Press Democrat’s move to East Bay printing plant will take advantage of new technologies
The closure of The Press Democrat’s Rohnert Park printing plant on Sunday evening represents the next chapter for the 165-year-old newspaper, one in which it will leverage some of the latest advances in printing in the region.
The paper, which is owned by Sonoma Media Investments, will begin printing Monday at the San Francisco Chronicle’s East Bay production site in Fremont. Forty-two local employees will lose their jobs due to the closure.
The change will result in upgraded printing capabilities so The Press Democrat can take advantage of a generation of new technology changes the Chronicle plant can offer, said Troy Niday, chief operating officer at Sonoma Media Investments.
“They have the newest equipment in the area,” he said.
The Rohnert Park facility is a local 70,000 square foot factory that was opened in 1986. It was built to support a print run of 120,000 copies daily, but was printing about 30,000. Too much of the cavernous building was not in use, Niday said.
The Chronicle, which is owned by Hearst Corp. since 2000 has touted the Fremont plant as “one of the most automated newspaper printing facilities in the world” and had its printing machinery imported from Germany. The Chronicle started printing from the East Bay plant in 2009 after the closure of its aging Union City print shop.
The Chronicle plant has more capabilities than Rohnert Park, such as producing 36 wide-format color pages in a traditional run, said Jeff Lawson, senior vice president of print operations in San Francisco for Hearst Newspapers.
This can be extended up to 96 full color pages for longer weekends which may have additional sections.
The 170,000 square foot facility in Fremont has two press lines and space for a third line if needed, Lawson said. This allowed Hearst to print other titles every night with The Chronicle.
The establishment also prints the national edition of The New York Timesthe FinancialTimes, The Sacramento Bee and The Modesto Bee, says Lawson. The plant prints 21 separate titles on a weekly basis as more and more newspapers choose to outsource their printing.
“We consider it a manufacturing facility,” Lawson said. “It’s all about speed, performance and quality.”
The Chronicle factory is also much more efficient. The Fremont plant can print a daily edition of The Press Democrat in about 20 minutes, Lawson said.
âThe speed is about double the press you get at The Press Democrat factory,â he said.
It also ensures that morning delivery times will not be negatively affected for Press Democrat subscribers.
The Fremont plant can also operate with fewer employees, making it more profitable in an industry that is increasingly shifting from print to digital products.
Workers in older mills typically handled tasks such as preprint inserts, packing for delivery, and loading newsprint into the printing press. This has been largely automated in the Chronicle factory, Lawson said.
The Chronicle plant, Niday noted, also has a full backup generator, which is crucial at a time when the region has seen power outages due to wildfire threats and the action of PG&E to initiate power outages in the area as a precautionary measure. prevent its power lines from starting a fire.
The Press Democrat also faced maintenance cost issues with the Rohnert Park facility, particularly finding replacement parts given the shrinking print industry as a whole, said Niday.
“It’s much easier to maintain,” he said of the Fremont plant.
The only physical change readers might notice is that the length of the paper will be about an inch shorter since it was produced at the new factory, Niday said.
The move will allow the company to realize “significant” savings by outsourcing production to the Chronicle, said Niday, who did not offer an exact amount.
“It really gives us a couple of years to get our feet wet and manage this ongoing transition,” Niday said of a greater focus on digital products. Later this year, the company will also move from its headquarters on Mendocino Avenue to a smaller space in downtown Santa Rosa, which will also help reduce operating costs.
The Chronicle had contacted Sonoma Media Investments to gauge its interest in printing its publications at its Fremont plant with a spot for The Press Democrat to go to press at 8 p.m. for its nightly run, Niday said.
It’s about three hours earlier than Rohnert Park.