Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lee plane in Florida

The Lee plane is on the move again. It made a trip earlier today from Davenport to Miami, then the Sarasota/Bradenton, Fla., airport. Another trip to a place where Lee doesn't own papers. What's going on?

I'm still looking for that Lee/Blackwell connection. Lee sold the plane at the beginning of this fiscal year to Blackwell Aviation LLC. Blackwell Aviation is owned by Rodney Blackwell, a real estate developer in Davenport. In fact, he owns 201 N. Harrison in Davenport -- home of Lee HQ. But that doesn't really answer why Blackwell would buy the Lee plane -- the only plane in the fleet. And, so far at least, it looks like all of the trips the plane has made have been Lee trips.

Where's that SEC filing?

Dec. 29 has come and gone -- where's that annual report? The company said Form 10-K would be filed on or before Dec. 29.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lee's baseball interests

Speaking of the Pulitzer papers, Lee Enterprises is a minority owner in the St. Louis Cardinals. Given the company's financial straits, don't you think that'd be worth selling?

Newsosaur examines Lee's debt

Newsosaur Alan Mutter has a post on Lee's debt. As Mutter points out, Lee is worth about $13.5 million. Before buying the Pulitzer chain, Lee was worth $1.5 billion, then borrowed almost that much to get the Pulitzer papers.

Of course, we're still waiting to see what will happen with that annual report.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Return trip to Boston?

The Lee plan left Davenport around 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18 and flew to Bedford, Mass. -- just outside of Boston. It returned to Davenport at 1:15 p.m. Dec. 19. Then our little plane left Davenport again the next day around 10:45 a.m. and returned to Bedford, then back to Davenport a little after 4 p.m. the same day. Did someone forget a favorite pillow? Want more lobster? Certainly seems like a waste of time and money.

A reader pointed out this fun coincidence: A plane that belongs to MediaNews also made trips to Bedford, Mass. It arrived Dec. 17 at 12:13 p.m., and left early Dec. 18.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lee plane makes trip to Boston

The Lee plane made a trip to Bedford, Mass., (near Boston) yesterday and is now about 45 minutes away from landing in Davenport. Boston? There aren't any Lee papers in/near Boston ...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Layoffs at the Herald & Review?

I got an e-mail from the Paper Cuts blogger -- the blog that keeps track of newspaper layoffs. Seems she's trying to track down a rumor about layoffs in October or November at the Herald & Review in Decatur, Ill. Does anyone know if that's true? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

News from Waterloo/Cedar Falls?

What's going on in Waterloo, Iowa, today? It looks like the Lee plane made a flight from Davenport to Waterloo a little after 9 this morning. Send tips, comments and information to

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lee delays filing annual report

Lee Enterprises is delaying filing its annual report until Dec. 29. The company said it needs more time to calculate goodwill and intangible asset write-downs, which it says will total at least $180 million for the fourth quarter. In that quarter, Lee's net income fell 73 percent.

In case you missed it, here's the memo from CEO Mary Junck:
Dec. 15, 2008

Dear Lee Employee:

This afternoon, Lee announced difficult news. I want to assure you that we fully expect to overcome the challenges.

Because of worsening economic conditions, additional writedowns of intangible assets of Lee will be necessary. Also, our auditor, KPMG LLP, has informed us that it intends to issue a “going concern” opinion on Lee’s financial statements if our $306 million Pulitzer Notes debt has not been refinanced before our yearend financial statements are filed with the SEC in the next two weeks, even though that debt does not become due until April 2009.

These issues will create covenant problems under our various debt arrangements. We will be asking our lenders to waive the affected covenants in the short term, and we are also negotiating to extend or refinance the Pulitzer Notes as a longer-term solution. We are actively working with all parties and believe our lenders will help us get past these hurdles.

Although the credit markets remain extremely volatile, our lenders stand to benefit by sticking with us through this tough time. Lee continues to generate significant cash flow and continues to pay down debt. We have good relationships with our lenders, and they have shown a willingness to seek mutually beneficial arrangements. Other media companies with much more serious difficulties than ours have worked out such agreements with lenders, and we will continue to work toward a solution here.

These issues should have no meaningful effect on the way we operate our enterprises. In the meantime, unfortunately, you can expect to see negative speculation about Lee’s financial situation, much as we’ve been seeing about our industry for some time now.

As I mentioned in my note a few weeks ago, I fully believe that we’ll get though these challenges. It’s most important, especially in extraordinary times like this, to remember our strengths. We continue to be an industry leader in revenue and circulation performance, we continue to provide the great majority of people in our markets with vital local news and advertising that they cannot get anywhere else, and our audiences continue to grow. For those reasons and many others, we continue to believe that Lee will emerge strong when the national economic nightmare ends.

Thank you again for all you do for Lee, and for your perseverance in these painful economic times.

Mary Junck
We've seen worse, but Lee shares closed at 39 cents on Monday, down 20.4 percent.

Junck loses Grinch award

Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck came in second place in the St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice Grinch of the Year contest. Junck had 1,713 votes. Western Union "won," with 1,925 votes. Western Union was nominated for laying off 640 employees, a "blatant attempt to operate a union-free workplace." Junck, who was nominated by the St. Louis Newspaper Guild, was leading the voting up to the final day of competition.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's the connection between Lee and Blackwell?

FlightAware Photo
Photo Courtesy of

A reader raises good questions: 
A quick Internet search reveals Blackwell is an LLC with one plane, the same one Lee recently "sold," with a business address identical to Lee's corporate address. So what gives? At the least, it appears that Lee's execs are flying on the same plane, whether they own it still or not.

It matters because when we were called into a mandatory meeting and informed of the cuts to our retirement benefits, one of the supervisors made sure to point out that corporate had sold the plane, implying that the belt-tightening an sacrifices were also being made at the top. It was a symbolic concession at best, but still served to ease some of the sting.
OK, I have to agree. What gives?

Earlier this week Mary Junck showed up at the Post-Dispatch. Sure enough, on Dec. 8 the plane -- the one in the picture -- left Davenport and landed in St. Louis 39 minutes later. On Dec. 10, the plane left St. Louis and 37 minutes later landed at Davenport. 

I've never been invited to Lee HQ or had a reason to stop by, but it's at 201 N. Harrison in Davenport. That six-story building is also home to an accountant, a Starbucks and a real estate developer. In fact, there's space to rent on the first and fourth floor of the building. So it's quite possible Blackwell Aviation LLC has an office in the same building, I'm just not sure where it is. And it's very possible and logical that Lee leases a plane from Blackwell ... evidently Blackwell's only plane. 

Anyone else have insight on the Blackwell/Lee relationship?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lee stock hits new low

Lee stock closed at 35 cents today. During the day, it hit a new low: 34 cents. The previous low was 36 cent. Is there some sort of prize if it hits a quarter? I didn't think so.

No union at Pantagraph

Employees at The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Ill., voted that they would not unionize. A memo is posted on the Lee site; nothing has been posted yet on the Pantagraph Union site. Interesting enough, as I learned from an employee at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lee's memo was e-mailed to all Post-Dispatch employees this afternoon. Post-Dispatch employees are organized under the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. 

Classy, Lee. I'm sure if the results had been different, no memo would have been sent out.

Let me know of shenanigans and announcements at your paper:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Retirees protest benefit cuts at St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It sounds like there was some excitement at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday morning. CEO Mary Junck made a trip to the paper and was greeted by protestors. The St. Louis Fox station has a story and video; a group of retirees were protesting cuts made to their health benefits. 

Lee stock falls 18 percent

On the day that the New York Times announced it was borrowing against its own building and Tribune Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Lee stock closed at 50 cents a share. 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

La Crosse Tribune editor moves to Wisconsin State Journal

La Crosse Tribune editor John Smalley is heading to the Wisconsin State Journal next month, replacing Ellen Foley. Foley resigned in October.

HuffPo vs. Lee

The Huffington Post is worth more than Lee Enterprises.

Lee ended the week trading at 61 cents a share.

For sale: Lee Lodge; jet not included

What's going on up at the "Lee Lodge"? The Billings Blog found it back in August -- for sale.

It looks like Lambros Real Estate still has the Polson, Mont., lodge listed for $4.5 million. (A motivated seller might've dropped the price in the last four months.) That includes 6 acres on Flathead Lake, adjacent to the Polson golf course. There are five houses, three cabins, a duplex, indoor pool, tennis court, a conference center and a maintenance shop.

I'm not sure if Lee still has its corporate jet. In 2006, a Cessna Citation Excel was registered to Lee. That 13-seat plane (serial number 560-5628, N-number 890LE ) is now registered to Blackwell Aviation in Davenport, Iowa. That plane flew from the Spirit of St. Louis Airport to the Quad City International Airport 11 days ago. A trip from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch back to headquarters, perhaps? Looking at past flight activity, it looks like almost all of the flights correspond to a Lee paper. (Maybe it's time to learn a lesson from Detroit's automakers?)

Priority check: Lee funds social media provider

An interesting story was sent to me from The Port regarding its funding. The Port is a "leading social media solutions provider" and has raise $4.1 million thanks to investors that include Lee Enterprises.

From its website, The Port links (several times) to a social network at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The $4.1 million question: How can Lee afford to help fund The Port when letters just went out about cutting retiree health care, speculation about bankruptcy and layoffs abound, and it's stock is worth less than a copy of the Sunday paper?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lee stock closes at $1; worse to come?

Lee shares closed at $1 today, after falling as low as 90 cents. (On Tuesday, the stock hit 86 cents during trading.) All week, Lee stock have been flirting with penny-stock territory, and it seems determined to stay there. Lucky for Lee, the markets are closed Thursday for Thanksgiving.

A report from Morningstar says the day's 90-cent low could end up being a high, and warns the stock will drop much further. Morningstar lowered its “fair value estimate” for Lee stock from $2 a share to zero. Yep, zero.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stock advice: Sell!

Matrix Lighthouse Research says Lee's shares are overvalued and downgrades the stock to sell status. At 3 p.m. EST, stock is bouncing up and down, now at $1.26.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Star-Tribune shrinks web width

The Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo., slimmed down on Monday: Pages are now 11-inches wide, vs. 12.5-inches last week. Smaller web width means less money spent on newsprint. Editor Chad Baldwin says the paper was redesigned so readers won't see a "reduction in news." Anyone herad of reader complaints?

More Lee papers should be converting to a smaller web soon.

North County Times lays off 34

The North County Times in Escondido, Calif., laid off 25 newsroom employees, and 9 more from circulation and advertising on Tuesday. In September, the paper laid off 10 people. Publisher Peter York pointed out "We're not losing money, but we're not doing as well as we ought to." Not losing money, just jobs.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tributary closes

The Tributary, a monthly magazine in Bozeman, Mont., is closing. December will be the last issue for the Lee Enterprises publication. One editor and one sales rep will lose their jobs. The Tributary had a circulation of 7,000.

Junck nominated as a Grinch

Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck was nominated for the St. Louis Area Jobs with Justice Grinch of the Year by the St. Louis Newspaper Guild for outsourcing jobs and ending retirees medical coverage.

Other nominees: 
  • Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson
  • Western Union
  • ABM Lakeside
  • Sen. Kit Bond

Contract violation at Post-Dispatch?

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild reports that Lee Enterprises is violating its contract with St. Louis Post-Dispatch retirees over free lifetime medical coverage. They don't really say what's happening, though, or how the contract has been violated. Anyone have details? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail:

More cuts predicted

"Newsosaur" Alan Mutter took a look at Lee's earnings and predicts "draconian expense cutting." We're in good company. His list also includes other profitable by not profitable enough companies: GateHouse Media, Journal Register, McClatchy and Tribune Co.

Friday, November 14, 2008

4th quarter report out

The results of the (preliminary) 4th quarter report:
  • Net profit fell 73 percent
  • Net income was $5.4 million, down from $20 million a year ago
  • Revenue fell 13 percent
  • Advertising revenue dropped 15 percent
Watch out, folks. CEO Mary Junck said the company plans to reduce next year's operating expenses by 6 to 7 percent.

Lee Agri-Media: Enterprise of the year

On Thursday, Lee Agri-Media was named Lee's enterprise of the year. Lee Agri-Media, a network of 14 farm newspapers and sites over 13 states, was honored for "record growth in revenue and cash flow for the fifth year in a row." It has been an enterprise of year finalist three times in the past four years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

4th-quarter earnings preview

Fourth-quarter earnings come out today. AP speculates things you already know:
Lee is expected to report lower profit and revenue in the quarter that ended Sept. 30 than it did a year earlier amid a prolonged advertising downturn at newspapers.
Interesting that when the third quarter ended on June 30 stock was at $3.99. When the fourth quarter ended on Sept. 30, stock was at $3.50. Right now it's down to $1.40.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lee shares close at $1.95

Lee stock closed below $2 today. This cannot be a good sign. Other chains are already making post-election layoffs; can Lee be far behind?

There's a lively discussion over at Sports Journalists about Lee's future.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2 more laid off at Post-Dispatch

An update on the layoffs from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Washington reporters Phil Dine and Deirdre Shesgreen have declined transfers that were offered to them after we decided to reduce the bureau to one as part of our staff cuts. We would have been excited to have them join our staff here in St. Louis because they are excellent reporters. We and our readers will miss their work. Please join us in wishing them well. Their last day is Friday.

Previous Post-Dispatch news and layoffs

Got a Lee Watch tip like this one? Anonymous comments and e-mails ( welcome.

Lee stock hits new all-time low

Lee stock dropped nearly 13.5 percent on Tuesday, closing at $2. During the day, it hit an all-time low: $1.88.

On Wednesday, it closed at $2.10. Find real-time stock prices in the sidebar.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lee stock falls 24 percent

After word got out that Lee is cutting its contributions to employee 401(k) accounts and suspending its dividends, the company's stock fell 24 percent. The share price fell 79 cents, closing at $2.50. (The 52-week low is $1.94, set Oct. 10.)

Find real-time stock prices in the sidebar -- 5-day and 52-week comparison.

Lee suspends 401(k) contributions

The letter from Mary Junck:

October 31, 2008

Dear Lee Employee:

Like many other businesses and media companies, Lee has been battered by the unprecedented economic turmoil and credit crisis. Consumers are suffering and spending less, which means our advertisers are suffering and spending less. As a result, our revenue and earnings have fallen.

While we believe that the economy will improve and that Lee will emerge strong, no one can predict when the upturn will begin. Until it does, we must protect our financial health by reducing spending even more while continuing to drive revenue as aggressively as we can.

Until economic conditions improve, the company’s profit-sharing contribution to most employee 401(k) retirement accounts is being suspended beginning in December. Also, the company’s match to employee contributions is being reduced. For most employees, the reduction is half of the current levels.

We regret having to take these steps and look forward to the time when these benefits can be reinstated.

As you know, significant expense cuts have already been made in all areas of our business. In addition, executive pay has been frozen, corporate executive bonuses have been suspended for the full year, and future stock grant programs have been suspended. Also, we have renegotiated credit terms with our lenders and suspended stockholder dividends.

Thank you for all you do for Lee. I am grateful for your perseverance in this extraordinary time of challenge.

We’ll get past this. In the meantime, I think it helps to remember how vitally important our newspapers and websites are in the communities we serve. No competitor comes close to providing the value we do for readers and advertisers, and our audiences continue to grow.

With appreciation and best regards,

Mary Junck

Yesterday, Lee announced it would suspend its dividends.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lee papers see circulation increases

Third quarter circulation numbers are out, and it's mostly bad news. Overall, weekday circulation at the 507 papers that reported totals for April to September fell 4.6 percent. Sunday circulation fell faster -- 4.8 percent. The rate is much steeper than it was a year ago. Newspaper website use grew 16 percent.

Newspaper group-wise, though, Lee had the best results: down just 1.9 percent on weekdays and 3.7 percent on Sundays.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported an increase in Sunday circulation: a gain of 0.8 percent. The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison saw a circulation increase of 10.6 percent.

Newspapers are shrinking

Not the number of pages, although many Lee papers are cutting back, but the width of the paper is shrinking again. Most Lee papers will move to a 44-inch web. Vice president of production Brian Kardell says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wisc., will switch by the end of 2009.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kingsburg paper gets competition

Kingsburg, Calif., a town of 11,000, now has two weekly papers: Lee's Kingsburg Recorder and a new upstart, the Kingsburg Press.

The Press debuted Tuesday with a 20-page tab, printing 4,000 copies. Publisher LeneƩ Willems said residents complained that the Recorder was printing too much news from neighboring towns. Willems said the Press will focus only on news from Kingburg. The paper has three reporters (including at least one former Recorder reporter) and one sales rep. The first issue was free; future editions will be 50 cents.

Willems's husband used to work for Lee's Selma Enterprise; he left that paper last year and the couple started a commercial printing business.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Enterprise of the Year" finalists announced

The winner will be announced in November. The 5 finalists:
  • Lee Agri-Media
  • Cayuga Media, which includes The Citizen and The Skaneateles Journal
  • Kauai Publishing Co., which includes The Garden Island
  • Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star
Lee has details on why these 5 enterprises were picked. I will mention, though, that the Journal Star was selected because of  "strong performances in revenue." The paper laid off 16 employees in July to cut costs.

52 laid off at The Courier

Printing of The Courier in Waterloo, Iowa, has been outsourced to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Eighteen full-time and 34 part-time pressroom and mailroom employees were laid off.

Former Lee paper closing

After 127 years, the weekly Wood River Journal in Hailey, Idaho, has closed. Its assets have been sold to the Idaho Mountain Express in Ketchum, Idaho. Lee Enterprises sold the Journal in April to Idaho Falls' Post Co.

Post-Star names new publisher

Rick Emanuel was named the Post-Star's publisher on Wednesday. The Post-Star is in Glens Falls, N.Y. Emanuel was the publisher a The Citizen in Auburn, N.Y., for the past 10 years.

In the publisher shuffle, Emanuel replaces Rona Rahlf, who is now the publisher of The Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. The Citizen's advertising director, Michael Rifanburg, has been named that paper's interim publisher.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

President's Awards announced

You can read the press release on Lee's site.

The bigger winners for "news in excellence" (with a link to the winning endeavor):
Winners for "innovation": 
  • Billings Gazette Communications for
  • The Sourthern Illinoisan, The Sentinel, Casper Star-Tribune, The Post-Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but it's not clear what the "highly successful companywide initiative to gain market share by providing superior advertising reach" really was
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch for "Work2Goal"
  • Suburban Journals of St. Louis for
  • Lincoln Journal Star for "Ultimate Home Delivery"
  • Quad-City Times for "Q-C House Hunt"
"Lee Spirit":
  • Courier Communications for coverage of an immigration raid, tornado that killed eight people and flooding that forced thousands to evacuate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Suburban Journals switch to subscriptions

No long after cutting staff, now it looks like the Suburban Journals of St. Louis are cutting readers. For the first time, the Journals will become subscription-based papers: $20 a year. The fee is not much, but the timing, economically, is very bad. The weekly, which used to cover about 20 counties, is now down to nine.

Wisconsin State Journal editor quits

Wisconsin State Journal Editor Ellen Foley announced she was resigning, citing her husband's ongoing battle with cancer. The Journal no longer has a managing editor -- that position was eliminated and ex-managing editor Tim Kelley became the digital media manager at Capital Newspapers Inc. Capital Newspapers is jointly owned by Lee and The Capital Times Co.

Quad-City Times getting new press equipment

Two DGM 430 units will be added to the paper's press.

Lee stock closes at $2.33

That's just 11 cents from the 52-week low of $2.22. Stock nosedived Monday, falling 20 percent.

More bad news: A Goldman Sachs analyst says companies will cut their advertising through 2009, and that local advertising -- Lee's bread and butter -- will decrease more than national advertising.

Lee lays off 45 at Suburban Journals

The Post-Dispatch got all of the headlines last week when 20 employees were laid off. But on the same day, the Suburban Journals of St. Louis laid off 45 employees in advertising and editorial. Yep. 45.

The River Front Times has an account of what happened. Sending people to a conference room to lay them off en masse? Very wrong.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Post-Dispatch lays off 20 more; contract negotiation ends

Things are getting rough(er) at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper laid off 20 people on Friday; 17 were from the newsroom.

Romenesko posted a memo from top editors:

It's been a difficult day. We eliminated 17 positions Friday.

We are reducing the size of our Washington Bureau to one immediately after the November election. Bill Lambrecht remains our bureau chief. Phil Dine and Deirdre Shesgreen have been offered transfers to St. Louis.

We are eliminating the positions of all of our news clerks in the D Classification (Robert Douglas, Bryant Ingram, John Mertzlufft, Coddy Murray, Keith Schildroth, Cyndi Waters, Pam Williams).

We are eliminating the positions of three news clerks in the C classification.

We are eliminating the position of our Jefferson City assistant (Linda Sommers).

We are eliminating the position of two reporters, one copy editor and one designer.

Under the Guild contract, staff members with more seniority in the classifications affected can volunteer to retire or resign and, in effect, take the place of those whose positions were eliminated. That's why we did not disclose some names. Please contact Gwen Jacobson or Bruce Benson in HR by Friday, Oct. 10 If you are interested in volunteering to leave.

We also are eliminating the positions of two assistant metro/business editors (Ed Kohn and Rod Hicks)

It's been a difficult year for our industry and the Post-Dispatch, and a very difficult economy. We are sorry to have to give you this news. It's not the kind of note we are fond of writing. Please take care of each other.

Arnie and Pam

A memo from publisher Kevin Mowbray said, well, nothing:
St. Louis, MO. (September 26, 2008)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch today announced a work force reduction of 20 positions. The areas affected are production, marketing, and newsroom.

"These are unprecedented times that require us to reduce costs caused as a result of the national economic slump," said St. Louis Post-Dispatch Publisher Kevin Mowbray. "However, even with these reductions, we will give our customers the best print and online news products in the St. Louis metropolitan area."

Just last month, they laid off 18 people and outsourced most of those jobs to India. Now advertisers are boycotting the paper because of the outsourced jobs.

But there's more. As previously mentioned, the St. Louis Newspaper Guild and the Post-Dispatch had moved to expedited bargaining on a new contract. That fell apart Thursday:
The beginning of the end came early during talks when the company first raised the possibility of layoffs in an attempt to scare the Guild into accepting a bad deal.

The company, on an almost daily basis, then incrementally raised the layoff threat level from “layoffs are in the fiscal ’09 budget,” to “layoffs will happen Friday (9/26) if we don’t get a deal,” to “layoffs are going to happen anyway” regardless of a deal.

The union met Saturday -- anyone have an update?

Friday, September 26, 2008

More readers, more layoffs

Highlights from the official readership and online use press release from HQ:
  • More people visit Lee websites.

  • More people read Lee newspapers.

  • More people read the paper and online versions.

  • More people read the online version and never touch the paper.

  • More 18- to 29-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More 30- to 39-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More 40- to 59-year-olds read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

  • More people 60 and older read Lee papers. More visit Lee websites. More read Lee papers and visit Lee websites.

Everything's coming up roses!

Except circulation is still falling. Revenue is down. Lee's still more than $1 billion in debt. And layoffs are still taking place.

Montana weeklies merge

The Valley Irrigator in Newell, Mont.; the Belle Fourche Post and Belle Fourche Bee in Belle Fourche, Mont., will merge, publishing Wednesdays as the Butte County Post starting Oct. 22. Previously, the Bee published on on Saturdays, the Post and Irrigator published on Wednesdays. The reason behind the merger:

“As economic conditions continue to deteriorate resulting in reduced advertising spending and coupled with unprecedented increases in fuel and newsprint costs, it is critical that we reorganize the publishing processes of our weekly newspapers in the Northern Hills communities,” said Brad Slater, publisher of the Rapid City Journal which owns and operates the Newell and Belle Fourche newspapers.

Offices in Newell and Belle Fourche will stay open, and officials say delivery will not change. No word on staff changes or layoffs. (Moving one publication from Saturday to combine it with two others on Wednesday though? You'd think something would be changing in that configuration.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Post-Dispatch union contract update

An update from the St. Louis Newspaper Guild:

The Guild and the company met on Monday, Sept. 15, to begin early and expedited bargaining. The tone was positive on both sides.

The Guild made several requests for information from the company. Lee has asked for a blackout on specifics during negotiations. The Guild has agreed to this in order to respect the company’s need for confidentiality of certain proprietary information.

Our top priority is job security. The Guild has taken a strong stance and will negotiate hard for the best possible contract. The Negotiating Committee will not bring any agreement to members unless we believe they will strongly support it. The Guild’s goal is to present our members with a contract they have reason to vote for.

Lee wants to cut costs. If Guild members have any suggestions on how to achieve this — or how to generate revenue — please contact the Guild office or any of the members of the Negotiating Committee.

Who will win out here? Lee's efforts to further cut costs? Or the union's efforts to keep jobs?

New editor at Beatrice Daily Sun

Patrick Ethridge took over as the new editor of the Beatrice Daily Sun in Beatrice, Neb., on Monday. Ethridge replaced Harold Campbell, who took a job at the non-Lee Chanute Tribune in Chanute, Kan.

What do you know about Ethridge?

Lee/ partnership

Lee is part of a partnership with real estate website Other newspaper chains are joining too: Hearst, MediaNews and E.W. Scripps. The goal: More money for web ads.

What do you think -- good idea? Bad idea? Will it matter?

Nevada publisher leaving

Rhonda Zuraff, publisher of the Elko Daily Free Press in Elko, Nev., is leaving her job in October. Zuraff has been publisher since 2004.

Lee sponsors tax summit

Lee Enterprises was the sponsor being a Sept. 11 tax summit in Helena, Mont., to "discuss the possibility of drafting and getting the 2009 Legislature to pass a local option tax." (The story says the summit is sponsored by The Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, but Missoulapolis points out that an e-mail from the Billings Chamber says: "Many thanks to Lee Newspapers of Montana for sponsoring this Tax Summit.")

Lee's business model doesn't seem to be working -- does it that make sense that the company sponsor a tax summit?

Stock price drops

Anyone notice that Lee's stock price is below $2.50? Find the latest stock price in the sidebar on the right.

Lee was dropped from the S&P Midcap 400 last week.

26 more layoffs in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon

In Montana, the Billings Gazette laid off 7 full-time workers -- 2 in the newsroom, 2 in advertising, 2 in production, 1 in circulation -- and 2 part-time production workers last week.

In the same state, the Montana Standard in Butte laid off 7. The Helena Independent-Record laid off 5. In Wyoming, the Casper Star-Tribune laid off 4. In Oregon, Western World laid off 1.

An article in the Gazette quotes Lee VP for publishing Mike Gulledge (also the Gazette's publisher) saying Lee is adopting a "regional approach to providing financial services." Of course, there's been no such announcement -- or mention of layoffs -- on Lee's corporate site. blogger Erica Smith -- a Lee employee at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch -- called out Lee for not reporting layoffs. She also does the Paper Cuts site that lists layoffs and buyouts across the industry.

See previous Lee layoffs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ravalli Republic lays off 6

The Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, Mont., laid off 6 employees -- 3 full-time, 3 part-time -- and hired reporter John Cramer, who was just laid off from the Missoulian as part of a restructuring plan at the Republic.

This follows other layoffs at Lee papers. New West says more are coming in Montana: Specifically at the Helena Independent-Record, the Billings Gazette and the Montana Standard. Let me know if you hear anything.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Post-Dispatch lays off 18

Lee ended August with more layoffs: 18 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jobs were cut in the newsroom, production and human resources. Putting the paper together just got harder with the loss of production jobs, a sports photography editor, copy chief and night metro editor.

That's 66 layoffs companywide in August.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Contract renegotiation at the Post-Dispatch

The Post-Dispatch unit of St. Louis Newspaper Guild Local 36047 voted to begin early and expedited bargaining for a new contract. The current five-year contract expires in June 2009. Negotiations will start in September. Most Lee papers are not union shops, but with "expedited bargaining" both sides take a limited number of issues.

The guild's top 4 issues, in order as outlined on its blog: Job security, health care, wages and retirement benefits.

Lee's top issue: Cost control and savings.

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement during expedited bargaining, regular bargaining will start in the spring.

Missoulian lays off 7

The Missoulian laid off 7 employees. The first to go were a husband and wife -- environmental reporter John Cramer and business reporter Pamela J. Podger have twin sons and recently bout a house in Missoula. They had been at the paper for about a year. Five others were laid off, including advertising and circulation department employees.

This follows other layoffs at Lee papers. I know more are coming -- details will be published as soon as I get them.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Suburban Journals lays off 15

The Paper Cuts blog says 15 employees were laid off last week at the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. The layoff blog has the memo from the Journals publisher.

In the past this month, layoffs were made at 3 Idaho papers (North Side News, Gooding County Leader and Southern Idaho Press), The Times of Northwest Indiana and The Lincoln Journal Star.

No more holiday papers?

It's an idea CEO Mary Junck mentioned in an Editor & Publisher story:

Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck told the Cribb Greene Report, "There was a time when no one published on holidays. Maybe we should go back to that concept. We're considering the idea now." Eliminating some sections on certain days of the week — or even dropping entire Monday or Tuesday editions — are other ideas she might consider.

Just remember: You still wouldn't get the holiday off, just the day before the holiday. (Although dropping the Monday paper would give everyone Sunday off.) Thoughts?

Changes to the Post-Dispatcch

A reader tipped us to a letter from the Post-Dispatch's editor and managing editor outlining the changes coming this week to the paper.

It includes moving comics, advice columnists and puzzles to a 4-page daily section; cutting 3 daily features sections (Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays); cutting TV grids; revamping a couple of features sections; combining the metro and A sections on Mondays.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Editor shuffle at the Post-Dispatch

From what I've heard, the business department has taken a big hit lately and lost several talented people -- editors and reporters.

We are excited to announce two staff changes that we believe will accelerate our efforts to sharpen our local news report.

ADAM GOODMAN is now deputy managing editor for Metro and Business News.

Adam has terrific credentials for this expanded leadership role and one of our priorities in making this move is strengthening our coverage through collaboration between business and metro reporters. Adam shares our commitment to strong local business coverage.

In coming weeks, Adam will be assessing the overall structure of the two departments and it is possible some assistant editors will be supervising teams that include metro and business reporters.

Adam brings to the position deep familarity with the St. Louis business world, thanks to his many years as a business reporter and editor. His beats included real estate, banking, aerospace and defense. He moved to Metro in the late 1990s as an assistant editor and subsequently has had stints as environmental reporter, science editor and deputy metro editor. He was named assistant managing editor in 2005.

When we recently asked Adam to lead our coverage of the Anheuser-Busch saga, he swiftly organized an expanded team of business and metro reporters and editors and helped them identify and execute a series of smart enterprise stories while also keeping on top of breaking developments. The resulting coverage distinguished us as a leading source on this important story.

IRV HARRELL moves to join the Metro/Business team as an assistant editor. Irv will continue to spend about a third of his time leading our newsroom recruiting efforts. Irv will assume his new duties shortly after returning from vacation later this month.

Irv knows his way around a newsroom: he's been a designer, a copy editor, assistant news editor and night city editor and in addition to the Post-Dispatch has worked at several newspapers in Florida, including The Tampa Tribune and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Until last year, he worked on Adam's team as politics editor.

Please join us in congratulating Adam and Irv.

-- Arnie Robbins & Pam Maples

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lee dividend reported

The quarterly cash dividend is out! 19 cents per share!

Makes me glad I never bought Lee stock. Did you?

How much was your raise?

Sadly, the news of Mary Junck's raise escaped me when it was "announced" last month. Blogger Alan Mutter and the Motley Fool caught it, though:

Lee Enterprises' (NYSE: LEE) CEO Mary Junck gained a 17.8% increase to her pay, to about $3.4 million, even though Lee's stock price was chopped in half during the year.

Something to keep in mind as Lee cuts jobs and closes papers.

Lee's stock is now worth less than $4. Slightly more than a gallon of gas. About the price of a meal at McDonald's. Or a cup of coffee at Starbucks (if you still have one in your neighborhood).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Post-Dispatch announces metro changes

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is moving things around. A source at the paper says the A-section and Metro will soon become one section on Mondays -- which is why lottery numbers and a column are moving to A2 every day. This note appeared in the paper and on The Editors' Desk blog:

Dear readers:
In coming days, you’ll notice some changes in your Metro section.

To better reflect our regional commitment, beginning Monday all of our local-news sections will come under the “Metro” banner. You will continue to see a section packed full of the most significant and interesting news and features from your area and the entire region. And you can still expect that Post-Dispatch reporters stationed in our offices in St. Charles County, St. Louis County, St. Louis city, Jefferson County and the Metro East will dig up the biggest stories in our area — with additional help from P-D reporters in our Jefferson City, Springfield, Ill., and Washington D.C., bureaus.

Beginning Aug. 11, all lottery results and jackpot information will be moving to Page 2 of the A-section. This should make the numbers even easier to find and in the same place each day. Also on Aug. 11, columnist Bill McClellan will take his wit to Page 2 of the A-section as well. Bill’s new — and conveniently located — home recognizes his long-standing contribution to the community. Bill’s column will continue to run every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

We also are excited to announce the addition of Susan Weich as a regionwide Metro columnist beginning Wednesday. St. Charles County readers have been enjoying Susan’s columns since December, but we now want to share Susan’s keen eye for suburban stories and issues with all of our readers. Her column will run in the Metro section on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Sylvester Brown’s column will continue to run in the Metro section on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

As always, we want you to know we value your support and suggestions. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 314-340-8258 or at, or contact deputy metro editor/suburban Marcia Koenig, 314-340-8142,

Adam Goodman
Assistant Managing Editor/Metro

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lee closes 3 more Idaho papers

Three Idaho papers -- the North Side News in Jerome, the Gooding County Leader in Gooding and the Southern Idaho Press in Burley -- will stop publishing in two weeks, laying off 14 employees. Readers of those three papers can get zoned editions of the Times-News instead. (The Times-News is not adding to its staff.)

The last day for the Southern Idaho Press is Aug. 16. The last day for the North Side News and Gooding County Leader, both weeklies, will be Aug. 14.

In April, Lee sold the Wood River Journal in Hailey and closed two weeklies, the Lincoln County Journal in Shoshone and the Minidoka County News in Rupert.

NWI Times lays off 12

The Times of Northwest Indiana laid off 12 people today.
  • Business editor Bill Bero
  • Sports columnist John O'Malley
  • Society columnist Adele Mackanos
  • Community reporter Barb Martin
  • Web designer Bobby Koskinas
  • 2 niche products employees
  • 5 advertising employees
Another 15 open positions will not be filled. Rumor is, the severance package will be the same as at the Journal Star -- one week's pay for each year there. The paper will also cut sections of the paper, cut back on zoning

In a story in Saturday's Times (it looks like it wasn't published online?), publisher Bill Masterson Jr. said paper is a healthy business -- the "fastest-growing English-language daily newspaper in the United States." Of course, he also said Lee's third-quarter print ad revenue dropped 8.2 percent; CNN says it was 10.1 percent.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lincoln Journal Star update

The layoffs at the Journal Star included eight people in the newsroom, four in advertising, three in consumer products and one online position. Each former employee will get only one week's pay for each year of service.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lincoln Journal Star lays off 16

The cuts have begun. Or, rather, according to the blog Paper Cuts, continue.

The Lincoln, Neb., paper laid off 16 employees -- eight people in the newsroom and eight people in other departments today to "reduce costs." Three were part-time employees, 13 were full-time. Any help tracking down the names of those laid off is appreciated:

In other news, Lee stock jumped 13 percent.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lee trades at 27-year low

Lee stock hit $2.87 on Monday -- the new low -- before "bouncing back" to close at $2.90. The company has been publicly traded for 30 years; that means it could set a new record low today! Or tomorrow!

From the AP story published Monday:

Lee shares slid 22 cents, or 7 percent, to $2.90. The stock earlier traded as low as $2.87.

Earlier this month, shares hit $2.99, their lowest point in at least 27 years.

Right now, the stock is up to $3.03. (Get the latest stock quote with that link.)

Lee plans to cut 5-7% this year

Lee recently reported its third quarter earnings. Or lack of. The biggest surprise was the 9.1 percent drop in online revenue. Content Bridges predicts those losses will mean more cuts at Lee:

What's going on with Lee's online growth number? Coming in at a negative 9.1%, it's a head-scratcher. We know that newspaper companies each bring their own unique accounting to print/online revenue allocations, and that could be an issue here. Or could be the upsell addiction, though Lee has put a lot of energy into transforming its sales as well. The next quarter's number will be fascinating to hear.

So you think current cuts are tough? Lee told us they cut 2.3% in expenses, this quarter 2008 compared this quarter 2007. But CEO Mary Junck added she plans additional expense cuts of 5-7% in the coming year. That could be lots of newsprint and jobs. McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt pegged further non-newsprint expense cutting at more than 10%. Other CEOs tell a similar story.