NNA urges USPS to set up ‘hand-off hubs’ for newspapers

February 21, 2012

WASHINGTON—The National Newspaper Association advised the U.S. Postal Service to set up hub operations in closing Sectional Center Facilities to quickly transfer 5-digit and Carrier Route mail containers to streamlined transportation so that mail can avoid serious service delays.
NNA President Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County (MN) Monitor-News, said NNA was intensifying its campaign to preserve newspaper mail delivery.
In comments by NNA Postal Committee Chair Max Heath to the USPS Operations division, NNA said that avoiding the need to send mail already sorted for local post offices into far distant processing plants was essential to preserving newspaper delivery.
NNA is pessimistic about proposed changes to service standards, Heath said. But he commended clarifications that some locally-entered mail will still have an overnight service standard. Previous versions of the proposal created confusion, he said.
“NNA regrets the circumstances that have caused USPS to consider the need to drastically degrade service standards for all classes, but especially time-sensitive newspapers.
NNA appreciates efforts to make changes made in the revised proposal for Periodicals,” he said in his USPS comments today. “Some local post offices have misinterpreted the proposed two-day service standard for DDU plant-entered Periodicals as being already in effect and applicable to DDU-entered copies. We remind USPS for the record that NNA also has an agreement with USPS BME in DM 109 5-5.1 that allows overnight drops of local newspapers after CET, up to 500,000 copies of annual mail volume.”
He reiterated his concern that the closing of more than half the current mail processing facilities would damage faith in the mail.
“No matter how well-intended, such closures are likely to hasten the spiral of lost revenue and the decline of USPS as a meaningful American institution. The projections made in the revised proposal presume hitting service standards. The current Periodicals standards outside DDU drops are being missed by so wide a mark (at record lows now) that it is illogical to presume USPS seriously thinks it can improve them with fewer, more distant plants.
The world we see ahead is a near total loss of acceptable delivery times for mail moving through many parts of the network, and only mail entered by Periodical newspapers and their Standard Mail “shopper” ad vehicles at delivery units has a clear chance of survival, both for delivery quality and value to the publisher and the readers.”
He cited NNA member The Sugarcreek (OH) Budget, a 15,500-circulation weekly serving Amish/Mennonite communities across the nation with regional and national editions, as an example of a newspaper suffering from declining mail service.
“[The Budget] with high page counts and piece weights, exemplifies the maximum potential for USPS to retain business if USPS takes seriously its delivery commitments to such products. It is growing locally but declining nationally where delivery problems erode subscribers. This business has nowhere to go other than USPS, because its subscribers generally don’t use electronic options. Yet its delivery is often treated with such disdain and worsening delays that the growing community of preferred readers is frustrated, along with the publisher and staff, he said.
NNA has previously criticized the proposed changes, and worked to find solutions to declining service. But numerous NNA members involved in discussions about plant closings report that they have heard no reassuring details on the plans to create alternative service if their local plants close. Because USPS has previously intimated it intended to set up “hub-handoffs” of 5-digit and carrier route containers, Heath is urging USPS to make a public commitment to the hub policy.

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