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Newspaper War Casualties!

Now, in the midst of all this newspaper confusion, George "Scoop" Sample, the Sample News Group CEO, is taking a lot of heat for accepting a low interest, state-backed loan from Connecticut River Bank to help his papers. So, if the formerly failing Eagle Times fails again - and daily papers are in notoriously dangerous waters in this economy - New Hampshire taxpayers will be responsible for 75 percent of the $250,000 loan. This sort of helps me understand how millionaire businessmen hold on to their millions.

Jeff Rapsis, associate publisher of The Compass, ripped into the Eagle Times and the state of New Hampshire about this deal last week in his Compass editorial, and an article on the deal in last Thursday's Nashua Telegraph garnered 10 pages of mostly negative reader reactions.

The story was also extensively covered over the weekend on New Hampshire Public Radio. Papers and talk shows around the country have also picked up on this deal. The state guaranteeing loans to the supposedly-watch-dog media draws a lot of attention.

Jeff's editorial brings up a couple of valid points, one having to do with a level playing field. He noted that several papers - and The Compass and The Outlook are two of them - started up this summer with local staffs, and are doing business the traditional way, "by working hard and competing in the marketplace. By greasing a loan to the Eagle Times, the state is playing favorites, thus destabilizing the market..."

The last few months have seen some cutthroat and at times questionable pricing practices in the local newspaper advertising world as a handful of papers vie for the limited advertising dollars in this area. More papers will fail, and more jobs will be lost, especially if the practices continue.

How a large, out of the region newspaper chain, now with a quarter million dollar state guaranteed loan to float on, will fit into that mix remains to be seen.

But I'm sure we'll all be watching with keen interest!

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