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Q&A about the Empire's future

Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2009

Dear Reader,

Over the past few weeks you may have seen reports in this newspaper about a financial restructuring of Morris Publishing Group LLC, our parent company. These reports have raised questions - from readers, advertisers and even members of our own organization - about what this means to The Juneau Empire. Let me provide some answers.

It is certainly no secret that our country is experiencing one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. More than a half-million people lost their jobs this past month alone, and unemployment nationwide has jumped to 7.6 percent. Nearly every kind of business - large and small, national and neighborhood - is suffering. Many of the businesses which have not shut down are fighting to stay alive.

Our business too is facing unprecedented challenges. The newspaper industry is being hit by two big storms: One is the continuing impact of the Internet on news and information dissemination. The other is the effect of the devastating economic decline on our advertiser business partners and their ability to pay to advertise their goods and services, both in the newspaper and on our Web site.

Like many households and businesses these days, we are working with our lenders to bring our debt load and debt service more in line with the economic realities of today.

Okay, so what does this mean to you - our readers, advertiser partners, employees?

Let's take on the toughest questions.

Is the Juneau Empire going out of business?

No. Our commitment to the Juneau Empire, its Web site, juneauempire.com, and their role in the community has never been stronger. We are proud of what we have contributed to this community over the past 98 years and remain dedicated to offering the same news, entertainment and service in the future. We intend to continue to provide the best services to our business partners, from the smallest local shops to the largest global firms. In fact, the leadership and staff of this organization - ever committed to innovation - is engineering an array of new services that will help readers and businesses more powerfully meet their daily needs. We are humbled by and grateful for every opportunity to help, touch and share in the lives of Juneau citizens.

I've read you hired financial advisors. What for?

We have brought them in to help us work with our lenders to restructure our debt.

How will this debt restructuring help?

By reducing the amount of principal and interest that we have to pay to service our debt, we will be able to invest more in the improvement of the Juneau Empire.

Do you see an increasing role for your Web site?

Absolutely. We have made great improvements at juneauempire.com and are planning much more. Ours is the leading local Web site in Juneau, extending the market reach to more than 12,000 daily readers, far more that any other news or advertising medium in Juneau. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I must say that no other Juneau entity provides more detailed news coverage to readers, more value to advertisers or more community outreach than the Juneau Empire and juneauempire.com.

Are there going to be any more layoffs?

This is one of the most difficult fallouts of any business downturn. People's lives are involved, and we take these decisions seriously. We are constantly balancing our economic conditions with the need to maintain quality of service to our readers and advertisers and will continue to do so - ever mindful of the human impact of any and all decisions we have to make.

You talked a lot about your financing issues but what about the Juneau Empire?

The Juneau Empire will continue our in-depth local news coverage, continuing to report the truth for the public good - in government, in business and in your neighborhoods.

I hope this letter has been helpful in providing you with information about what we are doing and why.

We appreciate the trust you have placed in us to provide a democratic forum that gives a voice to all points of view, especially those whose voices may otherwise go unheard. To our business partners, we thank you for the confidence you have place in the The Juneau Empire and juneauempire.com to deliver your advertising messages to our readers, your customers.

The Juneau Empire has served this community for 98 years - and looks forward to doing so for many more years to come.

Very truly yours,

James C. Currow

Executive Vice President,

Morris Publishing Group

•••

Editors note: Because of an editing error, this op-ed piece incorrectly carried a byline from Empire Editor and Publisher Robert Hale. In fact, the piece was written by James C. Currow, executive vice president of the Morris Publishing Group within Morris Communications Company, parent company of the Juneau Empire and the Capital City Weekly. Morris Communications is based in Augusta, Ga. We deeply regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.



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