ROCKLAND, Maine — Village NetMedia, the local news organization that owns and publishes four weekly or semiweekly newspapers in Maine, has decided to outsource its printing operations and to lay off 17 employees.
Village NetMedia publishes the Bar Harbor Times, the Capital Weekly in Augusta, the Herald Gazette in Rockland, and the Republican Journal in Belfast. Starting Wednesday, July 6, the newspapers will be printed by Sun Journal Media Group in Lewiston, the Rockland company identified Tuesday in a prepared statement.
In Tuesday’s statement, Village NetMedia CEO Richard Anderson indicated that the decision is an economic one. The company’s presses are more than 40 years old and in need of costly repairs, he indicated.
“While making the decision to close the company’s own print facility makes compelling business sense, the decision is made with great regret due to its effect on the lives of 15 full- and two part-time [employees] working at the plant,” Anderson said in the statement. “This is a very dedicated and capable staff. Our decision has no relationship to the quality of their work.”
One of the affected employees has worked at the plant for 34 years and five others have been there more than 19 years, he added.
The closure is effective immediately, the statement indicated.
Anderson said Tuesday that 19 people worked in the company’s printing division, but that two of them have taken other positions with Village NetMedia. The remaining 17 are being laid off, he said.
Aside from its own papers, Village NetMedia also printed another 20 or so newspapers that are part of a cooperative organized by Reade Brower, owner and president of The Free Press, a free weekly tabloid newspaper based in Rockland that serves coastal Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties. Those papers will be printed in Brunswick, at least on a short-term basis, by The Times Record newspaper, he said.
Village NetMedia started printing newspapers in 2008, when it purchased Courier Publications from South Carolina-based Crescent Publishing Co., which published six Maine newspapers at its Rockland printing facility. One of those papers, the Waldo Independent of Belfast, ceased publication while two others, the Camden Herald and the Courier-Gazette in Rockland, later were combined into the Herald-Gazette.
Anderson wrote in Tuesday’s release that printing the newspapers in Lewiston will give Village NetMedia, which operates online as Village Soup, the chance to expand the variety and format of its print products.
The Sun Journal printing facility can run up to 48 pages in one section, while the Village Soup presses can run only 24, which for Village Soup results in more frequent stopping of the presses and more wasted copies, according to Anderson. The Sun Journal presses, which operate 16 hours a day and seven days a week, can print 50 percent of a press run in color. The Village Soup presses operate 10 hours a day for four days each week and can only print 16 percent of each press run in color.
“This move gives the company greater flexibility to adjust to a world in which news and information is being accessed in many more ways than the printed newspaper,” Anderson said in the release. “Our focus needs to be on serving communities with timely and trusted content while leveraging the technology and equipment from those who consider printing their core business.”