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The Blackstone Valley Record to Debut Sept. 16

September 4, 1996

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) _ In this age of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, starting a daily newspaper might seem akin to introducing a new horse-drawn carriage. But not to Bob Blanchard.

The former Emmy-winning television reporter spent the last year doing research and lining up financing, and is now ready to launch The Blackstone Valley Record.

The daily tabloid, which should hit newsstands Sept. 16, will compete with The Call, which has served Woonsocket and its surrounding communities for 104 years. An ad campaign heralding The Record began Tuesday.

``This will be a conservative, serious paper with lots of news,″ said Blanchard, a 41-year-old Woonsocket native.

John Morton, a media analyst with the Wall Street firm of Lynch, Jones & Ryan, said it’s rare nowadays to start a daily newspaper and nearly unheard of to begin one in a community that already has a paper.

``I’m not aware of anyplace where the established paper has been eliminated by the upstart, certainly not in recent years,″ he said. ``It’s kind of a rule of thumb that a new daily can’t be successful in a market that’s already being well-served.″

Daniel Goodrich, The Call’s publisher, said he welcomes the competition.

``It will definitely be a crowded market,″ he said. ``It’s highly unusual to have too many dailies circulating in a market this size.″

Blanchard said the lure of competition and the latest technology making it easier and faster to produce a newspaper led him to start The Record.

``It’s as much a business opportunity as a journalistic opportunity,″ said Blanchard, who would not say how much of his own money is going into the publication.

The Call’s circulation has fallen in recent years to about 20,000, prompting its owner, the Journal Register Co., to cut the number of editions from four to two. The paper costs 50 cents and is circulated in four Rhode Island communities and five in Massachusetts.

The Record will start by distributing 12,000 copies in Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Blackstone, Mass. Initially it will be free, though Blanchard eventually plans to charge for the paper.

Blanchard, a University of Rhode Island graduate, began his journalism career on WWON radio in Woonsocket. He worked as a consumer affairs reporter for WPRI-TV in East Providence and then was an investigative reporter at WABC-TV in New York from 1981 to 1987, where he won three Emmys.

He then left television and went into business with a friend in Rhode Island. Their company made computerized answering machines that allowed business customers to phone in orders at all hours.

Blanchard has hired 32 people and is working out of a modern office building. To save money, he did not buy a press, choosing instead to send his paper by computer to a printer in North Kingstown.

Morton, the analyst, says Blanchard must be aware that once he begins charging for his paper, ``circulation will take a nose dive and that makes it hard to attract advertisers.″

Eventually, one paper will survive, and that may not be good news for the Record.

``One has to close, and what’s happened in the past is the upstart is the one that closes,″ Morton said.

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