The Bankruptcy of The Columbian Newspaper: Not Just Another Corporate Fallout, But A Sign of the Times for American Families Struggling with Debt Skip to main content
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The Bankruptcy of The Columbian Newspaper: Not Just Another Corporate Fallout, But A Sign of the Times for American Families Struggling with Debt

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Historically, the news publishing companies controlled the flow of the public's information, or at least media through which the information was available. Not anymore. The television was bad enough for newspapers. But now, with the dawn of the Internet, just about anyone can find out just about anything with the click of a mouse. The news publishing companies have had to adapt to avoid becoming obsolete. Most of the major ones still around today have survived by convincing one of the mega media corporations to absorb them. But, with the current downturn in the economy, those corporations are struggling to ensure their own survival.

The media companies who own the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer have all recently filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And last week, another news publisher announced it was following suit: the Columbian Publishing Company, which produces The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Washington, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 1, 2009. But this case is different from the run-of-the-mill media company bankruptcy.

The Columbian is not simply another entry on the portfolio of a mega media corporation. The paper was established in 1890 by the Campbell family, and it has remained a family-owned business for three generations since. Also, the company is not facing bankruptcy simply because of business operations debts and the downturn in the company.

The Campbell family recently took on a building project to revitalize downtown Vancouver, its hometown. The result was a six-story, $40 million office complex, which was finished in January 2008. The newspaper moved its operations into the complex and made the rest of the space available as rental units for other businesses. But the company quickly ran into trouble as the economy hit its downward stride. By the end of 2008, the company owed Bank of America -- its primary lender for the building project -- $17 million, along with some $400,000 in unsecured debts to a host of other creditors.

The Campbells moved the business back to their former office location, where they had been since the 1950s. They couldn't find a buyer for the new building or tenants to fill the vacant units. By April of this year, Bank of America wouldn't work with them any further and began foreclosure proceedings. This is what pushed the company to seek bankruptcy protection. The Campbells have said it will be business as usual in the meantime and they remain optimistic the company will emerge from bankruptcy fresh, revitalized, and fully prepared to continue a successful family business.

The plight of The Columbian Newspaper and the Campbell family is not just a story about another mega media corporation struggling to keep the shareholders happy with the profit margins of their news printing operations. It is much more a sign of the times for the millions of American families struggling to salvage their livelihoods in the face of burdensome debts, pay cuts, job losses, and unsympathetic creditors. And, like the Campbells, many of these families are turning to bankruptcy for protection and the opportunity to make a fresh start.

If you and your family are struggling with unaffordable debts, call a bankruptcy attorney today and learn how a Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy can help you do what Chapter 11 bankruptcy will help the Campbell's family business do: shed your financial burdens and get back on the road to recovery.

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