Journal Communications Announces First-Quarter Profit, Reduced Debt

Journal Communications, publisher of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and operator of multiple radio and television stations, today reported first-quarter operating earnings of $10.4 million, up from a loss of $400,000 in the first quarter of 2009.

The theme of declining revenue in the newspaper space, established in last Friday’s earnings from USA Today publisher Gannett and today’s results from Lee Enterprises, were again echoed in Journal Communications’ results. Revenue from the company’s publishing unit dropped 7.4% from the year-ago quarter to $44.6 million. Daily-newspaper revenue likewise fell 5.3% to $37.5 million. The segment generated an operating profit of $3.4 million, up from a loss of $600,000 a year ago.

The company also reduced its overall debt by $16.7 million, building on debt reductions from 2009.

“We generated a significant increase in operating earnings in the first quarter despite a decline in publishing and printing services revenue,” said CEO and chairman Steve Smith in a statement. “Ongoing discipline in expense management and aggressive action throughout the last year has substantially driven down our overall cost platform.”

The company also said that second-quarter results would probably not be as good as they had been a year ago:

For the second quarter of 2010, we anticipate that publishing and printing services segment revenues will be down compared to the prior year period reflecting continued challenges with publishing advertising revenue and printing volumes. Broadcasting segment revenues are expected to be up compared to the prior year period helped by local, national and political television advertising.