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Hot off the new press

Change brings narrower newspaper, renewed commitment to quality

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
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The new Gazette printing press during a run on January 22, 2014. The new press is actually a slightly used one, purchased in May 2013 from AFL Web Printing, a New Jersey company that closed last February.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
The new Gazette printing press during a run on January 22, 2014. The new press is actually a slightly used one, purchased in May 2013 from AFL Web Printing, a New Jersey company that closed last February.

— Today’s issue of The Daily Gazette is smaller in size, but represents a big step forward.

It is the first edition to be printed on a replacement press that will cut costs and enhance productivity for the Hume family-owned newspaper. Along with the paper’s new look comes more focused local content, honed through reader input.

The new press is actually a slightly used one, purchased in May 2013 from AFL Web Printing, a New Jersey company that closed last February. With its five Manugraph DGM 440 towers, the press can print about 45,000 impressions in an hour. Factor in setup time, and it can print the day’s paper in about two hours.

The press replaces the Colormax flexographic units used by The Gazette since 2003.

The old press produced a high-quality product, but the cost of producing the plates needed for each edition became prohibitive.

“The Hume family has made a commitment to the community and its employees and the value of media news for the community, and the only way to keep going was to find a press that we could run efficiently,” said Elizabeth Hume Lind, president of The Gazette’s board of directors.

The move required a $2 million investment, but the company will see an annual production savings in excess of $600,000, said Publisher John DeAugustine.

The replacement press will enable The Gazette to contract out printing services to clients, opening a new revenue stream for the paper. The towers can print on newsprint in a variety of sizes — something the old press couldn’t do.

The Gazette will be prepared to accept printing jobs from other businesses by the end of March, according to DeAugustine.

Although the newspaper is now 11 percent smaller in dimension — it measures 11.5 inches by 22 inches, to be exact — the quality of the product has not been downsized.

This month, a new reporter was hired to cover state government, technology and education, and management is in the process of hiring a second one. A Web editor also recently joined the newsroom staff.

“This isn’t a cost-savings move on the news side,” DeAugustine said.

A readership survey conducted in 2013 has helped editors tailor The Gazette’s content to readers’ preferences.

“The paper will be a little bit smaller but the content will still be there,” said Judy Patrick, The Gazette’s editor. “What we’re trying to do is use the space more efficiently and package it in a way that makes sense. What we hope people will realize is the quality of our content and the depth of our local reporting.”

The type size featured in The Gazette remains the same as in the past, DeAugustine said.

To ensure there are no disruptions in publication, the old press will remain functional for about two months, ready to print the newspaper if there are glitches with its replacement.

Once the old press is dismantled, a great deal of space will be freed up in The Gazette’s Maxon Road headquarters. Non-production staff will be moved to the second floor of the building and a tenant is being sought for the first floor, where 24,000 square feet of space will be available.

A great deal of work went into preparing for the first run of the newspaper on the replacement press.

“I want to thank the employees for the time and effort they put into helping us install the press — both employees and management,” said William Hume, secretary and treasurer of The Gazette.

Those who operate the press have had an exceptionally heavy workload, he noted.

“Every day they had to continue to put out the paper and at the same time assist with the installation and learn the new system,” he said.

An extraordinary amount of effort has also been put forth by the those who layout the paper daily, Hume Lind added. Employees had to redesign the layout to fit the paper’s new size.

 
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