College and community papers across the District have been forced to find new publishers after one of the area’s largest commercial printers announced they were no longer welcome.
At least 10 newspapers, including the main papers at Georgetown and George Washington Universities, were cut from Comprint’s roster after it upgraded to a new facility in Laurel, which begins full operations in March. The company is a subsidiary of Post-Newsweek Media, which is in turn owned by the Washington Post Co. Previously, the papers were printed at Post Co.–owned plants in Gaithersburg and Waldorf, both of which are now closing their presses.
The new press will print a collection of Maryland community and military newspapers owned by Post-Newsweek Media, as well as a few remaining large-circulation local clients (including Washington City Paper). But smaller papers, which can’t be printed economically or are unwilling to change formats on the new press, have been left to scramble to find new printers.
“A lot more small customers are leaving us than large customers are coming in,” says Post-Newsweek Media CEO Chuck Lyons.
While most newspapers involved have reported easy transitions to their new publishers, some heard rumors about being dropped—often from rival presses drumming up new business—before they spoke with Comprint.
“People weren’t sure if we were going to be dropped, but they wanted to pick up our contract,” says Mike Masterson, business director of Georgetown University’s The Hoya.
Among the hardest-hit papers are foreign-language weeklies, according to Jim Nichols, who works in the Washington Times’ commercial-printing division, which took on some new work but has had to turn down other new customers.
“There are three or four presses that do this work. That puts small newspapers in a difficult situation,” says Johnny Yataco, publisher of the Washington Hispanic, which is printed by Gannet Offset in Springfield and wasn’t affected by the Comprint move.
Other local presses, including Silver Communications in Sterling, are looking to picking up some of the press workers Comprint laid off—as well as their customers, some of whom they’ve had their eyes on for a while.
“A relationship gets built,” says Nancy George of Chesapeake Publishing in Easton, Md. “Good papers know the publishers, because we’ve been trying to sell to them for years.”