Why we decided to do it now
The year was 1993: Bill Clinton was president; “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Sleepless in Seattle” reigned at the box office; the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl; and Feather Publishing increased the price of its newspaper from 35 cents to 50 cents.
The year is 2018: Donald Trump is president; “Black Panther” has led the box office; the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl; and Feather Publishing is increasing the price of its newspaper to $1.
No doubt some readers might be a little dismayed that we’ve raised the price of a single copy to $1, but it’s a price hike that is not only long overdue and now necessary. Just given the cost of inflation over the past 25 years would justify it, but recent events have all but demanded it. This paper’s management team routinely resisted increasing the price; instead we found other ways to offset the mounting costs of doing business. Unfortunately, with what’s happening with the price of paper we’re simply running out of options.
In our case, right behind wages and benefits — which represents an expense of 60 cents for every dollar we make — newsprint is our second highest expense and it has been skyrocketing because of the new tariffs imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce. By year’s end, newspapers and printers can expect to pay as much as 32 percent more for paper which could ultimately jeopardize more than 600,000 workers in the publishing and paper industries nationwide. As Susan Rowell, president of the National Newspaper Association said, “If you want to silence a free press, take away its newsprint.”
Historically, advertising revenue paid the lion’s share of the bills. We are thankful to our local businesses that have appreciated the value that advertising in our newspaper brings, and continue to show their support in their weekly or seasonal ads, but there are many now who turn to Facebook or other online sources in an attempt to get their message out. As with all other newspapers we have been battling the double whammy — increased costs and reduced revenues.
Raising the price of our newspaper has been an internal discussion for some time now. Two summers ago we celebrated the 150th anniversary of this newspaper and led tour after tour through our production process. Our visitors were amazed at the number of people and the work involved in publishing this weekly product. Many here at the newspaper believed that we were undervaluing that work by charging a mere 50 cents. Even the candy bars in our vending machine are $1.25. What can one buy for 50 cents? Certainly not the 30- to 40-plus page newspaper produced for six separate communities each week.
Imagine if there were no newspaper. We can’t help but believe that it would leave a gaping hole in our communities. It’s our written history. It showcases our youth and our schools. It lets us know what is happening in local government. It chronicles our births and deaths. During last summer’s fires, it was this newspaper’s revenue that made it possible for us to use our website to keep local residents, as well as their concerned friends and relatives from out of the area, abreast of the latest evacuations, etc. And in the paper’s pages, we took our readers behind the scenes at fire camp, what it was like on the front lines, and the restoration effort.
As one of our readers explained to us while renewing his annual subscription, “ I’m paying for this subscription for two reasons: My family enjoys reading the paper and keeping up on what’s happening around town, but more importantly for me, this is my way of helping you (by buying the paper) do what I can’t. You have someone reporting on the actions taken by our county supervisors at their weekly board meetings and since I work every day and can’t be at those meetings myself, the next best thing for me is to have you watching over them.”