By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

No more napping in postal rule sessions

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For decades, I kept at least one eye half-closed during newspaper conference sessions teaching about the complexities of mail delivery. Our newspaper and shopper publication were delivered almost entirely by youth and adult carriers, so I skipped most of those sessions and napped through the others.

Now I wish I had paid more attention. Our conversion to mail delivery — first for our weekly shopper to non-subscribers and now for the News-Register itself — has me scrutinizing the regulation books and diving into the incredibly complex world of postal rules, procedures and pricing.

Newspapers and the U.S. Postal Service have been joined at the hip since colonial times. Both have experienced the impact of modern digital communications, and recently, tensions have grown between community newspapers and the USPS over its response to those revenue losses.

First — you can call this pandering if you want — I have nothing but good to say about the local postal officials who helped us achieve a smooth transition of newspaper delivery systems last fall. And nothing but praise for the consistent quality of delivery services by area postal carriers.

On a national level, however, the barbs are flying.

Newspaper associations have been staunch opponents of the long-evolving movement to end Saturday mail deliveries. This week’s USPS announcement may have sounded as if it cements plans for that action, but the battle will continue in Congress throughout 2013.

Some combatants in that debate argue that the independent USPS was cheated by the federal government out of $75 billion in pension overpayments, and that the system could further reduce its deficit by holding down high personnel costs.

Last year, the Postal Service made a sweetheart deal with one of America’s major mass distribution companies to boost the mailing of advertising materials. It was a direct affront to newspapers competing in that arena with shopper publications going to non-subscribers.

That enormous subsidy to direct competitors of newspapers is subject of a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. The National Newspaper Association calls it a critical part of its strategy “to roll back favoritism and unfair rates for chosen direct mail customers.”

And so, I’m paying far more attention these days to the intricacies of mail delivery, which rival and perhaps exceed the U.S. tax code in complexity. On the other hand, I’m rested up for that challenge from all those naps during decades of convention sessions.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.


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