Keith Rathbun

Keith Rathbun

By Keith Rathbun, publisher of The Budget Newspaper and vice president of the ONA Board of Trustees

What should we have expected?!

The USPS answered our concerns with a company-line, form letter which offers no constructive suggestions to help improve service to Ohio’s (or the nation’s, in general) periodicals. Instead their return volley is filled with finger-pointing toward our industry, saying that in “many cases delays can be the result of…” a litany of prep and sortation mistakes. The Budget, itself, has run this very same gauntlet countless times. In our history, we can say that in “many more cases, in fact most, delivery delays have been the result of postal office plant handling and transportation errors.”

For the first year after opening an Additional Entry office in Cleveland, the answer to our growing delivery problems were “… you know that ‘Standard Class delivery’ is slower than First Class.” In exasperation I would reply, “Yes I know that. It is also slower than Periodical Class … which is the class at which we are entered, and accepted, and PAY for.”  Their second argument was always, “Well, you know that delivery standards are just date ranges not guarantees.”

Service disruptions in those areas where plant consolidations have already occurred are well known by ONA members. Several publishers have been affected. And it is just going to get exceedingly worse with this week’s announcement by the USPS that it “…would close or consolidate more than 80 mail processing facilities after January [2015] and lower service standards for Periodicals and First-Class Mail.”  Planned Phase 2 Consolidations, according to a USPS release, include (in Ohio) Akron P&DC, Dayton P&DC, Toledo P&DF and Youngstown P&DF. This move will further tax the already over-burdened processing centers in Cleveland (gaining Akron and Youngstown) and Columbus (gaining Dayton and a portion of Toledo).

The current USPS published Service Standard for periodicals is not 1 – 7 days as the letter stated, but rather 2 – 9 days (see the following Federal Register notice link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1014-01-24/pdf/2014-01382.pdf ). Despite USPS’ claim that Phase 2 will not further modify service standards, their own USPS Fact Sheet on Phase 2 Network Rationalization provides a FAQ answer that “Phase 2 will affect the existing service standards for First-Class Mail and Periodicals Mail. The changes may be seen by comparing Tables 1 and 3 with Tables 2 and 4” at the same above Federal Register link.

Newspaper publishers are only going to get what we fight and stand-up for from the USPS. They point an errant finger at our print industry. It is our task to take that finger, point it back at them and hold it to the fire until they respond with meaningful results for our members.

Picture Howard Beale (The Network) as a newspaper publisher (played by Joe Zerbey?), screaming out his window: “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE.”

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