Publisher’s column: Changes in the wake of COVID-19
There is a lot to unpack in this column, with important info at the bottom, so let me start off with four takeaways.
- Like many businesses, the Post Independent has been challenged by COVID-19’s impact. Thus, we’ve been forced to make difficult decisions.
- Effective July 13, the PI will be going down to three days per week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with the goal of returning a weekend edition later in the year.
- However, we remain a seven day a week news organization online.
- July 17 is my last day as publisher. The new publisher, Bryce Jacobson starts July 6.
For the reasoning and details, read on:
For many local businesses and residents, the COVID-19 era has felt like a rolling crisis.
Employees have been laid off or furloughed. Many businesses have reduced services and some are facing shutting down.
The newspaper industry is no different. Like other businesses, media across the nation have tried cost-saving measures: Reducing circulation, limiting the number of days printed, going online only, merging with other news organizations, eliminating syndicated services, and reducing staff. And sometimes those cost cutting measures don’t work, with at least 30 papers closing already.
Facing sharp declining revenues in COVID-19’s wake, the Post Independent initially cut two days, reduced the average number of daily papers by 20%, and reduced hours and salaries for our staff. Thanks to quick action by Swift and Colorado Mountain News Media leadership — our parent companies — we quickly received Payroll Protection Program funding, and the vast majority of Swift employees were made whole again for eight weeks.
More than that, PPP gave us two months to help us road map our future. And when we looked at our expected revenues and expenses, it felt like a crisis.
But according to a Westernized translation of symbol for crisis, it also means opportunity — a saying I hold close to my heart.
Looking at revenues and expenses, we took the approach as if we were starting a new business, asking ourselves how we would set it up not just financially but as a media organization in today’s world.
It was an opportunity to reinvent ourselves but that means changes. Some pretty big changes.
One question we asked was do we stay five days a week? To do so would have meant a smaller staff and fewer papers out on the street. In short, a worse paper with less distribution.
So, effective July 13, we will print three days per week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with a goal of adding a fourth day — a weekend paper — later in the year if events and sports, as well as the economy, pick back up.
From a reader perspective, we chose three days to keep the habit in place of picking up the paper and continuing to put out a high end product, and from our clients’ perspective, an additional day of shelf life for marketing.
This does not mean we will only produce news three days a week. We remain a seven-day-a-week publication via our strong presence online, in social media and in newsletters. But it also doesn’t mean it will be the same. How could it be?
While the Post Independent did not have to layoff staff, that doesn’t mean we are not smaller. In May, reporter Thomas Phippen took promotion at a media company back East, and at the beginning of June, reporter Matthew Bennett took his talents to pursue a degree in teaching. Just prior to COVID breaking out, ad project manager Heather Marine left to focus on her new business. Before I continue, I want to take this moment to say how much we appreciate the work they’ve done for us.
With those departures and other changes, some roles are being repurposed so we can continue on our mission, and we are using this opportunity to examine how our print readers and digital readers consume the news differently. This topic will take another entire column, which is coming. Just know, we are still providing news seven days a week, but in a different approach.
The final change includes me.
I’m stepping down as publisher July 17, but will continue to partner with CMNM and Swift via consulting and other tasks.
Bryce Jacobson will take over as publisher of the Post Independent and Citizen Telegram — in addition to other duties — effective July 6.
He was most recently the publisher in Greeley and head of Swift Shared Services. I worked for Bryce as the editor in Craig and when he was on the board of the Colorado Press Association. He is well respected in the field, receiving many honors, including Newspaper Person of the Year.
He is a mentor and a friend, and I’m thrilled he’s taking on this role. Garfield County should be, too.
Jerry Raehal is publisher of the Post Independent. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User