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News Journal to cut Saturday print edition

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The News Journal will cut its Saturday print edition and publish a digital edition beginning in March, the publisher announced. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEW CASTLE – Faced with falling print circulations in recent years, The News Journal announced Wednesday that it will stop printing a Saturday edition in March and instead produce a digital edition of that day’s newspaper.

The change will begin March 19, and the Gannett-owned paper framed it as a move toward reader and advertiser trends. It will mean that Delaware’s largest media company will no longer have a daily printed newspaper for the first time in generations.

“The News Journal’s commitment to local journalism remains strong, but the platforms on which people are consuming news continue to evolve. We need to evolve with our readers,” said Mike Feeley, executive editor of the News Journal, in a statement announcing the change. “Our print newspapers remain a vital and important part of our strategy, but we are not just a newspaper. The vast majority of our readers come through Delaware Online, our mobile app and various social media platforms. We are making this change in response to subscriber and advertising trends.”

The newspaper’s editorial and sales staff will reportedly not be affected by the change, but they “will be even better aligned toward digital news delivery.” The digital edition, essentially an interactive PDF copy of the newspaper, will retain the normal features of the print edition as it has done for years.

The decision to cut a print edition comes as the cost of newsprint has risen rapidly amid production shortages and tariff fights in recent years, while the circulation of newspapers, especially traditionally larger metro papers, has fallen precipitously. The Saturday edition is typically among a daily paper’s weakest from a news standpoint, sandwiched between the standout Sunday edition and the end of the work week.

According to circulation audits for year-end of 2020 though, the News Journal still printed about 22,000 copies of the Saturday edition, more than other typically weaker sales days like Monday and Tuesday – suggesting that it was more important to retain the weekday block than cut the worst performing day. The newspaper, which is still the largest by circulation in Delaware, has shed tens of thousands of subscribers in the past few decades, a trend common for the industry that is struggling to flip the switch to online.

Last month, the News Journal got some good news when the Baltimore Sun reported considering a plan that would move the printing of its newspaper and that of its smaller sister publications to The News Journal’s printing plant off Route 141 starting at the end of January.

A major contract to print tens of thousands of copies of the Sun daily along with a handful of weekly local Maryland papers would be a boon to the News Journal’s plant – the Sun’s average weekday circulation is 43,000. The facility off West Basin Road near Interstate 95 survived Gannett’s wave of plant closures last year, as it closed 23 plants across the country to consolidate operations.

Printing plants commonly print outside work, often regional production of national newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today seeking to reach widespread audiences or niche publications looking for hundreds or thousands of copies. Losing such contracts and having prolonged periods when presses aren’t running can run up net losses for a printer.

The introduction of a major print run like the Sun in New Castle will also lead to inevitable logistical changes. The Sun’s print copy deadlines will be earlier for reporters and editors to account for the added hour-long drive from New Castle to Baltimore in order to ensure that readers don’t notice a change in delivery service.

Editor’s note: This story incorrectly originally said that Delaware would no longer have a daily printed newspaper, but the Dover-based Delaware State News will continue to print daily. We regret the error. 

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