Archived Story

Leader Publications to begin mail delivery

Published 8:48am Friday, April 30, 2010

Niles Daily Star

Area residents will find a little something more in their mail come Monday morning – the news.

Starting Monday, Leader Publications, which prints the Niles Daily Star, Dowagiac Daily News, Cassopolis Vigilant, Edwardsburg Argus, Off the Water and The Leader, will change its delivery methods of the Star and News from independent contractors to postal delivery.

“We will be delivering papers to the post office early every morning so they can be delivered same day,” said Bryan Clapper, publisher and vice president of Leader Publications.

What does that mean for readers?

Probably not what many would think.

According to Clapper, readers won’t see a difference in the content of their newspaper, and more importantly, in how much it costs. The only difference will be that most will see their papers delivered earlier than usual.

“Basically, we’re going to become a morning newspaper,” Clapper said.

Staff at Leader Publications were informed of the changes and in order to become a morning newspaper, many will be working into the evening hours to produce news products on nighttime deadline, meaning content will remain current.

Though readers won’t see much of a difference once the changes take effect, independent contractors, who deliver papers for the company, will.

Clapper didn’t mince words. The move to postal delivery will allow for certain reductions to independent contractors, saving money in an industry that has made its own headlines for falling on hard financial times. He estimated around five out of 40 independent contractors would no longer carry any products for Leader Publications once the changes take affect.
The rest will remain employed on that contract basis but will see, in some instances, routes cut and money lost. The company will still be using an independent contractor to deliver daily newspapers to Buchanan.

“In the grand scheme of things, our industry is all about change,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate that we couldn’t make it work with the carriers. It was not an easy decision to make.”

Clapper said the company looked at various cost-saving measures, but is determined not to raise costs for subscriptions or advertising.

“We’ve historically chosen to not do that,” he said. “We’ve historically chosen to take the more difficult route. Nobody in this building can remember the last time we raised subscription prices. It’s been at least 16 years.”

The changes may be minimal, but not necessarily for those carriers falling on hard financial times of their own.

Carrier Shawn Maness has been delivering The Leader and Dowagiac Daily News for Leader Publications for close to two years.

The company will continue to use independent contractors like him to deliver issues of The Leader, but Maness’ income will be cut when he no longer delivers the Daily News.

“Financially, it will affect me for about $300 to $350 per month,” he said, “but I won’t be spending the extra $40 per week in fuel.”

Adding a portion of his day will free up without the daily route, Maness said.

“Mentally, I’m happy. Financially, I’m kind of sad about it,” he said.

Other carriers have “mixed feelings” about the change.

But the fact is the loss is just another example of how changing financial times have changed so many industries.

When it comes to newspapers it’s not just financial times that are having an impact but changing social attitudes.

“Over the past 20 years, newspapers have seen their market decline substantially,” Clapper said. “In every newspaper in the country there have been a huge amount of layoffs specifically in the newsroom.”

The Niles Daily Star recently added a reporting position to its newsroom, “which is odd” compared to others, he said.

“In the last five years it’s become especially pointed and especially difficult to run a paper profitably,” Clapper added.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, circulation for daily newspapers have dropped drastically since September 2007.

In “State of the News Media,” an annual report on journalism in America, researchers claim “our calculation advertising revenues fell 43 percent over (the) three years.

“Roughly 13,500 jobs for full-time, newsroom professionals disappeared during that period, the total falling from 55,000 to 41,500, a count which includes some 284 new jobs at some online-only newspapers now included in the industry’s tallies,” the report stated. “That means that newsrooms have shrunk by 25 percent in three years, and just under 27 percent since the beginning of the decade.

“To put it another way, newspapers headed into 2010, devoting $1.6 billion less annually to news than they did three years earlier.”

Clapper sees the changes as an unfortunate but creative way to cut costs, keep up with competition by getting papers on stands first thing in the morning and do so without passing the hard financial times on to the readers.

Something Maness seems to understand.

“People don’t like change, so when there’s any kind of change, people get mad,” he said. “The company is trying to do what they have to do to stay profitable.”

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