Ink Runs Dry

Idaho Statesman dumps staff, old printing press


After decades of half-hearted encroachment on Idaho Press-Tribune news turf in Canyon County, the Idaho Statesman will start buying ink by the barrel for its smaller rival starting early next year. The Statesman will put its old printing press to sleep and start contracting out the paper's printing to the Press-Tribune.

"It doesn't make sense in any market to have two new presses," said Press-Tribune publisher Rick Weaver.

The announcement came on the same day that the Statesman laid off 16 employees in finance, information technology and production. It will also let 20 press operators and production staff go when the paper's print shop jumps to Nampa in early 2009. The June 16 layoffs were part of a 10 percent workforce reduction announced by the McClatchy Company, the nation's third largest newspaper chain, which has owned the Statesman for about two years.

The Statesman buried the layoff announcement seven paragraphs into a June 17 business section story that ran without a byline. Layoffs at the Sacramento Bee and the Miami Herald, McClatchy's star papers, will cut into the newsroom and several of the company's aggressive foreign bureaus will be left unstaffed.

Pioneer Press, the smaller newspaper group that owns the Press-Tribune, and McClatchy announced a similar printing partnership in Washington, where the Skagit Valley Herald will print the larger Bellingham Herald.

Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish said the decision to contract out printing was strictly financial and not related to increasing emphasis on the Web for news delivery.

"It's extremely costly to build a new press," Parrish told BW. "I believe in the importance and viability of print."

The Nampa paper has a five-year-old DGM printing press and has ordered two new color towers to help fulfill its 20-year printing contract with the Statesman, Weaver said. The Press-Tribune will hire Roger Stowell from the Statesman as its new production director, starting Aug. 1, and may end up hiring four to six additional pressmen, possibly from the Statesman ranks, Weaver said.

The Statesman will not be packaged in Nampa, and may hire more mailers to assemble the papers and stuff them full of ads, according to a union representative. It's the only union job left at the Statesman.

Weaver said the idea to share printing costs came after a discussion between the CEOs at Pioneer and McClatchy and proceeded locally from there. The two companies remain committed to putting news above cost-cutting, despite the recent layoff announcements at McClatchy, Weaver said.

"McClatchy has more of a long term picture, I think," he said.

The two papers agreed on a press schedule that gives the Press-Tribune a slight advantage on late-breaking news. While the Statesman will go to press earlier than the Press-Tribune it maintains its current deadlines. Press-Tribune editor Vickie Holbrook is pleased with the arrangement: "For the record, the Idaho Press-Tribune will have the latest deadline: 1:30 a.m."