Operations

Santa Fe New Mexican Assumes Printing of the Albuquerque Journal

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As many newspapers seek cost savings and increased efficiencies through consolidation, this popular trend has found its way to the two largest papers in New Mexico: the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal. These family-owned newspapers have announced that they will soon partner production operations, and the Journal will be moving all its printing to the New Mexican production facility.

The transfer of printing and mailroom operations is scheduled to take place Oct. 12. Sister publications of the Journal will also move production to the New Mexican’s facility: the Rio Rancho Observer, Valencia County News-Bulletin and El Defensor Chieftain of Socorro.

The newsrooms and other business operations will remain independent and the production move will not affect size or content in either publication.

William P. Lang, president of the Journal, told the Associated Press in a recent statement that “the financial savings from the arrangement will strengthen the newspapers’ ability to continue to report and print news important to New Mexico.” The AP further quoted him as saying, “We have been in this plant for 38 years and it has served us well, but as an aging plant, it has  become more and more expensive to operate”.

Referencing the relationship between the two publications, New Mexican president Robin Martin recently was quoted by the AP to say, “That was rare in the days when most newspapers were family-owned and neighboring publications were often fierce rivals. I am sure our two fathers would be happy that their children are working together to keep their publications family owned and dedicated to their communities.”

Both publications boast a solid foothold in New Mexico’s history. Journal Publishing Co. was created in 1880 from the Golden Gate and quickly changed the name to the Albuquerque Daily Journal, printing its first edition in October 1880. The New Mexican, dubbed “the West’s oldest newspaper,” printed its first issue in November 1849.

Back in 1982, the Journal installed a press and quickly outgrew its page capacity over the years. Their previous press printed on a 50-inch web and incorporated unit to unit printing to achieve process color.

Recognizing the need for additional color capacity for graphics and general presentation in 2015, the Albuquerque Publishing Co. started installation of a newer press. The company purchased a used Goss Metro Color press from the Fort Worth Star Telegram after Fort Worth moved its printing to the Dallas Morning News. The mammoth press constructed of seven print towers, totaled 28 units and increased page capacity from 40 to 112 pages of color in a single run, while improving registration. The Journal also reduced its size from a 50 to a 44-inch web and reduced the cutoff by approximately three-quarters of an inch. These moves reduced newsprint consumption by approximately seventeen percent, saving on ink and plates as well.

“As equipment ages and expenses to operate and maintain mount, we’re all looking for ways to reduce expenses and secure our place in the industry, allowing us to continue to bring the latest and most informative news to our communities” Lang said. “The transfer of printing to the New Mexican I see as simply the latest iteration in a process started over 100 years ago in New Mexico and a necessary cost cutting process that will take place in many newspapers across the country as we all downsize and create efficiencies that will strengthen our place in the communities we serve”.

In 2004, the New Mexican built a new 65,000-square-foot production facility. A new KBA Comet press was installed and went online in November of that same year. The press and the abilities the New Mexican offers at this facility allows them to take on additional outside printing, offering improvements in quality and cost savings for the Journal as well.

In my opinion, the obvious downside to any consolidation of this type is unavoidable job losses. The AP article stated that this shift of printing may result in as many as 70 layoffs in production at the Journal. I’m sure this is painful for both the management at the Journal and the employees who will be affected. While staff reductions are somewhat necessary and have become part of our current newspaper world, it is still traumatic to those who are suddenly unemployed. Hopefully in some reassurance for those affected by this change, executives have said severance packages for the employees who lose their jobs will include healthcare benefits.

When asked if any Journal production personnel may be offered new opportunities at the New Mexican, Martin said it was “a definite possibility.”

For this article, I asked Martin a couple more questions to learn more about the additional printing at the New Mexican facility. Our Q&A is below.

E&P: Could you give us a brief history of press operations in the area?

Martin: The first press in the New Mexico territory probably came from Mexico City on the Camino Real. The legend my father told me is that two brothers with the last name of Abreu started a newspaper and wrote disparaging things about the Mexican government; they were hung in the Plaza and flayed alive. The New Mexican was founded in 1849 by newspapermen who came from the United States. I have heard that the press was brought to New Mexico by the occupying U.S Army on the Santa Fe Trail. Our downtown office building was constructed in 1942 when the newspaper was forced to move its plant to make way for Manhattan Project offices linked to Los Alamos. When my father bought the New Mexican in 1949, the building had a letter press, plus commercial printing equipment. He bought the first offset press in the state in 1970. Newly married, he and my stepmother went to New Orleans and bought the Goss Urbanite on the spot. After my father’s death, I bought property on the Interstate and installed a German KBA Comet press. The first paper off that press commemorated President George W. Bush’s re-election.

Please give us a bit of history on how the Journal and the New Mexican arrived at the point of partnering in a combined printing operation.

My father was friends with Bill’s father, C.T., and I was friends with Bill’s brother, Tom, spending time with him among the exhibits at newspaper trade shows. I remember meeting up with him in Las Vegas after he had flown his biplane across the desert from Albuquerque. He offered me a ride home and it being the height of a very hot summer, I declined. After Tom’s death, Bill and I would go to the Inland Press Association’s family owners’ meetings. Sometimes we brought along our families, so our children got to know each other. Discussions about partnering to print have been going on for years.

As one of the state’s two largest newspapers, do you believe this move may encourage others throughout New Mexico to follow your lead?

Martin: Newspapers in New Mexico are pretty far apart. I don’t know if it would be practical.

Can you tell me what considerations went into this project and what benefits you see by combining operations?

Martin: Increased efficiency.

Both of your properties are family-owned. What part did previous relationships play in this decision?

Martin: We have been friends for years, so it was easy to talk.

Will deadlines be affected internally, and how might this affect the delivery expectations of your subscribers?

Martin: We are looking at deadlines right now.

How do you believe subscribers will view that the Journal is no longer printing its own publications?

Martin: I don’t think Journal readers will notice a difference.

How far apart (geographically) are the two facilities and how might this affect delivery?

Martin: Less than an hour on Interstate 25.

While the two newsrooms are set to remain independent of one another and maintain separate operations; will there be any shared content between the two newspapers?

Martin: We won’t combine newsrooms. We both subscribe to the Associated Press, so we already have some of the same news.

Might there be any thoughts geared to combined advertising projects?

Martin: The New Mexico Press Association sells advertising for newspapers statewide. We will continue with that. I hadn’t thought about any other partnerships, but it could happen.

It has been said that the change will not affect the size or content of either paper. Could you provide a few details on the New Mexican press configuration?

New Mexican publisher Tom Cross and production director Tim Cramer: We have a KBA Comet press that was installed in 2004. The press has four towers and has the capability of splitting one tower to run a fifth web, but we lose color on the tower that we split. We also have automatic ink presets so the color comes up very close to salable copy as soon as we hit production speeds. 

Do you project improvements in print quality on the New Mexican press?

Martin: We are always working to improve quality. We print the New York Times now, so I am sure the Journal will be pleased with print quality.

Are the mailroom / inserting and other operations being moved to the New Mexican facility?

Martin: Yes, mailroom operations will be moved.

Will prepress continue as is with PDFs being transmitted to the new printing facility?

Martin: Our prepress will continue as normal with PDFs being transmitted to us.

What is the process of rolling out/preparing for the change?

Martin: Move some of our commercial print customers schedules slightly to open the print windows for the Journal. The scheduled moves will not affect any of the existing delivery deadlines for them.

Was any of this move driven by revenue losses due to the recent pandemic?

Martin: I am pretty sure we would have partnered anyway.

Any additional details you would like share?

Martin: When I signed the note to buy the press and build the printing plant, I was really scared, but so far, things have worked out well. We have a great staff and have made it through many industry challenges. 

Jerry Simpkins has more than 30 years of experience in printing and operations in the newspaper industry. Contact him on LinkedIn.com or at simpkins@tds.net.

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