Mar. 13—LEWISTON — After 125 years, the presses are stopping at the Sun Journal. On Friday, its owners announced the consolidation of printing and distribution work to another Masthead Maine facility in South Portland starting June 1.
With the consolidation, the South Portland facility will print all of the state's daily newspapers.
"This move was driven by the equipment and the fact that it doesn't make sense to invest in two different facilities when we have the capacity at one shop and we know the Lewiston equipment is continuing to age," Masthead Maine Publisher and CEO Lisa DeSisto said. "The press crew in Lewiston has done an amazing job printing high quality on that equipment. This is driven by what makes sense from a financial perspective for the future."
Newsroom employees, along with advertising, circulation and customer service, will remain working in the Park Street building in Lewiston.
The closure impacts 45 employees. DeSisto said all 11 people working full-time in the pressroom have been offered positions in South Portland. Distribution employees, in a mix of full- and part-time positions, have been invited to apply at South Portland with the goal of placing as many people as are interested.
Readers should not notice a difference with delivery times, according to DeSisto.
"We are committed to our mission and remain focused on serving our subscribers and supporting our local businesses and advertisers," Jody Jalbert, general manager for Sun Media Group, said. "It is going to be an emotional day when the presses run for the last time here in Lewiston; it is an end of an era. This move is not easy, but it is necessary to ensure we are here in the future for our employees, our readers, our communities."
The Sun Journal and its predecessors have been printing at 104 Park St. for 125 years, though roots go back to 1847. The current press, a Goss Urbanite, is between 40 and 45 years old, DeSisto said, and last updated two years ago.
It prints all Sun Media Group publications, and prints the Bangor Daily News, The Times Record, The Courier newspapers and a variety of commercial jobs, including the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
All press services will move to South Portland, which has two newer presses that DeSisto said right now seldom operate at the same time.
"In order for us to print all the dailies, we'll be running both presses at the same time at night, so we need the folks from Lewiston to join us so we have two crews to run both of the presses," she said.
The Sun Media Group's newsroom, circulation and advertising departments will remain in downtown Lewiston. The press area will become a circulation depot for Sun Journal carriers with bundles delivered from South Portland.
DeSisto said the future plans for the press are to be determined. Some distribution equipment will move to South Portland.
"We are first focused on getting ready for the June 1 go live," she said.
The Costello family sold the Sun Media Group after four generations of ownership to Reade Brower in 2017, joining a group of newspapers that includes the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.
The closure of the Sun Journal's press reflects a broader trend to consolidate operations in what's been a trying time for the industry, exacerbated by the pandemic.
In the past year, the Philadelphia Inquirer, News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, the San Antonio Express-News, Tampa Bay Times, Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, Hartford Courant, The Virginian-Pilot, and others have closed printing facilities, according to News & Tech, a news and publishing industry website.
DeSisto said many of the Lewiston printing and distribution employees have worked for the company for decades, making it a hard decision.
"We understand that it's going to be a loss to the community," she said. "Everyone who works for the newspaper loves when you hear the presses run and it's part of our operation. This was a move we had to make for the long-term stability of all of the titles because we want to continue to deliver journalism for all of the communities we serve today."
Sun Media Group, with 141 employees, includes the Sun Journal, Advertiser-Democrat in Norway, Rumford Falls Times in Rumford, Franklin Journal and Livermore Falls Advertiser in Farmington, Bethel Citizen in Bethel and Rangeley Highlander in Rangeley.
It also includes the Forecaster Coastal Journal, Northern Forecaster, Southern Forecaster, Portland Forecaster, Lakes Region Weekly and American Journal, all of which are based in South Portland.