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FLS publisher: Thanks for standing by us

IN 1869, Rufus Merchant, the great-grandfather of Fredericksburg’s current mayor, published the first edition of The Star.

In 1885, 36 merchants and residents, including W.B. Goolrick, Henry Ulman, L. Taliaferro, C.E. Bragdon and M.B. Rowe, formed a stock company to publish The Free Lance.

These people saw the need for a newspaper to serve as the business, civic and social hub of their community. The two publications eventually merged into one.

Today The Free Lance–Star,, Star Radio Group and Print Innovators are privileged to perform that vital role.

Loyal readers and listeners like you, from Stafford County to Louisa County and from Culpeper to Tappahannock, have risen each morning with music from our radio stations and The Free Lance–Star on the breakfast table. Your stories and support are the fabric from which this company was created.

It has been your lives we have reflected in the newspaper and online. It has been your subscriptions and advertising which have helped us to grow to meet the information demands of one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States.

Our editorials, op-eds, letters and Viewpoints pages have provided a lively forum for discussion of local, state, national and international affairs. This past week, we have received letters and comments attributing the company’s recent bankruptcy filing to our radical liberal views and just as many saying our conservative bias was the reason.

RELATED: Complete coverage of FLS bankruptcy case

The fact is we made a business decision to invest and grow just as the economy turned sour and fell into a recession beyond anyone’s control. There is no blame, no fault, just unfortunate timing.

Since the announcement of The Free Lance–Star filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, our family and our employees have been overwhelmed by your kindness. Letters, phone calls, emails and extended hands of friendship have told us how much you care.

Vendors are continuing to provide materials and services, and advertisers are continuing to trust us with their marketing programs. This community is standing beside us when we need it most.

Over the years, you have called in to our radio shows, written letters to the editor and supported the many community service events we are proud to sponsor. We love being a part of the Great Train Race, the annual armed services Christmas Concert, the Soap Box Derby, the Chili Fest, the Heritage Day celebration, the Stafford 350 anniversary and hundreds of other worthy causes and fun events that make the Fredericksburg area a great place to live.

You help us provide thousands of children with footwear through the Salvation Army Shoe Fund. You answer our call to support research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and you give thousands of Christmas gifts to Toys for Tots.

When our fellow Americans needed help, you didn’t let them down Through your generosity, this community gave more than $500,000 in cash and filled tractor–trailers with food, water and clothing when victims of Hurricane Katrina needed help.

We put out the call, but it was you who answered.

The radio stations, the newspaper, the websites and the commercial printing plant will survive the Chapter 11 process. Sandton Capital, which holds the note financing the Print Innovators plant, has said it wants to buy our wonderful assets and operate the company on the other side of bankruptcy. Sandton appreciates our deep roots in the community and values what has been built by four generations of the Rowe family.

The process we are entering provides for an auction of the company assets. Sandton and other interested parties will be given the opportunity to participate.

Without the burden of debt dragging it down, this is a healthy company that will thrive for generations to come.

The employees who write, design, produce and deliver your paper, who entertain and inform you on the radio and who provide information on the websites will still be here to serve you.

Other than the ownership, not much will change. Future owners have a great foundation on which to build.

Nicholas J. Cadwallender is the publisher of The Free Lance–Star.

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