Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ladue News publisher, editor start new paper

A group of Ladue News employees have left the St. Louis-area Lee Enterprises lifestyle paper to start a rival publication.

The new Town & Style will debut Feb. 9. Thirty issues are planned for the first year; a weekly schedule is planned after that. It will be led by former Ladue News publisher Lauren Rechand and editor Dorothy Weiner, and will employee about 15 people. Eight more former Ladue News employees have already joined Town & Style.

Weiner told the St. Louis Business Journal that Lee's corporate structure forced her, and several other Ladue News employees, to leave that publication.

"There's no question that Lee Enterprises, the parent company (of Ladue News), is very bottom-line focused," she said. "Ladue News has always been something of a family business. Even after it was sold to Pulitzer, we were left alone and we were allowed to run independently. Recently, there is more of a shift to (Lee) homogenizing all holdings in St. Louis. That was what people rebelled against."

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Times helping city find investors

The Times of Northwest Indiana is pushing the limits of interest and conflict of interest.

The Times and the Metropolitan Planning Council are leading the Gary and Region Investment Project, or GRIP. The group wants to influence tourism and economic prosperity in Gary and neighboring communities. The Times will be responsible for finding private investors, pursuing state and federal grants and approving development proposals.

Times editor Bill Nangle told the New York Times that his paper's role was not a conflict of interest.
Mr. Nangle described the paper as the “connective tissue” that was letting the public know about development proposals.

The Times has already written a handful of stories about GRIP; some of them quote Nangle and publisher Bill Masterson Jr.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Lee expects revenue to decline

In a forecast report filed with the SEC, Lee Enterprises says its revenue will continue to improve in the first quarter, which ends Dec. 26, and its total operating revenue will drop 1 percent compared to a year ago.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lee names publisher for Idaho, Nevada papers

John Pfeifer has been appointed publisher of The Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Elko Daily Free Press in Elko, Nev.

Pfeifer previously served as advertising director at the Times-News and general manager at the Daily Free Press.

Times-News editor and publisher Brad Hurd announced his retirement in September. Daily Free Press publisher Rhonda Zuraff left in October. Twin Falls, Idaho, is about 165 miles from Elko, Nev.

Post-Dispatch columnist takes on evaluation system

St. Louis Post-Dispatch employees are completing employee evaluations for the first time, a poorly functioning Lee Enterprises system many have hated for years. Columnist Bill McClellan wrote about his experience, comparing the system to the "Loser Patrol."
I was supposed to rate myself in a number of areas. The rule was this — I wasn't supposed to give myself the highest grade in anything. I don't mean to be egotistical, but I had planned on giving myself a lot of very high grades.

I know what these evaluations are for. I don't want to make it easy to fire me. Especially since the company I work for is not exactly known for being warm and fuzzy. Last week, it told many retirees that their free medical coverage was ending and that they would have to pay the full premium.
Read his full column here.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Times hires PR flak tied to corrupt mayor

The Times of Northwest Indiana has hired Damian Rico as community online director.

Rico, as a source tells me, is "the guy who ran the PR machine for George Pabey, former mayor of East Chicago (Ind.) and now convicted criminal. Rico is going from one corrupt administration to another. Apparently Rod Blagojevich wasn't available for the job."

In February, Pabey and co-defendent Jose Camacho, an East Chicago city employee, were charged in a grand jury indictment with conspiring to embezzle city money and illegally use city workers to remodel a house Pabey bought with his daughter in 2008. Camacho is also charged with trying to persuade other city employees to lie to federal investigators about work the laborers allegedly did on the house while on the clock for the city.

On Sept. 20, the first day of the trial, Rico spoke in Pabey's favor: "We are here to support him. He's done so many great things for the city."

Pabey was convicted on federal corruption charges four days later, and removed from office. Anthony Copeland was sworn in as mayor on Oct. 16 and began making personnel changes, including Rico's role as spokesman. (Read Times stories on the Pabey trial.)

While serving as East Chicago spokesman, Rico also has been a Times columnist and freelance photographer.

The memo from Times editor Bill Nangle:
From: William Nangle
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 2:39 PM
To: MUN Newsroom

Effective Monday, Damian Rico assumes the position of Community Online Director. His duties center on content development for “community.com” sites, including contact with the many and varied community organizations throughout The Times market.

Rico most recently served in a contractual consultant role for public relations with the City of East Chicago. In his capacity as a consultant he has served many clients, ranging from industry to education and small business. He holds a B.A. in communications from Purdue University; a Masters Degree in business management from Indiana Wesleyan University and a B.A. in clinical psychology from Purdue University. He is a graduate of Bishop Noll Institute.

Damian is married with four children and resides in Schererville. Please welcome Damian to the media center staff. Bill

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lee Enterprises eliminates more Post-Dispatch retiree benefits

The retiree health benefit saga continues at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On Tuesday, St. Louis Newspaper Guild members who retired and accepted buyout offers between June 2004 and March 2010 were notified that their free medical coverage, which was part of their union contract, will be eliminated on Jan. 1; the retirees will have to pay all of their premium costs to keep their health insurance.

A few years ago, Lee Enterprises made the same announcement that affected guild members who retired under a previous contract, between 1994 and 2004. The St. Louis Newspaper Guild filed suit against Lee. The guild won that suit in late September; the judge ruled that those retirees should get to keep their lifelong health benefits that were guaranteed in their union contract. required Lee to go to arbitration with the union. Lee is expected to appeal the decision.

The guild says it will fight the latest benefit cut as well.

(Via e-mails; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Times ad director appointed to corporate position

Lisa Daugherty, advertising director at the Times of Northwest Indiana in Munster, Ind., has been appointed corporate director of classified sales for Lee Enterprises. She will continue to serve in her role at the Times, and will become general manager of the Times' Crown Point, Ind., office. Daugherty and Dave Worstell, sales and marketing director at the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, will direct Lee's classified sales initiatives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Albany Democrat-Herald publisher retiring

Martha Wells, publisher of the Albany (Ore.) Democrat-Herald and regional executive for Lee Enterprise's Mid-Valley Newspapers, will retire at the end of the year.

Wells previously worked at the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle; The Ottumwa (Iowa) Courier; the Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa; and the Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald. Lee has published a lengthy press release about Wells.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tucson Newspapers CEO quits

Tucson Newspapers CEO and president Mike Jameson resigned Monday. No reason was given for Jameson's resignation; Tucson Newspapers is the advertising and production agency for Lee's Arizona Daily Star and Gannett's Arizona Republic.

Jameson has been at Tucson Newspapers since January 2004; before that, he was publisher of the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune. Lee bought the Pulitzer-owned Arizona Daily Star in 2005.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Justice Department settles lawsuit against Lee Enterprises

A year ago, the Justice Department filed suit against the Elko Daily Free Press and Lee Enterprises for publishing an ad that discriminated against families with children in 2008. That ad was a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Under the settlement, which must now be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Lee will screen discriminatory housing advertisements, will post notices informing readers of fair housing laws and monetarily compensate Silver State Fair Housing Council.

Story about the settlement

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Times named Lee's enterprise of the year

The Times of Northwest Indiana is Lee's enterprise of the year. A press release from Lee says the Munster, Ind., paper improved its financial performance and led in digital initiatives. (The press release does not mention the 14 people the paper has laid off in 2010.)

The Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Mo., were finalists for the award.

Read the press release

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nieman includes Lee Watch as one of the 'still publishing' media watchdog blogs

Nieman Journalism Lab recently included Lee Watch in its roundup of newspaper watchdog blogs. We're flattered. The post also asks if more blogs should set up "water cooler" posts similar to those on Gannett Blog. I can make that happen if you're interested -- leave a comment, and let me know.

Thanks for your help to keep this blog going and report news about Lee Enterprises. As always, send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lee closes 3 papers

Lee Enterprises closed three weekly Illinois newspapers on Oct. 27: The Heyworth Star, Farmer City Journal and LeRoy Journal.

The papers were part of Pantagraph Publishing in Bloomington, Ill.; company officials said the weeklies were not profitable. "We felt we could more effectively serve our readers in those three communities with The Pantagraph," general manager Barry Winterland said in a story on the Pantagraph's website. A week before the weeklies were closed, the Pantagraph introduced a new "Your Town" print and web section "to provide more consolidated coverage" in Heyworth, Farmer City and LeRoy, and other local communities.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Globe Gazette editor fired

Joe Buttweiler, editor of the Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa, was fired in late September. The paper no longer has an editor -- instead a "leadership team" including city editor Jane Reynolds, news editor Bob Steenson and editorial page editor Tom Thoma has been put in place.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Lee reporters leave for start-up

Dustin Bleizeffer of the Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo., and Ruffin Prevost of the Billings Gazette in Billings, Mont., have joined the leadership team of Wyofile, a nonprofit news site in Lander, Wyo. Editor in chief Bleizeffer and managing editor Prevost start their new positions in November.

(Via e-mail; send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lee Enterprises reinstates 401(k) contributions

Two years after suspending contributions, Lee Enterprises will again contribute to employee 401(k) funds. The letter from Lee CEO Mary Junck:
Oct. 15, 2010

Dear Lee Employee:

I have good news to share.

It's the start of what I hope will be more good news as economic conditions continue to improve and our revenue growth resumes.

Beginning in January, the company will contribute 40 cents to your retirement fund for every dollar you put in, up to 5% of your pay. As before, you must have been employed for one year and have worked 1,000 hours to be eligible for the company match.

Also, three new investment options have been added to Lee's 401(k) Retirement Account Plan. The new funds are JPMorgan SmartRetirement 2050 Fund, Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund and JPMorgan Prime Money Market Fund. You can see details on the JPMorgan website, www.retireonline.com. Educational meetings about investment choices and other 401(k) details will be scheduled for early next year.

We owe this improvement in employee benefits to the many sales and audience initiatives that have begun moving Lee's revenue back toward positive territory. We very much ant to continue improving employee benefits and compensation opportunities when our business sufficiently recovers from the tough ongoing economic conditions.

Thank you, again, for all you do for Lee.

With appreciation and very best regards,
Mary Junck

Saturday, October 16, 2010

President's Award winners announced

Lee Enterprises has announced its President's Award winners. Twenty-seven awards were issued; the St. Louis Post-Dispatch appears to be the most honored publication. Congratulations to the winners.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Post-Dispatch editor predicts Sunday-only print publication

As previously announced, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has killed its Saturday newsstand edition. on Friday, Chad Garrison of the alt-weekly Riverfront Times in St. Louis asked Post-Dispatch editor Arnie Robbins about the change, and the future of the paper.
So, how long until the Post-Dispatch (and all dailies for that matter) cease putting out a print publication all together?

"I'm not feeling particularly clairvoyant this morning," responds Robbins. "But I think in the next ten years you could see the elimination of the weekday paper with the Sunday still coming out in print. The rest of the week would be online or delivered through niche products and phone and e-reader apps. We're working on a few of those projects right now that we're excited about."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Lee Enterprises loses benefits lawsuit

A federal judge ruled Thursday that St. Louis Post-Dispatch employees who retired between 1994 and 2004 should get to keep their lifelong health benefits, which were guaranteed in their union contract. Lee Enterprises cut those benefits more than a year ago.

Following the ruling, Lee Enterprises and the St. Louis Newspaper Guild will begin an arbitration process. Lee is expected to appeal the decision.

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild has details on the background of the case.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Illinois statehouse reporter laid off

Mike Riopell, Lee's statehouse reporter in Springfield, Ill., was laid off Sept. 27. On Nov. 2, Illinois voters will fill President Barack Obama's vacant Congressional seat.

(Via e-mail. Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Times-News publisher to retire

Brad Hurd, editor and publisher of The Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, will retire at the end of the year. Hurd was appointed publisher in 2004. Lee Enterprises vice president for publishing Mike Gulledge said a replacement will be selected soon.

Read Lee's press release on Hurd's retirement.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's a director worth?

Last week, Lee Enterprises added an 11th member to its board of directors, Brent Magid. Only two board members also work for Lee full-time:
  • Mary Junck, Lee's president and chief executive officer is chairman of the board
  • Gregory P. Schermer is one of Lee's 12 vice presidents
In 2009, the average compensation for the other nine directors was $69,167.78. In 2009, Lee laid off more than 500 employees. (Lee has made several layoffs in 2010, although I do not have numbers for several papers.)

Basic information on each director:

Full-time job: Journalism professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill
Director since: 2006
2009 director compensation: $67,470
2008 director compensation: $71,065
2007 director compensation: $100,385

Full-time job: Founding partner of private equity firms Circle Financial Group LLC and Oakmont Partners LLC
Director since: 2003
2009 director compensation: $70,470
2008 director compensation: $79,065
2007 director compensation: $108,385

Full-time job: Attorney
Director since: 2008
2009 director compensation: $66,470
2008 director compensation: $46,065

Full-time job: President and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises
Director since: 1999
2009 compensation: $1,323,098
2008 compensation: $2.5 million
2007 compensation: $3.7 million

Full-time job: Founding parter of private equity firm Park Avenue Equity Partners L.P.; director of a management investment company and another that develops and markets software and hardware for people with speech and learning disabilities
Director since: 1998
2009 director compensation (Lee only): $95,470
2008 director compensation (Lee only): $97,065
2007 director compensation (Lee only): $124,385

Full-time job: President and chief operating officer of Western Colorprint Inc.
Director since: 2001
2009 director compensation: $79,220
2008 director compensation: $86,815
2007 director compensation: $114,885

Full-time job: Private investor
Director since: 1991
2009 director compensation: $93,470
2008 director compensation: $99,065
2007 director compensation: $126,385

Full-time job: Founder of private investment group Cairnwood Cooperative in Boston, and math professor at Babson College in Babson Park, Mass.
Director since: 1998
2009 director compensation: $71,470
2008 director compensation: $79,065
2007 director compensation: $107,385

Full-time job: Vice president of interactive media at Lee Enterprises
Director since: 1999
2009 compensation: Not found
2008 compensation: Not found
2007 compensation: $576,029

Full-time job: Private investor
Director since: 1986
2009 director compensation: $78,470
2008 director compensation: $88,065
2007 director compensation: $114,385

Salary information from Forbes.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lee Enterprises adds board member

Brent Magid has been elected to Lee Enterprises' board of directors. Magid is the president and chief executive officer of a consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates Inc.

"We welcome Brent's extensive media experience and digital expertise," Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck said in a press release; she did not offer details on what that experience has been.

According to its website, the company works with newspapers and other publications "to help them evolve their businesses in ways that lead to growing revenues." It's "newspaper of the future" project uses "a highly customized process to explore consumer attitudes and behaviors toward print and online media consumption, which then informs strategies to recapture important consumer and advertiser positions that have been assumed by other media."

Lee's board of directors now has 11 members.

Editor & Publisher's story

Layoffs for staff; perks for managers?

An update on this week's layoffs at The Times in Munster, Ind., from a reader:
The Times of Northwest Indiana laid off seven people today. From the editorial department and from satellite offices. And the managers got to go to another Cubs game.

Is this kind of reward-the-managers activity taking place at other Lee papers? Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Muscatine Journal names new publisher

Steven Jameson will replace Muscatine Journal publisher Bob Blackman on Oct. 1. Blackman is retiring from the Muscatine, Iowa, paper.

Jameson is now the classified advertising director at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa.

Earlier this month, Dave Bundy was named publisher of the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. Bundy moved up from editorial director at the Journals, a position he had held for three years.

Times cuts 13 jobs

Seven employees were laid off Tuesday at the Times in Munster, Ind., according to Paper Cuts. Six more positions were cut through attrition.

The end of the fiscal year is quickly approaching, which has signaled a round of layoffs in previous years. Know of layoffs? Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Missoulian, Ravalli Republic newsrooms merge

The Missoulian, in Missoula, Mont., and the Ravalli Republic, in Hamilton, Mont., merged their newsrooms on Aug. 30. Missoulian editor Sherry Devlin took over as editor of both papers; Repulic editor Perry Backus was bumped down to a reporter.

Read the Missoulian's story about the merger.

(Via e-mail. Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Post-Dispatch: Saturday edition for subscribers only

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch will no longer sell single-copies of its Saturday paper starting Oct. 2. The paper will be delivered to subscribers.

The memo sent to employees, which also was published in the paper:

We're making a few changes to the Saturday and Sunday Post-Dispatch beginning the weekend of Oct. 2-3.

The biggest is a new section debuting Oct. 3 in the Sunday Post-Dispatch called "Home & Away." It will combine your favorite features from Saturday's Lifestyle and Sunday's Explore sections -- giving you even more to read in what is already the biggest paper of the week.

The content from Lifestyle -- tips and features on parenting, entertaining at home, gardening, fashion, decorating, etc. -- will be available to more readers by shifting to Sunday. That's the "Home" part of the new section. The "Away" part consists of the travel tips, stories and features that now appear in Explore. Lifestyle will no longer be part of the Saturday paper.

The three-star early edition of the Sunday Post-Dispatch that's sold at newsstands and retail outlets on Saturdays will be available at least one hour earlier on Saturday mornings. It will contain the latest news and sports and prep reports from Friday night, as well as the enterprise reporting and features you expect in the Sunday paper.

You'll still be able to get later five-star editions of the Sunday Post-Dispatch every Sunday, through home delivery or at newsstands and retail outlets.

Because the already popular Sunday Post-Dispatch is becoming even heftier and will be available even earlier on Saturday mornings, the Saturday Post-Dispatch will no longer be sold on a single-copy basis in the Metro area. The Saturday Post-Dispatch will still be delivered to readers with home delivery subscriptions -- at a rate lower than single copy. A special weekend subscription offer is currently available. Please call 314-340-8888 to subscribe today.

(Via e-mail. Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How do you say goodbye?

When Missoulian digital editor Tim Akimoff resigned at the end of August, he posted a farewell on Facebook, which includes this paragraph:
"I believe in the process of news and the responsibility of a local newspaper to provide news to the citizens. Unfortunately, newspapers are helmed by old, decrepit captains who cannot see past their bifocals way down their noses reading about yesterday with all the relevance of the Hindenberg blimp disaster."

Read the rest of Akimoff's farewell note on Poynter.

(Via e-mail. Send tips, links and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Pantagraph lays off all imaging employees

Paper Cuts reports that The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Ill., laid off all of its imaging employees. The blog does not say how many imaging employees the paper had.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lee asks for fewer expense reports

Expense reports are getting out of hand.

According to a memo from corporate, the must-use electronic expense reporting service has been swamped with reports -- more than Lee's monthly allotment, at least. Instead of changing the number of expense reports that can be submitted and accepted, employees are asked to only submit fewer reports.

The memo:
As we are now doing all of our out of pockets expenses through Concur, as well as credit card expenses, the number of reports per month has jumped. We do have to pay a fee for all reports submitted over our set monthly number. In order to watch these costs we are checking the dates employees are submitting their reports.

UNLESS an employee travels every week reports should be done about twice a month. If they are behind in submitting DO NOT submit separate reports for each month’s expenses. Please discuss this with your employees.

(Via e-mail. Send tips and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lee Lodge: Most of the pieces are still for sale

Lee Enterprises broke up its Lee Lodge near Polson, Mont., and is selling the pieces. Of the 14 lots, four have sold. Prices range from $629,900 to $62,900; lots range from 0.53 acres to 0.23 acres. Some have houses; some don't. The property is listed with Lambros Real Estate.

(Via e-mail. Send tips and e-mails to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lee ranks first for inefficiencies

Ranked according to revenue-per-employee, analysts say Lee Enterprises is the most inefficient company in the publishing industry. Media General comes in second.

Is this a sign of layoffs to come?

(Via e-mail. Send tips to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Keeping track of Lee real estate

Thanks to e-mails from current and former employees at The Times of Northwest Indiana in Munster, Ind., I can report that the paper is not leasing part of its building. For several years, even before the paper was bought by Lee Enterprises in 2002, the Times had leased and used a building next door; tipsters tell me it was cleverly called "Building B." The Times has given up the lease on that building, and another company has moved in.

However, Lee papers in other areas are selling real estate.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier has been trying to sell its building to the city of Waterloo, Iowa, for about a year, a tipster tells me. The deal appeared to be so close to final that employees were told to start packing to move to another building. That deal still has not been completed.

The Winona Daily News building was sold earlier this year and the paper has moved into rented space elsewhere in Winona, Minn., another tipster reports. This deal had been in the works for some time; Winona's presses were moved to another Lee paper in 1999.

Since we're talking about real estate, does anyone know what ever happened to the Lee Lodge? It was listed with various real estate agencies for more than a year. Did it finally sell? Did Lee change its mind? Leave a comment or e-mail lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Is Lee Enterprises selling newspaper buildings?

Here's an interesting question from a reader: "Has The Times of Northwest Indiana sold part of its building? There is a rumor they have a new tenant or sold the building."

The Times is located in Munster, Ind. Here's the Google Streetview of the paper:

View Larger Map

Has Lee resorted to selling real estate? Anyone in Indiana know what's going on? Leave a comment or e-mail lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Layoffs coming to Wisconsin State Journal

At least four full-time employees in the sports and video departments of the Wisconsin State Journal and Capital Times are being targeted in a buyout offer.

Here's the memo that was sent to Capital Newspaper employees on behalf of Wisconsin State Journal publisher Bill Johnson and Capital Times publisher Clayton Frink:

We are nearing completion of our operating budget for the next fiscal year, and we now know that we are going to have to reduce staffing at Capital Newspapers. We have looked at all areas of our operation for efficiencies and budget cuts, but we are not able to reach our budget expectations through non-personnel reductions.

We need to eliminate multiple positions in the combined newsrooms, and the sports and video departments are the primary areas which will experience the reductions. Initial estimates indicate that this will involve the reduction of approximately four full-time positions.

The full-time employees in sports and video are being provided with information on a voluntary severance program opportunity. The package consists of two weeks for every full year of service, up to a maximum of 52 weeks plus outplacement assistance and other benefits.

Capital Newspapers is jointly owned by Lee and The Capital Times Co. The Madison, Wis., papers cut 15 employees in August 2009.

Lee has entered the last quarter of its fiscal year, which in recent years has meant layoffs. Send tips to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

(Via e-mail.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lee's losses continue in third quarter

Lee Enterprises posted its third quarter earnings on July 20. Revenue fell 3.6 percent, which CEO Mary Junck called "positive momentum."

The report shows $10 million in earnings, but Junck failed to mention that figure is greatly boosted by cuts made to employee benefits at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, layoffs at several other papers and nearly across the board unpaid furloughs.

Lee's fiscal year ends in September, the same time the no-layoff guarantee at the Post-Dispatch ends. The company must pay back its debts from the 2005 Pulitzer acquisition in 2012.

Editor's note: An unexpected and important family obligation has kept me away from this blog for some time; my apologies. I make no promises, but hope to get back on a regular blogging schedule. Thanks to all for the e-mails, tips, links and comments. Tips are always welcome: lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Storms flood Billings Gazette

June 20 storms flooded the Billings Gazette's basement, damaging dozens of rolls of newsprint and delaying the paper's Monday press run. Some archived newspapers and photos also were damaged. The Gazette has photos of its flooded press online.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Capital Times faces defamation lawsuit

United Asian Services of Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against The Capital Times and reporter Pat Schneider, seeking $10 million for defamation by slander, along with punitive damages and lawyer's fees.

In March, Schneider wrote a story about a dispute between the agency and its executive director, Koua Vang, over control of the agency. The suit says the story and illustration suggest the UAS was "ripped apart" by the dispute.

Read the story here.
See the illustration here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lee gives 80,000 shares to directors

On Thursday, Lee stock closed at $3.05. On Thursday, Lee Enterprises gave eight directors 10,000 shares each:

Nancy S. Donovan is a founding partner in two private equity firms. She's a member of Lee's Audit Committee. She's been a director since 2003; in 2009, Lee paid her $70,470.

Richard R. Cole is a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina. He's a member of Lee's Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. He's been a director since 2006; in 2009, Lee paid him $67,470.

Leonard J. Elmore is a New York attorney. He's a member of Lee's Audit Committee. He's been a director since 2008; in 2009, Lee paid him $66,470.

William E. Mayer is a founding partner of a New York private equity firm, Park Avenue Equity Partners. He's lead director and chairman of Lee's Executive Compensation Committee, and a member of the Executive Committee and Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. He's been a director since 1998; in 2009, Lee paid him $95,470.

Herbert W. Moloney III is a president and chief operating officer of Western Colorprint Inc., a private company that provides advertising supplements and cartoons. He's a member of Lee's Audit Committee and Executive Compensation Committee. He's been a director since 2001; in 2009, Lee paid him $79,220.

Andrew E. Newman is a private investor. He's the chairman of Lee's Audit Committee and a member of the Executive Compensation Committee. He's been a director since 1991; in 2009, Lee paid him $93,470.

Gordon D. Prichett is a private investor. He founded the Cairnwood Cooperative in Boston and is a math professor at Babson (Mass.) College. He's a member of Lee's Audit Committee and Executive Committee. He's been a director since 1998; in 2009, Lee paid him $71,470.

Mark Vittert is a private investor. He's the chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, and a member of Lee's Executive Compensation Committee. He's been a director since 1986; in 2009, Lee paid him $78,470.

On Thursday, each director was awarded a 10,000-share package worth $30,500 while furloughs and layoffs continue throughout the rest of the company. By Friday, those 10,000-share packages were worth $1,900 less. (Editor's note: Stock prices bounced up a couple of cents on Monday, closing at $2.88. A weekend Blogger outage caused a posting delay.)

Read the SEC reports here.

(Via e-mail. Got a tip? Send links, memos and information to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On heels of layoff announcement, CEO Junck says 'thanks'

A week after Hanford (Calif.) Sentinel employees learned finance jobs would be outsourced to an Illinois paper, Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck sent this e-mail to Hanford employees:

May 24, 2010

Dear Lee Employee:

As we enter the final months of Lee’s 2010 fiscal year and prepare for 2011, I’d like to give you an update on the direction of our company. I believe it is exactly right.

Revenue trends have improved steadily in recent months, and the clouds are beginning to lift. Still, revenue continues to lag below last year, and challenges remain. Meanwhile, we have taken many wise steps to streamline operations while building on our position as, by far, the premier provider of local news, information and advertising in our markets.

As the economy slowly recovers, our advertising customers are becoming more willing to restore their marketing programs. We are presenting them with an increasing array of capabilities for delivering their messages to print and digital audiences.

With the help of publishers, editors, advertising executives, members of management teams and others across Lee, we have created a strong plan for resuming growth. If we execute as well as I know we can, 2011 looks like a turnaround year.

Our aggressive plan is built on four key themes – optimism about the economy and our future, a huge emphasis on increasing our market share, rapid growth of digital/wireless opportunities, and an urgency to move even faster to meet emerging needs of audiences and advertisers.

Initiatives include new print and digital products, aggressive new sales programs, intensified sales training, adding sales people where revenue opportunities exist, and improved technology in our newsrooms to help us continue expanding our print, online, niche and mobile audiences.

You’ll learn more about the initiatives in meetings with your publisher over the next few weeks.

In previous updates, I have assured you that Lee will begin improving benefits and compensation opportunities as soon as economic conditions allow. While we are not yet at that point, I am hopeful that, with continued cooperation from the economy and our ever-harder push to resume revenue growth, the process can begin to some degree later this year.

Thank you for all you do for Lee. I continue to be grateful for your perseverance in what has been an extraordinary time of challenge.

With very best wishes and deep appreciation,

Mary Junck

While this one was addressed to Hanford, it reads like an e-mail all Lee employees have found or will soon find in their inboxes.

(Via e-mail; send tips and e-mails to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Lee outsources California finance jobs to Illinois

A May 18 e-mail from Hanford (Calif.) Sentinel publisher Manuel Collazo announces further finance department consolidations. The Sentinel's finance department will be outsourced to The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Ill. -- about 2,000 miles and two time zones away. Collazo says employees will be laid off on May 28, but does not say how many.

Collazo's announcement:
This afternoon we announced a difficult transition within our Finance department. We will begin participating in a Lee-wide finance regionalization program effective May 31st. Many of the tasks that we perform locally will be consolidated within a regional finance center housed in Bloomington, IL at The Pantagraph, a sister Lee newspaper. Unfortunately, as a result several of the current positions within the finance department will be eliminated effective next Friday, May 28th so this will directly impact the employees in these positions. More details regarding the transition will be forthcoming as they are available. As with any of the difficult situations we have dealt with as a team this year, the expectation is that we will all handle the situation with the utmost professionalism. If you have any or receive any questions regarding this announcement please direct them to me at the office number below or Peggy Chapman at 760.739.6610.

Thank you
Manuel Collazo
President & Publisher, Lee Central CA Newspapers
Director of Circulation, Lee Enterprises
Office: (559) 583-2400

Lee Enterprises also has set up a finance center at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier.

(Via e-mail. Send Lee tips and e-mails to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lee, guild retiree insurance fight continues

In December 2008, St. Louis Post-Dispatch retirees were taken off a low-deductible insurance plan and added to Lee's mid-deductible plan, forcing the retirees to pay more for insurance. The St. Louis Newspaper Guild filed a grievance, and in February 2010 an arbitrator ruled Lee must refund the difference in coverage to retirees and reinstate the low-deductible plan.

Lee has mailed those checks, but says the arbitrator "ordered the P-D to restore the low deductible option for the affected retirees under the 2004-2009 contract ... he did not order the P-D to reinstate the low deductible plan beyond the term of the 2004-2009 agreement."

Guild members approved a new contract on March 28. The guild has filed another grievance and asked the arbitrator to weigh in again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

St. Louis food magazine to debut in August

Lee has released a few more details on its previously announced St. Louis food magazine.

Feast, the new niche publication will debut in August, according to a news release from publisher Catherine Neville. Neville said the "broad-based, monthly culinary magazine that celebrates St. Louis' food culture" will debut with a circulation of 70,000, and will be distributed free at more than 500 St. Louis-area locations. The magazine also has established a website, feaststl.com.

Lee hired Neville to lead its new publication in March. Neville co-founded Sauce Magazine, an 11-year-old website-turned-magazine, is a free monthly St. Louis food publication.

Brandi Wills, former managing editor of St. Louis Homes & Lifestyles magazine, has been hired as Feast's managing editor.

(Via e-mail. Send tips to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com)

St. Louis Suburban Journals publisher quits

Tom Wiley, publisher of the Suburban Journals of St. Louis, is leaving to become the publisher of the the Journal Register Co.'s New Haven (Conn.) Register. His last day will be June 4.

Wiley replaced Journal publisher Bob Williams in February when Williams became publisher of The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill. Journals editorial director Dave Bundy will take over as interim publisher of the Journals.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Muscatine Journal switches to morning paper

The Muscatine (Iowa) Journal will become a six-day morning paper starting May 24. The paper currently publishes an afternoon edition Monday through Friday and a morning edition Saturday.

A letter to readers from Journal publisher Bob Blackman said the change means "fresh and up-to-date" coverage of "local sports, news, advertising and community events. Morning delivery gives advertisements a longer, useful life. Shoppers using advertising information will have the entire day to take advantage of shopping offers." (Under the afternoon schedule, those same shoppers should have had a day to take advantage of offers too: The day following publication.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lee sets up new finance center; employees laid off

A couple of weeks ago, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier announced it will become one of six regional finance centers for Lee Enterprises. The new center will handle regional billing, accounting and customer service for 10 Lee papers. Those papers include the The Times-News in Twin Falls Idaho; North County Times in Escondido, Calif., The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y.; The Sentinel in Carlisle, Pa.; The Times and Democrat in Orangeburg, S.C.; The Citizen in Auburn, N.Y.; The Ledger-Independent in Maysville, Ky.; The Daily News in Longview, Wash.; and Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyo. The last papers joined the group on May 3.

In March, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier's call center was outsourced to a group in Indiana; four employees were laid off.

While the Courier is expected to hire a few employees, the other papers will or already have laid off their finance employees. Know of layoffs or consolidation news? Send tips to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

CEO Junck joins 2 newspaper boards

Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck was appointed to the board of directors of the Newspaper Association of America,, and has been re-elected to the board of the Associated Press.

NAA is a lobbying group based outside of Washington, D.C. CEO John Sturm appeared on the "Colbert Report" in March:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby - Newspaper Lobby
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ex-Lee VP Stoeffler named editor of Gannett paper

Former Lee vice president David Stoeffler has been named executive editor of Gannett's News-Leader Media Group in Springfield, Mo. He will start May 28.

Stoeffler became Lee's first VP for news in December 2001 and worked for the company until November 2007. He has been the editor of the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune and Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, publisher and editor of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, the interim publisher of the Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star, and general manager of the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. Since leaving the Suburban Journals, he ran a consulting company, Touchstone News Consulting, in Ferryville, Wis.

Stoeffler replaces News-Leader editor Don Wyatt, who resigned in April.

(Via e-mails. Know of Lee news? Send tips and links to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Independent Record lays off 5

The Independent Record in Helena, Mont., has laid off a full-time copy desk editor, three part-time copy editors and a part-time sports reporter. Two open positions -- one full-time and one part-time -- also were eliminated. Publisher Randy Rickman said the economic slowdown caused the layoffs; other expenses also have been cut, he said.

(Via e-mails. Send tips and Lee news to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Lee posts 2Q profit

On the heels of furlough, layoff and pay cut announcements, Lee Enterprises announced Tuesday that it is making money.

Total revenue was $185.7 million. Operating expenses and compensation costs (part of that furlough, layoff and pay cut plan) also are down. Add it up, and Lee reported a profit of $3 million for the second quarter; this is the company's third consecutive profitable quarter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oregon employees required to take unpaid furloughs

Full-time Mid-Valley Group employees and managers were told Wednesday they will have to take a five-day unpaid furlough between late May and Sept. 31. The Oregon group includes the Corvallis Gazette-Times, the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Lebanon Express.

(Via e-mail. Send tips and Lee news to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ex-Lee VP named CEO of Texas newspaper company

Former Lee Enterprises vice president Jim Hopson has been named chief executive officer of ASP Westward in Houston.

Hopson was publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal from 2000 to 2006 and was a Lee vice president for publishing. He retired from the State Journal to walk across the country and write a book. Hopson has served on the board of Westward since July 2009. Westward publishes 60 daily and weekly papers in Texas and Colorado.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Lee Enterprises launching new niche publication in St. Louis

Lee Enterprises will launch a food and home entertainment magazine this summer in St. Louis.

Catherine Neville, co-founder of Sauce Magazine in St. Louis, will be the publisher of the new publication. Sauce, an 11-year-old website-turned-magazine, is a free monthly St. Louis food publication. Neville sold her share of that business to her co-founder in February.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What does Post-Dispatch contract mean for Lee?

In its latest SEC statement, Lee Enterprises says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contract with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild will save the company more than $30 million over the next five years.

"The Company estimates the contract changes will result in non-cash curtailment gains totaling $14,000,000, which will be recognized in March 2010, and are expected to further reduce operating expenses for the six months ending September 2010 by $1,300,000 and by an average of $1,800,000 on an annual basis over the life of the contract. The Company’s post retirement medical benefit and pension obligations will be reduced by approximately $6,500,000 and $2,000,000, respectively, in March 2010. Curtailment gains and changes in benefit obligations are subject to final actuarial calculations."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Post-Dispatch guild approves contract

St. Louis Newspaper Guild members voted 132-54 to approve a five-and-half year contract with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The contract includes a 6 percent pay cut for the duration of the contract and three furloughs between April 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2012; eliminates retiree medical benefits for current employees; freezes pensions; and guarantees no layoffs for six months.

(Via e-mails)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Former St. Charles Journal publisher dies

Bill Mullins, founding publisher of the St. Charles, Mo., Journal, died Saturday. Mullins started the Journal in 1957, which joined a chain of weekly papers, and served as publisher for 32 years. He retired in 1988. The chain was sold to Pulitzer Publishing in 2000, and to Lee Enterprises in 2005.

Suburban Journals subscription model failing?

More than a year ago, the Suburban Journals of St. Louis switched to from free to paid distribution. St. Louis Journalism Review reports that switch has not gone well: "The executives did not think the response would be as low as it was," said one ad rep. (Subscribe to the St. Louis Journalism Review to read the rest of the story.)

Seven Suburban Journals employees were laid off last week, and employees must take an unpaid furlough by the end of the fiscal year.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Santa Maria Times lays off 5

The Santa Maria, Calif., Times laid off five employees in January. The paper also laid off eight employees last year, which had not yet been reported here.

That brings Lee's 2009 layoff total up to 525, and the 2010 total to 16.

(Via e-mail)

Report Lee layoffs or furloughs: Send an e-mail to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com from a non-work computer; anonymity guaranteed.

Ahead of union vote, a look at Lee executives salaries

On Saturday, St. Louis Newspaper Guild members at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will vote on Lee's "final offer" five-year contract. That offer includes a 6 percent pay cut through September 2015, a one-week unpaid furlough in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and a possible "snap-back" salary increase in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Which gives us an opportunity to look at the salary of Lee's leaders. According to the company's proxy statement released in January:

Name2009 salary2009 compensation2008 salary2008 compensation
CEO Mary E. Junck$833,654$882,454$850,000$1,089,506
CFO Carl G. Schmidt$472,731$612,831$482,000$681,492
VP Greg R. Veon$354,058$381,337$361,000$487,315
VP Kevin D. Mowbray$328,558$353,328$335,000$452,383
VP Vytenis P. Kuraitis$262,846$283,413$268,000$370,266

Salaries for each executive decreased by 1.92 percent -- or approximately a one-week unpaid furlough. Total compensation includes bonuses, stock awards and retirement account contributions; fewer of those were awarded. From 2007 to 2008, each executive's salary increased by more than 3 percent.

If Junck followed the salary guidelines and furloughs the union will vote on:
6 percent pay cutFurloughSnap-backAnnual salary
Furlough represents one-week's salary, calculated by dividing the annual salary by 52 weeks. The "snap-back" is added if the company increases its annual revenue by at least 2 percent, which I am assuming in this example, and will result in a salary increase of 2.5 percent in the last three years of the contract.

If Mowbray, who in addition to being a vice president of publishing is also the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, followed the same salary reduction and furlough schedule:
6 percent pay cutFurloughSnap-back Annual salary

From 2008 to 2015, Junck's and Mowbray's salaries would have increased by 1.41 percent (assuming, of course, that there were no bonuses or other additional compensation).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Courier outsources call center, will lay off 4

The Courier in Waterloo, Iowa, will join the ranks of Lee Enterprises newspapers outsourcing its circulation call center to The Times of Northwest Indiana in Munster, Ind. Two full-time and two part-time employees will be laid off.

The memo from Courier publisher David Braton:

Today we are announcing the regionalization of our Circulation Call Center. Effective March 31, 2010 subscribers calling The Courier will be handled by a call center at another Lee newspaper in Munster, Indiana. Local calls from subscribers related to stops, starts, vacations and delivery issues will be routed to Munster. Munster has access to our circulation system and will text message shortage drivers in Waterloo with instructions for deliveries.

We are familiar with regionalization since we are one of six finance centers in Lee. With this change comes the pain that 2 full time, 2 open positions, and 2 part time positions in Circulation have been affected by our regionalization.

David Braton
Courier Communications

(Via e-mail)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Junck up for re-election on AP board of directors

The Associated Press has mailed proxy ballots to its members. Members can vote yes or no on a preferred slate of board of director candidates, which includes:
  • Michael Golden, New York Times
  • R. Jack Fishman, Lakeway Publishers
  • Mary Junck, Lee Enterprises
  • Steven Newhouse, Advance Publications
  • Charles Pittman, Schurz Communications
  • Katharine Weymouth, Washington Post
I'm not sure what happens if the majority of votes are against this group, which, given the set-up, is unlikely.

The AP board has 18 directors, elected in staggered groups of six each year. Directors are elected to three-year terms are can serve up to nine years. Junck is a current board member

Suburban Journals lays off 7

Three advertising and four editorial employees were laid off Friday at the Suburban Journals of St. Louis. Remaining employees also must take a one-week unpaid furlough by the end of the fiscal year.

Suburban Journals employees are not members of the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Lee recently presented its final offer to guild members at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which includes a 6 percent pay cut and three one-week unpaid furloughs over the next three years. The guild will vote Saturday on that offer.

Know of other layoffs or furloughs? Send tips and comments to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.

Lee Enterprises blocks access to Lee Watch

Something around here must have upset a Lee Enterprises official or two -- employees at three papers have confirmed that Lee Watch is blocked from work computers. Aww, shucks, I'm a little flattered.

There's a quick and easy way around that. Just subscribe to Lee Watch. Not sure what that means? Here's how to do it:

Click on the "subscribe to posts" link at the top of this page. Select "add to Google homepage" or "add to Google Reader" -- the results will basically be the same. (If you are not already signed in to Google or Gmail, you will need to either sign in or create an account.)

If you add the subscription -- known as an RSS feed, or feed for short -- to Google homepage, then every time you visit igoogle.com (while logged in), the latest Lee Watch headlines will be on that page. Click on the plus sign beside the headline and you can read the post.

If you add the feed to Google Reader, then every time you visit google.com/reader (while logged in), the latest Lee Watch headlines and posts will be available there.

You can subscribe to other websites and blogs this same way to create your own custom web library.

It probably bears repeating that Lee can, and (give in to the paranoia) most likely does, monitor web and e-mail use from work computers. Not just your work e-mail, but any website and web service you access from that computer -- Gmail, Yahoo mail, Hotmail, etc. Tips and notes are always welcome and appreciated here at Lee Watch, but if you don't want someone at corporate to know you sent it, then don't do so from work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Price of daily Post-Star increases to $1

The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y., has doubled its newsstand price. The 50-cent increase takes effect on March 29. Several Post-Star readers are not happy about the change.

In February, the Post-Star announced it would try to "wean people off the free Web site": Comics, letters to the editor, puzzles and TV grids are print-only.

(Via email)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Post-Dispatch makes 'last, best, final' offer

Hours after a St. Louis Newspaper Guild rally outside the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lee Enterprises presented its "last, best and final" offer to the guild. The offer now goes to guild members for a vote, tentatively scheduled for March 27.

According to the guild's website, the offer includes several pay cuts, three furloughs and, if the new contract is ratified by April 1, 2010, a six-month no-layoff guarantee.
  • April 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2010: 6 percent decrease plus one week unpaid furlough
  • Oct. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011: 6 percent decrease continues plus one week unpaid furlough
  • Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012: 6 percent decrease continues plus one week unpaid furlough
  • Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013: 6 percent decrease continues minus "snap back" of 2.5 percent on Oct. 1, 2012
  • Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014: 6 percent decrease continues minus "snap back" of 2.5 percent totaling 5 percent on Oct. 1, 2013
  • Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015: 6 percent decrease continues minus "snap back" of 2.5 percent totaling 7.5 percent on Oct. 1, 2014
"Snap backs" are triggered by year-over-year total revenue increases of 2 percent or more.

For advertising sales reps, territories and outside sales commission with no base will increase to $575.

Seniority remains, but the company can exempt up to 20 newsroom employees and five advertising employees from seniority in any layoff.

Retiree medical plan, PPO, JPP pension and retiree life insurance would be eliminated.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pulitzer: Post-Dispatch 'quality has clearly deteriorated'

Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Joseph Pulitzer Jr.'s widow, talked to St. Louis gossip blogger Jerry Berger about, among other things, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer was the largest shareholder when the Pulitzer papers were sold to Lee Enterprises in 2005.

"The quality has clear deteriorated," Pulitzer said of the Post-Dispatch. "Lee Enterprises has faced a really difficult economic situation. What Lee did with the Post-Dispatch is not different from what has happened in other cities. Nobody has figured out how to deal with the Internet. Journalism is very important and without journalists with good education you don't have a democracy. Not-for-profit journalism is very important. That's where KWMU, NPR, The Beacon and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting come in."

Fate uncertain for closed Lee paper's archives

Bound copies of the Springfield News have been sitting in storage since Lee Enterprises closed the Oregon paper in 2006. Since many of the organizations most likely to save the bound editions are struggling with the economy, the future of those papers is uncertain.

The University of Oregon’s Knight Library rescued the volumes when the paper closed and obtained the paper's photo collection. The pages are saved on microfilm.

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Louis Newspaper Guild sponsors rally

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild will hold a vigil at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday outside the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as contract negotiations continue with Lee Enterprises. The guild also is asking its members to wear red to work in a sign of solidarity.

"I expect management will present on Tuesday, March 16, their 'last, best and final offer,'" guild business representative Shannon Duffy said in a press release. "Such an action by the management could end bargaining tomorrow. If that happens, our prayer vigil may turn into a wake -- complete with a coffin -- to mourn the passage of labor relations between the workers at our hometown newspaper, The Post-Dispatch, and the out-of-town owners, Lee Enterprises, of Iowa."

Going to Tuesday's vigil? Send photos and updates to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com

(Via e-mails)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2 Indiana papers battle for turf

The Times of Northwest Indiana and the Post-Tribune are fighting for turf in Gary, Ind.

The Times is a Lee paper based in Munster, Ind. The Post-Tribune is a Sun-Times Media paper, based in Merrillville, Ind. The papers cover the same area in the northwest Indiana.

In a Sunday editorial, the Post-Tribune took offense to Times billboards: "Readers, would you trust a newspaper whose billboards lie? We wouldn't either." One of the billboards in question says the Times offers the "only local news in Gary"; the other says the Times is "proud to be Gary's only local newspaper and Web site."

The Chicago Tribune has more on the battle.

(Via e-mail)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lee papers fall for scam ad

The Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, Ariz., and The Journal Times in Racine, Wis., have fallen for a deceptive ad selling "state currency." The ad, which looks like a newspaper story, offers four $2 bills for $12 during an unspecified 48-hour period, after which the price escalates to $17 per bill.

The Arizona Daily Star ran the full-page ad on Jan 18, then wrote a story about the scam on Jan. 27.

Racine Post reports that the Journal Times ran the same ad (for Wisconsin instead of Arizona and seen above) on March 6. The Racine Post called the number in the ad and did the math: The World Reserve Monetary Exchange is offering 50 $2 bills, worth $100, for $588.

The bills that the World Reserve Monetary Exchange is selling are not special -- they are $2 bills, legal U.S. tender, with stickers to change the background behind President Thomas Jefferson and to add a state name. They are worth $2; the value will not increase over time. In fact, it could decrease if the stickers are not easy to remove. There is no state program to change the appearance on any U.S bill. (There are various programs that change the appearance of coins.)

(Via e-mail)

St. Louis guild prepares for corporate campaign

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild has hired an activist and a marketing firm to help in its corporate campaign. The Post-Dispatch and the guild have been negotiating a new contract for several months. The guild fears Lee Enterprises is close to declaring an impasse.

Activist Carrie Biggs-Adams is a member of Labor Network for Sustainability and a staff representative at the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Biggs-Adams, who has described herself as a "mobilization queen," worked with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild in 2003 when the Post-Dispatch was owned by Pulitzer Inc. Biggs-Adams is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Revolution Messaging is a Washington, D.C., public relations and communications firm founded by members of Barack Obama's social media campaign. Revolution specializes in social media and mobile communication. It is on Twitter.

The guild is still looking for a campaign coordinator. Contract negotiations resume Wednesday.

(Via e-mail)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

St. Louis guild counteroffer: Furloughs and buyouts

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild responded to Lee Enterprise's recent contract offer for St. Louis Post-Dispatch members, which included a 10 percent pay cut and three one-week furloughs by Sept. 30, 2012.

The guild's counteroffer:
  • Raises to the base wage for sales people on commission
  • Unpaid furloughs in the first two years of the new contract, and the possibility of a furlough in the third year.
  • Cash buyouts for eligible guild members who retire during the term of the agreement.

The guild says Lee representatives "characterized our proposal as 'disappointing' and 'unrealistic.'" Negotiations continue Friday.

(Via email)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lee 'very, very close' to final offer to St. Louis guild

On Friday, Lee Enterprises sent what it called its "very, very close to our last, best and final offer" to the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. The new proposal includes a 10 percent pay cut and three unpaid one-week furloughs between now and Sept. 30, 2012. Previous proposals included a 15 percent pay cut in the first year and a 5 percent pay cut the next two years, but no furloughs. The guild will make a counter offer Wednesday.

The union sent its members an overview of Lee's new proposal:
5.5 year contract (This would make the contract conform to Lee's fiscal year-FY) 10% wage with three one-week furloughs between now and Sept. 30, 2012.

Possible* 2.5 % raise based on year over revenue in October 2012, 2013, 2014

*Raises are triggered by year over year revenue increases of 2% or more. Revenue is defined as total revenue of the Post-Dispatch and STL Distribution as they have historically recorded revenue.

Advertising Sale Reps-Retail sales reps, who currently have a base of $400 per week and outside sales commission employees, who currently have no base, will now have a base of $575 per week.

Retiree Medical-Eliminate

Retiree Life Insurance-Eliminate

Pension Plan-Freeze (keep the accrued benefits, but the pension would stop growing)

401K- Increase monthly contribution to $75 a month

Newsroom: Status quo if you have a company provided phone you can keep it and the company will continue to pay for it.

Advertising: The Company will approve PDAs for all outside sales employees. Employees will be reimbursed $100 to buy a PDA and given $60 a month to plan for a minute plan.

The company is also proposing transitioning Guild members from the current accrual method of accounting for vacation to a grant system of vacation. We are still attempting to fully understand the impact of this and we'll share the details of this when the company clarifies this part of the proposal.

Seniority changes proposed by Company would give them the right to exclude up to 20% of the employees in an affected job classification in the event of a layoff.

Guild members have posted signs and tent cards to present a unified voice opposing Lee's then-proposed 15 percent pay cut. (This sign references the paper's "moxie" campaign.)

(Via e-mails)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Louis Newspaper Guild adds mark to win column

In a case that even the St. Louis Newspaper Guild says can get confusing, recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch guild retirees whose low-deductible medical insurance was changed to a higher plan will have their original plan reinstated, and will get cash-back for the difference.

The union has a complete recap on its website.

(Via e-mail)

Monday, February 22, 2010

University of Nebraska names dean of journalism

The Knight Foundation's journalism program director Gary Kebbel has been named dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's college of journalism and mass communications. Former Lee vice president David Stoeffler was a finalist for the job.

Kebbel's appointment must still be approved by the university's board of regents; he would start July 1.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lee papers don't report company's revenue loss

At its shareholder meeting earlier this week, Lee announced its revenue in January fell 9.2 percent from the previous year.

If you already knew that, it probably wasn't from reading a Lee newspaper.

It looks like the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, wrote the official story on the shareholder meeting, which never mentions the loss in revenue. Reading the story, one would think Lee's revenue has increased.

Read it for yourself. Here it is in the:
Quad-City Times
The Chippewa Herald
The Pantagraph
Sioux City Journal
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Times of Northwest Indiana

Have you seen the same story (or a slightly edited version) on other Lee websites? Post a link in the comments, or send me an e-mail and I'll add it to the list.

Friday, February 19, 2010

College paper queries decline of the Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis college newspaper is taking Lee to task. In an editorial titled The Post-Dispatch's decline spells trouble for all St. Louisians, the Webster University paper takes a look at the "Post-Dispatch's destruction."
A solid newspaper keeps the wolves at bay. It keeps the corrupt in check and prevents the little guy from constant fleecing. If the Post-Dispatch isn't around to speak truth to power, who will?
The editorial is similar to the St. Louis Newspaper Guild's open letter to Mary Junck.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Earnings down 'only' 9.2 percent

Lee's revenue continues to slide: January total revenue fell 9.2 percent from the previous year. At the annual stockholder meeting, CFO Carl Schmidt said he expects the "improvement" to continue in February and March.

In the second quarter, which ends in March, Lee expects operating costs to fall by 9 percent. No details on cost-cutting measures, but compensation costs have fallen 19.6 percent from 2008 to 2009. The opening slide in the stockholder slideshow said "We continue to generate substantial cash flow in a difficult economy."

CEO Mary Junck told stockholders that Lee's papers and websites reach up to three-fourths of adults over a week in their markets.

"In a time of rapidly evolving digital interactivity, our newspapers and online sites remain in front, by far, surpassing all print, broadcast and online competitors as the primary source for local news, information and advertising in our communities," she said. "Without us, most local news would never come to light."

Schmidt also said the company paid down $198 million of debt in 2009.

Read Lee's statement on its earnings report, and see the 31-page slideshow (PDF).

St. Louis guild OKs $500,000 for campaign against Lee

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild has voted to use $500,000 for a possible campaign against Lee Enterprises. Negotiations between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the union have deteriorated, and the union says it fears the company may soon try to declare an impasse.

"We will launch a full-fledged corporate campaign against Lee only if the company terminates our contract and imposes wage and benefit cuts," a recent guild newsletter article said. "This step will be taken only after our members vote to authorize such action."

Details of the $500,000 campaign were not released, but will include social media -- blogs, Twitter and Facebook -- based on the guild story.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No raises for Lee employees; what about execs?

Salaries for Lee employees have been frozen for more than a year now. Last year, wages also were frozen for Lee executives; I have not yet seen that for 2010. Does anyone know if that policy has carried over to the new fiscal year, or how much those raises are?
At the Billings (Mont.) Gazette "state of the paper" meeting last week, publisher Mike Gulledge told employees there will be no raises or 401(k) contributions in 2010 -- a companywide policy. He also said the Gazette is ahead of plan for the first quarter. Gulledge, who is also Lee's publishing vice president, said he and the "CEO team" talk about raises and benefits every week, but have not decided when to bring them back.
(via e-mail; send tips to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Louis guild writes open letter to Junck

The latest newsletter from the St. Louis Newspaper Guild included an open letter to Lee CEO Mary Junck and St. Louis Post-Dispatch publisher Kevin Mowbray. The guild recently said negotiations on a new contract for Post-Dispatch employees has "turned more acrimonious." The letter recaps a bit of Lee/Post-Dispatch history, but never seems to deliver on the build-up. Here it is, in full:
Mary Junck, CEO of Lee Enterprises
Kevin Mowbray, publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
And the officers and directors of Lee Enterprises

What it all comes down to is this: You’re just not that into us, and you never were.

From almost Day 1, we couldn’t really understand why Lee Enterprises felt compelled to buy Pulitzer. After all, Lee is a small town corporation; St. Louis, by Midwest standards, is a big city. The biggest of Lee’s newspapers barely reach 100,000 circulation; the Post-Dispatch has daily circulation twice that – and four times that on Sunday. Lee’s newspapers thrive by covering local news in small cities and towns; the Post-Dispatch made its mark covering the world, with a fully staffed Washington bureau.

Most of all, we couldn’t understand why Lee Enterprises, a mostly union-free operation accustomed to dictating terms to its newspapers, would take on insane debt to purchase a unionized paper in a pro-union city whose people react badly to being told what to do by carpetbaggers.

You must have felt that Pulitzer in general, and the Post-Dispatch in particular, would be a media jewel in your corporate crown. We thought that the Post-Dispatch might be a model by which Lee could expand the journalistic reach of its other newspapers. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that your goal was to turn the Post-Dispatch into just another Lee newspaper.

So, starting long before the economy tanked, we watched as scores of our colleagues were bought out and laid off. This may have helped the bottom line but also erased hundreds of years of institutional wisdom and memory on which great newspapers depend. We watched as you gutted the Washington bureau, national desk and wire desk. We watched as you killed the Everyday section and relegated feature writing to the margins, eliminating a brand that St. Louisans had turned to for more than 100 years.

And we sat by while you treated the Post-Dispatch and its employees and retirees with a breathtaking lack of respect. This began as soon as you took the keys to the building, with the inanely hostile act of prohibiting union members from using the Lee Lodge. And it has continued right through contract negotiations and the immoral and, in our view, illegal stripping of paid health insurance from the retired men and women who built this newspaper and worked for decades toward that benefit.
As you have remade the Post-Dispatch in the image of Davenport or Munster, you have told us that we make too much money, as if St. Louis and Davenport, or Munster, were equivalent in any meaningful way.

You have said that even if Lee were “swimming in money,” our retirees wouldn’t get any of it.

And you continue to insist that we take a 23 percent pay cut among other Draconian economic proposals, while rejecting each and every proposal we have given you for saving money or making money.

So here we are. And we’re still wondering: Why did Lee Enterprises buy Pulitzer if its goal was to destroy it?

And here are two more things that you may not have known about the Newspaper Guild five years ago and that you apparently still haven’t learned: You can’t scare us to death, and we will not roll over.
Read the rest of the newsletter on the guild's website.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Southern Illinoisan appoints new publisher

Bob Williams, publisher of the Suburban Journals of St. Louis, has been appointed publisher of The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale, Ill. Williams has been at the Suburban Journals since 2007; he joined Lee in 1998. He replaces Dennis DeRossett, who is leaving to become the executive director of the Illinois Press Association.

(Via e-mail)

Fundraiser set for former Lee employee

Greg Stewart worked at The Southern Illinoisan for nearly 20 years before entering law school. He graduated in 2007 and launched a new career: Lawyer. He lost his first case. He won one soon after that. He became a fixture at early morning dockets and night courts in the St. Louis area. And then, in September 2009, he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.

Stewart began chemotherapy treatment, and spent time in the hospital. He's out now, but his leukemia is not yet in remission. He will undergo more chemotherapy treatments in the coming months, and eventually will need a bone marrow transplant.

In the meantime, Stewart is getting back to work. He lost 40 pounds while in the hospital; he can't afford to buy a suit to wear for court appearances. And then there are the medical expenses.

Missouri Lawyers Weekly recently wrote about Stewart; read that story here. (The publication was wrapping up a year-long series on Stewart when he was diagnosed with leukemia.)

To help with expenses, Stewart's friends and colleagues have organized a trivia-night fundraiser on March 13 at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in St. Louis.

I know this blog has several St. Louis readers -- I hope some of you can send photos and reports of success from the fundraiser.

(Via e-mail)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

St. Louis guild on contract negotiations: 'Things have gotten more serious'

It sounds like contract negotiations between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch union employees and Lee Enterprises is heating up. A memo from the St. Louis Newspaper Guild:
In the last week, the company has turned more acrimonious in its negotiations with the Guild. The company continues to demand a 15% wage cut in the first year of the contract, followed by a 5% cut the second year and 5% cut the third year. They still insist on eliminating retiree health care and they are demanding huge concessions on seniority.

We are now meeting twice a week with the company and a federal mediator is sitting in on negotiations. Things have gotten more serious.

Despite numerous tentative agreements, roughly a dozen on various individual items in the contract, we are concerned that the company may soon move to declare impasse. This belief is based on a number of thinly-veiled threats the company has issued across the bargaining table.

Under federal law, if impasse is reached, the company could break off negotiations and make their “last, best and final” offer. The Guild would bring that offer, as bad as it might be, to the members for a vote. This could all happen quickly, within weeks if the company moves aggressively.

It would be fair to assume the company’s final offer would include many of the above poisonous provisions but would also include freezing the pension plan, eliminating the 401-K contributions, and other bad deals for the members. Obviously, the Guild would not endorse the offer and it would likely be voted down by the members.

If their final offer is voted down, the company has two choices; return to the bargaining table and continue bargaining or impose the terms and conditions of their last, best and final offer.

If the company declares impasse, the Guild will file an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The Guild believes we are far from impasse. We have made steady progress through negotiations. The Guild has stated time and again at the bargaining table that we want to reach an agreement. And we do.

While we do not believe the company has a case for impasse, we could all end up working under imposed working conditions until the NLRB comes to a decision on our unfair labor practice charge.

A declaration of impasse by the company would allow the Guild to pursue a number of options to force the company back to the table. Those options include all forms of economic actions against the company. The Guild has laid the ground for a corporate campaign directed at the economic interests of Lee Enterprises. For strategic reasons we’d prefer not to reveal the details of the plan at this time.

The Guild continues to work diligently towards an agreement.

We want to paint a realistic picture of where we stand and what the stakes are. Now is the time to pay attention and get involved. This affects the future of all of us. More information will be released in a Ruffled Feather next week. We are also planning a unit meeting for later in February.

Via e-mail. Send tips and memos to lee.ent.watch@gmail.com.