Competition Decreases

The Milton Times was born nearly 15 years ago.At the time there were two other newspapers covering the town. The Patriot Ledger and the Milton Record Transcript.

And from time to time, the Globe would do a story or two about the community.

Competition is a good thing. It keeps a business sharp and focused.

A good local newspaper covers all sides of an issue. A successful local newspaper keeps its focus on the positive aspects of the community.Many newspapers are facing economic disaster this year. The Globe is still laying off reporters and cutting costs.

The Patriot Ledger had a full-time reporter assigned to Milton until the past few years. Reductions in staff at the daily have resulted in diminished focus on towns like Milton. Readership at both the Globe and the Ledger has decreased.

The Record Transcript published a statement of ownership this year (something any newspaper using the mail is required to do) showing that it has 144 paid subcribers.

The Milton Times has been on a readership plateau this year. People in the community want local news and continue to support the Times. We are fortunate to have that support. Each week we sell 4,500 papers. This translates into at least 11,250 readers. Our paid subscriptions, through the mail, are documented each October in our own statement of ownership. The week we printed the statement of ownership we were at 4,600 – of that 3,306 go through the mail. The rest are distributed on newsstands.   

Nothing to Report

 So, as I said a few days ago, I have been trying to get some information about the bill Congress is considering that would change the way the postal service funds healthcare benefits for its retirees. Prepaying the healthcare costs about $2 billion a year. HR 22 would change the system and as a result the post office would have a smaller deficit this year (and any other year the system was in effect.)

 

I sent a copy of my blog to the PR person over the holiday weekend. Today I received a brief reply: 

 

Thanks a lot for this information. At this time there is no further update on H.R. 22.

MARCUS A. WILLIAMS

Clerk/Press Secretary

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia

B349A Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

(202) 226-5845 

Still Waiting

Time passes. It can be frustrating to want to work on an issue when there is no reply.Congress doesn’t have time to answer every little newspaper. I hope they have time to talk with the experts. 

Waiting for Response

About 10 days ago, I spoke to someone in the Boston office of Congressman Stephen Lynch about a bill the postal unions are working for that would change the way pensioners health-care premiums are paid. I’m still waiting for a real answer.

I’m concerned about the current financial crisis in the United States Postal Service. As a paid circulation weekly, my business relies on the mail for delivery of our newspaper to subscribers. And most of our subscribers and most of our advertisers pay their bills by sending checks through the mail.

I have a vested interest in seeing that the mail doesn’t end up looking like General Motors. But then most people need the mail. So I am working on a commentary about whether the USPS is on a downward spiral.

The Postmaster General Jack Potter spoke before the Congressional subcommittee chaired by Lynch back in March.

A press release issued by the Postal Service summed that up testimony by saying: “To strengthen the Postal Service’s efforts, Potter asked Congress to pass H.R. 22 and modify the method by which it is required to fund retirement health care benefits. This legislative change would reverse a policy that was instituted when the Postal Service experienced large surpluses – and result in at least $2 billion in annual savings over an eight year period. There would be no costs to the taxpayer were H.R. 22 to be enacted.”

Anyway, I called the Congressman’s Boston office again last Tuesday. I know they are busy but we all deserve answers about whether we can count on the mail. The press person referred me to the press person in Washington, someone who works for the subcommittee. I received an e-mail reply from the Washington press person, Marcus Williams:

“Hello my media friends,

“Here is the quote that the Chairman has just released regarding the status and progression of H.R. 22, which was originally scheduled to be marked up at 9:30a.m.today, but was postponed on May 17 until further notice.

“Due to PAYGO implications and the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has not yet fully ‘scored’ H.R. 22’s potential cost, the Subcommittee was unable to mark-up the bill prior to today’s hearing,” said Chairman Stephen F. Lynch. “However, I can assure the Postal Service and the American public that once we return from next week’s recess and have heard back from the CBO, this Subcommittee intends to mark-up the measure at the first available opportunity.”

I telephoned Williams looking for more insight because there are few times the postmaster general, postal unions and the National Newspaper Association agree on an issue. I am still waiting for a reply.

Where Are the Answers?

My business, a weekly newspaper, depends on the post office for delivery.

I have to begin to look into other options.

We’ve been telling people who spend the winter in Florida that they should put their subscription on hold for the past few years. Delivery between Massachusetts and Florida is difficult and no one can tell us why.

It is clear the postal service is in crisis. Our first class mail delivery has been problematical this year. But that’s a separate story. We depend on Periodical delivery for the newspaper to get out. People don’t want old news. We need a swift and reliable delivery system. We price our newspaper subscription based on the cost of postal delivery.

The USPS is expected to lose about $8 billion this fiscal year. There is a bill in Congress, HR 22, that would change the way the postal service funds healthcare for its retirees. The change would put it on equal footing with other federal agencies. It would save the post office $2 billion this year.

I’ve been trying to work with people from the National Newspaper Association to develop solutions to this issue.

 But I’m not getting the feeling that Congress cares.

And there is still a $6 billion problem with no apparent solution.

So I am trying to create alternatives. Hawkers, carriers, vendor boxes, more newsstand options . . .  Hmmm.

Of course the web is one option.

Sales Tax Hike Erodes Recovery

What are those politicians thinking?

Three years ago these people created mandatory health insurance with no cost containment as part of the package. Some of them apparently mistakenly think paying healthcare insurance is a universal privilege.

Today the sales tax was raised.

Well, I don’t drink alcohol – maybe I like the idea of an increased liquor tax. I don’t smoke either. Maybe they could hike the cigarette tax again.

I wonder if these people have ever spoken with an economist about how to revitalize a depressed economy.

We Add Video

This week at our staff meeting we spent some time talking about our Web site.

Our graphics designer, William Curry, who is also the webmaster for miltontimes.com, has been working about some innovations for our site.

The whole staff is on the same page about the changes. We like the video that William added to the site and hope to continue the video snippets.

Once again we talked about the industry’s need to monetize the web. We’ve been talking about ways we might make the site more profitable for some time. So far we have a few advertisers who help us keep the site in the black.

In the past year or so we’ve had a partnership with a photo printing company that has handled our photo gallery and provided pricey but good photos that William prepares. Lately we’ve taken the photo gallery in house. We may be outsourcing it again, if we find a company that’s a better fit.

Never Too Old for Star Watching

“The Company Men” came to Milton Cemetery this morning, with all its Hollywood glitz.

Ben Affleck and John Wells were on the set. The local filming wasn’t a secret – but the time and place had been tucked away until just before the crews arrived.

The cemetery director, Therese Desmond Sills, said the trucks arrived at 4 a.m.

I didn’t get there until just before 9, being a late night person.

The rehearsals continued for some time after I arrived.

Gerard Averill gets credit for selecting Milton Cemetery for the shoot. Averill, who grew up in Milton, moved to LA about 10 years ago. He was on set to oversee the location details. Courtney MacNaught, who still lives in Milton, worked as a consultant  in connection with locations.

Watching it all play out was really fun. More to come…

Mother’s Day

Mothers’ Day once was painful for me.

I was one of those women who had fertility issues. Of course, that was long, long ago.

My daughter, June, entered my life in 1974. She was 4 and I was ready to create a different sort of family.

A few years later I became a mother again. It was a miracle. My son, Timothy, came into my life, adding more joy.

Someone forgot to give me the map for motherhood.

I did the best I could.

I know I do better at being a grandmother. Afterall, there are no expectations of what a grandmother is responsible for.

Now Mothers’ Day is a chance to think about the purpose of life and the thoughts of Kahlil Gilbran, who said:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.”

Town Meeting Ponders the Bottom Line

Two nights of Town Meeting this week focused on the budget.

The bottom line will actually be decided Monday, June 8, when the townspeople go to the polls to consider the Proposition 2.5 override option.

Tuesday the override number was set at $86.8 million, including $3.42 million for the override items.

If the override passes there will be two police officers, two firefighters and 13 teachers laid off. Both branch libraries will be closed.  Half the street lights will go dark.

If the override fails five police officers, five firefighters and 46 school department employees will be laid off.

Much more will be said about all the ramifications of the override budget in the coming month.

The tax rate is expected to increase 5% without an override and 11.4% if the override passes.