bushes to find a buyer.
For the city to do nothing would be stupid.

Anonymous said...

The "city leaders" love seeing their name in the Press. They love the coverage Steve gives them. Thus they support it.

Anonymous said...

11:58

Both Wright and Stortz ran for office.
HAVE YOU???

Both Wright and Stortz have won.
HAVE YOU??

Stortz has served, Wright will be serving.
HAVE YOU???

Actually, what have YOU done except gripe???

Have you FAILED to serve the people of this fine city?

fond memories said...

to beat the bushes to find a buyer.

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This group has had remarkable success finding someone to save the center mall project . May they achieve even better results in saving the paper that put them into office .

Maybe the unions can chip in and buy it , after all the paper has done for them .

Anonymous said...

Ummm... the VOTERS put these people into office, not the paper. Steve and others covered political races did so fairly fairly (which is why candidates on all sides talked with him) and put the issues and personalities out there. The people made their choices.
And as for the paper doing anything for these people, well, it reports what happened, including when they screwed up. Most of those who are championing the Press now have had their moments of being on the front page in an unflattering light. I am sure I don't have to say what those stories were, and I am also sure that when they think of them, it still might sting.
But they, unlike many of the posters on this blog who are so eager to see the paper die, seem to understand that the Press is bigger than that moment, bigger than any one person's moment of embarassment or moment of glory. It's bigger than Steve, and it's bigger than the group of employees who are there now. It is the record of the city and the way the community is tied together, the way we learn of births, deaths, marriages, and babies. It's the place people go to find out who was arrested and what is happening in local government, schools and sports. It is a community bulletin board and a place to learn about all the organizations, businesses and museums that make Bristol what it is. Those who aren't regular readers might not understand the potential loss until it's gone. But shame on anyone who trashes this city's only newspaper, a business that has served the city for more than 130 years, or the people who work hard to produce it every day. It's much more than Steve or his wife or the other reporters. It's interesting that those who are trying to do what they can to save the Press can see beyond personalities or individual slights and grasp the larger picture of what it truly means to this town. Congratulations to them and others involved in the effort to preserve the newspaper, and thanks for once again putting the community first.

Steve Collins said...

Thanks, 1:35. Well put.

Anonymous said...

If these naysayers would direct some of their negativism into some positive contributions, maybe it would help to ease some of the doom and gloom of today's situations.
Most of us, if not all of us, are victims of today's economic conditions - we are in it together, so wouldn't it seem more productive to try to resolve these circumstances together? Food For thought.

Anonymous said...

Two comments: First, I don't necessarily believe that the elections in the past were covered fairly, but that's now ancient history. Secondly, the only political agenda that ever gets forwarded in the Press is Ken Cockayne's, as was proven, once again, by someone asking for Ken's opinion on the topic of the Press's demise. Are all the elected officials quoted? I think not. Perhaps only the opinions that were printed were the ones where the Press was approached for publication, but the last time I checked Mr. Nicastro didn't run to the Press to give his opinion unless he was personally asked.

I have an idea. Why don't we have Chops buy the Press since he can't say enough about Mr. Cockayne. He'll just continue what was started by the Press.

The one thing I definitely won't miss is that stupid Sound Off. The idiotic and unsubstantiated stuff that's printed needs to be silenced. I will miss the local sports and local happenings, i.e., births, deaths, plays, which I feel are extremely important. Those are what gave the Press its hometown appeal.

Steve Collins said...

I asked Ken Cockayne for a comment because he is actively trying to help foster a local purchase of the paper.

Anonymous said...

Hey the city bought a mall why not a newspaper?

Anonymous said...

Nobody is saying the city should buy the paper. What is being discussed by business leaders and city officials is saving a local business. It may not have local owners, but it is here, on MAIN STREET, and has been for almost 140 years. That in itself should mean something. If another longtime company were looking to close or leave, it would be the duty of the city's leaders to try to do what they could to keep it in town and thriving. The city has an economic interest in the Press (jobs and businesses, taxes, people, hello!) as well as a larger community institutional interest in it.
I would hope that if Theis, Associated Spring or some other large employer were about to pull up stakes and relocate or fold into another part of the company, abandoning its Bristol presence, that the town's leaders would do what they could to stop it. That's just an example. Maybe Bristol Hospital is a better example. The hospital is unique and the community depends on it, not unlike the Press. The hospital has more employees and operates under different rules than a newspaper, but it's not like another business and couldn't be replaced by just another company. Of course, a lot of people love to trash the hospital just like people seem to love to trash the Press. Is the hospital perfect? No, and neither is the Press, but Bristol wouldn't be the same without either one. It would, in fact, be a lesser place to live and work. It's such a shame that so many won't realize what the Press means until it is too late.

Anonymous said...

I like UConn better...they know how to stem the MRSA tide.