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Baltimore Sun moves printing to News Journal

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The News Journal’s printing plant in New Castle recently landed the Baltimore Sun as a major client. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEW CASTLE – The Baltimore Sun has closed its longtime printing plant and moved printing of its newspaper and that of its smaller sister publications to The News Journal’s printing plant off Route 141.

Maryland’s largest newspaper of record first announced the plan under consideration on Dec. 1, following an email sent to staff by its publisher and editor-in-chief, Trif Alatzas.

In conjunction with outsourcing production of its publications, Baltimore Sun Media closed its printing plant in South Baltimore and laid off more than 100 press and mail workers. Many of the Sun’s reporters watched the paper’s last press run in Baltimore on Jan. 30, according to social media posts. It marked the end of more than a century of uninterrupted printing of the Sun in Baltimore.

A decline in circulation of the print newspaper, compounded by the lease of the unnecessarily large plant now owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development firm, has led the newspaper’s management to the tough decision, Alatzas reportedly told employees.

“This preliminary agreement would reduce expenses related to the print operation and help continue the investment in our digital growth,” he wrote in the December email.

Notably, the Sun’s parent company, Tribune Publishing, was acquired last year by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which has a history of acquiring newspapers and stripping down its operations to squeeze profits. Local business leaders and Sun reporters unsuccessfully tried to move the paper to a nonprofit ownership model to avoid the Alden deal.

Several of the newspaper’s most well-known reporters have since left to join a new nonprofit news organization, the Baltimore Banner, backed by hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. who launched that unsuccessful acquisition bid. That outfit has yet to launch but has attracted Pulitzer Prize winners to its staff.

The Sun’s decision to cease its own printing is not the first by a major newspaper – the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News made the same decision in 2020, moving its printing to a New Jersey plant also owned by the News Journal’s parent company, Gannett. 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, have fallen precipitously.

A major contract to print tens of thousands of copies of the Sun daily along with a handful of weekly local Maryland papers is a boon to the News Journal’s plant – the Sun’s 43,000 average weekday circulation is more than double that of the Delaware paper. The facility off West Basin Road near Interstate 95 survived Gannett’s wave of plant closures in 2020, as it closed 23 plants across the country to consolidate operations.

A Gannett spokesperson declined to comment on the Sun’s printing move this week, saying the company doesn’t discuss its contract work. Requests for comment to Alatzas and a Tribune representative were not returned.

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.

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