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Sue's Views -- Changes will make the Sun Tribune a paper built to last

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For the past five years, whenever I have walked into the production room and sat down, the staff knew I was about to change the way we do something here at the Morris Sun Tribune.

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I always trusted these folks to respond honestly and to name the obstacles that they could see. Together, we'd prepare to improve our newspaper.

About two weeks ago, I sat down with the entire staff to share news of the biggest change yet. Beginning in September, the Morris Sun Tribune would publish on Saturdays only. The Sept. 2, 2009 issue will be the last Wednesday paper we publish.

We have actually been tossing this idea around for at least the last three years, as the retail community and our own staff have changed.

Let me share a little bit about the business of newspapers. Most of our revenue comes from advertising, and the top advertisers in almost every newspaper are realtors, car lots, grocery stores and stores that insert shopping flyers.

The downturn in the housing market, the loss of UBC and the imminent loss of Coborn's have been tough blows for Morris. Coupled with the ethanol plant closing and cutbacks at our other manufacturing firms, and we've seen a dramatic drop in our advertising revenue.

So you can see that there is tremendous pressure right now on all expenses in our office.

Sure, there are other options than changing our publication schedule. We could raise advertising and subscription rates.

However, neither of those seem to be good answers. In this economy, increased rates would result in fewer advertisers and subscribers. And we need both to stay strong for us to be strong.

Changes in customer behavior and economic climate have meant changes throughout our community. We're trying to be prudent and at the same time proactive about the business of the newspaper. It is our goal to be around and serving our community for a long, long time.

Think about it: If you ran a business and conditions changed, would you keep doing the same thing? In fact, ask some of the downtown business owners and managers what they've had to change in their operations over the past year or so.

I believe newspapers are here to stay. Still, it's imperative we change to meet the challenges of the economy, as well as the needs of our readers -- those who read us in print and those who read us online.

The Morris Sun Tribune is committed to doing that. Our staff members take their jobs very seriously. They sometimes have to crank out more information in a day than folks at larger newspapers create in a week. They'd like to spend more time with their stories, to delve deeper, but time constraints often prevent that. Cutting the Wednesday edition will alleviate that pressure some.

We believe this solution is the best for our readers, our advertisers and our staff -- the three groups we try to remember when we make any decision.

Not everyone likes it when newspapers change. I understand that reading is a habit, and some readers miss how things used to be. The transition may be difficult at first, and there will be kinks to work out. But when we're done, we will have a stable, lean operation that's built for the 21st century and makes the communities we serve proud.

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