The Burlington Free Press will be printed in Portsmouth, N.H., causing about two dozen people to lose their jobs in the Queen City.
The move appears designed to save costs by merging Free Press operations with those of the Portsmouth Herald. Last November, the papers' parent companies, Gannett and GateHouse Media, merged.
"The unfortunate reality of this new partnership is that about two dozen press people will lose their employment," Free Press executive editor Emilie Stigliani wrote in an email. Employees at the press facility declined to comment Thursday.
The fate of 137 South Winooski Avenue, the downtown Burlington property that houses the presses, has not been decided, Stigliani said in an email. It's assessed at $1.5 million, city records show.
The paper announced the plans in an article published Thursday afternoon on its website. As part of the move, the Free Press will switch from its current tabloid format back to a traditional broadsheet. The paper will continue to publish each day and home delivery will not be affected, according to the article. The newsroom and advertising staff will remain in Burlington.
The Free Press loading dock
Portsmouth is more than 200 miles from Burlington, and the drive takes three and a quarter hours, according to Google Maps.
The Free Press' downtown Burlington facility also prints the Saint Albans Messenger, but apparently not for much longer. Jim O'Rourke, its publisher, said he had already decided to have the paper printed elsewhere prior to Thursday's announcement.
"We're in the process of moving our printing somewhere else," O'Rourke said in an interview. He declined to offer details such as when and where. "I'm not going to report that through Seven Days," he said. He also owns three community papers, in Milton, Colchester and Essex.
In the article announcing the change Thursday, Free Press staffers talked about being committed to the paper's mission.
“As our industry has evolved, we must adapt to a multitude of market- and audience-driven changes that impact the way we serve our communities,” said Trevor Chase, who was identified as general manager. “Our commitment to reliable, trustworthy, local news remains steadfast, and we will remain the leading source of news for Burlington and Chittenden County.”
“We’d like to thank our remarkable and talented employees who will be impacted by this transition,” Chase went on to say. “We are so grateful for their many years of exceptional service.”
Chase did not return messages seeking comment.
The article also quoted Stigliani.
"The Free Press journalists work to serve our readers with stories they can use to improve their lives and information that allows them to make better sense of the community in which we live,” the paper quoted her as saying. “Our commitment to the readers is unwavering."