By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

Dennis Hetzel

Hetzel

When Keith Rathbun, publisher of The Budget in Sugarcreek and vice president of the ONA board, wrote a Bulletin column for us about how the U.S. Postal Service is treating newspapers, he got more attention than we predicted.

Rathbun’s column showed up on a postal carrier blog in the Southeast. Given the reach of social media — and there’s a lesson in this — the column found its way to the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission. The PRC reached out to us, and this led to a conference call involving a high-ranking PRC official, Keith and me.

Armed with feedback from our colleagues at the National Newspaper Association, we had a healthy dialogue, which led us to write a letter — that you can read by clicking here — with what we felt were constructive suggestions.

By “constructive,” I mean that we offered ideas that require no statutory changes but simply the USPS taking a better, more focused examination at real-world problems in timely delivery of newspapers and enforcing the rules they already have.

For example, simply ensuring that “first-in, first-out” standards are really enforced at sorting facilities would help many ONA members dramatically. It is nearly worthless to weekly newspaper advertisers and readers to get a Thursday newspaper the following Monday. That happens all-too often.

Unfortunately, the PRC response, which is included in the PDF linked above, didn’t accomplish much other than to forward our comments to the USPS. While the PRC regulates the USPS, they said these were operational issues that should be directed there.

When I went to leadership training years ago, this was described as “moving the monkey,” meaning that the PRC took the monkey off its back and handed it to someone else.

I think the PRC could have been more forceful in demanding follow-up on the part of the USPS, but I suppose we should view this as a (very) small victory.

Perhaps our comments will make some headway with the USPS. Neither Keith nor I have high expectations, but stranger things have happened.

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