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 Augusta Chronicle. Let us 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.
OK, so what does this mean to you -- our readers, advertiser partners and employees?
Let's take on the toughest questions:
- Is The Augusta Chronicle going out of business? No. Our commitment to The Chronicle and its Web site, chronicle.augusta.com, and their roles in the community, has never been stronger. We are proud of what we have contributed to this community over the past 224 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 CSRA 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 Chronicle .
- Do you see an increasing role for your Web site? Absolutely. We have made great improvements in chronicle.augusta.com and are planning much more. Ours is the leading local Web site in Augusta, extending the market reach of The Chronicle to 74 percent, far more that any other news or advertising medium in Augusta. At the risk of sounding like a commercial, we must say that no other Augusta entity provides more detailed news coverage to readers, more value to advertisers or more community outreach than The Augusta Chronicle and chronicle.augusta.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 Chronicle? The Chronicle 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.
We hope this column 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 placed in The Chronicle and chronicle.augusta.com to deliver your advertising messages to our readers, your customers.
The Augusta Chronicle has served this community for 224 years -- and looks forward to doing so for many more years to come.