Herald selling printing plant and relocating
Published: May 24, 2013
IN A move that didn’t surprise
longtime employees, the Monterey County Herald announced this
week the newspaper is laying off more workers, getting rid of
its printing press, selling its Ryan Ranch office building and
moving its remaining operations to an undisclosed site.
In an email message to Herald employees Wednesday, Herald
publisher Gary Omernick said the changes will result in the
paper being printed somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“There is an industry-wide effort to relocate newspaper
operations into facilities that better suit our needs, and this
is part of our ongoing digital strategy,” according to Omernick,
in a press release printed in the Herald Thursday. Nationwide,
newspapers have seen sharp declines in revenue and readership
and have been forced to make significant cutbacks.
While they knew something was up, most employees didn’t know
exactly what the newspaper’s latest move to save money would be
until they received Omernick’s email message at the end of
Wednesday’s work day. Press workers were also called saying they
would be laid off in about a month.
“All of (press) production got laid off yesterday,” according
to an employee, who said workers were notified they would be out
of a job by the end of June.
A steep decline
Omernick said there’s no timetable for the move, and tried to
put a good face on things by claiming the changes will allow the
Herald’s “content, advertising and business operations to
relocate into office space with easy access for employees and
The publisher also stressed the changes would “not affect the
content or delivery of the newspaper” and that moving print
operations “will improve color quality and color capacity.”
“Our focus remains meeting the needs of our audience and our
customers,” Omernick said.
The Herald will begin “staging down production” in mid-June and
will complete the transition by the end of that month, Omernick
One former Herald employee described Omernick’s message as
“sugarcoated” and described it as another example of a what
happens when a local publication gets taken over by a large,
“What we are seeing is another step in the continuing
dismantling of a once pretty good newspaper,” the former
employee told The Pine Cone.
In November 2011, the Herald laid off employees in the ad
production department and outsourced that work to India, where
it is now done. Over the last decade, and especially since the
economy nosedived in 2006, the paper has eliminated jobs in
management, the newsroom and the advertising department and
imposed furloughs on remaining employees. The print circulation
has declined by almost half, bylined stories on the front page
are frequently written by unpaid interns, freelance columnists
have been told they’d have to start working for nothing, and the
front page — formerly off-limits to advertising — routinely
carries large ads.
‘Saw it coming a long time ago’
Another former Herald employee, who didn’t want to be named
because he didn’t want to jeopardize any possible future
employment there, said the paper’s move “follows the trend” in
“Nobody is ever surprised by anything that happens anymore,”
the former worker said. “It’s more like, ‘What’s going to happen
Several other Herald workers also told The Pine Cone that
Omernick’s announcement is not stunning.
One of them is former Herald printer and graphic artist Larry Ellis, who worked at the newspaper for 52 years before being laid off last year when it outsourced his work to lower-paid workers in India.
“I saw it coming a long time ago,” he told The Pine Cone
Ellis, 71, said about a half-dozen people work in the press
room. He figures the paper will have its printing done at the
San Jose Mercury News, which also has put its large building up
‘Way too much space’
Another employee said the Herald’s fewer than 100 workers, in a
building that not too long ago housed more than 200, don’t begin
to fill the large Ryan Ranch complex — which mostly does not
have open windows or a working air conditioning system, and
becomes sweltering on warmer days.
“If you’ve walked through the building lately, there are big
open areas and open desks,” he said. “So obviously there is way
too much space for the people working there.”
While the worker said he didn’t believe quality of the Herald’s
journalism would suffer with the reorganization, he said it’s
possible deadlines for reporters would be earlier with the
printing no longer in house.
Lewis Leader, who worked at the Herald as a reporter and editor
for 18 years, and later at the LA Times as a regional editor,
told The Pine Cone that an employee he spoke to last night was
still trying to make sense of the announcement.
“This is a sad day,” Leader said. “I remember the great
excitement and optimism when the Herald completed its move from
downtown Monterey to Ryan Ranch in 1990.”
Some have suggested that the Scotts Valley-based Santa Cruz
Sentinel and the Herald — both owned by MediaNews and managed by
a company called Digital First Media — could merge, while
another said it would be logistically too difficult for
employees for both newspapers.
In an April interview with John Paton, CEO of Digital First
Media, Paton said he didn’t think news organizations were dying
but that newspapers “are going to stop running in print.”
“Newspapers in print are clearly going away,” Paton told
journalist Matthew Ingram. “I think you’re an idiot if you think
that’s not happening.”
But he said print advertising at the company has fallen
dramatically, and revenue from online operations hasn’t come
close to making up the difference.
Omernick reiterated the company’s focus on the Internet in his
email to employees, saying, “Monetizing real estate and
right-sizing office space to fit our digitally focused strategy
is something [Digital First Media] is doing — and has done —
across the organization.”
However, from a reader’s perspective, the Herald has done
little to improve its website, which is bogged down with
irritating pop-up advertisements.
Editorial errors, such as name misspellings, are usually left
unchanged on the site, which is often filled with links to
generic news stories that are not pertinent to Monterey County.
On the leading edge?
One Herald employee said the idea of replacing dollars the
Herald has earned in print with digital advertising cash doesn’t
make a lot of sense.
“They think they are somehow on the leading edge of digital
news,” he said. “But in order to make that work you have to have
an established name. It works for the Wall Street Journal and
the New York Times, but these guys [the Herald] doesn’t have a
national reputation, and there is no reason for anyone to depend
While Omernick directed questions about the Herald’s changes to
New York-based Digital First Media spokesman Jonathan Cooper,
Cooper did not return several phone and email messages left by
The Pine Cone.