Late papers are vexing everyone

Dear Readers,
Is your copy of Access Press arriving late, sometimes weeks late? Or are you reading this issue online because you have not have you not seen the newspaper in your mailbox at all?

We are hearing from some readers that newspapers are arriving very late. We apologize for the delays.

Late delivery isn’t just a problem for Access Press. Newspapers across the United States are struggling with mail delivery issues, according to the National Newspaper Association (NNA), Minnesota Newspaper Association and other press groups.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) faced the loss of needed mail sorting equipment and other deep cuts in 2020. Those cuts on top of an unusually heavy mail volume driven in part by COVID-19 are affecting newspaper delivery as well as other mail service.

Our printer, House of Print, reports that many other Upper Midwest newspapers are also reporting late arrivals to readers. Those of us who work on publications are all aware of the problems and are doing what we can. We’re all frustrated by this.

The NNA and other press associations are working with the Postal Service to address these issues. The NNA represents 1,600 community newspapers across the United States.

“We want publishers to understand that these delays are not just in their markets, nor the result of failures by printers or mail preparers. This is happening partly because of COVID-19-related personnel absences, but mostly because of record numbers of packages in the mail,” said NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications in Cordell, Oklahoma. “We are in continuous conversation with the senior management at USPS about this problem.”

The Postal Service expected to deliver roughly 20 million packages a day during the holiday season. That number exceeded 40 million some days, according to USPS. Mail processing plants and local post offices are challenged to keep up with the volume.

“The private couriers, like United Parcel Service, can decline to accept packages. We are receiving reports in the mailing industry that the private networks are overloaded so packages are being deferred to the Postal Service, which cannot refuse to accept them. This is particularly an issue for rural areas, where less dense deliveries are unprofitable for the private services but a required service for USPS. Unfortunately, that pushes a glut of package volume into the areas where many of our newspapers are also trying to reach subscribers,” Wesner said.

NNA said it expected service to improve after the holiday package season ended. But the association cautioned that as vaccine deliveries are ramping up for the private couriers, USPS might still be the deliverer of last resort for packages displaced by the priority vaccine packages.

“This disruption is not only about packages. It is also about a neglected USPS that is being pressured to cut overtime and save money because Congress has not done its part to help create a sustainable service. Long term, we have to find the right fix to keep universal service alive,” Wesner said.

Access Press is one of the many newspaper affected by the postal challenges. NNA is advising more publications to move to online subscriptions whenever possible. While Access Press is considering more online features and services in the future, we know that not everyone wishes to or can access news online. Many of our readers want a print newspaper and we respect that.

We need to know when your paper isn’t delivered in a timely manner or if it isn’t arriving at all. Please email us at access@accesspress.org or call 651-644-2133.

–Access Press Board and staff