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:

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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.)