Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
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.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Of course, we're still waiting to see what will happen with that annual report.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
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
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
In case you missed it, here's the memo from CEO Mary Junck:
Dec. 15, 2008We've seen worse, but Lee shares closed at 39 cents on Monday, down 20.4 percent.
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.
Friday, December 12, 2008
|Photo Courtesy of FlightAware.com|
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.OK, I have to agree. What gives?
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.
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
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: email@example.com.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Lee ended the week trading at 61 cents a share.
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?)
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
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
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
- Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson
- Western Union
- ABM Lakeside
- Sen. Kit Bond
Friday, November 14, 2008
- 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
Thursday, November 13, 2008
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.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
There's a lively discussion over at Sports Journalists about Lee's future.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)are welcome.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Find real-time stock prices in the sidebar -- 5-day and 52-week comparison.
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,
Yesterday, Lee announced it would suspend its dividends.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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.
Friday, October 24, 2008
The Press debuted Tuesday with a 20-page tab, printing 4,000 copies. Publisher Leneé 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
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The bigger winners for "news in excellence" (with a link to the winning endeavor):
- Arizona Daily Star
- North County Times
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Suburban Journals of St. Louis
- The Daily Herald
- Billings Gazette Communications for sellitmt.com
- 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 stlouisbestbridal.com
- Lincoln Journal Star for "Ultimate Home Delivery"
- Quad-City Times for "Q-C House Hunt"
- Courier Communications for coverage of an immigration raid, tornado that killed eight people and flooding that forced thousands to evacuate.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
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.
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
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 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.
“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
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?
What do you know about Ethridge?
What do you think -- good idea? Bad idea? Will it matter?
Lee's business model doesn't seem to be working -- does it that make sense that the company sponsor a tax summit?
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.
Graphicdesignr.net 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
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
That's 66 layoffs companywide in August.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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 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
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 email@example.com, or contact deputy metro editor/suburban Marcia Koenig, 314-340-8142, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Managing Editor/Metro
Saturday, August 2, 2008
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.
- 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
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
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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: email@example.com.
In other news, Lee stock jumped 13 percent.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
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.)
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.