As I heard from someone who knows a thing or two about the news business, there are a million scenarios that could keep the paper open. But here are a few to get things rolling:
1. Probably the most likely single scenario would be for the Meriden or Waterbury papers to buy the Press and/or the Herald, have a small bureau in Bristol, and rebrand the front page as the Press or just have what they would regard as regional coverage of Bristol within their pages. It would be less than ideal, but a whole lot better than having Bristol vanish down a black hole for news.
2. A local buyer or group of locals could simply purchase the paper and run it as is, probably from a new, cheaper office. I really think the paper could make money for them.
3. A local buyer or group could work out some kind of joint ownership of the paper with its employees, which is an intriguing idea but perhaps too complicated to do in two months. But it might make it possible to reduce operating costs if employees are sharing in profits in return for lower pay. It makes sense intellectually, but as a practical matter, it may not work.
4. Employees could purchase the paper, if it was cheap enough, but, again, there's a lot of complications to that. It might be possible, though.
5. Perhaps the most intriguing scenario is one that I heard years ago when Dean Singleton owned the Press. He very much wanted to buy the New Britain Herald, but its owner at the time, Judy Brown, wouldn't sell. Instead, she sold a bit later to the JRC and, well, the rest his history. I blame her for a lot of what's happened to these papers because Singleton, for all the tar that's been throw his way, has shown some respect for journalism.
Anyway, before I get in trouble, the idea was that with the Press and Herald in hand, Singleton could either buy the Journal Inquirer on other side of Hartford or make some kind of strategic alliance to squeeze the Hartford Courant from the outside in by making a ring around its base and pushing inward.
These days, with the Courant a mere shadow of what it was back in the early 1990s, is probably even more vulnerable to that strategy, especially if a competitor could find a way to encircle it and muscle into West Hartford, where there's so much money that even the JRC is keeping The West Hartford News open after closing everything else in Central Connecticut.
So maybe the JI has the gumption to take it all on itself. Personally, I think the JI is tough enough to pull it off. But it's not my money.
6. The Hearst Company might be interested in buying the JRC's castoffs here in Central Connecticut. A few months ago, it bought The Advocate of Stamford, Greenwich Time and The News-Times of Danbury so it's already made a move into the state. This would be a big step, but at a very low cost and not much risk. It would also put itself in a solid position to buy the Meriden and Waterbury papers if they ever become available (and, for that matter, the New Haven Register, since it could also wind up on the auction block before long).
7. Google could buy it. I know that sounds crazy, but if Google wants its News search to mean anything in the years ahead, there have to be newspapers or at least journalists in places like Bristol all over the world. It claims to be dedicated to a better world and to providing information that people need. So are newspapers. It's just that Google has all the money now.
I think that ultimately, it's going to have reporters, too, because of the need to have facts about what is happening now. Without journalism, Google searches are going to start coming up dry. And that would be a bad thing for a great company.
So Google guys, buy us!
And there are more options, of course. I'll try to get into them as time goes on, particularly if I get wind of anything solid.
PS: Frank Johnson wrote an interesting comment yesterday that's worth reprinting here for those who didn't see it:
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 JRC 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 JRC 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."