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Front Page » September 13, 2012 » Carbon County News » Postal Service shouldn't favor one business over another
Published 829 days ago

Postal Service shouldn't favor one business over another


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Imagine that you owned a business in Price, and you had a number of competitors in town. Now let's say that the city council decided that one of your competitors was such a good friend and customer of the city (not that you aren't) that they passed an ordinance that that business would only have to pay half their utility bill each month? Would that make you mad? Would you be upset? Would that be a direct impact on the prices your competitor could charge customers, because their costs would be lower?

For all three, the answer is yes.

Price has never done that, nor will they. The city leaders know that would be unfair, especially since you are already a good customer of theirs.

Well, the city leaders of the United States Postal Service don't seem to see things the same way. The Postal Commission which oversees the Postal Service recently made a decision that will negatively affect the Sun Advocate's business to the advantage of Valassis (a direct mailing company). They are going to give that company a large cut in postal rates based on any new business they generate.

Decision undercuts competition

Now where will that new business come from? It will come from "new business" that they take away from newspapers across the country because the newspapers will not be able to compete with the same low postal rates that Valassis will enjoy. Under the scenario that is coming up, if something is not done, they will be able to undercut newspaper's mailing costs and therefore cut those papers out of the insert/circular pie.

I know that at times newspapers have been portrayed as dinosaurs that are dying. In some cases that is true. When businesses do not adapt to changing times, they do die. But usually when a business dies it is because of poor management or poor products, or both. But they should never die because the government gives unfair advantage to a competitor. The circulars and inserts that you get in your newspapers, whether it is ours or an upstate paper, are a vital part of how we keep our newsrooms intact and are able to cover the stories you want to read about. The most expensive part of running a newspaper is generating good news for readers.

If you have a newspaper carrier you might wonder what all the hubbub is about. That fact is that the majority of small newspapers (and a good part of ours) are mailed through the postal service to our customers. It's hard to understand why the Postal Service would want to hurt one of their largest customers to help another. The discounts of 22 percent to 36 percent that are proposed are to go specifically after preprinted advertising inserts that are currently in newspapers. This kind of direct attack on newspapers, which provide information and are part of a free press, is unconscionable. While negotiated service agreements are allowed under current law, Congress has made it clear that these types of deals should not cause unreasonable harm in the marketplace. This deal will do that.

A loss to communities

Because of this Valassis can now go to newspaper insert customers and lure them away with lower delivery costs granted by our very own government with its post office monopoly. Newspapers, especially smaller newspapers in rural areas, have worked closely for decades to deliver news to all areas of the country through the U.S. mail. We are a good customer for the Postal Service, in fact one of the best. But now they wish to favor one customer over another and allow Valassis to become a competitor with a deadly edge. In the long haul, this translates into a loss of workers and loss of information availability to people through newspapers. The Sun Advocate employs over 30 local people. Does anyone reading this know if Valassis employs anyone in the local area at all?

This kind of deal strikes at the very heart of our news organization. In this day and age newspapers have more competitors than ever, with the growth of local television, internet companies and radio stations. In our market we are the only full news source, but we have others knocking at our back door. While we have the prime internet news source in eastern central Utah, that is only supported by the fact that our actual paper is viable. Internet revenue is not enough to support a news room in a small area like this. This kind of ruling, if it stands and goes into affect, will damage our ability to pay newsroom people. We are already at the bare minimum to cover news as it is. Further cuts in revenue would result in the loss of jobs here, and the loss of a valuable complete news source for eastern Utah.

The Postal Service is in financial trouble because they could not control their own expenses; rather than finding ways to become more efficient and cutting costs they have brokered a deal with Valassis that will result in newspapers having to lay off workers across the country. This preferential treatment to Valassis, which will harm newspapers and other mail competitors, will actually damage the information vehicles that have been recognized as a key ingredient for a free and democratic society.

Congress needs to act quickly to stop this sweetheart deal before it causes significant financial harm to local newspapers. We ask that you encourage your congressman and senators from Utah to take legislative action to stop this unfair and inappropriate rate deal before it causes harm in local communities.

While this newspaper is a business, it is also a vital part of the community and many readers refer to us as "their Sun Advocate." We like the fact that many of you feel part of us, so much a part that you attach your personality to our publication. Thanks for your business and your subscriptions.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve the local community.

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September 13, 2012
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