Casper Star-Tribune Will Shut Down Press; 20-Plus Employees Laid Off
The Casper Star-Tribune will no longer be printed in Casper, according to a news release from the Casper News Guild on Wednesday.
About two dozen mail and press room employees on Monday learned they lost their jobs, the most recent layoff at the statewide paper owned by Lee Enterprises, according to the news release.
The press and mail room employees – including at least 15 part-time employees – will be laid off, according to the news release. Press room supervisor Joe Martinez has been at the Star-Tribune for 32 years, according to the news release.
Publisher Dale Bohren told newsroom staff that the paper will be printed at the printing press of the Adams Publishing Group in Cheyenne. Adams Publishing Group owns the Cheyenne Tribune Eagle, the Rock Springs Rocket Miner, the Rawlins Daily Times and the Laramie Boomerang.
Bohren described the press at the Star-Tribune as technologically obsolete. The Star-Tribune and its predecessor newspapers has printed a paper in some form in Casper since 1891, according to the news release.
Wednesday, Bohren said there will be seven full-time employees who will be laid off, and 13 part-time employees will be laid off -- four fewer employees than mentioned by the News Guild. They will receive severance, and some will stay with the company.
The press is nearly 50 years old and its demise was inevitable, print circulation has declined across the industry, and newspapers are moving toward publishing regionally for economies of scale and other reasons, Bohren said. "By using a printer in Cheyenne, our paper waste will be less and our quality will likely be better."
But the Star-Tribune, like a lot of newspapers, is not just paper, he said.
"More than half of our subscriptions are digital," Bohren said. "And so the Star-Tribune has never had more readership or audience than we do today."
Last month, the Star-Tribune had more than 440,000 local unique visitors and 3.1 million page views, he said.
On a practical note, he recognizes the weather will interfere with transporting the paper from Cheyenne to central Wyoming.
He also said the shutdown of the press may result in the sale of the building because most of the jobs are at desks, but that is a long way off.
The newsroom recently voted to organize a union and affiliate with the Communications Workers of America.
"The Casper News Guild received the news of the layoffs bitterly." according to the news release.
"It takes more than reporters, editors and photographers to put out a newspaper. We mourn the loss of our colleagues who regularly worked into the night to ensure Casper and Wyoming did not miss an edition, that the morning paper included the results of an election or a University of Wyoming football game. While layoffs to newsroom staff often draw the most attention, newspapers are more than the names that appear atop stories."
Coincidentally on Monday, the New York Daily News announced it would lay off scores of employees, 93 at last count, according to the New York Post.
Lee Enterprises has remained profitable, but has done so by cutting staff in Casper and elsewhere, according to an industry analyst.
The Casper News Guild said these losses are a bitter reminder of the current nature of our industry. "That a printing press and the people that run it are dispatched for a little more profit tells you all you need to know about daily journalism and the corporations that control much of it."
In full disclosure, Tom Morton was an employee of the Casper Star-Tribune from 1992 to 2012.