December 19, 2008

JRC slams the doors shut on 16 Connecticut papers

The New Haven Independent has the story about the Journal Register Co.'s sudden announcement yesterday that it would close the doors on 16 weeklies near the Elm City.
The company laid off 21 employees one week before Christmas without any warning, the online paper reported today.
Some of the papers have been mainstays in their communities for generations but all fell on hard times since their takeover by the Pennsylvania-based JRC.
Look at that sign pictured in the Independent: "Reporting the life story of your community since 1877."
And now that story is done.
The JRC is nearly bankrupt, owing hundreds of millions of dollars it cannot pay back. Its stock trades for half a penny a share, making the whole company worth less than most houses in Bristol.
The company said nothing in public about its decision to shutter the papers, not even telling their readers in the final issue that it would cease publication. The papers that were closed are actually located in the JRC-owned New Haven Register's building.
The JRC has said -- because a federal law required it give 60 days notice -- that it plans to close The Bristol Press, the New Britain Herald and 11 Central Connectcut weeklies as soon as Jan. 12. It has notified employees at the papers that their final day is likely to be Jan. 16 unless the papers are sold.
There is at least a chance the papers will be purchased.
The broker handling the sale is apparently optimistic about reaching a deal, according to one source. Several sources have said that another newspaper company in the region, the Manchester-based Journal Inquirer, is talking seriously with the broker. It is not the only potential buyer, according to a couple of sources.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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Bob Merrick said...


It is inevitable that in order for "newspapers" to survive they need to ditch the print component and find a way to get people to be willing to pay for content. The benefit as well as the problem with the internet is that much of what people need to find out is essentially free.

The internet allows critical information to be quickly communicated to the reader and continuously updated as new information materializes. However, just about anything can be presented in a convincing format and look credible to the naive reader. This is a double-edged sword because the internet does provide a more open forum that allows more people to communicate and interact with large audiences, but the editorial function is largely voluntary and is dependent on diligent individuals researching numerous sources on their own and challenging erroneous or misleading information. Verifying the credibility of information can be time consuming and is not always possible, especially when sources are not referenced.

Perhaps the answer lies with the service providers, Yahoo, Google, and MSN providing the content by subcontracting local, regional, and national news agencies with a staff of journalists in exchange for their advertising customers.

Bob Jelenic said...

JRC also shut down several weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania, also without any warning.

What is the federal law that made JRC give some papers 60 days' notice but other papers got two hours' notice? Do you know the details?

Joe said...

Steve, I'm very sorry to hear about this. My first job in journalism was with the Regional Standard, and then I went on to the Bristol Press, where I was lucky enough to work with you and Jackie. What a loss for all of these communities. I wish you the best of luck over these next few weeks, I hope a solution is reached to keep the Press alive.

Anonymous said...

Or you can join Bob Merrick's Lincolnian Party and read all his narcissistic observations online for free.

Steve Collins said...

Bob Jelenic --
You can read the federal law's terms here:

But basically, we got notice because between the Herald, Press and Imprint, we have more than 100 employees. If there are fewer, they don't have to give a warning.
Reading that sheet, though, has given me a few more questions to ask a few more people.

Anonymous said...

So if it wasnt for federal law, the JRC would have simply shut you down the minute the holiday season was over. Just when you think that company can't look any worse.

Anonymous said...

No, the JRC would have shut down the Press just as the holiday season was beginning, not after it was over.
And all without warning.
Steve, why do you bother responding to a corpse?