Gannett closes Appleton printing plant; papers' deadlines moved up

The Gannett Co. printing plant in Appleton is seen, Feb. 2, 2018. (WLUK image)

(WLUK) - Gannett Wisconsin, which publishes five daily newspapers in Northeast Wisconsin, announced changes to its coverage plans due to a change in where the papers are printed.

In articles Sunday, the details of the closure of the Appleton printing plant are explained, as the papers are now printed at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel facility in West Milwaukee. The cluster of papers in Central Wisconsin are now also being printed in Milwaukee, and trucked to their readers.

According to the notice provided to the state Dept. of Workforce Development, 137 people lost their jobs with the printing plant's closure.

The papers affected include the Green Bay Press-Gazette, The (Appleton) Post-Crescent, the Oshkosh Northwestern, and the Manitowoc Herald-Times-Reporter, as well as papers in Marshfield, Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids. The Fond du Lac Reporter and Sheboygan Press were already printed in West Milwaukee.

Gannett denied Fox 11's requests for an on-camera interview.

"Starting (Monday), our print deadlines will be moved up," wrote Robert Zizzo, Press-Gazette editor. "That means we won't be printing next-day results of UW-Green Bay, St. Norbert, Badgers, Brewers and Bucks games. Those results, as well as those of the leagues they play in, will be in the following day's newspaper. Same with lottery numbers."

Both Zizzo and Ed Berthiaume, news director for The Post-Crescent, emphasize the shift to digital products and away from the paper itself.

"Yes, we still publish print newspapers, but that is one piece of what we do, and the print edition is no longer a vehicle for breaking news. Maybe it never was. The bulk of our readers are now accessing our content on their phones, tablets or desktops long before the newspaper rolls off the presses," Berthiaume wrote.

The move comes as the Gannett papers continue to see declines in circulation.

According to the Alliance for Audited Media, for the period ending on Dec. 31, 2017, the Press-Gazette's daily circulation was 34,105, down from 52,993 on Sept. 30, 2007. In the same roughly 10-year period, Sunday circulation fell from 78,094 to 45,853.

The numbers are similar in Appleton. Daily circulation fell from 50,639 to 30,817. Sunday circulation fell from 64,989 to 37,614, according to Alliance figures.

"I'm not naïve enough to believe that these changes will be popular with our print-only readers. It will be painful for those of you who can't or won't activate the digital access that comes with your print subscription," Zizzo wrote. "Believe me, if we could continue to give you the newspaper of 20 years ago, while still serving our growing digital audience, we would."

"It's a new reality for the print edition. We are going to do everything in our control to keep the print edition of The Post-Crescent alive, informative and entertaining. But reversing the hands of time is not an option," Berthiaume said.

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