PORT ANGELES — The decision to switch to all-mail delivery of the Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette was a difficult one made after months of agonizing, the publications’ publisher told the Kiwanis Club of Port Angeles.
“We know it is a lot of disruption,” said Terry Ward, vice-president of Sound Publishing and publisher of the six-day-per-week Peninsula Daily News and the weekly Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, on Thursday.
“Readers want to be able to drink their morning coffee and read their daily newspaper,” something that will not be possible for those whose mail is delivered later in the day or to post office boxes.
“Ideally, readers would get the PDN in the morning, but we‘d rather they get it later in the day than not get it at all,” Ward said.
March 28 will be the first day of the new system. A special dispatch for periodicals is in place that is intended to deliver newspapers the same day as publication.
Because of the switch, the Sunday newspaper is being replaced with a Saturday edition since the postal service does not deliver on Sundays. The first day for the change in the weekend delivery will be April 2. News about events that cannot be included in Saturday’s paper, such as Friday night sports or Saturday festivals, is planned to be presented as soon as possible online at peninsuladailynews.com as well as later.
All of the digital platforms — the website and the digital app — will come out as always in the mornings. That includes the print replica online. Print subscribers can access news online for no additional charge. Digital-only subscriptions also are available.
Color comics now in the Sunday newspaper will be in the Saturday paper, along with other features now published on Sunday.
The PDN has had difficulty getting the newspaper delivered to customers for several months.
Timing has had a lot to do with that. The COVID-19 pandemic and the aging out of some long-time carriers — who are independent contractors — contributed.
Many carriers are dependable, even heroic, in getting the newspaper to homes in the worst of weather conditions and in the middle of the night.
“It’s a very tough job,” Ward said. “We know there are great carriers who have been with us a long time.”
But in the past 18 months — and especially the past nine months — staff from all departments, including circulation, advertising, pre-press and editorial, have been out delivering newspapers in an attempt to fill the gaps.
Complaints about papers delivered in batches or not at all have poured in.
Kiwanis members on Thursday described their problems. One, concerning Blue Mountain Road area, ” pushed me over the edge to make the decision to go to mail delivery,” Ward said.
“It’s what really forced us to set the date.”
The choice was made and carriers were given 30-days notice that their contracts were canceled.
The U.S. Postal Service honors federal holidays. On those days newspapers will not be delivered. Plans now are to extend subscriptions.
“If readers say they want news even if it’s a day late, then we will re-evaluate,” Ward said.
Newspapers will be held with other mail by the post office when people go on vacation.
Subscription rates are not expected to change at this time.
“Some have said they would have been willing to pay more,” to have it delivered by carriers, Ward said.
But rates would have had to rise drastically.
“We don’t believe the majority of our readers would have been able to sustain that kind of increase,” he said.
The transition to mail delivery brings to mind, for those old enough to remember, a time when most daily newspapers were delivered in the afternoon by young people who walked or rode bicycles during daylight hours.
That changed for most to morning newspapers delivered in dark early-morning hours by adults driving cars. Now, mail delivery is an option many newspapers are resorting to as they ensure readers get the news.
“These decisions are difficult,” Ward said.
“Other papers have made drastic cuts. Walla Walla (Union-Bulletin) and Yakima (Herald-Republic), both owned by The Seattle Times, have made the decision to go to three days a week.
Sound Publishing did not want to cut the frequency of publication for the PDN, Ward said, but at the same time, “it does no good for our news team to put out award-winning journalism if people don’t get the newspapers.”
One advantage to mail delivery is a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint through cutting the numbers of cars on the road, Ward pointed out.
He also mentioned that it will no longer be necessary to wrap newspapers in plastic bags to protect them from the rain, another plus for the environment.
Delivery tubes at residences will be picked up eventually, Ward said, cautioning that it may take a while to clear them all.
Carriers received praise at the meeting; there also was relief that they would not longer be possibly subjected to unsafe conditions at night.
Ward was thanked for “staying committed to paper and ink. There is something about holding it in your hands.”
Ward said that the PDN is “100 percent committed to print,” while also developing digital content, to provide multiple platforms for news content.
“We know that broadband access has a long way to go.” he said. “Going online only would cut off news and information to a large segment of the population.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.