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Printing Plant to close, Review to go weekly

Sound Publishing, the parent company of the Bainbridge Review, has announced major cuts and reorganization that will shut down the printing press located on Day Road and change the Bainbridge Review to a weekly, tabloid paper.

The company said the changes are in response to a faltering economy that has reduced advertising revenue.

Still, it came as a shock to many of the 44 employees who work at the Bainbridge Island facility.

“I kinda of thought we would go to once a week,” said Rob Schmidt, who has been employed at the printing facility for 15 years. “I could see everything slowing, I’d say we were getting 30 to 40 percent less inserts for the paper.”

The Review and several other community newspapers have been printed at the current plant since 1986. The Review and Kitsap County Herald were sold to Black Press Ltd., by island resident Verda Averill in September 1988. Black Press is a Victoria, B.C.-based communications company that owns Sound Publishing and more than 30 community papers throughout the region.

“There is no feel good about closing facilities and laying people off,” said the Manfred Tempelmayr, president of Sound Publishing. “These are people I saw every day. This is not a pleasant thing, but it is a necessity to make sure we have a viable company.”

A severance package based on length of service at the plant has been given to many Bainbridge plant employees, and there will be retraining seminars for workers who will have to seek jobs elsewhere. About a third of the Bainbridge employees affected by the closure have been offered jobs in Everett.

All Sound Publishing products will now be produced at the company’s print facility in Everett. The printing facility will remain in place on Bainbridge, Tempelmayr said, in case it becomes more economically viable when the business rebounds.

“The economy is so volatile, I don’t think that anyone is certain what is going to happen over the next year,” Tempelmayr said. “Consolidating our print operations allows us to turn two marginally profitable presses into one solid business model with a good bottom line.”

The closure will officially take effect on Jan. 2, 2009.

The company, which is the largest publisher of community and suburban newspapers in Washington, has been hit by significant revenue downfalls, including a decrease in the printing business.

“We’ve lost some major print customers; some have gone out of business,” said Lori Maxim, vice president of Sound Publishing. “It’s due to the economy.”

The first tabloid edition of the Bainbridge Review will appear on Jan. 9, 2009.

Changing to a weekly and a tabloid is nothing new for the Review. The configuration has changed several times over the years: it went from broadsheet to tabloid in 1990; to a twice-weekly publication in 1995; and reverted to broadsheet in 1999.

“For our smaller local advertisers there are many benefits to the tabloid size,” said Chris Allen Hoch, publisher of the Review. “Small ads get much better bang for the buck with a smaller page size and our color capacity doubles making color advertising more affordable. News and photo features also play out in more easily digestible and attractive packages.”

A changed in the publishing frequency for the Kitsap News Group newspapers started in June when the Central Kitsap Reporter became a weekly paper, a precursor to the changes that were to come for the rest of the news group.

“That made a significant difference regarding the profitability of the newspaper,” Maxim said. “Our customers like the smaller size and the once-a-week format. We have a bigger, fatter paper and do a more thorough job editorially.”

The shift in focus for all Kitsap papers will be towards online content with an increased multi-media approach to news and analysis. Weekly papers will concentrate on more in-depth coverage of local events.

However, the move doesn’t come without its sour notes.

“On a personal note, I am sad about the layoffs,” Maxim said. “They are like family. But our company’s philosophy was to make changes that help us to save jobs. It allows us to reduce some of our largest expenses.”

Sandra Odden, a 12-year Bainbridge veteran, has been offered a job at the print facility in Everett, but she said it doesn’t make it easier to come to terms with the closure.

“There are a lot of us who have been here a long time,” she said “We’ve invested our lives in this company. It is like family here and I know everyone by name. It’s going to be really hard to leave.”

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