Progress, NV shift printing to new, more distant locations

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Media General apparently isn’t making enough money at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville to justify spending the “several million dollars of repairs, refurbishing and rewiring” needed to continue long-term operations at its printing plant on West Rio Road.

These can’t be good days at the Richmond-based Media General, the parent company of the Progress and the Waynesboro-based News Virginian, which has been under internal pressure to cut costs after a dissident shareholder group bought up a significant amount of Media General stock and forced its way into the family-owned company’s board of directors earlier this year.

The Daily Progress is now being printed at the Hanover County plant of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a 74-mile, one hour and 17 minute drive one way to the paper’s headquarters on Rio Road, according to Mapquest.com. The Progress announced the move in its Monday edition.

The NV, meanwhile, will now be printed in Lynchburg, where Media General publishes the daily News & Advance. The NV had moved its printing operations to Charlottesville at The Daily Progress in 2004.

The move involving the Daily Progress printing plant included the layoff of 25 employees in the paper’s printing-plant operation.

“This is a difficult business decision we made after weighing the extensive capital investment required to continue the printing operations here,” Progress publisher Lawrence L. McConnell said in a statement. “We deeply regret having to say good-bye to an important part of The Daily Progress family here in our pressroom and mailroom. Parting with valued employees is very difficult, and all the more difficult in light of the strong contributions these employees have made here.”

Both McConnell and News Virginian editor and general manager Lee Wolverton tried to spin the move by hyping enhancements in print quality that will come with moving their printing operations to Richmond and Lynchburg, respectively.

“Advertisers will have more options for use of color in their advertising messages because of the versatility and capacity of the newer, larger Richmond press equipment,” McConnell said.

“This change will provide our readers and advertisers with sharper, more dynamic color and a better-looking newspaper. It’s another step forward in our ongoing effort to improve our product,” Wolverton said in a statement in today’s NV.

The NV product will appear to suffer some, though, in the process, with an earlier deadline necessitated by the move to Lynchburg. The News & Advance’s printing operation is located 71 miles and an estimated hour and 25 minute drive away from the News Virginian office in Downtown Waynesboro, according to Mapquest.com. The paper reported in a note to readers on the front page of its Tuesday-morning edition that late sports scores and nightly lottery-drawing information will move to the NV website because of the earlier press deadlines.

A note in the Daily Progress article about the printing-operations news might foretell more cuts to come in the future at Media General. The company has adopted measures to reduce spending across its properties including reducing capital spending, reducing the amount of newsprint and leaving some positions unfilled as they become open due to retirement or employees leaving.

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