Thursday was the dreadful day I announced to our employees that we are shutting down our printing division at the Port of Centralia.
When I woke that morning, I stumbled into the kitchen not looking forward to the day and reached into the cabinet and pulled out a coffee cup. Printed on the cup was “The Chronicle, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2000. Lafromboise Newspapers Named Top Printer in the Northwest.” My head slowly dropped down in defeat.
This has been a proud press crew over the years, and former and current pressmen should continue to be proud of the work they have done putting the final touches on our newspapers each print day.
The closure of the print facility has nothing to do with their work. They performed miracles keeping the presses rolling day after day, year after year. Our printing quality has always been among the finest.
Unfortunately, the industry is faced with rapid change, pushed forward by new technology and financial structures. The movement across the nation is to close down printing presses and relocate the printing to formidable regional print facilities that can afford, due to volume, the latest in printing equipment, which results in lower production costs.
Obviously there was no joy on Thursday, but the hard decision will preserve the parent company of The Chronicle — Lafromboise Communications, Inc. — to survive and thrive in these challenging times. We’ll realize significant savings in having our printing done at the Sound Publishing plant in Everett. In addition, our press equipment would be in need of a major infusion of financial support if we were to keep our aging machines working.
The combination, sadly, made this decision an easy one to make in the accounting department, but a depressing decision in regards to people with real lives — people with families to support and bills to pay.
The only silver lining for these employees is we are in a strong local job market. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in memory.
Still, the disruption and fear of an unknown future was palpable as I told the employees that their jobs are ending.
For the company, there is much to be gained beyond savings. We have had struggles in the past with our circulation delivery. Another trend across the nation is to move to mailing papers through the post office.
When I was a kid, I delivered the paper on my bicycle. That evolved into adult drivers delivering the paper. Today, the new evolution is mailing papers.
This is good news for our subscribers. We will now offer same-day mail delivery of all three of our editions on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The paper, starting Saturday, June 1, will now be delivered to your mailbox.
If you don’t have a mailbox, it will go to your P.O. Box. If you do not receive your mail at your street address, please call our customer service department at 360-736-3311 to update your subscription account with your P.O. Box or preferred delivery address.
Change is difficult. However, if we don’t change now, there are only two options. Either the paper will slowly erode its financial viability and close, or in a more likely scenario, a large chain of newspapers will buy the paper.
A big chain owner would almost certainly close down printing as well, and many of them (there are exceptions) would gut the newsroom and lay off an estimated half of our employees. That would result in a low-quality newspaper.
We want neither of these outcomes.
We believe vibrant, independent papers are the difference between living in a democracy or in a totalitarian dictatorship type of government. Papers make their communities stronger, whether it is bringing people together for a local event or holding those in power accountable.
The tragic week for our print employees is unfortunate, but it is the only path forward to continue serving this community. We’ve sustained putting out a paper for 130 years in Lewis County. This tough change keeps us alive and thriving into the future.
I do thank our pressmen and newspaper carriers for all their work over the years. The drivers are commended for getting you The Chronicle no matter the conditions. The drivers commitment to those on their delivery routes is admirable.
We will continue to run our sheetfed operations and support the many clients who print with us now in the transition to Sound Publishing. We will do everything possible to make this transition as seamless as possible. But as in all major transitions, change can be bumpy. Please let me know if we are failing in any way.
Again, thanks to the best print crew in the Northwest. It’s the end of an era, but also a new beginning.
Michael Wagar is president of Lafromboise Communications, Inc., and publisher of The Chronicle, The Reflector and the Nisqually Valley News.