Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A sign of the times: New England's Valley News will no longer be printed locally, and it tells the tale in a video

Tomorrow night the printing press of the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., will begin its final run. Though the newsroom and advertising will remain local, the paper's parent company, Newspapers of New England, will begin printing the Valley News, its sister paper the Concord Monitor, and a few other papers at a new facility 60 miles away in Penacook, John Lippman reports for the Valley News, which also serves the Vermont side of the Connecticut River valley.

Such stories have become common in the last decade, as newspaper owners have consolidated press operations to save money, mainly from pressroom payrolls. Some papers have done that quietly, with no public notice, but the Valley News was up front about it, even producing a poignant retrospective video featuring longtime Press Manager Jason Libbey:

Lippman reports, "The more than $4 million investment in the new printing plant, which company executives say will increase the range of offerings while lowering its production cost, is a contrarian bet on the future of a medium that has seen its financial underpinnings collapse because of the internet and smartphones."

The move will mean some changes. The size of the paper will narrow a bit and the type will be smaller. The paper will need to be put to bed by 10:30 p.m. instead of midnight to make sure all 13,000 copies can be printed and trucked in by delivery time. And because of that earlier deadline, more late-breaking news and sports scores will be published on the paper's website, Lippman reports.

The increased reliance on digital publishing could be challenging, since only 1/13 of Valley News subscribers are digital-only, Lippman reports. The paper's new editor, Maggie Cassidy, may be able to help expand the paper's online presence; her digital savvy was part of the reason she was hired.

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