The Sheet would like to welcome new Mammoth Times Publisher Heather McKie to town. She is the sixth publisher of the Times (following in the hallowed footsteps of Wally, Dale, Sharon, Bob and Dave) since The Sheet was founded in 2003.
That said, Ms. McKie may have been better served doing a bit more research before writing her first column.
In regard to the bid for the Town’s legal classified business, it is certainly not her fault that no member of the Mammoth Times actually showed up to represent the company at the Council meeting where the bid was awarded. Nor is it her fault that the Times did not send someone to cover the meeting, period. But a full presentation of the facts relating to the decision would have painted a better picture for her readers.
Indeed, the Times submitted a lower bid for the job, 99 cents per column inch as opposed to The Sheet’s bid of $6.60.
The Sheet based its bid on historical data obtained from the County which showed that the Times, when it had enjoyed a monopoly on the business as the sole legally adjudicated paper in Mono County, had charged approx. $10 per column inch.
From $10 to $1. Sounds like BP stock.
The Sheet also based its bid on our regular ad rates. We felt the rate charged to a government entity should be consistent with what everyone else pays.
We certainly never contemplated putting forth an artificially low bid with the idea that other advertisers would ultimately subsidize the difference.
Here is what Ms. McKie did not tell you.
The Town estimated that the job was worth about $5,000/year. By taking The Sheet’s bid, the overall effect to the Town’s budget was $4,000.
Say the Town had taken the low bid and a local citizen wanted to look at the legals. He or she would have had to pay 50 cents for the privilege. 8,000 readers later, the public would have been out $4,000 anyway if the Times been awarded the bid.
To put this in perspective, The Sheet publishes more than 6,000 newspapers per week during the summer and winter seasons.
In fact, The Sheet prints, on average, 2,000 more newspapers per week than the Mammoth Times (according to the bid documents).
Note: The Sheet also posts these legal notices online so one does not have to subscribe to the paper to access this public information. The Times apparently never considered doing this while it published the legals.
Town Council, in its wisdom, felt it was getting more bang for the buck by placing public notices in The Sheet because the circulation numbers would suggest we have 100,000 more readers on an annual basis.
100,000 sets of eyeballs for $4,000? That’s good business.
Other businesses think so, too. That’s why our roster of advertisers continues to grow.
That’s also why the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce recently chose The Sheet to publish its official 4th of July program for the second consecutive year.
Now we have heard the criticism that because The Sheet is a free publication, we cannot verify our circulation.
Well, what I can verify is that I am not in the business of ordering more copies than I need just for the hell of it. In fact, there is incredible temptation as well as incentive for a publisher to cut back. Each paper I don’t print equates to money back in my pocket. And who’s really going to know the difference, right?
Me. I know the difference. People who suddenly can’t find a paper because we didn’t print enough know the difference.
The Sheet and the Mammoth Times are both printed by the Daily Independent out of Ridgecrest. I would be more than agreeable to having the D.I. release our respective print orders for the past year.
I understand Ms. McKie’s frustration, indeed her entire Illinois-based company’s frustration, at watching some private operator who started from scratch overtake them.
But really, what occurred during the week when the bid award was made spoke volumes.
While the Times was busy laying off another writer, likely in part due to its lowball bid, The Sheet added Lara Kirkner, a former Times’ staffer who left the Fifty when she was pulled off the Barker Ranch story.
Though she’d been following the story for a year, Publisher Dave Balcom told her she couldn’t go the excavation because there was a Town Council meeting to cover. In polite terms, I think she told Mr. Balcom that he could go cover Council himself.
Balcom declined, as that would have required his appearing in public.
But I digress. The point is, while The Sheet strives to continually provide more (in part because I’m not creative enough as a businessperson to do anything more than reinvest my resources back into my product). The Times model has been to provide way less for less so that corporate still gets its fair share.
Perhaps Ms. McKie can halt this trend. I do admire her feistiness out of the box – a breath of fresh air from that stale 2nd floor fart – and I admire her courage at buying property given the longevity of her predecessors, but it remains to be seen as to whether her passion will be fueled by reason or righteousness.
Either way, I suppose it’s a win-win. Either she turns the Times around, which is good for the community, or she provides Larry McKee with another commission.
In the meantime, I guess we’ll wait for the County to weigh in next on the strength of each of our arguments. The County has also bid its legal classified business. I don’t know what the Times bid was. My bid was the same price I gave the Town.