November 11, 2008

Let's not let the Press die. Really.

One day after the news started spreading that the Journal Register Co. plans to close The Bristol Press and a bunch of other Connecticut papers if they're not sold by January 12, I'm already tired of feeling sad or scared.
What I feel like doing now is fighting to save this critical community newspaper.
Whatever you think of the Press -- and I know some are disappointed about its inability to cover everything anymore or even to get copies delivered properly -- it has a 137-year history in town and the possibility of racking up that many more years, in some form or another. In its time, it has had great reporting and truly wretched stuff. It has had moments where it shined and times when it stunk. It has been home for powerbrokers who shaped this city, including Lou Bachman, Bart Barnes and Joe Zerbey. It has weathered floods, ownership changes and even me.
Through it all, the paper has reported who died, who was born, who got married, who got arrested, who got elected and so much more that is really the lifeblood of any town.
It has been the place that the community argued about issues, learned what was going on and what could be done if leaders and citizens made the effort.
I've had the pleasure at odd hours of pawing through folders that Bart Barnes left behind, chock full of clippings and correspondence that showed how he and others pushed for a highway, arranged for the purchase of what became the Hoppers-Birge Pond Nature Preserve, and so much more. There is so much in there to show what a newspaper can mean, what it can do.
I'm not about to defend everything that my company has done in Bristol during the past 14 years. I cringed along with the community at some decisions. I felt sorrow with every misguided budget cut that meant a weaker, smaller paper.
But I never lost the hope that the Press would rebound, that it could catapult the city to new heights if it had the right leadership and a community ready to stop bellyaching and start trying to get something done. I still think that's possible.
I don't think our readers understand that if Bristol loses this paper, it loses much more than some flimsy sheets of paper each day. It loses its soul.
A city without a newspaper lacks an identity because it doesn't have a way to talk to itself. It can't communicate beyond the narrow bounds of personal ties. It becomes a far lesser place.
Don't believe me? Go ask the people in a city that doesn't have a paper. They'll all tell you they don't know anything about what goes on in their town. Elections lose their luster. Festivals dwindle and die. Nonprofits whither. Those towns go on, of course, but they aren't what they were and they'll never be what they could become.
This is the moment, Bristol, to take charge of destiny. Buy this little paper and nourish it. Keep it alive and try to make it grow.
If the buyers see me as a problem of some sort, get rid of me. I'll survive. This isn't about me. It's about the fate of a city I've come to care deeply about.
I'll offer some ideas later about how the paper could be purchased and what could happen if we all try to do what's needed. I truly hope that Bristol can rise to the challenge because this isn't a looming tragedy, it's a glorious opportunity to take hold of this crucial institution and keep it within the community for a long, long time to come.
Don't let it slip away.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Ask Barne$$ to buy it. Or maybe Ken Cockayne, Ken Johnson or Craig Yarde?

Anonymous said...

Barnes buying it is a great idea...seriously, we can go all fox news and put a conservative slant on the local news!

Anonymous said...

"we can go all fox news"

Yeaah dude (or dudette), I mean to-tal-leeee!

Gee what's wrong with the ultra-liberal slant we get with all the "mainstream" press?

Anonymous said...

We can't bail out every business that goes under. Besides, as soon as Obama takes office, all will be right with the world. Yes, we can!

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe that the loss of responsible, accurate journalism within the community is the precursor to that communities eventual downfall. When a city of 60,000 has to rely on the grapevine for information and policy decisions, what can we expect from our "leaders"? And don't kid yourself, this paper (and city) has been in decline for well over 25 years. In part because of cultural A.D.D. (I Have to read the whole article?), and irresponsible journalism (lack of fact checking, research, or integrity!). I guess the morons win again! IGNORANCE REIGNS SUPREME!!!!

Steve Collins said...

11 pm -
I've read quite a lot of older issues of the Press. And I can tell you with absolute assurance that even today, which isn't exactly a shining moment in the paper's history, the Press is more accurate, fair and solidly reported that it's been in nearly every period of its long history.
That golden age you imagine in days past never existed.

Anonymous said...

teve, you know what is sad about this. 100 people and mosly Bristol people are slated to lose thier jobs, be unemloyed and maybe have to start looking for new careers at middle age and yet some of these bozos who post on this blog are making a mockery out of it.

f I were a business owner who was looking to expand and I researched this cmmunity and read this blog, I would run far away from here.

T.J Barnes, Craig Yarde, Ken Johnson, the Mayor for that matter have all taken time out of thier lives to make Bristol a better place. We may not all agree with them or thier issues, but do we really have to degrade them and thier families in the process.

Craig Yarde and his family have paid millions of dollars to the City of Bristol over the years in business, personal property real estate and motor vechile taxes.

Have Barnes buy the press? What are you jealous that they worked for a living and made money? Are you jealous that you lst your government handout?

IF I were the Barnes family, I would pack up Associated Spring, move the plant to mexico and let the parking lot grow weeds.

We all know the only reason they stay in BRistol is for the BArnes Family. But why should they stay?

The greastest screw you they could do the the union hacks who work thier is to put them all on the unemployment line. Calling thier houses at 4 in the morning during union negogations and hanging up.

WHile I think it would be a great screw you, I won't be rejoicing for those employees who would need to find new jobs in this economy.

While the messiah got elected last Tuesdya, its going to take a few years to get this economy moving again, especially when he raises everyones taxes.

WHile some may also rejoice in Steve and Jackie being out of work think about this. WHen Couture, Ward and Diamantis brought the mall in the middle of the night with no public input, this community went cuckoo.

What's going to happen when the BRistol Press isn't there to make sure our elected leaders follow the FOI laws, and are doing business of the up and up?

Who's going to keep them honest?

So, while this maybe an opportunity for you all to beat the crap out of those who have given up thier time, and thier lives to make our community a better place, think of its implications and please stop making a mockery out of OUR Town.

Steve, thanks for all you've done and tell Jackie to keep the faith.

Anonymous said...


Why don't the employees to come together and buy out the paper?

Anonymous said...

The Law of unitended consequences is at work.

As the Car/trucks and planes reduced the need for the rails, and the cell phone is reducing the need for pay phones and land lines, so is the On line capability reducing the need for the news aper, especially locals.

Ther economics are not simple, and one has to ask, what would a new owner do that can't be done right now.

I too hope for the best, for we all suffer if there is no means for getting local news.

Anonymous said...

This is why the Press is going to die:

Anonymous said...

Again, the usual "beat the crap out of the Liberals and unions' for the demise of the Press and America.

What is the matter with you Conservative nutcases? Is it alright for the owners of the B Press to come in and take away everything that's profitable and dump the paper because it's not profitable any longer? How much profit is palatable with these people? Is it okay for the executives at AIG to rake in multi-million dollar salaries and benefit packages while running their businesses into the ground? Is it alright for us to bail them out with our tax money and continue to pay these same executives that drove them into the ground their same exorbitant salaries and give dividends to shareholders? THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE PUT IN JAIL, but no, you think it's okay to reward them. This didn't have anything to do with unions because there are no unionized workers at AIG, so what happened? What about Wall Street, can't blame that collapse on the unions either because the brokers aren't unionized!! Even though Fannie and Freddie were created by Democrats, the unions weren't at fault for their collapse, it was fraudulent bookkeeping, bad investments, risky mortgages, etc. They weren't unionized but it was alright to pay their executives exorbitant salaries and benefits.

Climb out of your snail shells and take a good look around you, it's Corporate America, stupid, that's raping and pillaging the American economy, not the unions. You nutheads complain that it's because of high union wages that corporations are forced to go overseas because everything is cheaper to produce there, right? Well, how come nothing is ever sold here at a less expensive price because it's cheaper there? It's because all the excess profits the company made by going overseas, goes right into the executive's pockets. It's not about union wages and benefits, it's about Corporate Greed, STUPID!!!!

Keep being stupid like you are and before you know it, there will be two classes of citizens in America, the rich and the poor, and I guarantee you, that you the stupid one, will be one of us poor people. There will be no more "middle class", this is what the Corporate World always wanted.

If you want to even the competition for American jobs, the answer is not to ship our jobs overseas but to impose a tariff on any goods coming in to our country just like China and Japan do to us. Strengthen our education system like they do in Israel and India so that our students are equal with them to allow our kids to compete for these technology jobs. Require Corporate America to stop outsourcing jobs that could be done right here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Steve and the rest of the staff at the Bristol Press and the Herald for the impending loss of your jobs.

By the way Steve, is the Bristol Press unionized? Are the Reporters unionized? Are the delivery personnel unionized? (I already know that they are sub-contracted, but I wanted to make a point)

Is the Press going under because of excessive union wages and benefits? It's because the Corporation has sucked everything it could out of the local paper, like everything else they are a huge company that hasn't any local ties to the community, and quite frankly, don't give a hoot about the citizens of Bristol, just their bottom line.

Anonymous said...

What will happen to the Tatoo?

Anonymous said...

The Press is not a not-for-profit charity. It is a business, and if it doesn't make money, it folds. That's what businesses do.

I think if The Press dies another paper will be born. That's the circle of life, and it's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

With the economy the way it is, I don't know how any business can survive. Eventually, though, there will be a new paper. A city the size of Bristol will be a good opportunity for some enterprising person when things start looking up.

Anonymous said...

10:00 Yes it is okay for the owners of the Press to take what they want out of the business and then shut it down. They own it! Start your own business, and you can do what you like with it.

Simplified: You're seven years old and you want to make some money. You mix up some lemonade and open a stand in your front yard. A few friends stop by, some moms, the mailman, and the next thing you know, you've got no more customers. You take your money and put it in your piggybank.

It was your lemonade stand. You got the quarters, and you decided to close it when you couldn't sell any more lemonade. Was that bad?