Home delivery suspended for some Tribune subscribers, Daily News | Local

A labor shortage is forcing the Lewiston Tribune and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News to temporarily suspend home delivery to 2,204 of nearly 15,000 newspaper subscribers next week.

The change will happen in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley on Wednesday and on the Palouse on Friday.

The Tribune and Daily News are seeking contracted newspaper carriers for 30 of the newspapers’ 105 routes, said Mark Bryan, circulation manager at TPC Holdings, the parent company of the Lewiston Tribune and Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Subscribers on unfilled routes have the option of receiving the newspapers online at the rate they currently pay or receiving them by mail for $29.90 per month, which is a nominal increase over what the most of them are currently paying, Bryan said.

The vast majority of the affected 15% of subscribers were notified through one-to-one calls, emails and robocalls this week, he said. The few people who do not have telephone numbers or emails registered in the logs will be notified by a leaflet that will be delivered with their log on the last day before the temporary suspension.

The robocalls began at 9 a.m. in the Valley on Thursday and continued on the Palouse on Friday.

Subscription services employees worked overtime on Thursday taking one call after another, Bryan said. They also tracked 164 calls that day that went to voicemail, which will be returned.

Another group of Tribune and Daily News subscribers numbering 1,358 have been affected by a similar shift which began in August when home delivery was suspended along some rural routes due to a lack of availability contracted newspaper carriers. They too have the choice of subscribing online or receiving their newspapers by mail.

The number of home delivery subscribers does not include the 1,200 online subscribers, which are not changing.

Affected subscribers understood the transition, said Nathan Alford, editor and publisher of both publications.

“Our readers are so amazing and understanding,” said Alford, who made some of the calls with Subscriber Services staff.

“We live in the best cities – people mostly get it,” he said. “They depend on our news and are ready to give us grace until we round the bend and fill in the roads.”

Bryan echoed Alford’s comments.

“Most people are understanding,” he said. “Some are disappointed. Very few are upset. Most of them choose to continue and receive it digitally. A lesser amount is transferred to the courier. A few have canceled, but very few compared to the total so far.

The hope is to restore home delivery to all Tribune and Daily News subscribers, Bryan said, noting that home delivery has resumed on three routes that were suspended in the fall.

Tribune staff members will soon begin going door to door looking for contracted newspaper carriers, he said. This effort will be added to the measures taken previously, in particular the increase of the remuneration of the carriers of newspapers under contract. It also involved increased marketing for contracted newspaper carriers through newspapers, digital billboards owned by TPC Holdings, government employment service offices, social media and Craigslist.

“I have no idea what to expect labor-wise,” Bryan said. “It’s the outlier that I can’t control or predict, but I’m hopeful. Our goal is to restore them all, but I don’t know if that’s reasonable (in the short term).”

As TPC Holdings finds more contracted newspaper carriers, it will fill routes in Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow and Pullman first, then rural routes, he said.

The recruiting effort is one of several measures used by Tribune and Daily News before temporarily suspending home delivery on 30 of its 105 routes as a last resort, Bryan said.

“It was excruciating having to do that,” he said.

For more than a year, Tribune employees delivered newspapers to routes if they weren’t filled by a contracted newspaper carrier, Bryan said. In August this was no longer possible as the staff was too spread out leading to the first round of changes.

“We’ve all seen the help wanted ads,” Alford said. “They are everywhere – and our local newspaper is not immune.”

As Tribune staff covered more for contracted newspaper carriers, routes were reconfigured to increase pay.

Newspaper carriers under contract with Tribune and Daily News typically receive around $700 to $2,000 per month depending on the size of the route.

Typically, they spend two to four hours a day delivering newspapers every day of the week, except Mondays, when the Tribune and Daily News do not publish. The Daily News does not publish on Sundays either.

“That’s a lot if you wanted to buy a new car or save for a house,” Bryan said. “A thousand a month, you notice. It’s extra income.

The work of helping the subscribers concerned continues.

“We handle the challenge well and openly,” Alford said.

Those interested in becoming contracted newspaper carriers can call the TPC Holdings Mailing Department at (208) 746-8742.

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