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 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 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 (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 (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

(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)