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Feb 22, 2009

Journal Register bankrupt; Funny about that.

There has been speculation for some time as to the health or otherwise of a number of US newspapers, with a wide belief that bankruptcies were imminent. This one appears to be one of the smaller 2nd or 3rd tier companies, however there is also reason to believe some of the larger ones such as NYT are in deep trouble. There have been calls on some occasions for bailouts of these companies especially in Connecticut, on the grounds that they are “necessary for the community and will be a great loss if they fold.

The community it seems has made a different assessment of their worth with the result that circulations are falling and naturally advertising revenue is following. The really disturbing possibility with newspaper bailouts is the potential for partisan reporting on any legislator who opposes them.

From Breitbart.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Journal Register Co. filed Saturday for bankruptcy protection from its creditors and said slumping advertising revenue and circulation are to blame.

In the Chapter 11 filing in US Bankruptcy court in Manhattan, Journal Register proposed a restructuring plan in which it would cancel its stock and become a closely held company controlled by its lenders.

The Yardley, Pa.-based newspaper publisher reported $596 million in assets as of Nov. 30 and $692 million in debt, including unpaid interest. Revenue has fallen more than 20 percent since 2006, the company said in the court filing.

There is a tendency among commentators to blame the current economic problems for this situation, along with the growing influence of the Internet. I have to note though that in many of these reports, including this one that there is reference to the last couple of years, note: - Revenue has fallen more than 20 percent since 2006.

There is another probable cause in my opinion, and that is that they have lost touch with the public at large, and have in the last election cycle seriously pissed off a fairly large proportion of their readers. The Journal Register like many others leans heavily liberal, (This is disputed by Steve Collins below). While in the past media have often favored one or another party, in the last election there was blatancy about it.

Few people are so biased as to be angered at reporting of things that may harm their parties chances, we all make mistakes, our candidates are the same, and when these are reported most of us are intellectually honest enough to accept that, “That was a stuff up.” Problems arise though when there is a constant bombardment of negatives toward one side while nothing but positive news is reported on the other. If media constantly beat one side of the spectrum around the heads, those people stop buying those papers.

In times past, it has been possible to get away with this as there has been no real way for contrary information to get out, at least for those who don’t go to the rallies and meetings. If there was extreme negativity on the part of the media, then many would simply think that their team really stank, but those other fellows look pretty good anyway. This is no longer the case.

The Internet with its influential sites with their interlocking circles of influence ensures that a high proportion of the public is aware of what is going on. The media has overplayed its hand, and in the words of one person made famous in the campaign, “Your chickens are coming home to roost.”


  1. The Journal Register Co. has never "leaned liberal."
    In fact, it's been quite a conservative-leaning company.
    But politics isn't the reason for its demise. Its bankruptcy is the final chapter, I hope, in a company that ran its operations amateurishly and ruthlessly. It undermined the papers it owned and left them unable in many cases to function as the community papers that had been profitable for decades.
    In short, the JRC is one of the worst run companies in history.
    It's not politics. It's competency.

  2. Steve; I understand that you are a journalist there and as such I wish you well in the future, I mean that as things have gotten quiet in my industry (mining), so I know the feeling.

    As from over here I don't get to read your paper, I was relying on reports from others, so I will give you that point. Conservative/liberal can be fairly subjective judgments anyway.

    I still stand by my view that some of the problems with some of the papers are due to blatant political bias causing readers to turn away. Whether or not the Journal Register is in this boat, or whether it is, as you say poor practices, the fact remains that it is an issue in many cases.

    I have made the point before that in the case of the NYT, they have not given their endorsement to a Republican since Eisenhower in 56. Nobody under the age of Seventy has ever voted GOP on the basis of a NYT endorsement. Even Pelosi would find it difficult to maintain that the GOP has not had a decent candidate in 52 years.

  3. Having lived in Journal-Register country, where I was a registered Republican in an overwhelmingly Republican county, the papers themselves very much reflect their communities. The problem with JR is they saw their newspapers as machines to mint money, tried to create regional monopolies (buy all the daily and weekly locals), leveraged heavily to buy some shaky properties (the Michigan ones in particular), then when they didn't continue getting high returns they needed to cover the high investments, propertieswere gutted of the reporters and resources they needed to keep going. The corporate types forgot that their business was news, seeing only 20% returns, leveraged the heck out of the company, and when the ridiculous returns they promised didn't keep coming they cut, cut, cut until there wasn't anything left, then started closing properties. Bias was not the problem, foolish, greedy ownership was and is. As the editor of our community JR weekly, closed a couple of weeks ago, noted, the paper would have been able to weather the economy but the company wasn't interested and was too leveraged. Too bad. Liberal bias hardly, corporate greed absolutely.

  4. JDK; As I said to Steve, the liberal statement was based on the opinion of others as living in Australia it is difficult to personally access this.

    I find that what passes as corporate greed is often more a matter of the shareholders being asleep at the wheel while professional executives pretty much do as they like. What you describe here reminds me of the practices of the 80s before the 87 crash.