Paper prices trigger changes to the Sentinel

The digital age of news coverage is turning out to be both a blessing and a curse.

The daily printed newspaper today is viewed as the stodgy dinosaur going about his business while meteors rain down upon the Earth. Digital-induced extinction has been imminent for some time now.

While paper remains an excellent medium for conveying large amounts of information in a very readable and portable way, the market for newsprint has gone completely bananas.

Newsprint rates have been rising for years, but recently the U.S. imposed tariffs on Canadian paper in an effort to support an American paper mill. That mill (North Pacific Paper Co.) has decided to significantly increase its rates along with just about every other mill in North America to keep pace with the now-higher prices of their competitors from Canada.

Newsprint prices have gone up 33 percent since January of 2016 — and most of that increase has occurred in the last eight months.

That's the primary reason we've made the difficult but necessary decision to convert Monday's and Tuesday's print editions of The Daily Sentinel to electronic delivery starting next month. More on that in a minute. First, we believe it's important to review how we arrived here — and look ahead to where we're going.

Despite our best efforts to reduce expenses over the past few years, the economic tide of increased minimum wage, double-digit increases in government-mandated health insurance and the rising cost of just about everything else has been rough. But the explosion of the price for paper — our second-biggest expense — has been devastating.

And that's bad, here and for the nation. Newspaper operations — with their editorial review process, layout and presentation efforts, and mainly local focus — are still the best means to understand what is going on in any given community.

It is the newspaper reporting staff that still generates 70 percent of the initial stories that end up on television and online — with little to no credit given to the scribe in the corner taking notes.

The written word remains the best way to get perspective and a comprehensive understanding of news information. Increasing paper prices, however, are putting the serious squeeze on print.

That leads me to the potential digital "blessing" that may come to newspapers now in the form of a digital replica of the printed edition.

The digital e-edition is not new, but may enable us to escape the corner that we have painted ourselves into — and give monetary relief to our loyal subscribers. Just as canned soda and beer manufacturers pass on tariff-heightened costs of aluminum to their customers, most printed newspapers across America are going to have to ask their print subscribers for help.

We don't want to do that. Nor do we want to gut our news staff.

It is for these reasons that we have determined that the Monday and Tuesday editions of The Daily Sentinel will be delivered only in a digital format beginning Monday, Aug. 13.

This is a change many newspapers have made, including most recently The Durango Herald, The Greeley Tribune and even the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Monday and Tuesday editions of The Daily Sentinel will look just like your print edition, but they will be delivered into subscribers' email inboxes and available to subscribers on their computers, tablets or smart phones. Editions for the remaining five days of the week will be delivered in both print and digital, and will remain largely unchanged.

We understand this is a major change for many of our readers, so we are taking a few steps to ease the transition.

First, the e-edition of The Daily Sentinel — the digital replica of the printed version — will be available to anyone for free beginning now on gjsentinel.com. That is, anyone — subscriber or not — can access the e-edition on any of their devices for free right now.

We want our subscribers as well as the general public to become comfortable with accessing the Sentinel's digital offerings. For your portable devices, our e-edition app is now available for free on all PC, android, Apple and Amazon devices. Search for "Grand Junction Daily Sentinel" in your device's app marketplace. (After Aug. 13, you will need a subscription to access the news content.)

Second, in the weeks before and after Aug. 13, we will have our entire customer service team ready to walk subscribers through getting their accounts set up for accessing their digital edition. We will also host seminars at the central branch of Mesa County Libraries for anyone desiring additional assistance. Look for ads previewing these events as well as additional information in this space.

You can also walk into our offices, where we'll be happy to help you with anything you need.

After the transition, Wednesday's edition will be more substantial than it has been, and it will include an "In Case You Missed It" feature to catch readers up on Monday's and Tuesday's local news if they elect not to access the digital edition. During the NFL season, look for a larger sports section in Monday morning's e-edition.

Again, all seven-day subscribers currently have access to the e-edition, though most have not set up their accounts. We will also be promoting a new "hybrid" subscription by which readers will receive three printed (on paper) editions each week — with all of our pre-printed inserts, coupons and magazines. Those print editions will be delivered every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. "Hybrid" subscribers will also have access to our e-edition newspapers every day of the week.

Of course, we also offer a digital-only subscription with no paper delivery at all.

We have chosen to go this route in order to preserve as much rich local news content as we possibly can. Other newspapers have opted to decimate their newsrooms. We have not. We believe that move would undermine our First Amendment mission.

We will continue to deliver news information through a variety of media, including print. Survival in this fraught environment, however, requires adaptation.

We ask you to adapt with us.

Jay Seaton is the publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He can be reached at jay.seaton@gjsentinel.com.

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