LA Times Closing Orange County Press, Laying Off 80 Pressmen

LA Times Closing Orange County Press, Laying Off 80 Pressmen

Spencer mentioned here that the Los Angeles Times Media Group is joining with the U.S. Local News Network to launch two Orange County-focused news websites by February. An expansion of news coverage on the web. Great. But how about those ever-dwindling print operations in Orange County?

Dead, according to a memo to employees today from Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein.

Actually, there will still be editorial, advertising and circulation offices in Orange County. But the paper is closing its state-of-the-art press in the plant on Sunflower Avenue in Costa Mesa and cutting the jobs of 80 pressmen.

Naturally, as a publisher would, this is being portrayed as a great move of strength by Hartenstein ("we're creating substantial savings and presenting the printed version of The
in a new, innovative manner").

Besides noting the new web venture in Orange County, his memo to Times staffers today boasts of cost savings and a new late edition (spurred by earlier deadlines in OC) prompted by mothballing the Orange County press. He also reveals separate business sections will be eliminated (it'll be inside the main section), the Food section is moving to Thursdays and the overall product will get narrower.  

The changes begin in February. Hartenstein's full memo is below:

Colleagues -

In an effort to further streamline our operations and reduce print production costs, we have embarked on an ambitious plan to print The Times in one main location. To do so, we are completing a significant investment in our Olympic production facility--making it state-of-the-art, increasing color capacity and allowing us to shut down the Orange County presses. This is being done in tandem with our shift to an emerging newspaper-standard 44" web width from the current 48".

In other words, we're creating substantial savings and presenting the printed version of The Times in a new, innovative manner. Those changes, beginning Tuesday, February 2, are as follows:

We will debut a new late-breaking news section called LATExtra. Designed to address print capacity complexities, create later print deadlines and complement Main A's analysis and examination of the issues confronting our readers on local, national and global fronts, LATExtra will focus largely on California stories and include end-of-day reporting from across the spectrum. LATExtra will run Monday through Saturday and also include Weather and Obituaries in order to allow later deadlines.

• With Sunday a traditionally slow day for breaking news from the business community, the Business pages will appear under their own chapter in Main A each Monday. We will, of course, continue to develop and report unique business-oriented stories and personal finance in the Monday paper, and Business will remain a stand-alone section the rest of the week.

• Food is moving to Thursdays to give our larger weekend subscriber audience access to our popular coverage and to tap potential revenue opportunities presented by a late-week section, such as restaurant advertising. In addition, the Homes classified listings section will now reside conveniently in the back of Home on Saturdays, and some consolidation of the classified sections and classified zones will complete the list of product changes to maximize reach and value.

• The 44" web width conversion is rippling across the newspaper industry and The Times will be a front-runner in adopting the slightly narrower page format. As we phase this in across our presses, the familiar 6-column broadsheet will remain intact with no meaningful loss in content or features.

As we announced yesterday, we also have increased our presence in and coverage of Orange County with the upcoming launches of the Orange County Local News Network (OCLNN) and the OC Now blog. And the OCLNN team has joined the LAT and TCN staffs in the OC facility, which is itself undergoing upgrades.

All of our efforts are being done with a keen eye toward limiting personnel loss throughout the company, while maintaining and growing other areas of the business. However, with the consolidation to one printing plant and the redesign of sections we will be reducing staff in Operations.

As always, our commitment to providing trusted journalism across mediums and remaining Southern California's leading source for round-the-clock news and information is at the forefront of all we do. The Times remains poised to continuously innovate as the needs of our readers and advertisers evolve.

I want to thank all of you in advance for digging into 2010, working cross-departmentally and applying your expertise to implementing the intricacies of our new plan.



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