Business

Newspapers Closing Print Plant, Laying Off Workers


The sign for the Gannett print facility in Falls Township on Thursday morning.
Credit: Tom Sofield/NewtownPANow.com

The owner of the county’s two daily newspapers will be making more job cuts.

Staff at the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer, and Burlington (New Jersey) County Times were informed Wednesday that the publication’s owner Gannett will close the Geoffrey Road facility in the Penn Warner Industrial Park in Falls Township at the end of March.

According to a staff-bylined article from the news organization, the last newspapers to be printed in the Falls Township facility will be the March 31 edition of the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times. The report stated publication operations will be moved to South Jersey and Delaware, but the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer will keep their office next to the Oxford Valley Mall in Middletown open.

A source involved with Gannett’s operations in the region stated that staff at the New Jersey and Delaware company were made aware of the changes by company higher-ups Wednesday evening.

Gannett has confirmed publicly how many jobs will be lost.

Sources familiar with the operations of the newspapers said the plant that was constructed for a reported $34 million in 2004 employed about three to four dozen people just a few years ago. More recently, only about a dozen people remained after cuts. The facility, which also handles third-party contract printing, cut an entire shift to reduce costs in recent years.

“We can’t make a decision like this without deep concern for our affected coworkers,” Brad Bailey, general manager of the newspapers, said in the Bucks County Courier Times article announcing the change. “We have counted on them for a long time to help us get the news printed and on your doorstep, and those efforts are greatly appreciated. We are committed to working with them through this difficult transition.”

A 2004 article that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times at the time of the facility opening boasted of the printing plant’s multi-million dollar Geoman 70 press that was designed and built in Germany.

The change in printing facilities will make deadlines earlier and will leave the next day’s newspaper without late-breaking news or late night sports scores, a source said.

The local newspapers have to ship their content electronically from Bucks County to Texas every day for design before they are printed. Previously, the newspapers were designed in Levittown, current and former employees have explained.

The press facility closure comes only weeks after a handful of business staff at the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer lost their jobs in previously unreported cuts.

The majority of the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer’s staff have been cut since summer 2017. The newspapers, which closed their Tullytown and Doylestown offices for a merged one in Middletown, have held multiple rounds of layoffs and buyouts in recent years. Industry experts expect the newspapers’ owner Gannett to make more cuts across the company as it seeks to slash hundreds of million in expenses following a late 2019 merger with Gatehouse Media.

Editions of the Bucks County Courier Times in 2019.
Credit: Submitted

Despite the numerous rounds of cuts, management at the Bucks County Courier Times told staff in recent years that the publication remained profitable, former employees have said.

Family-owned Calkins Media sold the Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer, Burlington County Times, and some of its other publications to Gatehouse Media, a firm overseen by Japan-based Softbank, for $17.5 million in summer 2017. In the time since, the newspapers have cut back on staff and the amount of local content provided to readers has shrunk.

LevittownNow.com recently reviewed publicly available circulation data for the newspapers. The Bucks County Courier Times circulation has dropped from about 23,000 to 12,114 in about two years and The Intelligencer has gone from roughly 19,000 to 9,428 daily circulation. The drop marks a roughly 50 percent decrease in circulation. Sources and public data posted on the company website have revealed the two Bucks County newspapers have also seen their website traffic drop.

With the merger of Gannett and Gatehouse Media, the combined company is largest daily newspaper publisher in the country and owns one-sixth of the remaining daily newspapers. The firm also has earned a reputation of slashing jobs in communities and gutting newspaper brands.

Despite the cuts, the local newspapers’ remaining staff has put out publications that have won statewide press awards.

While the print news industry has experienced large drops in readership and advertising revenue in recent years, financial records from Gannett and the former Gatehouse Media have shown loses at a faster pace than competitors. Gannett newspapers have grown their local event and digital marketing businesses and seen growth in those non-news sectors.

A request for comment to the management of the local newspapers was not returned as of publication.


About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001