If he ran his business by raising prices and deeply cutting service, he would be out of business. The Postal Service should heed his warning, Michigan Publisher Christopher Huckle told the Postal Regulatory Commission today in Chicago.
Huckle, publisher of the six-day Cadillac News, testified before the PRC in one of seven field hearings on the Postal Service’s plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The service cut would interfere with the News’s delivery of the largest issue of the week, Huckle said.
The News is one of a growing number of small daily newspapers now relying on the Postal Service for primary delivery. Though many converted to mail in this decade, the News has been a mailed newspaper since 1980.
Loss of Saturday mail will force his company to face either major revenue loss or the need to create a new private delivery service—a tough assignment for a family-owned newspaper.
“Since our company has not had a private delivery infrastructure since 1980, the framework for creating such a service is not present in the company,” Huckle said. “We are not part of a corporate chain that can tap into expertise at a headquarters, or borrow experts from elsewhere in the corporation to show us how to create such a service. Such an undertaking will drain resources of our senior management and myself at a time when the tight economy demands our attention to the economic health of the community and the tending of our own customers. And then, even if we are able to execute this feat, we are not permitted to deliver our newspapers in the mailbox, where our readers are accustomed to finding it.”
He predicted the five-day plan would result in job loss, both for his company and for the post offices serving his four-county service area. He urged the Commission not to recommend the elimination of Saturday mail. Instead, he believes the Postal Service should focus on cost-cutting. Help from Congress in trimming contributions to prepaid retiree health care is one part of the solution.
But USPS must look within, Huckle said:
“The perception is that the Postal Service is choosing the path of least resistance by cutting service rather than tackling internal cost controls, including labor pay rates, as private-sector businesses have had to do during this bad economy.”
Huckle appeared on behalf of his own company and the National Newspaper Association.
NNA President Cheryl Kaechele, publisher of the Allegan County (MI) News, said Huckle spoke for many NNA newspapers that rely upon mail delivery for primary circulations.
“We share the concerns of the Postal Service about the effects of the recession and Internet competition,” Kaechele said. “The newspaper business is fighting in that same trench. But while we are looking for every non-essential cost to trim, we are continuing to cover the core news stories. That is our franchise. Basic six-day mail delivery is the Postal Service’s franchise. It takes a dangerous step in the wrong direction if it walks away from its core business.”
NNA Postal Committee Chairman Max Heath, Shelbyville, KY, said NNA was committed to continuing to work toward better solutions for the Postal Service’s financial challenges than major cuts in service.
“Our newspapers have changed their mailing practices dramatically over the years to help the Postal Service deal with its rising costs. A newspaper like the Cadillac News basically handles every piece of mail processing before dropping the mail at a delivery office for the postal carriers’ distribution,” Heath said. “There isn’t much more we can do to help in mail improvement than that. But we can help Congress to recognize that cost-control solutions can and must be found.”