Before I became publisher for The Pantagraph, I spent the early part of my career selling subscriptions and growing readership for The Des Moines Register.

Back in the good old days 30 years ago, we didn't care how much a subscriber paid — or honestly if a bill was paid at all.

What’s changed?

Look at our local retail. A few years ago, Macy’s, Kmart, Sears and JCPenney paid a lot of the costs to write, print and deliver the newspaper to your front porch in the dark and coldest hours of the day.

I bring this up because you may have recently received a notice about a new rate for home delivery of the newspaper. We’ve heard from concerned readers about varying rates.

You should know I agree that our subscriber rate system needs improvement, and we are working to simplify and standardize it.

I know we all want everything for the cheapest price possible, but in the end you get what you pay for. Local news is important. State and national news in print is important.

Day after day, we are the ones offering the most comprehensive coverage of local government, schools, public safety and business. We’re the ones offering context and analysis. We’re the ones who aren’t parachuting in. We’re here protecting the interests of our readers.

Yes, you can get sound bites of that news elsewhere, but someone is choosing what 30 seconds of a 10-minute story you are going to hear. Not a good idea.

I believe that practice has contributed greatly to the divisiveness in our country. Local TV and radio get the majority of their local news from the Associated Press. The AP gets their local news primarily from the local newspaper.

We pay hefty dues to AP to share our local news and get state and national news to print. We pay a fee for every comic, TV listings, national columnist and local contracted columnist. Besides that, we have the usual bills that any business has. People and paper are our two biggest expenses. Like any business or home budget, the less that goes into the bank, the less you have to spend or invest.

We are first a community newspaper. Our staff are your neighbors. We’re beside you at the grocery store, PTA meeting and community events. We have a stake in the success of the place we work and live.

What is a fair price for what we do? Consider this: For years the majority of customers were paying less per day than a first-class postage stamp. That doesn't cover the printing and delivery costs.

I'd hope we are worth the cost of a fancy latte, but I'll settle for less because we need you — and I believe you need us now more than ever.

Bechtel is president and publisher of The Pantagraph for Lee Enterprises.


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