November 11, 2008

I don't like being part of this story

After more than 20 years of reporting, it's my turn to have the questions tossed at me.
It's not such a great feeling.
I ignored most of the interview requests I got today because I had to cover the Veterans Day ceremonies in Bristol -- duty still calls -- but I did speak for a little while with the Associated Press. I hope I didn't say anything stupid.
What I have been struck by so far is that most people are pretty kind, even in my profession, which isn't exactly known for its gentleness. I appreciate that. I hope over the years I've conveyed some of that compassion at tough times to others.
In any case, I have much more to say about this paper -- and newspapers generally -- since journalism has been my concern for decades and the Press has been a big chunk of my life for the past 15 years.
But I'll wait for the opportunity to say more until the initial shock wears off. I confess, though, that I feel a little bit like people who have been caring for a dying old relative for years and then tell you they are stunned when the old guy bites the dust. It's kind of stupid to know it's coming and still be surprised when it arrives.
And yet, I still have some faith in a miracle drug, a mystery buyer, a community effort to salvage what remains or something, anything, that doesn't lead to the finale none of us want to see (except for the reader whose comments on here have long called for me to get fired because I'm such a jerk).

Update: I talked on camera to reporters for Channel 30 and Channel 8. I figure putting my face on TV may drive more people to read newspapers. ;)
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Anonymous said...

Steve, I am sorry to read the news. I'll never forget the great times in Bristol back in 1992-94. What a dream team. I hope Bristol realizes what it had and appreciates what it still has in a homtown daily newspaper.

Jeremy Kohler
St. Louis

Steve Collins said...

Thanks, Jeremy.

that guy who you think hates you...but really loves you and jackie said...

As much as I have stated correctly that you are a Bush hating, Republican bashing, Democrat favoring (all true) albeit typical member of the press (small "p'), I still would like to express my sympathies to you and Jackie if you lose your jobs. Besides being decent (albeit partisan) people, you care about the community of Bristol and your character will be missed.

Frank Johnson said...


The situation is bleak, but not hopeless.

The problem with the BP is that as circulation declines, ad revenue from display and classified advertising declines. I think the paper is still in a downward spiral despite the fact that they no longer print the paper in Bristol, circulation has been farmed out and they seem to have eliminated many operating redundancies - they actually have one publisher for three or four papers and the BP has only a small crew of reporters.

If a local or regional group bought the paper without the real estate (99 Main Street) they could probably regain local advertisers and local readers. But it will take deep pockets to survive the slow periods.

Perhaps buying it and creating a stock company using the Valley Bank model might work, local investors who are also local advertisers could keep it alive.

I don’t think any group would buy it if it included the real estate. It might be worth asking JI what they are looking for in terms of a buyer. At this point; with their stock valued at less than a penny they might sell it at a fire sale price.

From a financial perspective the display and classified revenue might cover the cost of current operations but future growth and profit would rely on advertising growth which will be a challenge in this economy.

The problem with buying the BP is that the new owners open the doors with the debt incurred to buy the paper which is the underlying problem with JI in the first place.

There could be hope if a local group emerges and is willing to take the risk. I believe that the ninth largest city in the state can and should have a local newspaper.

Since most functions have been outsourced already it would be a substantial undertaking but not an impossible task.

Keep the faith Steve, as your hero says, “Yes, we can.”

cseguin said...

This is very sad to me, for a number of reasons. The Bristol Press has started the careers of some great journalists, and to this day it employs some great journalists, such as you and Jackie.

Keep the faith, and know that there are many of us out here who are pulling for you and the Press.

Anonymous said...

Frank Johnson,
Great thoughts. Just one thing. I think you mean the JRC, Journal Register Co., not the JI, which around here is shorthand for Journal Inquirer, the Manchester paper. I know you know this, and you probably read the JI, too. This is mainly for those who might get them mixed up.
I hope there really is a groundswell to save the BP.

Anonymous said...

Frank Johnson:

Without bothering to read your post, get a personality and go on a diet ASAP (like they say in manufacturing).

Anonymous said...

Buy it Craig, it is your chance to do something for Bristol.

Tim Gamache said...

I'm sure you will find this difficult to believe Steve,but I find myself at a loss for words here.To lose the Press would be a great loss indeed.While we have shared a somewhat bizarre relationship at times,I have always had respect for you and Jackie.I sincerely hope the paper can find some way to survive(along with your jobs of course).Never like to see anyone lose their employment.I wish you luck buddy.

Tim Gamache said...

Steve: I'm sure you won't believe this but I find myself at a loss for words here.Losing the Press would be catastrophic indeed.While we have shared a somewhat bizarre relationship at times,I have always had respect for you and Jackie.Sincerely hope the paper can find some way to survive(along with your jobs of course).Never like to see anyone lose their employment.I wish you luck buddy.

Frank Johnson said...

3:31 blogger: Yes, I did mean JR, my mistake. Sometimes I type too fast and I make errors.

I was trying to think of a creative business model that could save the BP and keep the paper alive locally. It would involve a significant investment, a huge commitment and a lot of mutual cooperation and despite Steve’s disdain for anyone seeking a profit; that would be the only motivator to attract local and regional investors.

For those who would rather be anonymous and criticize me, like 3:47 PM, so be it. I guess your goal would be to insult and goad anyone who tries to be positive in order that any attempts to salvage our hometown paper go down the drain.

I was trying to be constructive. I value having a local paper and despite the times that the BP has annoyed me over the years I am still a subscriber.

Bart Barnes once said that the primary goal of a local newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Over the years the BP has been not only an organ for community discourse; it has been our conscience and our arbiter.

I think saving the paper is absolutely critical to our community. Any effort will need to be started immediately and run aggressively.

Steve Collins said...

Good commentary, Frank.

Anonymous said...

What about combining The Herald and BP into one edition for both towns. Would the cost savings there be enough to stave this off?

I'm not surprised to hear about this. Despite Steve's excellent reporting, he comes across as a decent human being unlike many of the bloggers here, the quality of the BP has been on a steady decline over the years. This, coupled with the Internet, is its death knell. Even the Hartford Courant's latest "redesign" has ripped the guts of that paper to the point where I, and many I know, don't even bother to buy or read it anymore.

I don't know what the answer is but you have my sympathies Steve. I am sure you'll land on your feet you're too good not to.

Anonymous said...

No Johnson. I saw your name and the first thing I think about is your tremendous girth and your crass personality. Like I wrote, I didn't even bother reading your opinion. Judging by your work "consulting" the new Walgreens and the by the way the BDDC so far has performed, it probably isn't worth reading.

Of course it would be nice to have the Bristol Press (without the Democrat favoritism which you obviously have grown to accept), but what can you do? Obviously with the state the Courant is in, the Press can't be too heatlthy. I guess I'm a bit more worried about the collapse of GM...although it'd be nice to see GM rid themselves of legacy obligations.

Anonymous said...


Can't you get your buddy Chris Dodd to help the Press?

Anonymous said...

Frank, I really do like the Walgreen windows.

Anonymous said...

What do Walgreen windows have to do with the Press?