Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shared presses will squeeze deadlines

Plans to print two McClatchy titles in the plants of neighboring newspapers almost certainly will force earlier deadlines in the newsrooms of all four papers, which could compromise the quality of their coverage.

In a development likely to become increasingly commonplace among publishers eager to reduce operating costs, MNI and privately held Pioneer Newspapers announced plans to shift the production of two McClatchy papers to nearby plants operated by Pioneer.

Printing of Boise’s Idaho Statesman (circulation 63k daily) will move 20 miles to the Idaho Press-Tribune (circ 20k) in Nampa. MNI also is finalizing negotiations to move its 23k-circ daily in Bellingham, WA, to Pioneer's slightly smaller one in Mount Vernon, which is 30 miles south.

While consolidated production economically makes all the sense in the world (except for the pressmen and mailroom workers who lose their jobs at the McClatchy plants), it will force a speedup in the production cycle at each affected paper, so as to assure papers come off the press in time to hit the doorsteps of subscribers no later than they do today.

This will require earlier deadlines at every point in the production schedule, starting with the newsroom. In most cases, this will not be a big issue, especially because the papers are operating on West Coast time. But it could matter a lot in the case of late-breaking local news, coverage of important evening meetings, election-night squeakers and, of course, late sports scores.

The McClatchy papers probably will have to deal with earlier deadlines than the Pioneer papers, as they will have to get off the press earlier -- especially on snow days -- to begin the journey to their respective destinations.

Although the earlier deadlines make perfect economic sense, they will make the newspapers somewhat less competitive than they are today with such instantaneous media as cable news and the Internet.

The trade-off may be unavoidable and, for the most part, benign. But news staffs will have to step livelier than ever to minimize its impact.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Billy Dean Singleton is finding out in the Bay area, this sort of consolidation of printing operations often does not work out well. Nothing makes subscribers angrier than getting no paper or late papers. The Idaho consolidation also is problematical because of the miserable winters there, which are going to mean days when trucks can't make the extra 30 mile trip. But these cuts are piddling compared to the size of savings MNI has to find to keep current on its $2.4 billion debt payments. Assuming a 6 percent interest rate, MNI is facing $144 million off the top of revenues each year forever to pay for this ridiculous and reckless KR purchase. MNI now trading perilously close to its $5 book value, leading me to speculate there has to be some Sam Zell-like takeover artist waiting out there salavating over a fortune that could be made just from the real estate values of breaking up this empire. What a tragedy for a company whose stock was selling at $70 in 2004-05.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great strategy. As communication moves faster in a digital world, let's find a way to make our news even more stale.

11:23 AM  

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