Freedom of The press …for those who own one.

Most people have heard by now that Stirling Press will be closing its doors in the near future. Its website is already offline. As one of only two offset printing presses in St. John's it's hard to believe that there is not enough business to keep it going. Maybe business acumen, like talent is not universal? It was a great press and produced a good product. Even in a cut throat business where every corner is cut, quality and service was not an issue at Stirling. The other press is owned by Transcontinental, publisher of The Telegram.

Much has been said lamenting the loss of the press, the jobs and speculation on the future of the Newfoundland Herald, its historic in-house publication. (see Meeker on Media). Many Newfoundland journalists, photographers, writers and editors have gone through the Herald over the years. I think my first paid professional gig as a photographer was with The Herald ..either them or UPI. Both were around the same time.

Stirling Press printed many of the local publications as well as commercial printing jobs. The obvious concern is that the lack of competition will drive prices up for small publications such as The Business Post, Current, Avalon Times, Scope and even the university newspapers The Muse and The Gazette, who rely on the local presses to print their papers. Those in this business know that competition for that work was …aggressive.

The one question that has not been asked or answered that will effect local print media is…

…what's happening to that nice Heidelberg press?

When we were starting up the Sunday Independent the question of our own printing press was the first obvious question. If you can't print your paper you don't have a business. Do you really want to give money to your competitor and allow him that kind of control/access to your business?

The answer is, even a very small press will cost you $100,000+. If you plan on doing any volumn of commercial work start looking at a half a mil. …before paper, ink and salaries.  You can but a lot of real estate in cyber-space with that kind of cash. Which, of course, may be the problem for a lot of print media today and in the future.

We now have a situation where pretty well every independent newspaper and magazine in the city is printed at The Telegram by a large national company with deep pockets. This is not a good business situation on many levels if you own one of those small publications. Lack of competitive printing prices is bad enough but then you also find yourself in the position of competing for limited small market ad dollars, the life blood of a newspaper, with the people who are printing your publication. A company that is more than willing to cut prices and able to take a loss for a while. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

As one with lots of expensive ideas and little money I can't help but think, if, The Independent, by far the most ambitious of the local newspapers, or a group of the small publications, had any foresight at all they would join forces and try to raise the money to buy/lease that idle printing press sitting out on Logy Bay Road.
…NO, NO, NO,  not the one on the lawn!!

Sadly, what seems to be a  Newfoundland trait of NOT working together or in co-operation means that instead of standing together they may all hang separately.

As much as I believe online is the future of news distribution, I still love print media and there will always be a place for small local, community and specialty publications …and that will be hurt by the closing of Stirling Press.