Morris Publishing to file prepackaged bankruptcy

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Morris Publishing Group announced Wednesday that it will seek a bankruptcy judge's assistance in completing its financial restructuring plan.

Augusta-based Morris Publishing Group, which operates 13 daily newspapers, including The Augusta Chronicle , was unable to obtain nearly unanimous support for its debt swap from creditors and intends to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy on or before Jan. 19.

The plan of reorganization is not expected to have any noticeable impact on Morris' ongoing operations.

"The Augusta Chronicle is not directly affected by this step and remains profitable despite headlines that might make some think otherwise. We continue to hire new employees, pay our bills and serve the community in new and exciting ways," said Don Bailey, Chronicle president.

In mid-December, the publishing company started an exchange of $100 million in new notes for its outstanding $278 million in old notes. The exchange offer expired Tuesday night.

For the out-of-court plan to be consummated, the company needed support from the holders of 99 percent of the debt. Morris Publishing said in September that it would seek a prepackaged bankruptcy if that threshold could not be reached.

In a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission on Wednesday, the company said it had obtained approval from 92 percent of its creditors.

A prepackaged bankruptcy means creditors approve the financial reorganization plan prior to filing, which also should shorten the time the case remains open in court. If the bankruptcy court approves the plan, all of the old debt and unpaid interest will be canceled and those creditors will receive a share of the new $100 million in debt, the newspaper and magazine publisher explained.

In its most recent quarterly report to the SEC, Morris Publishing said in November that it had net income of $711,000 in the third quarter of 2009. In the third quarter of 2008, it posted a loss of $163 million.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows management to continue operating a company while it attempts to reorganize its debts and its business operations. The other type of bankruptcy, Chapter 7, is where the company goes out of business and its assets are liquidated.

At least a dozen newspaper companies have filed for Chapter 11 during the recession, according to The Associated Press, including the Philadelphia Inquirer , the Tribune Co. in Chicago and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

One newspaper publisher, Pennsylvania-based Journal Register Co., successfully used a prepackaged plan. It filed for Chapter 11 in February 2009 and emerged from bankruptcy in August.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

'CHRONICLE' IMPACT

"For those of you worried about how this affects The Augusta Chronicle -- the flagship of the 13 daily newspapers owned by Morris Publishing -- there is minimal impact," Executive Editor Alan English says in his most recent blog post. Read it at blogs.augusta.com.

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billyjones1949
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billyjones1949 01/14/10 - 10:03 am
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This is sad news for a

This is sad news for a company that has done so much for Augusta. Newspapers are slowly going away because of the internet and because of the media's extremely liberal views.

Lorraine
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Lorraine 01/14/10 - 10:55 am
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To blame the Chronicle's

To blame the Chronicle's demise on liberal views is insane. I should expect no better excuse coming from an individual who apparently dismisses liberal views.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/14/10 - 01:37 pm
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Maybe if the Chronic would do

Maybe if the Chronic would do some real, non-selective, non agenda-driven investigative reporting, their circulation numbers might be up. But sadly this paper has become a Pravda for the Morris Empire.

AnotherPerspective
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AnotherPerspective 01/14/10 - 02:33 pm
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Emery, why do you read the

Emery, why do you read the paper?

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/14/10 - 02:41 pm
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I read the comments posted...

I read the comments posted... rarely read the paper.. more actual news in the online comments then in the paper.

AnotherPerspective
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AnotherPerspective 01/14/10 - 02:42 pm
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Thanks. That's interesting.

Thanks. That's interesting.

BeenThereDoneThat2
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BeenThereDoneThat2 01/14/10 - 02:46 pm
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Well, at least Emery admits

Well, at least Emery admits he's more than qualified to talk about the agenda that drives The Chronicle. But Emery, while I have no interest in getting in any sort of test of our hoses, I do have two questions for you: 1) In your opinion, who does do a better job of covering Augusta? 2) If The Chronicle went away, where would every other media outlet in Augusta get their regular content?

Jim Christian
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Jim Christian 01/14/10 - 03:28 pm
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So the Chronicle gets a $178

So the Chronicle gets a $178 million bailout, after slamming all the bail outs given by the administration. There's some sweet irony for ya.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/14/10 - 03:29 pm
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Beenthere.. there is no doubt

Beenthere.. there is no doubt that The Chronicle is the most comprehensive news source in AUG.. no arguing that. I do think that WRDW does a better job with investigative reporting.. and they don't seem to be selective in who they go after.. but TV news has time constraints. I think you really need a variety of news sources to get the whole truth. With the online edition of the chronicle you atleast get the immediate feedback from readers.. sometimes many with inside info.. you have to always take anonymous comments witha grain of salt but I think overall they serve a valuable purpose by keeping the paper in check. A daily paper is a valuabler respource. i wish we had more than opne, but ecponomically that is nor feasible.. but if the Chronicle cannot do it then I am sure someone else will. There really is a market for hard hitting investigative journalism.. and get it mostly local.. but the problem with the chronicle is that the publisher is so intwined in local politics that its hard to view this paper as an objective news source. I certainly hope Augusta continues to have a daily, but it doesn't have to be the Chronicle. Maybe a young fresh crop of journalists could start a pape

AnotherPerspective
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AnotherPerspective 01/14/10 - 03:34 pm
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Jim, restructuring debt and a

Jim, restructuring debt and a bailout are two different things. Taxpayers aren't paying for this one.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/14/10 - 03:41 pm
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I would like to see a daily

I would like to see a daily paper in Augusta that was owned and operated as a co-op of the journalists who write for it. It could work. No local political agendas. Just hard hitting local news. real investigative reporting that isn't selective. No one is really doing this well in Augusta. The Spirit used to be the foil to The Chronicle, but it rarely does any hard hitting investigative journalism anymore.. mainly a lot of fluff fluff. the only decent local tv news is wrdw.. but then there you only get 3 minute segments at best. If someone offered such a product, I and I am surer many others would be more than willing to pay for it.

AnotherPerspective
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AnotherPerspective 01/14/10 - 03:43 pm
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Emery, what stories did the

Emery, what stories did the newspaper selectively not report that other outlets did report?

BeenThereDoneThat2
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BeenThereDoneThat2 01/14/10 - 04:44 pm
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Emery, I've seen what wrdw

Emery, I've seen what wrdw has done, and while some of it has been good, it is not on the same level as The Chronicle. In fact, I've seen an agenda in their coverage. Part of their investigation into the city's counsel not only downplayed her role in reckless spending, but also inferred that the only reason The Chronicle had brought any attention to her office in the first place was in retaliation for her proposed constraints on the media. There have been other examples where wrdw either piggybacked on what other journalists had done or distorted the story in one way or another -- time constraints aside. Now, I am in no way defending The Chronicle and their reporters, I have some issues with them also. However, to broadly paint the reporters in the newsroom as agenda-driven sycophants who blindly follow the will of their publisher is unfair to the work many of them do. You can not like Billy Morris and the direction his EDITORIAL page takes, but please do not take that out on all the reporters that fill the local news pages. For the most part, they probably aren't big fans of his either.

thewiz0oz
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thewiz0oz 01/14/10 - 10:41 pm
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Unfortunately, Augusta is

Unfortunately, Augusta is "spring-training" for most media & journalist professionals. The veteran and highly skilled reporters who stay here do so more for personal reasons than for professional reasons. The ones who are career driven are recruited by larger markets and usually move on. Unless Greater Augusta develops significantly as an economic venue we will remain a training ground for communication professionals. However, over the years many very knowledgeable and competent journalists have served Augusta well.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 01/14/10 - 11:10 pm
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JO.. spot on analysis!

JO.. spot on analysis!

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