Magazine article Editor & Publisher

To Stay, to Move or Both?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

To Stay, to Move or Both?

Article excerpt

AS INTEGRAL PARTS of their communities, newspapers are increasingly sensitive when it comes to splitting operations from their traditional downtown homes to suburban locations.

At the same time, newspapers are adopting horizontal and vertical changes, and are finally beginning to view production as a manufacturing process, not something that happens on the other side of the wall. Large trucks bring in materials and, in many instances, ship newspapers to regional centers.

These are the key considerations newspapers face when deciding how to meet current and future press and postpress needs for evolving business.

Most of today's newspaper facilities evolved during "gentler" times when the limitations of urban infrastructures did not seem inconsistent with the needs of a newspaper production operation. For most newspapers, however, times have changed.

Historically, strategic planning decisions focused primarily on press issues. Initially, the evolution from letterpress to offset or flexography was motivation to change. Some papers are still facing this decision, but fewer and fewer each year. Press-related issues, still a factor in many projects, more often involve adding color capacity, increasing the number of sections of moving to straight mode from collect.

In many cases, adding postpress equipment can be an alternative to investing in press alterations. And press issues are often overshadowed by inadequacies in postpress processing, as newspapers produce more advanced and niche products than ever before, free-standing insert volumes rise and advertisers demand more zoning. Packaging centers, struggling to handle the resulting volume and complexity of products, are often the driving force behind expansions and relocations.

Today's presses stretch somewhat longer than those of yesteryear and, with color towers, stand dramatically taller, but modern packaging systems typically require two to three times the space currently in use. Not to diminish the need for space in modern press, rooms, the sheer magnitude of postpress operations creates significantly higher space requirements.

Evaluating what to do forces newspapers to consider significant issues. Seldom does a newspaper opt to split operations unless there is a compelling logistical, financial, or operational advantage to be gained -- or unless there is no alternative.

There is an appeal to staying at a location that is identified with the news, paper. Interdepartmental communications are more direct. Staff synergy is enhanced. Downtown services, such as public transportation and restaurants, are readily available. Department supervisors can respond quickly to production problems. And often, the total capital needed to stay downtown is less than starting over somewhere else.

In recent years, the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance, Allentown, Pa., Morning Call, and Miami Herald are just a few of the newspapers that decided to remodel and expand current facilities -- after studying options of moving or staying put.

Kevin Lindgren, director of operations at the Morning Call, said the paper "had a strong identity in downtown Allentown and made a conscious decision to stay there. We embarked on an aggressive property acquisition program to assemble the land needed to expand our facility."

The trade-offs

Staying put is not without hardship or compromise, however. Old buildings must be evaluated for compliance with new codes. Replacing existing components such as roofing and air conditioning can be very disruptive. Work must be carefully scheduled to allow manufacturing and distribution to continue, while maintaining employee safety. Building in sequential phases can raise costs 25% or more.

Downtown expansions often force vertical stacking arrangements, often resulting in compromised work flows and lost opportunities to integrate functions. Flexibility for future change and expansion may be severely constrained, especially at downtown sites. …

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