The big change, week two
By now, most people have noticed there have been some big changes at the Pioneer Journal this month. I wanted to go over a few of the most frequently asked questions to clear up any misconceptions.
1. Wait, what happened? You did what?
We tried our best to warn our readers and advertisers in advance of what was happening, but we know people have busy lives and not everyone knew what was going on. So here's a quick synopsis: We moved the Pioneer Journal from a Thursday publication to a Saturday publication so we could distribute it and the Intercom at the same time. People who subscribe to the Pioneer Journal will now get all of the ads and the ad supplements (inserts) that were in the Intercom, but it will be in their PJ. For those who got the Intercom alone, nothing will change (with one exception: we cut the Intercom circulation out of the New York Mills routes, but those customers will now be receiving the advertising inserts that used to come in the Intercom in their Contact.)
2. I liked it better the way it was. Change it back.
I liked it better the way it was, too. I wish I could change it back.
But to do that, we'd need two car dealers to reopen, the housing market to spring back, Pamida to reopen, the Grocery Store to return, and the advertising to go back to levels it was a few years ago. Oh, and we'd need someone to wave a magic wand to get gas prices back to around $1 per gallon, postage rates to go backward and paper and ink costs to be cut in half.
Short of that, we couldn't sustain the way things were. I'd love to have back the whole Pioneer Journal staff we had before, or for the local economy to be booming. But that's not reality, and it's bad business to pretend that's coming back.
3. It seems like you rushed into this decision. Did you consider all of the alternatives?
Speed was necessary because the local economy deteriorated much faster and farther than anyone expected. And the areas it hit hardest just happened to be our best advertisers.
We did consider many, many alternatives. This was by far the least bad alternative, which made it the best alternative.
To be a functioning, stable newspaper and shopper, we need to be realistic about how big we can be and survive. Just as the school needs to cut teachers when there are fewer students, we need to cut pages, staff and expenses when there are fewer advertisers. We don't like it any more than the school likes it, and we have the same issue: who is going to pay?
4. Isn't this an example of the big, bad Forum flexing its muscle?
Believe me, if we weren't a family-owned company with an owner that cared about our towns, we may have closed. We were able to weather "the perfect storm" because we had an owner that was willing to forgo any profits while we righted the ship.
Our company is owned by a man named Bill. He visited our office a few weeks ago to see how we were doing, but generally is very hands-off. He believes that our local team knows the community best and can make the best choices. He is constantly asking if we have the best training, the best equipment and the right plan to be successful.
This is not how it would be if we were owned by a publicly traded corporation or a hedge fund. I thank God we're not.
5. I didn't get my Pioneer Journal. What should I do?
It wasn't an easy task to revamp all of our routes, and it wasn't a perfect process. If you didn't get your paper, just give us a ring at (218) 631-2561.
Our delivery people are doing the best they can to get their new routines down quickly. We're also working on the entire supply chain to get the papers printed, stuffed and delivered faster than we ever have before. But until we could put it in operation and stress-test the whole operation, it was difficult to spot the bottlenecks. We're going to get this figured out pretty quickly, but please be patient with us for the next couple of weeks as we do.
Have any more questions you'd like answered? E-mail them to email@example.com or stop in our office.
This week's editorial was written by Editor and Publisher Steve Schulz.