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Baltimore Sun Media is considering a plan to move the printing of its newspapers from Baltimore to a printing plant in Wilmington, Delaware, owned by the newspaper there.
The shift, proposed to occur by the end of January, likely would result in the loss of 139 jobs, according to a WARN notice filed with the state.
Sun officials met with affected employees Tuesday to inform them of the proposal to shut down the Sun Park printing plant in South Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun opened Sun Park in 1992, but the circulation of the print newspaper has declined in recent years, even as digital subscriptions have grown, and the plant’s size dwarfs The Sun’s needs.
Under the proposal, The News Journal, a Wilmington paper owned by Gannett, would print and insert The Baltimore Sun, The Capital of Annapolis, the Carroll County Times and other affiliated publications.
“This preliminary agreement would reduce expenses related to the print operation and help continue the investment in our digital growth,” said Trif Alatzas, Baltimore Sun Media’s publisher and editor-in-chief, in an email sent to employees Tuesday evening.
Alatzas said the move would offset “ongoing print revenue declines exacerbated by the pandemic.”
The Sun would join a growing list of newspapers that have closed their printing plants and moved printing to other publications’ presses for similar reasons, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tampa Bay Times and The Kansas City Star, all of which shut down their printing operations in 2021.
Earlier this year, The Sun’s parent company, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has been accumulating newspapers for years and has a reputation for cutting its costs to remain profitable.
Alatzas wrote that the proposed changes with printing would not affect The Sun’s journalism or its ability to meet the needs of advertisers. Home delivery and retail sales of the newspapers also would not be affected, he said.
The Sun leases the building at Sun Park, which was purchased by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development from The Sun’s former parent company in 2014 and rolled into the massive Port Covington mixed-use project.
Parts of the cavernous Sun Park building, which also houses The Sun’s newsroom and business offices, now sit vacant, Alatzas wrote. He did not say in the email what would become of Sun Park.
The affected employees are primarily press and insertion machine operators.
Teamsters Local 355 represents roughly 90 pressmen and mailers who would lose their jobs under the proposal. John Moylan, the local’s business agent, said the union would bargain the terms of the shutdown.
“It’s a sad time, but this industry has been going down for quite some time,” Moylan said. “We just didn’t expect it to happen quite so soon. ... We’ll do what we can to protect our people.”
The Washington-Baltimore News Guild represents about 14 machinists, electricians and building mechanics who would lose their jobs. Cet Parks, the guild’s executive director, said The Sun has an obligation to bargain over the decision and its effects.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to represent the members to the best of our ability,” Parks said.
“We think this was a terrible decision by Tribune/Alden that takes away good-paying jobs from the Baltimore area,” he added.
The Sun will propose severance packages for eligible, union-represented employees that would need to be negotiated with their unions, Alatzas said in the email. All other eligible employees will be offered severance, he said.
“We deeply regret the impact this plan would have on the dedicated staff members whose employment would be affected,” Alatzas wrote. “These are friends and colleagues who care deeply about Baltimore Sun Media. We value their contributions and appreciate their hard work and commitment to quality.”