UPDATE: ‘AJC’ Closes One Plant, Upgrades the Other

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By: E&P Staff

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced last week that it not only will reduce and reorganize its newsroom staff (E&P Online, Feb. 15), but also will invest $12 million in a new classified advertising system, close its Fulton production plant in two years, and spend $30 million to upgrade its 20-year-old Norcross plant, in Gwinnett County.

Consolidation of printing will simplify production and provide more color, thanks to the expansion of existing press lines and new controls on those TKS presses. The change will occasion the loss of some jobs downtown, according to Publisher John Mellott.

Like the Norcross plant, the older Fulton pressroom has four TKS presses, but no printing units are to be relocated and added to the presses in the Norcross plant, according to AJC communications director Mary Dugenske. Instead, the paper intends to add two color towers to each of three presses in Norcross (where two towers were added to the fourth press several years ago in order to provide color capacity needed to print The New York Times). According to Operations Director Richard Hawes, equipment from MAN Roland, TKS and Goss International is under consideration.

The major restructuring of the newspaper’s operations also includes withdrawing circulation to 66 of the 145 Georgia counties where it is now available. Though no longer to be distributed in Florida, Alabama or South Carolina, the AJC will still circulate in three counties in Tennessee and four in North Carolina. Cox Newspapers’ flagship will be unavailable, however, in the Georgia cities of Augusta and Savannah, on the coast, and Columbus and Albany, in the southwest. Print-edition readers in unserved areas may chose to receive the newspaper by mail.

Areas of cutbacks were said to have “relatively few subscribers.” Also citing limited advertiser interest and distribution costs as high as $5 per 50-cent copy in some places, Publisher John Mellott said the move will incur a 5% circulation loss. The circulation department is expected to eliminate 44 jobs and the need for 128 independent carriers, according to last Thursday’s report.

The paper also reported that it will “shift more resources” to its already heavily emphasized digital news production.

The AJC will scale back its Thursday community editions from 13 to four, with remaining zones larger than before and focused on metro Atlanta’s most populous areas — Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett counties. Its Home & Garden section will be replaced by a HomeStyle section, to appear in community editions.

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