Publisher's Note: Who are we bailing out?
By Jody Reese
I was surprised to learn that the State of New Hampshire is loaning $250,000 to a recently bankrupt newspaper.
The Eagle Times, located in the Claremont area, is getting a state-backed loan for $250,000. The loan is being used to hire people and start newspapers, some of them in Vermont.
The Eagle Times went bankrupt this summer, laying off about 60 full-time people and a handful of part-times and contractors. The paper hadn’t made money in nearly a generation and the owner, Harvey Hill, finally had had it and abruptly shut it down. In the wake of that failure, several newspapers started up in that area to replace the Eagle, hiring dozens of people — including one owned by this newspaper called the Compass.
Sure, jobs had been lost from the Eagle closing, but the market was responding with several new newspapers and people were being hired.
The Claremont area had never been covered so well between our paper and the six other newspapers that rushed in to fill the void. Internet sites started up to cover the area too. Another six papers covered the areas right around Claremont, giving people access to more than a dozen local newspapers.
Then there was more good news for newspaper-lovers. The Eagle Times was bought out of bankruptcy by a large Pennsylvania newspaper group and was going to start publishing again. We chose to welcome the Eagle back and compete with it as we had been doing with the dozen papers in the region. Our staff at the Compass continues to do a great job and now operates a profitable paper with the largest circulation in the area.
And our staff did this all without a government handout.
I’m sure the State of New Hampshire had the best of intentions. They probably assumed from all the bad news out there about newspapers that the new Eagle would need government help. But of course there are all the newspapers already in that area that didn’t need a government handout. All those newspapers hired people and many pay New Hampshire taxes.
And that’s another odd part to this New Hampshire handout. Much of the New Hampshire money will flow out of the state. The new Eagle Times has plans to open a Vermont paper and prints its current paper in Maine. The new Eagle Times also hired back just a third of the employees that the old Eagle had on staff — and a good chunk of those new employees live in Vermont.
In this case, the state didn’t need to use our tax dollars to support a newspaper.
First and foremost, newspapers are businesses and need to be operated like businesses. The government has absolutely no place in choosing which businesses live or die (apart from interceding in highly regulated industries such as banking to avert a financial crisis) and that is especially important in a country like ours that values a free press. How can our press be free if the government has to come to its rescue?