Headlines on local, state and national stories have lamented the extreme challenges posed by the current labor shortage. Manufacturers, retailers, distributors, tourism locales, service workers and the food and beverage industry all report being devastated by a lack of available workers.

No doubt local residents have seen evidence of this with stores and restaurants closing early, service personnel with no availability and customer service challenges in multiple arenas. A shortage of truck drivers caused a domino effect hitting multiple industries hard. Community pools had curtailed hours because of too few lifeguards. Now, schools are short on bus drivers.

Add newspapers to the list of challenged industries.

Over the past months, the Telegraph Herald has worked hard to keep worker shortages from affecting our ability to get newspapers to households. In recent days, however, that task has become increasingly difficult. As an information provider, we fall into three of the hardest-hit categories: service, manufacturing and distribution (trucking), particularly with our printed newspaper product.

We have some significant shortages of our own that we are struggling to address. In a few locations, it has risen to a point that has rendered us unable to continue to get newspapers to households in a traditional manner.

Currently, 75% of full-time positions on our third shift in our distribution center in Dubuque are open, prompting some of our daytime staff to work nights to try to help carry the load while we search for new employees.

District managers who normally oversee the delivery of routes now are out delivering newspapers each morning — because we can’t find carriers — and collectively are tackling duties requiring attention literally around the clock.

We currently have four open motor routes, which are rural delivery routes requiring significant driving, that serve more than 400 newspaper subscribers. To date, we have been unable to fill those positions. This has resulted in us having to temporarily move delivery of the newspaper in these areas to the mail, which is both slower and more expensive for us.

We are using every means we can think of to recruit new distribution center employees and drivers, including referral bonuses, signing bonuses, all methods/platforms of advertising, trying to find temporary employees, utilizing internal fill-ins and other avenues.

While we are not a utility, people sometimes think of us and treat us as one. While flattering and appreciated, it’s also frustrating when we can’t meet our own expectations, and those of our customers, of “always there” status.

We have every intention of moving these mail routes back to carrier delivery as soon as we are able to secure drivers who can make the deliveries. We are literally and figuratively working overtime to try to solve the staffing shortage issues.

We ask for your understanding and patience as we work through these challenges. Just as our friends in other industries are enduring similar obstacles to delivering products and services in the manner we would like, we all continue to meet our customers’ expectations as best we can.

As always, we thank you for your support and your readership.

Bob Woodward is vice president of Woodward Community Media and publisher of the Telegraph Herald.

Recommended for you