ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: CHAPTER 7 IN NEW HAMPSHIRE Six-day paper closes; cites 'changes' in newspapering.Newspaper publishing continued to be roiled last week as a 7800-circulation, six-day paper in New Hampshire filed Chapter Seven bankruptcy and closed, while an afternoon daily in Pennsylvania late last month merged with its morning sibling to create an 86,000-circulation paper that became the seventh-largest daily in the state.
In Claremont, N.H., on Thursday afternoon, the 120-member staff of The Eagle-Times were told by the paper's owner, Harvey Hill, that Friday morning's edition would be its last and that the business would file for bankruptcy on Friday. They were to turn in their keys at the ends of their shifts.
"We did our best to continue the operations, but the economy and the changes in the newspaper industry have made it impossible to continue this business. Thank you for your support over the years and the dedication you showed to this newspaper," Hill wrote in a e-mail sent to the staff.
Hill, who purchased the Sunday-Friday Eagle-Times 15 years ago, said in the e-mail that his family could no afford to subsidize the paper. In a story that ran on the paper's front page on Friday, Hill said he and his wife Christina had "put money well into the seven figures to support our operating losses and are unable to continue this type of support."
Hill said in the staff e-mail that employees would get final paychecks, including vacation pay, next week and that he and Christina had paid staff health benefits through the end of the month.
In addition to The Eagle-Times, other Hill publications included a shopper in Chester, Vt., The Message of Ludlow, Vt., and another weekly, the Connecticut Valley Spectator in Lebanon, N.H., and all were also being closed.
The Chapter Seven bankruptcy filing is distinctly different than Chapter 11, which is the type of bankruptcy that has been used by other troubled newspaper companies, including Tribune Co. and Sun-Times Media Group Inc., both of Chicago, the Philadelphia Newspapers, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and Journal Register Co. of Yardley, Pa. (see story below). Under Chapter 11, the goal is to renegotiate the terms of the debt and keep the business going; under Chapter Seven, the goal is to sell off the assets, divvy up the proceeds and pay off the creditors on a pro-rated basis.
The New Hampshire Economic Development Division launched its "rapid response team" to determine whether the paper could be saved.
Another paper bit the dust late last month when Pennsylvania's Lancaster New Era, an afternoon paper, merged with its morning sibling, the Intelligencer Journal. The New Era had an audited average weekday circulation of 39,579 last March, while the Intelligencer Journal's audited circulation was 47,305. The combined papers are expected to sell about 86,000 papers a day.
Two papers with a common owner -- usually publishing both morning and afternoon titles -- in a single community was a model that was quite prevalent in the mid-20th century. But as the popularity of afternoon dailies diminished through the latter part of the century, the arrangement slowly died off. Lancaster Newspapers had been one the last operations in the country that had maintained both morning and afternoon titles, with two distinct newsrooms led by two different editors.
The papers said the merged operation would be edited by Charles Raymond Shaw, who had been the editor of the morning paper, and that an print investigative team and the web site would be edited by Ernest Schrieber, who had been editor of the afternoon paper. The combined paper will have two editorial pages -- "one Democratic, one Republican," as the paper itself said -- and the 22-person New Era staff will be combined with the 20-person Intelligencer Journal crew.
"Our expanded morning newspaper will include features from both papers," said Harold Miller Jr., president and chief executive of Lancaster Newspapers. "We now have an opportunity to concentrate all of our firm's news-gathering resources in providing the strongest coverage of communities throughout Lancaster County."
Not all the newspaper news was bad last week -- the Daily Post of Palo Alto, Calif., said on Wednesday that it was adding a Saturday edition to its five-day publishing schedule. The Post is an interesting duck: started last year, the free tabloid provides news only in print (its web site is basically just an ad rate card). "People say newspapers are dying, but we didn't get that memo," said Dave Price, the paper's editor and co-founder. "We're adding advertisers and readers every day." Price and his partner Jim Pavelich, started the Palo Alto Daily News in 1995 and sold it to Knight Ridder in 2005 (in 2006, Knight Ridder's buyer, The McClatchy Co., sold it to the California Newspapers Partnership, which apparently negated any non-compete Price and Pavelich may have had).