Friday, October 30, 2009

Former St. Louis Post-Dispatch rival to return

After 23 years, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat may be back. A free web-only paper will launch Dec. 8 at

The Globe-Democrat, owned by Newhouse, was half of a JOA with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, owned by Pulitzer. The Globe-Democrat changed ownership in 1984 (and closed two years later), but Newhouse continued to make money from the JOA. Lee bought the Post-Dispatch in 2005, and bought out most of the remaining Newhouse interest. Earlier this year, Lee bought the last 5 percent.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New publisher at The Garden Island

Randy Kozerski has been named editor and publisher at The Garden Island in Lihue, Hawaii.

Kozerski has been the interim publisher since September when Mark Lewis left to become publisher of The Journal Times in Racine, Wis.

Lee circulation declines

Circulation numbers for the past six months are out. Here's what I've seen so far:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Mo.
Weekday circulation fell 11 percent to 213,472, and Sunday circulation fell 5 percent to 401,427.

Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Ariz.
Weekday circulation remained the same, but Saturday circulation increased by nearly 6 percent to 102,058. Sunday circulation fell about 8 percent to 135,238.

North County Times, Escondido, Calif.
Weekday circulation fell 18 percent to 68,940.

The Journal Times, Racine, Wis.
Monday through Saturday circulation fell to 27,134 from 27,627 six months ago. Sunday circulation fell to 29,424 from 29,430 six months ago.

Have you seen circulation numbers for other Lee papers? Share them here, or send me an e-mail:

Lee stock below $3 again

After a couple of weeks in the $3-range (and even a $4 day), Lee stock closed at $2.96 on Wednesday.

A year ago, Lee's stock was in this same range, then fell in November. Lee will release its fourth-quarter earnings on Nov. 12; we'll see how that affects stock prices.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shot, laid-off Lee reporter starts new job

Remember the Suburban Journals reporter who was shot while covering a city council meeting, then laid off a few months later?

Good news: Todd Smith has a new job. He is working for The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., as an editor and writer for the paper's medical site. The Journal-Register is owned by GateHouse Media.

Smith also recently got married.

(Via e-mail)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lee's death rattle?

The Motley Fool has included Lee Enterprises in its list of five deathbed stocks -- "stocks that look like they might be headed six feet under, based on their one-star ratings."

Buyouts offered at Arizona Daily Star

Buyouts are being offered at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. Reporters are exempt. A memo from publisher John Humenik says "only a limited number" of buyouts will be accepted from each department, but if that unmentioned target number is not met, layoffs will follow.

Humenik's memo:
Dear Arizona Daily Star colleague,

We are announcing a voluntary workforce reduction program for Star employees who meet certain eligibility criteria. This voluntary program is available to all positions in our newsroom, with the exception of reporters. Only a limited number of volunteers will be accepted from each department.

Eligible employees will meet the following criteria:
  • Regular full-time or part-time employment status, working 20+ hours each week;
  • Completed 5+ full years of service for Star pension vesting;
  • Qualify for the Star pension benefit plan as of Oct 31, 2009 (55+ years of age).
Eligible employees approved for the program will receive:
  • A severance package that includes two weeks of pay for each completed year of service (maximum of 26 weeks) in exchange for signing a severance agreement;
  • Severance paid bi-weekly for the duration of the period, less any applicable taxes or withholdings;
  • Participation in the 65% government subsidy program toward the cost of COBRA for up 9 months to subsidize medical coverage, based on the elected medical plan and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) eligibility guidelines.
If we receive more than an acceptable number of volunteers in a department, we will select employees based on length of service. While we prefer to avoid reductions, it may become necessary to consider an involuntary workforce reduction if we do not receive a sufficient number of volunteers.

If any employee wishes to inquire about the program details, please contact Kelly Acevedo, VP Human Resources, at 573-4252. The deadline to submit a written application to Kelly is 5 PM on Wednesday, October 28, 2009. We will review the applications and meet with the approved employees on November 5th and 6th, with that Friday as the last day of work.

John M. Humenik
Publisher & Editor

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lee announces President's Awards

Lee's President Award winners have been announced. Congratulations to the 31 winners.

The Billings Gazette, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Times of Northwest Indiana received an award for "Exceptional Achievement, recognizing leadership, collaboration and execution by enterprise management teams benefiting all of Lee." An interesting note included in that announcement:
Because of the initiative and unqualified success, more regional call centers are being added to cover all of Lee.

When the Post-Dispatch outsourced its call center to Indiana, there were layoffs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stock closes above $4

Lee stock closed at $4.01 today. The last time it closed above $4? June 27, 2008.

Lee stock soaring

Lee stock is soaring the past few days -- it closed at $3.47 on Tuesday and at times on Monday and Tuesday was above $4. Back in August, CEO Mary Junck bought 20,000 shares for about $2.22. That means she's made $25,000 since then.

A year ago, Lee's stock was in this same range, then fell in November. Lee will release its fourth-quarter earnings on Nov. 12; we'll see how that affects stock prices.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Junck recalls 'all we've accomplished' in FY09

On Wednesday, CEO Mary Junck sent an e-mail to publishers and directors that includes her list of 10 accomplishment from the last fiscal year.

The e-mail follows, but let's start with that top 10 list. (The capitalization and punctuation is hers.)
1. EXCEPTIONAL FORTITUDE, perseverance and teamwork have shined throughout the company, reinforcing our ability to emerge strong when the recession ends.
2. DEBT REFINANCING – We executed a complete refinancing of $1.3 billion of bank and Pulitzer Notes debt in the worst financing environment since the Great Depression.
3. HUGE COST SAVINGS – We reduced cash costs by roughly $145 million, or 18%, with savings across all enterprises and in virtually all cost categories.
4. STREAMLINED OPERATIONS – We re-engineered traditional ways of doing business, including outsourcing and insourcing of printing, production and distribution; creation of regional call centers; and regionalization of human resources.
5. INCREASED MARKET SHARE – Through an intense focus on High-Velocity Steal Share programs including Brand Expand, we generated approximately $35 million of stolen share advertising revenue.
6. CONTENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM – We created and deployed a powerful content management system that has provided dynamic new online tools and a platform for a significant new advertising capability, Behavioral Targeting.
7. MASSIVE BT LAUNCH – Our mid-summer kickoff of Behavioral Targeting has generated more than $4 million of new online advertising sales in the last two months of FY2009, and set the stage for a goal of $20 million in FY2010.
8. NEW PAGE WIDTH – We redesigned our pages to a reduced width of 11 inches, cutting newsprint expense 8.3%, and gaining approval from readers and advertisers.
9. AUDIENCE GROWTH – We grew or maintained our print and online audiences by emphasizing vital, compelling and unmatched local journalism.
10. INDUSTRY LEADER IN REVENUE – With an intense sales culture and unending stream of initiatives, we again led the industry in advertising revenue by nearly 5 percentage points.

Junck's e-mail is big on behavioral targeting, or BT. That e-mail in its entirety:
From: Mary Junck
Sent: Wednesday, October 07, 2009 2:54 PM
To: #Publishers_Corporate Directors_and_CEO Team
Cc: Kelly Peterson
Subject: Top Accomplishments in 2009 and BT update

While none of us would want to do FY2009 over again, we should take well-earned satisfaction in all we accomplished.

As the attached Top 10 list shows, there’s quite a lot to cheer us.

Thanks to you and so many others across Lee, our hard and innovative work this past year has set the stage for success in 2010 and beyond. Please feel free to share this list as you tally up your own.

You’ll note that #7 on the list is our massive BT launch in Tier 1 at the end of July. This week, Tier 2 launched in enthusiastic rallies Monday in Billings and today in Davenport, and it’s safe to predict that BT is a lock for next year’s Top 10. We’re already nearing our sales goal of $5 million by October 31 and well on our way to reaching $20 million in 2010.

This terrific success shows Lee at its best. It reflects our outstanding sales culture, an excellent sales template, very strong execution and a high level of online sales training throughout Lee. It demonstrates that we are ready for full integration of online sales.

To advance the course we’re on, Greg Schermer, Paul Farrell and I have determined that the corporate sales resources should be fully integrated, as well. The corporate online sales team is joining Paul and his Sales & Marketing group. Mike Buchler and Michelle Carr moved over this week, and we are working out remaining details of the transition.

Greg and I have also concluded that to build our digital future fully, we need to focus even more on the development of new digital products and solutions for our readers and advertisers. High-priority projects for Greg and his team include paid content and mobile, along with overall digital strategy, product development and support, and industry alliances.

Greg, Paul and I think these are very good organizational moves, and we think you’ll agree.

With appreciation and very best wishes,

Mary Junck

Take a look at my previous "look back at FY09" post -- it centered more on the layoffs, the furloughs, the poor stock performance.

What is your prediction for fiscal year 2010? Vote now in the poll to the right.

(Via e-mail)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On the lighter side

I'm taking the next few days off (unless something really big happens), so let me leave you with something a little more light-hearted than the usual doom and gloom around here.

First, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Adam Jadhav quit his job to become an international reporter/blogger. Before leaving, he teamed up with a former co-worker to create a hip-hop video. (Fair warning: There's a bit of cursing.)

You can follow Jadhav's international adventures on his blog.

For this one, there's no explanation. I have no idea what it means, but it makes me chuckle anyway.

Both of these gems were sent via e-mails. Odd (and serious) Lee-related news and information is always welcome at

FY10 off to rough start

The new fiscal year just started, and is already off to a rocky start.

Stock raters at picked their three best and worst newspaper stocks. At the top of the "worst" list? Lee.
With an amazingly bad ROE (rate on equity) of -- 142.67% and mountains of debt, Lee is slowly drowning. It has a debt to equity ratio of 20.34. Yikes.

Lee stock closed at $2.39 -- down 13 percent from the previous day.

How do you think the new year will compare to the previous one? A new poll is open in the sidebar -- it will remain open for a month.

(Via e-mail)

Looking back on FY09

On the first day of the new fiscal year, let's take a look back at the previous one.

The stock price on Oct. 1, 2008, was $3.36. After hitting a new low of 28 cents on Feb. 10 and 17 and March 11, 13 and 31, shares closed Wednesday at $3.03.

At least 515 employees were laid off at Lee papers. Layoffs seemed most common at the end of each quarter. The Times in Munster, Ind., has already said three employees will take buyouts in the new fiscal year, and The Sentinel in Hanford, Calif., said employees will be laid off.

At least nine Lee papers required employees to take unpaid time off. Furloughs have already been announced for the first quarter of the new fiscal year at The Times in Munster, Ind.

Good luck in the new year.