February 26, 2010

MaineToday consolidates printing of three papers

BETH QUIMBY

— By

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: The Morning Sentinel is printed at the South Portland printing facility owned by MaineToday Media Inc. Photographed on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009. Rob Woodward monitors the printing press.

Staff Writer

As of today, the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel not only have the same owner, they share the same printing press.

MaineToday Media Inc., which publishes all three daily newspapers, has consolidated printing operations at its plant in South Portland, to save money and make the printing process more efficient, reliable and colorful.

The 19-year-old Flexographic press in South Portland is relatively modern and has untapped capacity, while the aging press installed in Augusta in 1973 to print the central Maine dailies needed significant maintenance and repairs.

MaineToday Media executives said the move is just another change in the evolution of the newspaper industry and the company. The company will maintain its editorial and advertising offices in both Waterville and Augusta.

''What is most important is this: The Kennebec Journal is not leaving Augusta and the Morning Sentinel is not leaving Waterville,'' said Richard L. Connor, editor and publisher of all three newspapers and chief executive officer of MaineToday Media.

The press in South Portland will now churn out more than 121,000 copies of the Sunday editions of the three newspapers. On a daily basis, the combined circulation is just under 90,000 copies.

All Sentinel readers will now receive the same edition. Previously a second, up-country edition was distributed in Skowhegan, Farmington and towns to the north.

Deadlines for news stories and advertising copy remain relatively unchanged for all three newspapers, and may even be extended in the future. The consolidation increases the capacity for color photos and advertisements in the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal.

The consolidation was months in the making. It was originally planned for September, but was delayed to make the transition as seamless as possible for readers and advertisers, said Mark Barry, vice president of circulation and marketing.

Last week, the South Portland plant began printing Waterville's 105-year-old Morning Sentinel, which was printed previously at the Kennebec Journal, 274 Western Ave. in Augusta.

Today's edition of the daily Kennebec Journal is the first printed in South Portland. The paper has been published since 1825.

Thirty-nine full- and part-time workers were affected by the consolidation. All were offered positions in South Portland. Nine accepted, and the others opted to leave the company.

The logistics of printing all three dailies on one press and transporting two of them at least 60 miles north are complicated, requiring minute-to-minute planning, said Dick DeHaven, interim operations manager.

''It's a game of coordination,'' he said.

There are just minutes between the Sentinel and Kennebec Journal press runs. At times, the Press Herald will be printed simultaneously.

After printing, the newspapers are loaded onto trucks in South Portland. MaineToday Media's transportation department contracts to use six trucks during the week and 23 on Sundays. Five are being added to the fleet, to transport the central Maine newspapers 65 minutes up Interstate 295 to Augusta.

From there, the newspapers are transferred to employees who drive them to carrier drops, vendor boxes and stores.

''It is a very complicated series of steps, which is why we will be making refinements in the future,'' Barry said.

MaineToday Media works with 274 contractors who deliver the Press Herald/Telegram to 52,000 homes every morning, and also deliver The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, the Financial Times and USA Today.

Seventeen others help deliver newspapers to 2,000 vendor boxes, stores and other locations around the state.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@pressherald.com

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