Christine Stuart photo
DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald (Christine Stuart photo )

Lawmakers emerged from a meeting with state officials Friday optimistic about the future of two community newspapers, which under current ownership may have to shut their doors as early as January 12.

At least two lawmakers said they’ve been contacted by potential buyers for the beleaguered New Britain Herald and The Bristol Press, both of which are Journal Register Co. newspapers.

Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, said he was more optimistic Friday than he was a week ago that the two newspapers will be saved under new ownership.

Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Joan McDonald said her office would offer everything from tax credits to low interest loans to potential buyers. However, she made it clear that “this is not a bailout.” She said these offers to help are not unlike offers it makes to other industries interested in continuing to do business here in the state.

None of the state officials or lawmakers were able to disclose much about the potential buyers.

State Rep. Tim O’Brien, D-New Britain, said the two newspapers “play a vital role in our communities.”

State Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, said that in Friday’s meeting they talked about the need to go back to local ownership of newspapers because the corporate media organizations “don’t care what happens in New Britain.”

When asked about the Journal Register Co.‘s management of the newspapers, state Rep. Frank Nicastro, D-Bristol, said,” I think they have dropped the ball. It’s a shame.”

Christine Stuart photo
State Rep. Betty Boukus (Christine Stuart photo )

In recent years, the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press have experienced catastrophic layoffs. According to many former employees of both papers and other JRC publications in Connecticut, the decline of the company’s publications is directly attributable to its management practices. The evening newspapers it purchased in Connecticut were transformed into morning publications in direct competition with the Hartford Courant, leading to immediate declines. Further, the papers’ workforces and resources have been continually slashed for profiteering purposes.

Where the New Britain Herald was once a 30,000-plus circulation daily, ABC reports its current Sunday circulation at about 19,000 and it’s Monday-Saturday circulation at about 9,000. The Bristol Press is down to about 8,000.

Steve Collins a veteran reporter at the Bristol Press said Friday after the press conference that he has been trying to be optimistic from day one and he’s happy to hear that there’s some interest in purchasing the newspapers. Click here to read his report.

Representatives of the Journal Register Co. which currently owns the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press were not invited to Friday’s meeting to discuss the future of the two newspapers.