Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Mail delays, possible postal-rate hike threaten rural papers

Almost all rural newspapers are delivered by mail, and deliveries have slowed lately because of postal workers' pandemic illnesses, increased package volume, and systemic financial challenges to the U.S. Postal Service. The threat of postal-rate increases of 7 to 9 percent in 2021 and 2022 for publishers, as a result of a Postal Regulatory Commission decision in 2020, is adding to local publishers' anxieties.

"The U.S. Postal Service has been under siege for months as record volumes of holiday packages and election mail ran up against a spike in coronavirus cases within its workforce, leaving the agency severely short-staffed. Nearly 19,000 workers were in quarantine at the end of 2020 after becoming infected or exposed to the virus, according to the American Postal Workers Union," Jacob Bogage reports for The Washington Post. "That has left hundreds of small publishers struggling to deliver their products, according to the National Newspaper Association, undercutting their advertising revenues and subscriber bases, and depriving the largely rural communities they serve of crucial news coverage. Some news operations have even called on reporters and editors to deliver papers." NNA is the main lobby for U.S. community newspapers.

NNA Chair Brett Wesner, a publisher in Cordell, Okla., said in a press release that rural newspapers, like the Postal Service, are "fighting valiantly against enormous odds" to serve their communities. "There are paths to help us all and save our communities from the worst ravages of this era," Wesner said. "They all lead to Congress, which must address the need for funding universal mail service as it continues to examine financial backing for small businesses until the nation pulls out of this challenging time."

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