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How to mitigate increased newsprint costs

Tariffs are still in effect, but you can control how they impact your bottom line

Originally posted in Publishers' Auxiliary

By Sam Fisher, IPA President & Chief Executive Officer

Newspaper publishers and owners across the country are wondering what moves they can make to remain financially viable if the preliminary newsprint tariffs become permanent.

Do we look at making deeper cuts in expenses, which unfortunately we’ve become pretty adept at doing for the last 15 years, or do we look at ways to increase revenue, and that’s something that has been problematic. Ultimately, I believe it has to be a combination of both.

Every newspaper is unique, but what is common is the need to mitigate any further damage to our already wounded brand. I’ve always contended that even with the changes that we’ve endured, our brand is still viable, so caution should be taken when it comes to implementing any of these changes because some of the options could potentially be harmful. The key is to cause the least amount of disruption to your brand.


Reduce page count—Take the time and review past issues to determine if what you are publishing is actually relevant to your readers. Granted, your readership is always going to be aware when you reduce page count. For smaller newspapers, content generated by the community takes up a lot of space and is valuable. Thought should be given to limiting the amount of space devoted to community content, but do not eliminate it. Maybe those collections of news releases promoting the community could be condensed into a brief- or bullet-point format.

Reduce publishing days—Many newspapers have already taken this route in the last few years, and it’s a beneficial exercise for any publication that prints more than weekly.

Control the number of single-copy returns—Do an analysis of single-copy returns to bring them into line with what’s actually being sold. Additionally, any marginal racks or dealers should be scrutinized, as there are newsprint savings and delivery costs to consider. As a former publisher, I hated seeing empty racks, but now with the increased price of newsprint, I’d rather not see 20 papers still in the box at the end of a publishing cycle.

Press waste—Take a look at your press runs to monitor the amount of newsprint waste. If you’re not tracking it, start. Set a goal and take the necessary steps to prevent waste during press start-ups. Try to find the factors that contribute to the waste. Setting color is a big contributor, so look at how you currently use color in your publications to have better control. Additionally, monitor your actual press count to make sure that you print what you actually need.

Specials sections—Determine if these sections are truly special. The first step is to do an analysis of every section to determine its profitability moving forward. Just because we’ve always done a football section every fall, it doesn’t mean that we should not scrutinize it. Think about selling in-paper sponsor pages—be creative.

Convert print to digital—It’s easier said than done, but maybe the first step is to move those readers that are out of your general circulation area over to digital distribution only. These readers typically have little or no impact for your advertisers. And you’ll get the added benefit of postage savings.

TMC/NDC distribution—Determine how profitable your TMC/NDC products actually are. We all know that there is continued pressure from preprint advertisers to eliminate waste. The trend of fewer preprints will continue either because of fewer advertisers or because of limited distribution.

NIE—For those newspapers that are still distributing papers to schools, it’s time to take a hard look at the program. Ultimately, if you’re just dropping the papers off without any program or curriculum in place, it’s money not well spent. Sure, you can count it as paid circulation, but there really is no value to the advertisers or the students if the papers are not being used.

Web size reduction/format change—Review your current format and determine a format to better utilize newsprint. If you are currently a broadsheet, look at the merits and potential savings of going to a tabloid. Adjusting your web width could potentially yield big savings. If you’re a tabloid printing on a 34-inch web and you drop down to a 32-inch web, you’ll realize nearly a 6 percent savings. The actual page depth will only decrease by 1 inch. After all, a page is still a page. You may want to change from a broadsheet to tabloid format, if you haven’t already done so.

Staffing—It is your biggest expense, with newsprint being the next for most newspapers. Reducing staff by either leaving open positions unfilled or imposing staff reductions cuts expense in a hurry. Hopefully, this will be done as a last resort—after all other methods have been exhausted. Having fewer people covering your community will do the greatest harm to your brand.


Subscription increase—For the fist time, many newspapers are seeing circulation revenue exceeding advertising—it’s no longer the 75/25 rule. It’s not that we are selling more subscriptions, but that advertising revenue has decreased at a much faster rate. Our advertising-based business model is not the model of the future. Advertising revenue can no longer subsidize the cost of a newspaper and subscribers will have to start paying more of the true cost of having a newspaper. Many weeklies have an annual subscription rate as low as $35; some charge even less. What if you increased the subscription price to $50 annually? That’s nearly a 43 percent increase in revenue. Sure, you’ll get some negative feedback and a few lost subscribers, but nothing near 43 percent increase.

Advertising rates—There was a time that we did rate increases annually—it was a common business practice. Those days are gone, and many newspapers don’t even publish an annual rate card, and realistically if we did, most of those advertisers wouldn’t be on the card. It’s time to get our rates back in line and develop a rate strategy to increase business. If you are not using modular ad sizes, I would suggest that you entertain the idea. Offer incentives based on frequency, size, color, etc., to get advertisers to commit to a regular schedule. My experience is that it’s an easier sell and makes for a cleaner and ultimately more efficient way of putting the paper together.

These are just some options for you to consider, and there are many others out there.

The time to have a discussion on how best to proceed is now—whether or not tariffs become permanent. Any move to conserve newsprint and control costs should be looked at its entirety with the ultimate impact on your newspaper, readers and community. Try to look at this in the long-term and not as an immediate reaction to the situation we now face.

Even if the coalition of newspaper groups, STOPP, is successful in stopping the tariffs, newspapers will experience newsprint shortages in some parts of the country, given that the newsprint manufacturing cycle is not in a normal phase. Some paper producers warn that newspapers might face paper shortages this summer. They say because larger papers are anticipating price increases and are building inventory as a hedge against paying more later, the mills are unable to add production capacity. The long-term falling demand in the industry makes it difficult to attract the millions of dollars in financing needed for expansion. Newspapers should check with their suppliers immediately to determine how the summer and fall supply may affect them.

Whatever steps you take to mitigate the added expense, they should be taken with an eye on protecting your brand.

Sam Fisher, NNA CEO and Illinois Press Association president and CEO, has been in the newspaper business for more than 40 years, 25 years as a publisher before coming to the association world. He can be reached at sfisher@illinoispress.org.

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Contact Information:
K. Eric Larson
(847) 997-2109

Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras to premiere new compositions at Terra metallicum on Saturday, April 13

ELGIN, Illinois. (April 11, 2024) – Wanees Zarour, a renowned performer, educator, and expert in Middle Eastern music, will join the award-winning Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras (EYSO) as guest artist for a genre-bending evening of musical collaboration and performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in the Auditorium at South Elgin High School at 760 E Main St, South Elgin.

EYSO’s flagship Youth Symphony and its Brass Choir will perform with Zarour, who has been working with EYSO student musicians in rehearsals this past month, and through a masterclass at the high school earlier in the day. They will premiere two new compositions at this concert.

Zarour is an award winning Palestinian-American composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist steeped in maqam and jazz music. His compositional and arranging styles transcend borders and draw from traditions spanning the entire globe. 

For millennia, the complex and rich relationships between the natural world and humankind have captivated scholars, scientists, philosophers, and artists. Fruitful and fraught, timeless, and fragile, these relationships inspire a tremendous spectrum of artistic expressions that imitate, investigate, and emulate the interconnected worlds of nature and humanity. In EYSO's 48th season, explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us — and how the two are united through music.

To see a more complete list of performances or for tickets, go to www.eyso.org/concert. In addition to traditional in-person seating, tickets are available to experience the concerts via live streaming.

About EYSO
The mission of EYSO is to create a community of young musicians, enriching their lives and the lives of their families, schools, communities and beyond, through the study and performance of excellent music.

EYSO serves students from 70 Chicagoland communities and has a national reputation for providing students with an engaging musical experience and a comprehensive learning environment of curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students explore a thematic curriculum each season — one that helps students develop artistically and technically, and prepares them for a future of complex ideas, creative risk-taking, and leadership as global citizens. This approach has led hundreds of alumni to successful careers as professional musicians, educators, and strong leaders in every field. The theme of EYSO’s 48th season is GAIA through which students explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us—and how the two are united through music. 

EYSO is accepting applications to audition for the 2024-25 season at www.eyso.org

To learn more about EYSO, visit www.eyso.org or call (847) 841-7700.

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Contact Information:
Monique Whitney
(505) 480-4150
email: monique@truthrx.org greynolds@ipha.org

Illinois pharmacists rally at State Capitol to end prescription drug middlemen patient steering, support increased state oversight

Community pharmacists call attention to increasing prescription drug costs, decreased access to care and emerging pharmacy deserts correlated to pharmacy benefit manager practices.


SPRINGFIELD, IL (March 5, 2024) – Illinois pharmacists will gather at the State Capitol today to rally in support of HB 4548 and SB 2790, proposed legislation which would eliminate controversial practices by prescription drug middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. The rally is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and will be held near the Lincoln statue, located at the east end of the State Capitol and will include brief remarks by bill sponsors and constituents negatively impacted by PBM prescription drug pricing practices.

If enacted, HB 4548, sponsored by Rep. Jones, would protect patients’ right to receive prescription medication from the pharmacy of their choice, banning the lucrative PBM practice of “steering” patients to PBM-owned or affiliated pharmacies or mandatory mail order. Sen. Koehler’s SB 2790 would empower the state’s Department of Healthcare and Family Services with greater oversight of PBM contracts; monitoring of payments made to PBMs and pharmacies; and ensuring PBM rebates negotiated on behalf of HFS are fully paid to HFS.

“We applaud Representative Jones, Senator Koehler and the many members of our state legislature who are championing these critical measures that would protect the state’s patients and pharmacy providers,” said Illinois Pharmacists Association President Rupesh Manek, RPh, pharmacist and Rochelle-based pharmacy owner. “The proposed legislation is evidence of a responsible governing body aware of the pitfalls that come with overpaying pharmacy benefit managers for services that should be provided in the interest of fiscal responsibility, not overcompensating shareholders.”

Last May, Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino released the results of a Performance Audit of Pharmacy Benefit Managers, finding the state’s Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) department did not have complete copies of the contracts between managed care organizations and PBMs necessary to conduct monitoring of contract provisions, or between PBMs and pharmacies to be able verify accuracy or rate of reimbursement to pharmacies. The result of passage of SR 792 in 2022, the Performance Audit of the Medicaid Managed Care (MMC) PBMs identified over $200 million over 2 years in spread pricing overbilling to the MMC prescription program.

Anne Cassity, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) said “NCPA commends the Office of the Auditor General for its diligence in revealing gross overpayment to PBMs in Illinois’ Managed Medicaid program. Sadly, Illinois is joining numerous other states in recognizing how PBMs harm both the patients and payers – both public and commercial – they purport to serve. We urge Illinois to join the ranks of states who have established comprehensive PBM regulation with strong enforcement provisions to ensure patient access to pharmacy services at their neighborhood community pharmacy.”

PBMs manage patients’ prescription drug benefit, acting as the liaison between the patient, the pharmacy, and the patient’s employer or health plan sponsor. Since 2019, numerous studies have uncovered evidence of PBMs practices that result in endpayers paying significantly more for patients’ prescription medication than the patient’s pharmacy was reimbursed (a practice called “spread pricing”); and patients “steered” away from their pharmacy of choice to PBM-owned/affiliated pharmacies. Additional studies have shown the drug manufacturer rebates PBMs negotiate increase a drug’s list price year over year, causing patients to pay more out of pocket because of rebate-inflated costs. For more information on the rally or how PBM practices are affecting Illinois patients and taxpayers, contact Illinois Pharmacists Association at IPhA.org. Learn more about NCPA, the country’s largest organization of independent pharmacy owners, at NCPA.org. To understand how PBM practices affect patient care and affordability of medication for consumers and end payers, visit PUTT’s website at TruthRx.org.





Contact Information:
William Nissen, publisher of the elderparole.org website
(312) 882-6338
email: wmjnissen@gmail.com
website: https://www.elderparole.org/

Advocates to deliver letters of support for elder parole bill, HB 2045, to governor, lieutenant governor, and legislative leaders in Springfield on March 6, 2024

CHICAGO (March 4, 2024) - Advocates for the passage of HB 2045, which would establish an elder parole process in Illinois, plan to hand deliver more than 900 signed letters of support for the bill to the Springfield offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislative leaders on March 6, 2024.

The elder parole bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-27th), would provide a parole process for approximately 1,000 people in Illinois prisons who are aged 55 years or older and have served at least 25 years.

The letters come from people across the State of Illinois and beyond, including people incarcerated in Illinois prisons. Most of the letters make the following points in support of enactment of the bill:

• The Illinois prison population has been steadily aging.

• Older inmates are often sick and infirm.

• Illinois is not providing the medical care that is needed by these aging inmates.

• A court-appointed monitor has identified elder abuse in Illinois prisons where preventable deaths have occurred due to the state’s failure to provide proper medical care.

• The medical care that is being provided is very costly to the state and the cost will only worsen as more inmates age.

• The Joe Coleman Medical Release Act is not solving the problem because too few people are sick enough to qualify and many of those who qualify are being denied release.

• Many older inmates have maintained close ties to their friends and families, who will support them in transitioning to life outside prison.

Under the bill, no one would be entitled to release, but rather eligible people would be given the opportunity to present their individual circumstances to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and request release.

The bill requires the board to decide whether to grant parole based on several considerations, including rehabilitation, character references, participation in educational and work programs, and criminal and disciplinary history. The bill also provides that victims’ families would be notified and given the opportunity to participate in the parole hearing.

In 1978, Illinois abolished discretionary parole for those sentenced on or after Feb. 1, 1978. Since then, the growth in the prison population has far outpaced the increase in the state’s general population, and the percentage of the prison population 55 years or older has also increased significantly.

Dr. John Raba, the former medical director of Cermak Health Services, which provides health care at the Cook County Jail, is the court-appointed monitor in a class action where state officials have entered into a consent decree requiring that adequate medical care be provided in Illinois prisons. Dr. Raba has reported that the state is not meeting the needs of older prisoners and does not have the resources to provide such care.

According to Dr. Raba’s reports, the inadequate health care is resulting in elder abuse and avoidable deaths. Dr. Raba has recommended that a pathway to early release of prisoners be established. This bill would establish a reasonable pathway.

Rep. Slaughter has explained the need for this bill as follows: “This bill would establish a much needed mechanism for considering on an individual basis whether there is no longer any public interest to be served by continuing to imprison an individual who has aged and served significant time, because the individual has become rehabilitated, is not a threat to public safety, and neither the public nor the individual would benefit from that individual’s continued imprisonment. The
people covered by the bill are the least likely to re-offend and the most expensive to care for, given medical expenses and end-of-life care.”

Here are links to the text of most of the letters to be delivered and to a fact sheet for the bill:

Text of letter supporting enactment of HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3sd6aE9

Fact sheet for HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3P5jvph

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