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98 chapter five How to Shed Legacy Costs When Catherine Nelson returned “home” in 2006 to central Vermont as general manager of the newspaper company where she had gotten her professional start, the region’s economy was already trending downward. So she immediately set about revamping the cost structure of the company’s two daily papers—the Pulitzer Prize–winning Rutland Herald (circulation 12,000) and its sister paper in Barre, the Times Argus (circulation 7,000). Nelson, who had more than two decades of experience with daily and weekly community newspapers published by the Harte-Hanks and Lee Enterprises groups, brought to the task a firm belief that “you do not want to touch the newsroom until the very end because it just doesn’t make sense to attack what you do best.” So in the first year, she “tried to understand the archaic ways we were still doing things—and in some cases, it was the only way we had ever done things.” Together, the circulation of the two newspapers—both of which had been published on a daily basis for more than a century—had grown to include homes in eight of Vermont’s fourteen counties. Distribution routes stretched across all of the central and southern part of the mountainous and rural state. “We’ve always seen these two newspapers as . . . state papers , as well as community papers,” says CEO and publisher John Mitchell. “And in Vermont [with a population of 650,000 residents, fewest of all states except Wyoming], you have to be both since what happens on the state level affects people in the community personally and directly.” But as Nelson looked at the spreadsheets, she realized that “we were providing a great service to our readers all across the state—your newspaper on the doorstep every morning—but with rising fuel costs and an aging fleet of trucks, the act of getting the paper delivered was pulling resources away from what the two papers did best—covering what was important to the state of Vermont and its residents.” By outsourcing to a trucking firm, she was able to cut the distribution costs in half. How to Shed Legacy Costs 99 Next, Nelson began “taking advantage of technology” by consolidating and centralizing numerous business functions, such as administration and billing, and creating hybrid positions, such as a joint director of technology and circulation—“which makes sense,” she explains, “because we’re moving toward digital delivery of the paper to more and more of our readers.” Print circulation of the Rutland Herald, for example, is half of what it was thirty years ago. Simultaneously, Nelson also began preparing to outsource printing of the papers. Therefore, when a flash flood in 2011 destroyed the press in Barre that printed both papers, “we were able to find an alternative printer and never miss a delivery because we had already taken advantage of cloud computing and moved many production functions, such as layout and design, to the ‘cloud.’” Recently, she has cut rent and maintenance costs for the Barre building in half by moving the newsroom of that paper into smaller quarters. Through her aggressive efforts, Nelson has cut more than 20 percent in production and distribution costs, and the payroll of the two papers has dropped from 200 to eighty full-time employees. “Catherine not only has a solid head for business and a clear vision for how to use technology to produce a paper in the twenty-first century, but a gift for dealing with people and explaining why it’s important that we take these tough measures,” says Mitchell. “She understands that the newsroom is the heart and soul of what we do—and without funds to support the news operation, we are not very relevant to our readers or our advertisers.” In the rolling Sandhills region of North Carolina, famous for its longleaf pine and world-class golf courses, David Woronoff, publisher of the The Pilot—a twice-weekly, family-owned community newspaper (circulation 13,500)—is also attempting to weather the storms of this transition by cutting costs “where we add the least value.” In 1996, when he was thirty years old, he convinced four others—including his uncle, who had recently sold the state’s second-largest paper, the News and Observer of Raleigh, to McClatchy Newspapers, Inc.—to purchase the ninety-year-old paper, which serves the upscale resort and retirement communities of Southern Pines and Pinehurst. Business was booming, and as...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469615448
Related ISBN
9781469615424
MARC Record
OCLC
966859658
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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