There is no better time than this year, the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, to remind the Sun Advocate's readers of the U.S. Postal Service's rich tradition of connecting people to their community newspapers. Franklin was not only the nation's first Postmaster General, but also a newspaper publisher. In fact, during the early days of the post office department, newspaper publishers often served as postmasters, which helped them to gather and distribute news.
If Mr. Franklin were alive today, he no doubt would take issue with assertions recently made on your editorial page (May 23) alleging that the Postal Service is raising postage rates for local newspaper delivery in order to do away with this part of our business.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Nobody likes to pay more for postage and we don't like to announce proposed rate increases. But just like any other business, when the cost of doing business goes up we have to raise prices to cover those costs. As one of the nation's largest transportation and delivery organizations, the Postal Service is extremely sensitive to rising energy costs. We have also experienced significant growth in health benefit payments.
That is why proposed rate adjustments for 2007 include a rate increase to mail local newspapers to subscribers. Despite what you may have heard, this increase is not designed to drive away community newspapers. Instead, it is required by law to cover associated costs.
For the past 20 years, rate increases for local newspapers (technically termed in-county periodicals) generally have not only been smaller than those of the other periodicals subclasses, but also lower than the overall rate increase for all domestic mail. In-county rates are much lower than any other postage rate. For instance, they are much lower than even a similar nonprofit newspaper mailed from the local office and delivered to the same address.
In January of this year, there was even a 2.3 percent rate reduction for in-county publications, when virtually all other mail got a more than five percent rate increase.
There are some suggestions, we believe emanating from Washington, D.C., that next year's proposed increase for mailing newspapers could run as high as 30 percent. Let's look at this with real numbers.
The fact is the increase would only amount to a couple of pennies. The new price for most community newspaper mailings would be nine to 11 cents, depending on weight and where it is entered into the mail stream. Sound like a good deal? It is, especially when you consider community newspapers often receive same-day service. Think about it, local newspapers often get Express Mail service (currently $14.40 for a Flat Rate Envelope) for about a dime.
The very low rates that in-county publications pay hardly appear to be an effort to do away with this line of business. We hope community newspapers will always be around because they serve a vital function in American society.
That was true in Benjamin Franklin's day and is true today.