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No One Talking About Mercury's Fate

POTTSTOWN PA – The Mercury, the daily newspaper that serves Sanatoga, Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township, and surrounding portions of western Montgomery, northern Chester and eastern Berks counties, may be up for sale … or may not. No matter what its future, uncertainty over its status is raising eyebrows.

Making news.

Making news.

Journal Register Company (JRC), The Mercury’s corporate parent based in Yardley PA, last week announced its intent to sell several newspaper properties in the Philadelphia market. So far, though, it hasn’t publicly identified which or how many it hopes to shed among the six daily newspapers, seven magazines, and 16 weekly and other newspapers it owns locally. JRC said it also wanted to sell publications in Connecticut and Michigan, but again hasn’t specified properties by name.

Media attempts to learn exactly which JRC papers are available have either gone nowhere or ended in confusion and printed clarifications.

  • An article by business writer Joseph N. DiStefano in Thursday’s (Nov. 20, 2008) Philadelphia Inquirer reports the broker JRC hired to conduct the sales “doesn’t want him to say” which are on the block, and which are not.
  • Editor and Publisher magazine, a newspaper industry trade journal, last week (Nov. 14, 2008) issued a story reporting that The New Haven (CT) Register, and The Macomb Daily in Mt. Clemens MI, newspapers were among those to be sold. JRC subsequently announced they were not for sale.
  • Crain’s Detroit Business, a business newspaper in Detroit, initially reported Macomb, The Oakland Press in Pontiac MI, and other JRC papers in Michigan were being sold. JRC’s president denied the Macomb rumor but “refused to say if the other Michigan papers are for sale or not,” Crain’s reported.

The papers “that have been selected for sale are important publications that have been serving their communities for many years,” JRC said in a press release The Mercury published Saturday (Nov. 15, 2008). “The company also noted that it can no longer give both the resources and attention that the publications require to achieve their full potential,” The Mercury added.

JRC has $646 million in bank debt and reported an $8.7 million third-quarter loss, according to Crain’s. It was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange in April after its shares fell below exchange requirements, Crain’s added. In trading Thursday the value of its stock was slightly more than 1 cent per share.

The Mercury, which is Lower Pottsgrove Township‘s newspaper of record for publishing legal notices, has a long and storied history in Pottstown. Its co-founder and most well-known editor, Shandy Hill, had a reputation in the 1950s and ’60s for pulling public pranks and then reporting the results, as well as publishing editorials that blistered those with whom he disagreed. The newspaper has won two Pulitzer Prizes – one of print journalism’s highest honors – for news photography and for an editorial series.

Perhaps more importantly to JRC, it is seen by advertisers as an acceptable medium for their messages and it has a stable circulation base. Both tend to indicate profitability.

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