January 5, 2009

Lee stock in the tank

Tough times continue for Lee Enterprises, the media company that owns the Rapid City Journal, which includes a number of associated weeklies like the Lawrence County Star, the Hot Springs Journal, the Belle Fourche Post & Bee, and the Chadron (Nebr) Record.

One year ago, the Davenport, Iowa, publisher saw its stock trading at $14.91 per share. Just before the 2008 holidays, a Lee share went for just 30 cents per share, and it’s been over a month since its stock has seen anything above one dollar.

Lee owns 49 daily newspapers, and its poor financial showing means that it has fallen below standards necessary to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Business Week reports that Lee plans to announce a strategy within the next 10 days that would allow them to keep their NYSE listing. Being forced to trade over-the-counter would be a severe black-eye for the firm, which continues to struggle with lower advertising revenues and declining circulation numbers.

Nonetheless, Lee officials say their circulation numbers are not as bad as the rest of the industry, which has seen a decline of some 20% over the past year.

Despite my arm-chair criticism of some practices at the Rapid City Journal – and the fact that I’ve become a habitual user of internet services – I’m hoping that Lee Enterprises and the Rapid City Journal will get through these difficult times.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe there’ll always be a place for print journalism products. While it’s hard for me to imagine a world without my morning newspaper, it’s clear that the industry will have to become more creative in finding ways to retain its relevancy in this glitzo-techno era.

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