April 18, 2008

Hard times for our local newspaper's parent

Not a good week for Lee Enterprises, parent of The Journal Times.

-- On Wednesday, Lee shut down one of its smallest papers, the 104-year-old Coalinga Record, a 1,600-circulation weekly in California, about 50 miles west of Fresno. Lee still publishes more than 300 weeklies and niche publications, as well as 51 dailies, and lists itself as the fourth largest newspaper publisher in the country, with 1.6 million copies sold every day and almost 1.9 million on Sundays.

Lee blamed dwindling advertising and circulation, and "challenging times." Two jobs were lost. (That "Pass the hat" headline on the final front page was not a request for donations but rather a caption for a photo showing local firemen raising funds for the American Cancer Society.)

-- Thursday saw LEE stock drop to a new 52-week low (yet another in a disheartening series), down to $8.73 per share. It has since "recovered" to $9.14 ... compared to its 52-week high last April 20 of $30.79. That's a decline of 71%.

-- And on Friday, Lee announced the closure of its printing plant in Berkeley, MO, eliminating 42 jobs and moving the printing of its small papers in the region further in-house, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's printing plant.

So far, we've not heard of any new cutbacks at The Journal Times. In fact, we'd have to say the JT, which recently added some sharp young reporters, is doing a better job covering the news than we've seen in a long time.

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