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Journal Register Sells Five, Closes Others

POTTSTOWN PA – Journal Register Co., owner of The (Pottstown PA) Mercury newspaper, said Wednesday (Jan. 7, 2009) it had agreed to sell five newspapers – two dailies and three weeklies – in Connecticut. The papers were slated to be shut down if the company had not found a buyer.

The Mercury, Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township‘s newspaper of record for publication of legal notices, was not involved in or affected by the deal.

The group of central Connecticut newspapers is being purchased under a letter of intent signed by Michael E. Schroeder, a former publisher in Boston. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale should be complete before January’s end, The New Haven Register reported.

Financially troubled Journal Register has wrestled with declining circulation and advertising revenues, and is tens of millions of dollars in debt. An agreement with its lenders expires next Friday (Jan. 16, 2009) after which they can prompt a default if the company misses loan payments. Several  other Journal Register weekly newspapers in Connecticut were closed in December.

Democratic Connecticut lawmakers late last year petitioned the state to help Journal Register find a buyer, Reuters News Service reported. State economic development specialists approached more than a dozen publishers to try to find a purchaser, and offered the possibility of economic incentives such as tax breaks as a sweetener.

That prompted debate among media experts on whether government aid should be used to extend a lifeline to papers. The Mercury‘s own respected and well-read politically conservative columnist, Tony Phyrillas, blogged with tongue-in-cheek during recent weeks about the prospect of a “newspaper industry bailout.” His three entries: “Who knew porn was in trouble?,” “Columnist: Bail out the newspapers,” and “How about a bailout for newspapers?

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