The Columbian will print The News Tribune of Tacoma and The Olympian of Olympia starting in February, Columbian Publisher Scott Campbell said Thursday.
“This really is a cool deal because it gives us the ability to really be back in the commercial printing business in a big way,” Campbell said in a morning announcement to Columbian employees. “The Columbian used to be in the commercial printing business, big time, between 1968 and 1987. We had 300 employees or so in commercial printing in those days.”
Campbell declined to reveal the terms of the contract with the two Puget Sound-area newspapers. But he credited the added business to Production Director Cris Matta’s efforts over the past five years to recruit commercial printing customers.
“We’re super-excited about it,” Matta said in his remarks to employees. “We’ve got the firepower to make it happen. We’ve got a good team in place.”
The Columbian already has a Goss Metro offset press able to print large newspapers rapidly. To accommodate the new business, Matta said, the company has purchased some additional press and packaging equipment to upgrade its capabilities.
Campbell said the new business would require the hiring of “some” new employees, and some part-time employees will receive additional hours. The details are to be determined later.
The announcement comes at a time when newspapers across the country have either considered outsourcing their printing operations in an effort to save money or taken that step. Campbell told the audience that The Columbian had considered outsourcing about five years ago but concluded it made more financial sense to continue printing its own newspaper — and retaining its production employees.
Newspapers that choose to outsource make a difficult choice, said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for The Poynter Institute, a news education and research organization in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“You come to a fork in the road,” Edmonds said. “As circulation goes smaller and finances get pinched, news organizations need to decide if they’re going to print or farm out” that function.
The addition of The News Tribune and The Olympian’s printing work comes at a time of declining print newspaper circulation. At the same time, digital circulation in e-editions and web subscriptions is growing for many news organizations, including The Columbian.
The McClatchy Co. owns The News Tribune and The Olympian.
The Columbian is family-owned. Herbert Campbell, grandfather of Scott Campbell, bought the paper in 1921.