Friday, January 29, 2010

3 papers upgrade press-control systems

Press-control and management systems are being updated at the Times of Northwest Indiana, Quad-City Times and North County Times.

Harland Simon is replacing out-of-date computer hardware to make systems more efficient and improve performance. Work at the Times of Northwest Indiana and Quad-City Times has finished; work at the North County Times should be finished within a few weeks.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

VP: More Kindle users would save money

Greg Schermer, Lee's vice president of interactive media, said the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has 562 Kindle subscribers without promoting the service.

The Quad-City Times also is available on Kindle. The Post-Dispatch charges $7 a month; the Times is $6.

The two papers send their papers to India each night where they are converted into Kindle's format then sent to subscribers. Schermer said converting more subscribers to the Kindle or similar products would save money in newsprint and production. "That's a big expense for a company like ours," he told The Pantagraph.

Schermer did not say how much Lee spends to send the paper to India each night to convert it to the electronic format.

Lee awards Corporate Star Award

Systems Development manager Cindy Gardner won the quarterly Corporate Star Award. You can find more about her and what she does at Lee's site.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lee reports profit in first quarter

The big news, of course, is that the company reported a profit. Lee earned $27.9 million, compared to the $48.6 million loss last year. Advertising is still down, falling 16 percent to $154 million.

Read Lee's news release.

And Editor & Publisher's story.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lee donates $27,000 to charities

Lee Enterprises is donating more than $27,000 to charities from its Lee Newspapers Endowment Fund. The Billings Gazette reports that the biggest donation, $7,500, went to the former employees of Smurfit-Stone Container, which closed this week. Most awards went to food banks or homes for abused women and children.

Annual stockholder meeting set for Feb. 17

Lee's annual stockholder meeting will be 9 a.m. CST Feb. 17 at corporate headquarters in Davenport, Iowa. On the agenda:
  • Elect directors Mary Junck, Andrew E. Newman and Gordon D. Prichett for three-year terms. Junck has been a director since 1999; Newman has been a director since 1991; Prichett has been a director since 1998. (Short bios on each director can be found here.)
  • Ratify KPMG LLP as the company's accountant.
  • Consider proposals to amend and restate a stock plan for non-employee directors and a long-term incentive plan.
Stockholders can vote now online at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Southern Illinoisan publisher to lead state press group

Southern Illinoisan publisher Dennis DeRossett is the new executive director of the Illinois Press Association. DeRossett replaces David L. Bennett, who retired after 24 years with the organization. DeRossett has been the publisher of the Carbondale, Ill., paper since July 2002.

University journalism dean candidate is former Lee VP

Former Lee vice president David Stoeffler is one of four finalists for dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's college of journalism and mass communications.

According to the biography on his website, Stoeffler became Lee's first VP for news in December 2001 and worked for Lee until November 2007. Stoeffler also 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. (His resume can be downloaded on his website.) Stoeffler now has his own consulting company, Touchstone News Consulting, in Ferryville, Wis.

Other finalists for the position:
  • Kristin Gilger, assistant dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University since 2007.
  • Gary Kebbel, journalism program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
  • Alan Stavitsky, senior associate dean, professor and director of the George S. Turnbull Portland Center at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.
All candidates have been scheduled for on-campus interviews and presentations. Stoeffler's interview will be Jan. 20; he posted a link to the story on Twitter and asked his followers to "tweet ideas for my remarks."

(Via e-mail; send tips and story links to

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lee reinstates life insurance for P-D retirees

Lee has reinstated life insurance for St. Louis Post-Dispatch employees who previously accepted a buyout. The letter signed human resources director Jennifer Kivlin says, in part:
"Upon further review of your Voluntary Retirement Offcer from St. Louis Post-Dispatch LLC, the decision has been made to reinstate your retiree life insurance benefit. ... This decision is based on your Voluntary Retirement Offer and does not affect most retirees of Lee Enterprises. In addition, the changes to retiree health care that you were previously advised of will be implemented."

(Via e-mail. Send tips, memos and comments to

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pantagraph suspends comments on local stories

The Pantagraph in Bloomington, Ill., suspended comments on local stories over the New Year weekend. Editor Mark Pickering wrote that recent stories that were "offensive and devoid of civility." That story drew 110 comments before comments were suspended on Dec. 31.

Lee stock highs and lows of 2009

Speaking of year-in-review stories, the Des Moines Register has a short story on Lee's stock price.
Anyone gutsy enough to buy shares of Davenport-based newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises at its all-time bottom of 27 cents a share on March 9 would have received the biggest reward of all, an investment that is now worth nearly 12 times the original cost.

Lee stock ended the year at $3.47. It's highest close of the year was $4.25 on Nov. 17.

Junck shares her top 10 list for 2009

The end of the year is always a time for look-back and best-of stories and lists. In a letter to shareholders, CEO Mary Junck said a "few rays of sunshine have begun peeking through the clouds," and offered her list of Lee's top 10 accomplishments in 2009. That list:
1. Exceptional fortitude, perseverance and teamwork have shined throughout the company, reinforcing our ability to emerge strong when the recession ends.

2. Debt refinancing and reduction – We executed a comprehensive refinancing of $1.3 billion of bank and private placement debt in arguably the worst financing environment since the Great Depression. Our principal payments in 2009 totaled $164 million.

3. Cost savings – We reduced cash costs by $150 million, or 18.3%, with savings across all enterprises and in virtually all cost categories, which helped us return to profitability in the last quarter of fiscal 2009.

4. Streamlined operations – We re-engineered traditional ways of doing business, including selective 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 innovative sales programs, we took an estimated $35 million of advertising revenue from competitors.

6. Improved online infrastructure – We created and deployed a powerful content management system that has provided dynamic new online tools and enabled a significant new capability, the delivery of behaviorally targeted advertising (BT).

7. Massive BT launch – Our mid-summer kickoff of behavioral targeted advertising generated more than $4 million of new online advertising commitments in the last two months of fiscal 2009 and set the stage for aggressive sales campaigns in 2010.

8. New page width – Through intense collaboration, our editors redesigned our pages to a reduced width of 11 inches, gaining approval from readers and advertisers. Through that and other actions, we reduced newsprint usage 31%.

9. Strong audiences – We maintained or grew strong print and online audiences, reaching more than three-fourths of adults in many markets, 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 performance by nearly 5 percentage points.

Read the rest of the letter here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lee makes error in P-D pension deposits

What is going on between Lee and St. Louis Post-Dispatch retirees?

On Jan. 1, several former Post-Dispatch employees who took buyouts in 2005 or 2007 found their pension deposits lowered by hundreds of dollars -- without prior notification or explanation from Lee. (I'm told this is a different group of retirees than those who were told in December that their healthcare premiums would go up.) According to a source, one retiree received just $6.

On Sunday, Astrid Garcia, vice president of human resources at the Post-Dispatch, said the company had made an error, according to the St. Louis Newspaper Guild blog. Garcia said Lee was not sure how the error was made, but full pensions would be deposited/sent on Tuesday.

Got news or comments?

Well, it looks like the Christmas break is over. Back to work, and back to blogging. Something on your mind? Send tips and memos to, or post it here.