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Pandemic prompts Forum Communications to make cost-cutting measures

Forum Communications Co. has announced it will take several measures to offset lost revenue due to the novel coronavirus.

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Forum Communications Co. has announced it will take several measures to offset lost revenue due to the novel coronavirus.

The Fargo-based media company, with more than two-dozen newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, including the Rochester Post Bulletin, joins dozens of newspaper and media companies across the country being forced to make changes, prompted by drastic reductions in advertising revenue from businesses facing their own losses and uncertainty during the global pandemic.

The Forum, the company’s flagship newspaper, shared with readers last week that it will no longer print newspapers on Mondays and Fridays. However, it will continue to offer e-editions to subscribers on those days.

Among the other cost reduction measures throughout the company will be employee layoffs, primarily in divisions responsible for advertising and printing, including newspapers, shoppers and commercial print. In addition, weekly newspapers in Hastings and Woodbury, Minn., will be closed, while 19 shoppers across the region will be suspended.

The Rochester Post Bulletin laid off some members of its advertising staff and announced plans to discontinue publication of its weekly Marketplace shopper publication after May 5. 


Despite these changes, company leaders say they remain committed to providing readers with the local journalism they expect. Nearly all newsroom staffing levels -- including 100% of the newsroom staff in Rochester -- are being maintained in markets where print or digital news products remain. The company is urging online audiences to consider buying memberships to support the work still being done in their communities.

"We have lost a lot, but we have not lost everything. And we have not lost hope," Forum Communications Co. President and CEO Bill Marcil Jr. wrote in a memo to staff last week. "The reality is, one in five newspapers shuttered its doors in the last 15 years — and that’s without a pandemic. We’ve been hit hard before, and this might be our hardest battle yet. But it’s one we get to fight, and so many media companies can’t say that."

The pandemic, Marcil said, has hit newspapers hard at a time when they are committed to delivering local journalism to the communities they serve. In Rochester, for example, the Post Bulletin is debuting a new Friday online-only e-edition this week, including extra pages of news content every other publication day, and providing a host of other new, online-exclusive content at its site, www.postbulletin.com

"We appreciate your readership and your support," Marcil wrote in a column published last Friday on the company’s websites. "Just as you need the news right now more than ever — we need you now more than ever. We can’t do what we do without memberships to continue our work. And right now, we have a lot of work to do."

Nationwide, at least four dozen newspaper and media companies have announced significant layoffs, furloughs and other cost-cutting measures, including ceasing publication. Television, radio, magazines and digital media also have announced cuts, while alt-weekly newspapers across the U.S. have faced mass layoffs or stopped publication.

Regionally, Gannett, which owns papers such as Sioux Falls Argus Leader and St. Cloud Times, announced it will institute furloughs for reporters and editors on a rotating basis.

Lee Enterprises owns newspapers in 25 states, including Bismarck, N.D., Rapid City, S.D., Winona, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis. The company said that it will use furloughs and pay reductions as a response to the coronavirus.

Adams Publishing Group owns publications in 20 states, including 70-plus newspapers, shoppers and specialty publications in Minnesota and over 20 in Wisconsin. The company has reported that it will cut full-time workers’ hours to 30 per week and salaried workers will see a 25% pay reduction to compensate for lost advertising revenue from the pandemic.


Stack of newspapers

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