Less than a year after northern Utah’s community newspaper shrunk its weekend print edition, The Herald Journal announced further restructuring Monday and will now print three days a week — as well as evaluate possible newsroom staffing cuts.
The changes come after continued losses in circulation and advertising revenues at the 88-year-old institution, said publisher Ben Kenfield, as well as issues with delivery. The printed newspaper will now be mailed to subscribers through the U.S. Postal Service instead of dropped by carriers.
“It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but we’ve just got to make some financial decisions that ensure longevity,” Kenfield said.
The Herald Journal had been printing five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, after an announcement last October that its weekend editions would be combined into one issue. Years prior to that, the paper cut its Monday edition. The new printing schedule — Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — will start the week of Oct. 6.
Kenfield said more readers are coming to The Herald Journal online, with users there up 43.5% from last year and 20% growth overall in digital subscribers. Meanwhile, those subscribing to print has dropped off.
In recent years, the paper had a circulation of 15,000 throughout Cache County. Now, it’s at 9,000.
Several staff members have left the newsroom, which currently has one part-time and eight full-time reporters and editors. Kenfield said, “We’re not anticipating any staff reductions right now.” But, he added, it will be part of evaluations moving forward.
Additionally, because of the switch to delivery by the postal service, those working as carriers will be let go. It’s unclear how many carriers the paper had because so many kept leaving and the routes were understaffed, Kenfield noted. He also manages three other newspapers that fall under Cache Valley Publishing; all of those — The Tremonton Leader in northern Utah, The Preston Citizen and The Montpelier News-Examiner in southern Idaho — print once a week on Wednesdays.
All of the papers are owned by Adams Publishing Group, which bought the chain in 2017 and owns more than 100 community newspapers throughout the country.
“It’s tough to see a drop in days,” said city editor Steve Kent. “And it’s tough to see people leaving the paper.”
Despite the cuts, Kent said, the changes do not mean the demise of the paper. With fewer printing days, he hopes his reporters can spend more time developing stories and investigating leads. Additionally, the paper will still publish articles online daily at hjnews.com.
With the switch to postal service delivery, residents will be getting their newspapers in the afternoon instead of the morning. Kenfield said some readers have called in to complain about that, but overall, he said, the going to mail will be more reliable than the current carrier system.
“We just can’t maintain a carrier force,” he said. “The newspaper is going to have a little bit more of a time gap from when we publish and when it lands in someone’s hands. We’re doing the best we can.”
The changes will save the newspaper some money in printing costs, needed to compensate for the loss in advertising, Kenfield said, which has been drastic as local businesses in Logan have also shut down. “Overall, it will be a savings — but it’s not mammoth.”
In a letter to readers posted online Monday, Kenfield explained the changes and said that print readers can expect to see a decrease overall in their subscription costs with the fewer days. He said the editions will include all updates, as well as the regular coupons, puzzles, comics and obituaries.
He wrote: “To our subscribers, we want to thank you for your continued trust and support. Our goal is to provide news coverage that matters to you and to Cache Valley for many years to come. These changes will help us to do just that.”
The Herald Journal first published in August 1931 when The Logan Journal — which had been publishing since the late 1870s — and The Logan Daily Herald merged into one newspaper.
Newspapers across the country have faced deep cuts in recent years. According to an analysis from the Pew Research Center, 27% of newspapers in the United States had layoffs in 2018. That includes The Salt Lake Tribune, which lost 34 staffers in May 2018.
Many papers continue to pivot toward digital publishing — after being caught off guard by a series of rapid shifts with reader preferences for reading on the web, mobile devices and social media.
“Changes like this are happening all over the industry,” said Kent, who’s been with The Herald Journal for about five years. “It’s something that I think a lot of us view as shocking but not surprising.”