On April 1, three Montezuma County newspapers will make operational changes based on the corporate goals of their parent company, Ballantine Communications, Inc., and on the expected loss of Saturday mail delivery.
The change most visible to the public will be a reduction in frequency of the Cortez Journal from its current three-day-a-week schedule to two, Tuesday and Friday. In the current Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday schedule, nearly 2,000 copies of each edition are distributed by mail. On Feb. 6, the U.S. Postal Service announced that Saturday mail delivery would cease in August.
Current subscriptions will be extended to reflect the reduced frequency, and the price of renewals and the price of new subscriptions will be lowered.
"We are renewing our focus on local content," said Journal publisher Suzy Meyer. "We don't plan to reduce the number of locally reported stories. We'll cut back on publishing material that our readers can get from a variety of other sources.
"Publishing on Tuesday and Friday offers the best opportunities for advertisers, and we will be updating news content on the website daily."
The Mancos Times will continue to be published each Wednesday. Beginning April 4, the Dolores Star will be published on Thursday rather than Friday, a return to the schedule it held for many years. Although the two newspapers will continue as separate publications, editing responsibilities will be consolidated.
Ballantine Communications CEO Richard Ballantine said the changes were necessary, but he also said that the Journal will continue to be a valued part of the community.
"We believe that with a publication early in the week and one at the end, readers will continue to be pleased with the breadth of local coverage that the Journal provides," he said.
Ballantine announced in February that he would be stepping down from his position later in the spring. The company hopes to have a new CEO in place in May.
Advertising and page design for all BCI publications will be centralized in a design hub at the Durango Herald.
Robin Allmon, whose duties have included serving as design manager in Cortez, will become production manager. All of the group's newspapers will continue to be printed at the Journal production plant. Printing of the Herald moved to Cortez in 2002.
The Journal office will remain open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The latest changes will result in layoffs for eight Journal staff members: four in the news operations and four in advertising design departments. Two employees will transfer to other positions within the company, and employees who are laid off will be eligible to apply for open positions in any of the four BCI newspapers.
Layoffs will be effective at the end of March, and all affected employees already have been notified.
BCI's newspapers have been supported in part by the company's telephone directory business. As digital advances have cut into the profitability of print publications across the country, BCI is trimming its newspaper operations. Layoffs also were conducted at the Herald.