Bangor Publishing reaches printing agreement with Sun Media Group

The Bangor Daily News production plant in Hampden opened in 1989.
BDN File Photo
The Bangor Daily News production plant in Hampden opened in 1989.
Posted June 28, 2013, at 4:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Publishing Co., owner of the Bangor Daily News, on Friday announced plans to shutter its Hampden printing plant later this year. The company has reached agreements with media partners to print its daily newspaper.

In September, Bangor Publishing will begin to outsource the majority of its printing to Sun Media Group, owner of the Sun Journal in Lewiston and several weeklies, including The Forecaster, according to Todd Benoit, chief operating officer of Bangor Publishing Co.

To handle the job, Sun Media Group will subcontract some printing to Alliance Press, which operates a commercial printing press in Brunswick.

Issues of the BDN distributed in Aroostook County will be printed at Bangor Publishing’s press in Presque Isle, where one of the company’s subsidiaries, Northeast Publishing Co., is located.

Benoit said multiple factors contributed to the decision to consolidate printing operations, including reduced circulation and an aging flexographic press, built in 1964, which would need substantial investment in the near future.

Also, the BDN’s digital audience now far exceeds its print audience, providing an opportunity for investment and growth.

As the media landscape changes, consolidation of printing operations is becoming more common. Earlier this month, the New Hampshire Union Leader idled its printing press and outsourced the work to Seacoast Media Group, which owns the Portsmouth Herald and the York County Coast Star. The Boston Herald also recently began outsourcing its printing to The Boston Globe.

In the late 1980s, when Bangor Publishing built the Hampden printing plant, the BDN’s daily print circulation was approximately 85,000, Benoit said. Today, it’s roughly 47,000.

Bangor Publishing will realize substantial savings from this decision, Benoit said.

“No one ever wants to see a press shut down,” he said. “But the dramatic changes in our industry nationwide require news organizations, including here in Maine, to find new efficiencies through cooperation and partnerships.”

“The BDN remains committed to the region and will continue to deliver the Bangor Daily News without interruption,” he added.

Bangor Publishing has a news sharing partnership with the Sun Media Group and its media properties.

“Partnerships have become increasingly common in the newspaper industry as they try to maximize efficiencies to better serve their readers and advertisers in print and online,” James Costello Jr., vice president of operations at Sun Media Group, said in a statement. “This partnership will help strengthen our locally owned companies and position each of us for the future.”

“We have a proud tradition of providing an excellent newspaper at Bangor Daily News,” Publisher Richard J. Warren said in a statement, “and that is in large part because of the press operators and production staff, some of whom have worked for three or four decades for us. We are grateful to them and we will miss them.”

The BDN’s 27 full-time workers at its Hampden press facility will be offered a comprehensive severance package including severance pay, extended health care coverage and retraining assistance through the rapid response team at the Maine Career Center.

To handle the increased print runs, the printing facilities in Presque Isle, Lewiston and Brunswick will be looking to add jobs, Benoit said. Employees displaced by the Hampden closure will be considered for these positions.

“Each of those facilities is looking at what those needs are right now and they don’t have a number,” Benoit said.

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