The newspaper industry as a whole is obviously not dancing in the streets about the prospect of a future without Saturday mail. The Independent is no different.
Small-town newspapers pride themselves on local news coverage, and last time we checked, news does happen on Fridays - just as it does any other day of the week. How will that news be delivered to mail subscribers without mail?
Yes, there's the Internet and our Web site, but not everyone has such access. A future without a Saturday paper finding its way to your mailbox is disheartening. Almost tragic. Want to read about Friday night football? Tough, if you get your mail delivered. What about all those fliers and coupons you look forward to getting on Saturday in the Weekender? Too bad, if you get your mail delivered. Will there be a Weekender? Will you get it on Monday?
Lots of questions.
The National Newspaper Association (NNA) has gone on record opposing the United States Postal Service's proposal to end Saturday mail delivery as a means of saving more than $3 billion annually. The NNA calls the proposed move a "high-stakes gamble" and said the USPS should exhaust every other alternative to save money before moving ahead with ending Saturday delivery.
"I know that the USPS has persuaded itself that a lot of Americans believe Saturday delivery is dispensable," said Max Heath, chairman of the NNA Postal Committee and vice president of Landmark Community Newspapers Inc., owner of 47 weekly, semi- and tri-weeklies and five dailies in the United States. "To the extent that is true, it is not a good sign for the future of our nation's universal service if people do not care whether the mail arrives."
While losing Saturday delivery would throw a major crimp into the newspaper business, this issue goes well beyond that. While people would still be able to run to the post office on a Saturday and pick things up from a P.O. box if they have one, not getting your mail delivered on Saturday means maybe not getting that bill paid on time, or that check you've been waiting for, or the medications your parents need. Maybe they might have to wait another two days to get them.
Now it's getting serious.
Or is it?
If indeed the Postal Service hasn't underestimated the public's concern about losing mail delivery on Saturday and people really don't care if they get their mail on Saturday, that's one thing. But, as Heath said, maybe it's just saying that to justify dropping Saturday delivery. You can't tell me rural America doesn't care if mail doesn't come on the weekend. In rural areas, the move to drop Saturday delivery is a pretty big deal.
To an extent, retired postal worker Mark Erickson disagrees. Erickson worked at the Marshall Post Office for a little more than 30 years and said the main thing people he spoke with while he was working were concerned about in losing Saturday delivery was not getting their newspaper.
"Most people say they really wouldn't mind not getting their mail, but the main thing they were concerned about is their newspapers," Erickson said. "They don't want to read the Saturday paper on Monday; they're probably more apt to disregard the Saturday paper and just read the Monday paper. That was the biggest thing I heard people talk about.
"I know they're hurting for money real bad," Erickson added. "Not having Saturday delivery is one thing that would save money. Personally, I wouldn't care if I got my mail on Saturday. But if I live in the country I want to read my paper, whether it's the Independent or the Minneapolis paper."
The USPS, which lost $3.8 billion last year and is facing even larger losses this year because of a nationwide increase in demand thanks to the Internet and e-mail, needs to brainstorm different cost-saving ideas before pulling the plug on Saturday delivery. Hopefully our elected congressmen agree. The Internet notwithstanding, mail delivery is part of the fabric of our society, and once it starts unravelling, more questions surface. What's next, three-dollar stamps? Maybe every-other-day delivery?
Congress will make the final call on the issue later this year. If it happens to come to a conclusion on a Friday you can be sure it will be in Saturday's paper. For any Friday news after that, however, all bets could be off.