December 18, 2008

Meeting on newspapers' fate postponed

Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
Lawmakers who planned to meet Friday with state economic development officials about the fate of more than a dozen imperiled newspapers postponed the session until next week.
Rep. Tim O'Brien, a New Britain Democrat, said they decided to "bow to Mother Nature" and not ask people to attend a meeting when a big snowstorm was expected.
An added benefit, said O'Brien, is that it gives Commissioner Joan McDonald of the state Department of Economic and Community Development more time to gather information and work with potential buyers.
O'Brien said he hopes to hold the meeting on Monday.
In November, the Journal Register Co., a newspaper chain that owns many papers in Connecticut, said it planned to close The Bristol Press, The Herald of New Britain and 11 weeklies in the state by mid-January if a buyer is not found for the papers. A total of about 100 people work at all the impacted papers.
Both the Press and the Herald have been publishing the news of their respective communities for more than a century, and lawmakers from the cities and towns involved have said they want to help save the papers.
Lawmakers have said they support offering a new owner the same kind of economic development aid that is available to any other business in Connecticut.
State Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat who has voiced strong support for the newspapers, said O'Brien and others who postponed the session "made the right decision," given the forecast.
Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said he also postponed meetings set for today.
"I don't see any choice," said Colapietro.
An email from O'Brien's office to other lawmakers in the delegation indicated that negotiations were proceeding positively, but offered no other information about any prospective buyer.
O'Brien, Nicastro and Colapietro all said they couldn't offer much in the way of details.
"I just heard rumors that there were two, they were negotiating with two," Colapietro said, adding that he didn't know any more about it.
"I have not been part of the negotiations," said Nicastro.
O'Brien said participants in the first meeting – McDonald and members of the Bristol and New Britain delegations gathered behind closed doors December 5 – agreed not to say much about potential deals in the works so as to give prospective buyers "breathing space" and not jeopardize negotiations.
"It would not be good for the process to discuss publicly what is out there," said O'Brien, who said he didn't know much more now than he did after meeting with McDonald the first time.
O'Brien would only say that he was aware of at least one interested party, but said he didn't know the depth of the interest or whether the prospective buyer would want all the papers, some of them or just one.
"We certainly hope there's some good news to say," said O'Brien. But he said he always thought that finding a buyer would be "an uphill climb."

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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