How's it going?




Book club meets at 3 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble to discuss Ender's Game.

This week, one of the emails in my inbox was another announcement of a newspaper making drastic changes to its business model.

The Oregonian, Portland's daily newspaper is owned by Advance Publications. Advance has made similar decisions across the country in newspapers such as Mobile and Birmingham and more notably New Orleans.

Portland will follow suit by announcing it will only deliver newspapers to homes in its market four days a week on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They also announced layoffs.

Being in the newspaper business these days is certainly different than it was even a few years ago. People ask me what I do for a living, and when I tell them I am the publisher of the daily newspaper in our community it feels as if we are suddenly in a funeral parlor and with hushed tones they ask tentatively "how is that going?"

It seems like a good time to let you know some answers to that question.

Our company has faced the same challenges every other newspaper company has faced. It is surely a different business than the good old days and has endured a turbulent period of disruption. Six years ago, when my father died our board named me CEO of the company.

Thanks to my dad's careful management during his tenure, he handed us a debt-free company. During the last six years, we have remained debt free and like every other newspaper, we have reduced staff. In fact our payroll was $7.2 million then compared to $4.8 million today. The difference between our organization and companies who made such cuts very publicly is we communicated with our staff first and treated them with dignity in the process.

Most newspapers made cuts to their newsroom staff first. We made reductions in other areas first and decided our future depended on content. Our newsroom payroll is $1.3 million. It is the largest news-gathering organization in the region by a longshot.

Our devoted and resilient staff has trusted us to "right-size" the organization and added more to their routines in order to cut expenses but maintain quality.

As a family owned business, we are 103 years old. I like to tell people we are a 103-year-old growth company. We are actively pursuing strategies to grow and enhance our business.

We attended a meeting of newspapers from across the country in February and returned energized to remain a daily newspaper with a strong commitment to local news in contrast to decisions we have seen announced at other companies. None of this makes us superior to them or better decision-makers, it just makes us know what we want to do, and what we wish to be as an organization.

Will we have more challenges in the future? You better believe it. Do we have the strength to weather more adversity? I'm counting on it.

Another curious thing is going on in our industry these days. A fellow named Buffett (Warren) is buying newspapers across the country as fast as he can get his hands on them. He has had much success buying other companies and rarely sells them, but he prefers to operate them at peak efficiency and potential. Even more interesting is what he is not buying from a media perspective.

To those of you who have been our customers on behalf of our dedicated team I say thank you. If someone you know asks how your newspaper is doing, tell them we believe in a bright and newsworthy future.

And God willing, we'll see you in the morning.


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