Tri-Citians should be keenly aware of the financial bind that the United States Postal Service finds itself in.
One solution to the problem hits especially close to home, with plans to close the Pasco mail processing facility. So perhaps we have had more ink devoted to this story than some parts of the country.
We are sympathetic to the plight of the postmaster general, but we take umbrage at a coupled of supposed cost-saving measures.
One is closing the Pasco facility, which we previously have disputed in this space.
The second strategy we strongly disagree with is probably less known to the public. It involves a discount given to one direct-mail company that is in direct competition to newspapers across the country.
Many newspapers rely on the post office to deliver their "total market" product. For background information: The Tri-City Herald does not use the post office but contracts delivery out to local carriers. In our case it's called the Mailbox and is delivered to nonsubscribers' in selected areas each Wednesday.
The post office has offered an exclusive price break to the company Valassis, which competes with similar advertising firms and newspapers.
Newspapers and direct marketers compete for the same handful of big national advertisers. That's fine, as long as government policy doesn't tip the scales against us.
But in this case, the discount would give the direct-mailing advertising giant Valassis an unfair advantage over community newspapers in the competition for some national accounts.
It's about more than the bottom line. Revenue from national advertising helps pay for local news coverage at the Herald and every other newspaper across the country.
Hometown newspapers have a centuries-old tradition and play a vital role in local communities. Or local focus means we provide something to the Mid-Columbia that you can't get from the Seattle Times.
And it's no secret that the industry as a whole is struggling. Democracy isn't served by a government policy that only makes the struggles more difficult to overcome.
The preferential treatment to one company certainly will harm many newspapers in many communities.
Further, we predict this folly will be counterproductive for the post office. It's designed to bring in more revenue, but in reality, it will do the exact opposite.
The discount is only applied to "new" pieces of mail, so as Valassis grows, it will take away many of the national advertisers that local papers depend on.
Without these major accounts, newspapers will suffer.
One option for making up some of the losses would be to deliver their "free" product like we do, thus the post office would end up losing customers.
We don't often use this forum to promote ourselves or our industry. We typically reserve this space for what we see as the greater good of the community.
While our message today may seem self-serving (and it is a bit), we are strong believers that all communities are better off with a robust newspaper.
That being said, this deal is being reviewed, and the postmaster general has the ability to withdraw it while it is under consideration.
Honorable Patrick R. Donahoe, we respectfully ask you to take this off the table.
If you agree, consider writing Donahoe a letter: 475 L'Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C., 20260-0010. They can use the business.