Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Help Me Howard: Miami Herald
Do you get a newspaper delivered to your door? Have you noticed it seems to be getting smaller and smaller? Well, the loss of one section has one South Floridian upset with the Miami Herald after they told subscribers' 'Pay more for the TV section or lose it.' Can they do that to subscribers in the middle of their contract? Here is Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- For decades many people had a Sunday routine, make a pot of coffee, sit down and read the paper.
Steve Kreisher: "Sunday's the summation of the week, and it also offers the coupons and the ads and the TV Week for the rest of the week."
Today, newspaper subscription levels are falling. The papers are financially in deep trouble cutting costs and looking for ways to generate a few dollars. The Miami Herald may have found one way.
Steve Kreisher: "Three weeks ago they started putting a notice on the TV Week that said, 'Attention subscribers' that they wanted to start charging an extra 25 cents a week to continue to reseve a TV Week in your newspaper.'"
In November, Steve Kreisher paid for a one-year subscription to get the Herald on Sunday. It would cost him 75 cents a week. Now if he wants to get the TV section, he has to pay more.
Steve Kreisher: "It's 25 cents, but if you think about it, it's 25 cents over a 75 cents original charge, which is 33 percent. That's quite an increase for basically getting the same thing except they decided to enhance it a little bit."
The paper told readers they were improving the TV supplement, and you need to pay a quarter more to get it. Steve says the Herald's increased costs are their problem.
Steve Kreisher: "For example, when they went to color and changed the kind of ink they use, they didn't charge us any differently, they just did their thing to make their paper better."
Steve's bottom line, "I paid 75 cents that included a TV section, and until my subscription for the Sunday paper expires, I want to continue to get that."
Steve Kreisher: "They made an offer, I accepted it. I paid for it in advance and now they want to change the terms."
So, Howard, two questions: Is a subscription a binding contract, and secondly, can a paper struggling to make ends meet force you to pay extra to keep getting the same paper?
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, yes, a subscription is a contract. Now, has the Herald violated the contract? Maybe because the Herald has basically created a second newspaper that includes a TV section for a quarter more that way they can argue. Steve is getting a Sunday paper, just not the more expensive Sunday paper with the TV section."
When I spoke to a Miami Herald representative, she disagreed with Howard and said we do not consider a subscription a contract, that sections come and sections go that given the pressures on the newspaper business we determined the usage of the TV book is low, and rather than eliminate it, we, let our readers decide, pay more for it or drop it.
Howard says battling it would be tough.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a reader wanted to take this to court and it were any other company they would have a good chance to win, but getting a judge to rule against the Herald in a close legal call is unlikely. Papers are struggling, but they still have power and influence."
Steve is aggravated not about the quarter but about the promise he thought he had with the Herald.
Steve Kreisher: 'It's not so much the 25 cents, as it is the principle contracts mean nothing anymore, so it's getting to the point where who is going to stand up, who is going to start speaking up?"
Patrick Fraser: "Well, if you are not happy with the Herald's decision, they are telling customers you can cancel your subscription and get the money owed back. Steve is irritated, but he won't cancel. Like he says there are still a lot of things in the paper he looks forward to."
Papered with problems that have left you covered in ink? Need a cleanup? You don't have to subscribe to us, just deliver the problem and we'll try to Herald your solution on TV.
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