Gannett Co., the nation’s largest newspaper publishing company, has provided additional details about the arrangement that will see it take over printing of the Tampa Bay Times at its production facility in Lakeland, which also prints editions of the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The deal was announced on Wednesday in a letter to subscribers from Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash.
In an email to the Catalyst, a Gannett Co. corporate spokesperson said the Times will continue to handle home delivery of the newspaper, but that Gannett would be responsible for trucking newspapers and inserts to distribution centers in the Tampa Bay area.
Also, the arrangement will be purely operational, with no investment being made on the part of Gannett Co. “Gannett has no financial stake in Times Publishing Co.,” the spokesperson wrote.
Gannett did not provide an exact date for the printing changeover but said the transition will occur in early March. Tash, in his letter to subscribers, said affected staff were being given 60-day notices. Gannett said that it expects to have new jobs to fill because of the arrangement with the Times.
“We anticipate positions becoming available at our Lakeland location,” the spokesperson wrote, “and welcome any interested Times employees to apply.”
Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at Poynter, the St. Petersburg nonprofit that owns the Tampa Bay Times, told the Catalyst that the paper’s decision to outsource printing is “logical” and that the practice has become “widespread in the industry.”
Edmonds cites the Kansas City Star as a good comparison. That paper, he wrote in a column on the Poynter website, “sold its 15-year-old, $200 million, state-of-the-art press … announcing in November that it will print at Gannett’s Des Moines Register. Other metros shifting in the last year to outsourced printing include the Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Antonio Express-News and The Hartford Courant.”
However, just because such cost-saving measures are now commonplace doesn’t mean they don’t sting, Edmonds told the Catalyst.
“It’s easy for me to say, ‘Well, yes, it happens all the time,’ but it’s a big deal when it happens to your paper in your town,” he said. “It’s the end of a certain era.”
Edmonds said he doesn’t expect the change to negatively affect readership. The decision last year to cut scale back the print edition to just two days per week was a much bigger deal in that regard.
“The e-editions have gotten a lot better through the years and have been pretty successful, certainly not 100 percent … some readers have been upset with that,” he said. “And of course the paper’s a little smaller than it used to be, with not as many ads and sections. But I don’t think this is going to be huge in the view of the readers.”
Headquartered in McLean, Va., Gannett Co. (NYSE: GCI) is the publisher of USA Today and dozens of other newspapers in 43 states and six countries. It reported $1.87 billion in gross revenue in 2019, up from $1.53 billion in 2018, an increase of 18 percent.