NNA monitors worst systemwide mail delays, disruptions in decades; advises USPS of problems

Tonda Rush

Dec 16, 2020

National Newspaper Association members are reporting systemwide problems in getting newspapers delivered by mail this season. NNA has alerted the Postal Service to the issues and is working with USPS service teams to address them.

“We want publishers to understand that these delays are not just in their markets, nor the result of failures by printers or mail preparers. This is happening partly because of COVID-19-related personnel absences, but mostly because of record numbers of packages in the mail,” NNA Chair Brett Wesner, president of Wesner Publications in Cordell, Oklahoma, said. “We are in continuous conversation with the senior management at USPS about this problem.”

The Postal Service expected to deliver roughly 20 million packages a day during the holiday season, but that number has exceeded 40 million some days, according to USPS. Mail processing plants and local post offices are challenged to keep up with the volume.

“The private couriers, like United Parcel Service, can decline to accept packages. We are receiving reports in the mailing industry that the private networks are overloaded so packages are being deferred to the Postal Service, which cannot refuse to accept them. This is particularly an issue for rural areas, where less dense deliveries are unprofitable for the private services but a required service for USPS. Unfortunately, that pushes a glut of package volume into the areas where many of our newspapers are also trying to reach subscribers,” Wesner said.

NNA said it expected service to improve after the holiday package season ends, but NNA cautioned that as vaccine deliveries are ramping up for the private couriers, USPS might still be the deliverer of last resort for packages displaced by the priority vaccine packages.

“Short-term, we advise our members to use maximum self-help. Use exceptional dispatch where you can. Convert long-distance subscribers to paid digital subscriptions where you can. Pay attention to Postal Tips in Publishers’ Auxiliary to stay up to speed on what you can do. Most of all, make sure members of Congress know you are having problems. This disruption is not only about packages. It is also about a neglected USPS that is being pressured to cut overtime and save money because Congress has not done its part to help create a sustainable service. Long term, we have to find the right fix to keep universal service alive,” Wesner said.

The National Newspaper Association represents 1,600 community newspapers across the United States.