Start the Presses: From Demise Of Papers, New Weekly is Born

Just before Christmas, Melissa Marinan was on the couch, in tears. The Journal Register Imprint Newspapers was closing its weeklies and she would lose her advertising sales job.

Her father, Stephen Friedman, was there. She told him she wished they could start a paper in the area themselves. He said, “Well, why don’t we?”

That is what it took to start working on a plan to fill the void when the Avon Post, Farmington Post, Simsbury Post and Tri-Town Post closed.

Marinan and Friedman spoke with a lawyer, an accountant and others who would contribute their publishing experience.

“These are friends of my father’s,” she said of the people who are helping but will remain nameless. “He has a huge network himself.”

Marinan had already started brainstorming to see what her options were and she found support in the community.

Soon, they had the beginnings of The Valley Press started. On Thursday, Feb. 5, the free community weekly newspaper hits mailboxes of single-family houses in Avon, Burlington, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury.
While papers across the country are closing their doors, Marinan thinks this is the right time to start a weekly newspaper in her community.   

When the economy is bad, it is important to focus on the local and mom and pop shops, Marinan said.

“It’s a tough time for everyone and I think this is a way to pull us all together,” she said.

Marinan, a resident of Simsbury for her entire life except for her college years, has worked in the Farmington Valley, selling advertising for community newspapers for 18 to 20 years.

She immediately reached out to her connections. Had she waited, she said, the advertisers would have reallocated those budgets.   

“People have been coming together and supporting me,” Marinan said. “All the advertisers who I have been working with for 18-20 years, have said, where do I sign up?”

Marinan’s team is local and experienced, something she felt was important to serve the community.

Friedman, who lives in Avon, has had a career in sales and publishing. He is financing the paper and will serve as its publisher. 

Barbara Thomas, the editor of The Valley Press, is from Farmington. She is the former managing editor for the Journal Register’s Imprint Newspapers.

“I think a big key thing is Barbara Thomas. She is the valley,” Marinan said.

Marinan also said the hype around local newspapers closing and people trying to come to their rescue showed there is a need. 

“One week without your local high school football scores or obituary listings or police blotter, you lose them,” she said. “The community would be losing out with out them.”

While the paper version of the newspaper is the priority now, there will be an online component, Marinan said.

Getting a newspaper started has not been easy. 

“I haven’t slept in two weeks. I’ve been working day and night, night and day,’ she said. But it’s been worth it because this is for her family and her community.  

Her staff will include freelancers, a reporter, a woman who will contribute content about arts, entertainment and dining, and several community volunteers who will write columns pro bono." 

“We’re not at all worried about content,” she said. “I’m just so excited. I’ve never been happier in my whole life. This is thrilling.”

If all goes well, The Valley Press will expand into the Granbys and elsewhere in the state, she said.
“We want to create for the community an atmosphere that they are reading a paper that’s based right here in the community and is part of the community,” Friedman said in a news release.  “I believe in what we’re doing. Community newspapers are the future.”

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