Monday, August 9, 2010

About those rumors ...

Around this time last year, we were fending off rumors that the Freeman was bankrupt and would soon close. The Freeman wasn’t bankrupt – its parent company had entered bankruptcy proceedings from which it would quickly emerge – and we weren’t going to close. No matter our denials, rumors flourished until they finally had run their course.

Now we’re hearing them again.

This time people they’re about the real possibility of the Freeman moving our production departments out of Kingston. Many in the community apparently have translated that into, the Freeman is moving out of Kingston and/or closing.

Maybe yes, to statement No. 1. A definitive no to statement No. 2.

Here’s the lowdown:

As with many companies in our industry, we are looking for better ways to do business at a time when advertising volume and independently audited circulation numbers (so-called “ABC numbers”) are sliding. We want to bolster our news and sales divisions, but to free up money for those purposes, we need to find economic efficiencies. And find them we have, we believe, if we close our pressroom and mailroom and print our newspaper at our sister company in Troy. Other savings can be realized by outsourcing our newspaper distribution operation -- that is to say, have someone else deliver the paper to homes and stores. Annualized, we’re talking about a considerable sum.

For now, however, nothing is set in stone. We have notified the unions that represent employees in the impacted departments of our tentative decisions and we’re in the process of negotiating over the tentative decisions and their effects if implemented. We hope to be able to make a final decision in about a month. If we move forward, it’s possible we could be on Troy’s press in October. We’ll see.

So how did these tentative decisions to move production and outsource circulation become the source of misinformation? I’m guessing two reasons.

Part of what I just described above (regarding the pressroom and mailroom) is what I related during my monthly appearance on WGHQ radio last week when a caller (whose voice I recognized and who subsequently acknowledged he’s an employee) asked what was going on. (He’d heard rumors, too.) I emphasized what was being considered and that no final decision had been made.

But I’ve been doing radio long enough to know sometimes people hear what they want to hear.

Similarly, notification to the unions understandably created a buzz inside and outside the building among employees, their families and friends. Again, we’ve told the unions about our tentative decisions. They know we’re not closing.

But, again, some people hear what they want to hear.

So, yes, we’ve made tentative decisions to move the printing of our newspaper products to Troy and outsource our newspaper delivery to one of two independent contractors with whom we’re negotiating (and who have been told that we’ve made no final decision).

Again, are the decisions final? No, they’re tentative.

Is the Freeman closing? Absolutely not; indeed we’re aggressively moving along with our parent company’s “Digital First” philosophy, while continuing to publish a print edition of the newspaper that we know has considerable value to readers and advertisers every day of the week.

(By the way, our parent company’s new CEO has made it clear from his first conference call with all employees to his succession of blogs for the edification of all in the industry – naturally, including our employees – that the path to long-term health for newspapers requires a reduction in infrastructure costs such as the cost of printing and distributing our products. Therefore, nobody who works at the Freeman should be surprised that we are exploring these alternatives. The signals have been telegraphed for months.)

I’ll keep you posted.
comments powered by Disqus

<< Home