Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lawmakers meet in effort to save Bristol, New Britain newspapers


Special to The Register Citizen

HARTFORD — Legislators representing Bristol and New Britain will meet Friday with state economic development officials about what can be done to save the daily newspapers in those cities.
The Bristol Press and The Herald of New Britain — and 11 weekly community papers in central Connecticut — will be closed after Jan. 12 if a buyer for the papers isn’t found by then, the owner, Journal Register Co., has said.All together, there are about 100 jobs at stake.
“We’re trying to save these newspapers,” said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat.
Lawmakers from Bristol and New Britain have a meeting scheduled Friday with Commissioner Joan McDonald of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
State Rep. Tim O’Brien, a New Britain Democrat who brought the delegation together to ask for the meeting, said he wants to talk about how the state can help.“The state has programs that are designed to create and preserve jobs,” said O’Brien, who said he wants to bring the importance of the newspapers to McDonald’s attention.
The goal, according to O’Brien, is to “keep these historic businesses and the jobs from leaving our communities.
”State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said he would be at the meeting Friday to lend a hand.“I don’t like to see anybody lose their jobs,” Colapietro said. “I’m hopeful we can do something.”
State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat, said he wants to find out what, if anything, the DECD is already doing to preserve the newspapers.
“They may have something percolating already,” DeFronzo said.If not, DeFronzo said, he wants to find out what can be done.
Aiding a prospective newspaper buyer, said O’Brien, is the same as helping any other business.
Any state help would go to a new owner or operating organization, according to O’Brien, not to the Journal Register Co., which intends to sell or close the papers.
“The application for any assistance would be for the new prospective buyer,” O’Brien said.
DeFronzo said the state may be able to help “if we can find a prospective buyer or successor organization.
”If nothing can be done and the papers close, DeFronzo said, he wants to know what the state can offer the 100 people who stand to lose their jobs.
Both O’Brien and DeFronzo said they had been contacted by possible newspaper buyers or their representatives, but didn’t provide details.“I’m somewhat encouraged,” DeFronzo said.
Nicastro, who served as Bristol’s mayor for 10 years, said the local paper includes everything, even notices of Cub Scout meetings and fundraising car washes.
“You lose a newspaper, you lose everything,” Nicastro said. “You lose the city, and it’s wrong.”
Nicastro — who was instrumental in brokering a deal that saved Lake Compounce when the nation’s oldest amusement park nearly closed more than 12 years ago — said he’s pleased that the New Britain and Bristol delegations are working together to save the papers.Jan. 12 isn’t far away, Nicastro pointed out.
“Time is of the essence,” Nicastro said. “We’ve got to fight hard on this.”


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