January 7, 2009

New owner vows to give communities time to save their newspapers

These stories were written by reporter Jackie Majerus:

Incoming Press owner says papers can regain former role
HARTFORD – Promising to restore The Bristol Press and The Herald of New Britain to "the iconic position" they once held in their communities, incoming owner and Publisher Mike Schroeder said he can't wait to get started.
Schroeder, meeting reporters at the Capitol Wednesday, outlined his plans for the two daily papers and three weeklies that he and a fellow investor intend to buy for an undisclosed price in the coming weeks.
The two dailies, each with a circulation of about 9,000, will remain separate publications, said Schroeder, but continue to put out a combined Sunday paper. 
The papers will continue printing on their current schedules, said Schroeder, who said there will be no interruption in publication.
"We're going to keep the staffs close to what they are now," said Schroeder, who said there will be a place for employees who want to work hard and do a good job.
"We're going to make the papers as good as they can possibly be," said Schroeder, who has a long history in the news business.
Initially, the Press will continue to be printed in Torrington, and the Herald in New Haven, said Schroeder, but he said he expects that to change.
He said he's not yet sure where the newspaper offices will be, but said he is not purchasing the Bristol Press building on Main Street. The Herald building in New Britain is already under contract for sale.
Schroeder said he does not expect to change from the morning delivery format and promised "first-class customer service."
There will be continued improvements in the newspapers, Schroeder said, vowing to deliver value for advertisers and "a paper that people want to turn to if they want to know what's going on."
But Schroeder, who along with a private investor recently formed Central Connecticut Communications, made it clear that the newspapers will go far beyond the printed word.
"We're going to be a multi-media company," said Schroeder. "We want to educate, inform and entertain these communities."
The papers will deliver the news and information in whatever form best works for the subscriber, Schroeder said.
He said there will be improvements to the printed edition, to the web page and predicted there will be more technological advances. Some people, he said, may wind up reading their local news on their cell phones in the future.
"I don't think the print version will ever entirely go away," said Schroeder, but he said he doesn't know what form it will take, even five years from now.
"We're going to serve the community in any form we need to," Schroeder said.
Though local leaders hailed Schroeder for rescuing the newspapers from closure, he said, "I'm here to give enough time so the community can save the papers."
The papers are going to need subscribers, advertisers and community support to make it work, Schroeder said.
"We're going to have a viable, profitable company as well as a community resource," said Schroeder.
One of the things that will set the newspapers apart, according to Schroeder, is local control. Too many publications are owned and controlled from outside the area and suffer from "management by phone." 
"I don't think that works," said Schroeder, who lives on Long Island but plans to move to the area be involved in the communities, listening to residents and supplying what they need.
"This is not going to be operated from Long Island," said Schroeder.
Schroeder joked that he's being torn in two directions because leaders of both Bristol and New Britain want him to settle in their town.
State Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat who also represents people in Bristol and New Britain, offered a diplomatic solution.
"Plainville is right in the middle," she said. "I'd be happy to show you around." 
Schroeder said he is in the process of doing due diligence before the closing. Though unlikely, it is still possible that the deal could fall apart, he said, adding, "but neither of us want it to."

Politicians hail prospective owner of Press, Herald

HARTFORD – City and state officials representing Bristol and New Britain gathered Wednesday to herald Mike Schroeder, the incoming owner and publisher of five newspapers that had been threatened with closure by their current owner, the Journal Register Co.
"It is great news," said Rep. Tim O'Brien, a New Britain Democrat who said he and fellow lawmakers from Bristol and New Britain got involved after learning that their hometown newspapers would close if they weren't sold by the middle of this month. He said they were concerned about the impact the loss of the papers would have on their communities.
Lawmakers said many people helped spread the news about the plight of the papers, from politicians to state economic development officials to members of the press.
"The word got out," said O'Brien, "and Mr. Schroeder read about it in The New York Times."
Bristol Mayor Art Ward showed off a copy of Wednesday's Bristol Press, where the lead story announced Schroeder's plan to purchase the paper.
"It's a great headline to see in the morning," said Ward, who said Schroeder and his investment partner is the "economic stimulus for the newspaper industry" in Connecticut.
"It's good news for a new year," said New Britain Mayor Timothy Stewart. 
Stewart and Ward, who met privately with Schroeder in the last days of December, said their impression of him was good from the start.
"From minute one, his focus has been community," said Ward.
Both mayors pledged to do what they could to help Schroeder's new venture.
"It is our job to make sure you're successful," said Stewart. "Your success goes alongside ours."
Schroeder, who along with a private investor recently formed Central Connecticut Communications, intends to close soon on the purchase of two daily papers, The Bristol Press and The Herald of New Britain and three weeklies, the Newington Town Crier, the Wethersfield Post and the Rocky Hill Post.
All together, the papers have 95 employees, said Schroeder.
O'Brien said the new publisher will have access to the same programs through the state Department of Economic and Community Development that any other business does.
Schroeder said there is no state money in the deal now, but he said, "I'll take every nickel I can get."
Bristol has a series of economic development programs aimed at job retention and growth, and Ward said the newspaper would be eligible for those.
"We don't expect to get handouts," said Schroeder. "We don't expect to get something for nothing."
Stewart said there may be money available for retraining workers for new technology.
"The paper is no different than any other business," said Stewart, who said his goal is saving local jobs.
Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat, said the legislators tried to drum up support and interest in the papers, but weren't involved in the negotiations.
Perseverance paid off, said Nicastro. "This is a positive ending."

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The new publisher says the newspapers will be a place for staff who want to "work hard and do a good job". Where does that leave you, Steve? (Just kidding)