Going broke in Holyoke

We can't win 'em all, and never has that been more true than in recent months in this newspaper business of ours.
For starters, at the annual Colorado Press Association convention this week, we won our share of awards - perhaps more.
But we didn't win the big one.
We were shooting for our third straight year of being named best in our class, which judges us against newspapers our size in Colorado. We walked away with the Editorial Excellence award, but got bested by the Holyoke Enterprise for best in class.
Admittedly, I don't know nuthin' about that paper. And, even though I was born in the Centennial State and have traveled around most of it, I had to do the Google on the intraweb to find Holyoke on the map.
It would be one thing to be beat out by the Post or Gazette, or even the Daily Sentinel for that matter. At least I'd know what we were up against.
But Holyoke? That's like going into the ring blindfolded.
You couldn't find an opponent for us that is further away than Holyoke, way up in the northeast corner of the state in Phillips County. It's an eight-hour drive from here, some 469 miles. Heck, you might as well go the extra mile and brag that you made it to Nebraska.
Sour grapes? Me? For coming up second to a place that's motto reads, "It's not what you show, it's what you grow?" I can't even figure out what that means.
We have plenty of grow operations right here in Ouray County. Does that count?
And since we're comparing, I might as well mention that it's flatter than a pancake up around Holyoke, its median household income is about half that of Ouray County and Phillips County was named after some guy who was secretary of the Lincoln Land Company.
A secretary! He wasn't even a chief!
The only photo on the interweb I can find of Phillips County is a one of a snowy, flat, desolate and windswept highway. It reminded me of the scene in Fargo when they were taking the body to the wood chipper.
But, I love Holyoke. Don't get me wrong, there are no sour grapes here. And Beecher's met the publisher of the Enterprise and says she's one of the sharpest knives in the drawer. I found a recent copy of the paper online and it's definitely a tasty tablet.
I've got nothing but warm congratulations to extend to our northeastern brethren.
And there are bigger battles to fight.
This is Colorado Journalism Week, Gov. Hickenlooper proclaimed it as such at the Colorado Press Association annual convention last week. He told the gathering journalists that "there has never been a greater need than now for what you do."
He's right. Everything vital about a community is reported and recorded in the daily and weekly pages of newspapers, from Holyoke to Ouray, and all newspapers in-between.
But lately in this business, if it's not one thing, it's two more.
We just got a "Dear John" letter from the Montrose Daily Press, where we print our weekly miracle, informing us that our newsprint rates are going up, sizably. It's all due to pressure from a hedge fund-owned paper producer in Washington state that put pressure on the U.S. Department of Commerce, claiming that Canadian paper producers are unfairly pricing the market. In response, the feds imposed a temporary tariff of 6.5 percent on Canadian paper in January and increased the tariff another 22 percent in March. Just wait until the tariffs become permanent, we're warned.
Last week I mentioned an old saying around newspapers, and here's another. Our biggest costs are the "Two P’s”, which are people and paper.
I'll get to the first one, but an increase on the latter can be crippling to many papers. An article in Global News, posted on its site April 12, says that metro papers will see minimum increases in print costs of $3 million annually, and a small paper in Kentucky estimated it recently incurred a 10 percent increase in print costs, and soon will see that balloon to 40 percent.
There's not a lot of trimming left in this business. The newspaper industry, according to the Global News article, employs approximately 150,000 Americans today, which is 65 percent fewer than two decades ago.
That gets me to the the second thing, the other 'P', meaning people. Our online payroll system provider, no doubt a familiar name to a lot of you, increased our monthly fee by 35 percent this month. I spent an hour and 20 minutes on the phone, demanding to be transferred up the chain of command, seeking relief from that kind of increase. In the end, I got high blood pressure, which my doc won't appreciate, and a 25 percent discount on 20 percent of the increase, for the next six months.
I'm not the quickest cat in the house, but I mocked their generosity. What sounded from their end like a 25 percent discount was actually me still eating 85 percent of the increase.
I asked Manager No. 3 how this behemoth of a company, which boasts how it loves to cater to small businesses, could justify a 35 percent increase. He said they were going to use the increase to strengthen their company by enhancing their systems and training their people.
Gee, that sounds swell.
Tell you what, between tariffs and behemoth corporations, I wonder if they're going broke in Holyoke.

Congratulations to my co-everything, Beecher, for being installed as vice president of the Colorado Press Association Board of Directors during this year's convention.

Alan Todd is co-publisher of the Ouray County Plaindealer. He can be reached at atodd@ouraynews.com.