How much should a newspaper cost?

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By Pat Turner
RBC | My first thought is that the price of a newspaper should at least cover the cost of the paper and the ink. After some number crunching, I realized this is no longer the case for the Herald Times, and hasn’t been for quite some time. The last time the Meeker Herald had a single copy rate increase was in 1987. That’s when it went from 25 to 50 cents. That was also before it merged with the Rangely Times and became the Rio Blanco Herald Times, covering the entire county. So, I started wondering, what did other things cost back in 1987?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 2.58 percent per year. Making $1 in 1987 is equivalent to $2.15 in 2017.
Consistent with that formula, it looks like most things have doubled in cost in the last 30 years. Let’s look at some other things and see if that holds true. In 1987 price of a first class stamp was 22 cents; a dozen eggs, 78 cents; a gallon of gas 95 cents; a pound of bacon $1.80.
A gallon of milk cost $2.28 and could be close to $8 by now if it weren’t for government subsidies: “Dairy Program Subsidies in the United States totaled $5.6 billion from 1995-2016.”
The amount of beer you could buy for $20 will now cost you at least $40. You could get a pack of cigarettes for $1, buy them out of a vending machine and smoke them on an airplane. That was the year they first banned smoking on flights of two hours or less but the ban didn’t go into effect until 1988.
The Macintosh SE computer came out on March 2, 1987, and it would cost you $2,899 with two floppy drives, or $3,899 with a 20 megabyte hard drive. You could still watch most of the best shows on TV for free and you could get a movie ticket for about $4. Ronald Reagan said, “Tear down this wall!” Stock markets crashed worldwide. The FDA approved Prozac. Microsoft released Windows 2.0. Niki and I were going to high school in Glenwood Springs and dating at the time.
What can you buy for $1 today? A cup of black coffee at McDonalds, a candy bar, a bottle of water, a can of Spam, a bumper sticker, two stamps, one song on iTunes, yard sale items, $1 menu fast food, a tomato, an ebook, lemonade from a child’s stand, about a third of a gallon of gas, a lottery ticket, a temporary tattoo, Chapstick. “It’s only a dollar,” we tell ourselves. Even the Tooth Fairy has had to adapt with inflation. The current rate for a tooth, according to Delta Dental, is $4.50.
In the interest of maintaining a wise business model and keeping up with the ever-increasing costs of producing the newspaper every week, the price of the paper will be joining those $1 items in the next few weeks. It’s not a comfortable decision to make, but it’s a necessary one.