Calling the newspaper’s prospective new owner “a breath of fresh air,” Mayor Art Ward said that newsman Michael Schroeder “has done us the great act of saving our Bristol Press.”
Ward said that Schroeder promise to bring the daily’s traditional focus on the community to the forefront again show he’s aiming to take the paper in the right direction.
During a brief address to the City Council Tuesday, Schroeder said he is “looking forward to growing with the city” in the years ahead.
He told councilors and the mayor that he hopes “to work together for what they call the greater good.”
Though a few details remain to iron out, Schroeder’s Central Connecticut Communications is expected to take ownership of the Press, the New Britain Herald and three weeklies within days.
The current owner, the Pennsylvania-based Journal Register Co., is crippled with debt and struggling to stay afloat. Its stock is selling for less than a penny a share.
Ward and several other city leaders said that having a new owner who will live in the area and get involved in the community offers the chance to restore the luster of a paper that suffered from stingy and distant management since the JRC bought it in 1994.
Ward said that Schroeder is busy “letting everybody know there’s a new paper in town” through radio interviews, news stories and personal meetings.
The mayor said the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce is holding a welcoming breakfast at 9 a.m. Friday at its Main Street headquarters to give members and city leaders the chance “to mix with Michael.”
City Councilor Mike Rimcoski said that he’s grateful that Schroeder stepped in to prevent the Press from closing this week, as the JRC had threatened.
“May wife haunted me every day” to keep the paper coming, Rimcoski said.
“For peace in the family, thank you,” he told the incoming publisher.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro, who is also a state representative from the 79th District, said the effort to save the paper has made for “one heckuva three or four weeks” for him, particularly after news stories were misinterpreted by a legion of bloggers to insinuate that Nicastro was leading an effort for the state to bail out the JRC to help the papers.
Nicastro said he’s received at least 43 hateful emails from around the country “calling me a communist pig and everything else.”
Nicastro said he turned some that appeared threatening over to the Capitol Police.
“I gave the military 30 years of my life and I don’t like being called a communist pig,” Nicastro said.
Both Nicastro and Ward said there is no bailout in the works for Schroeder or the papers.
Instead, they said, the new owner will have the same access to government programs and tax breaks that every other business gets.
“We’re willing to see what we can do to help,” Nicastro said, encouraging Schroeder to talk with the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Ward said there may be city programs that the paper’s new owner might qualify for.
But, he said, the benefits would be “the same that would be accorded to any other business.”
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