Bee Publishing Company’s Printing Going Off-Site
The Bee Publishing Company is moving into a new era next month concerning the print editions of its newspapers. In addition to a change of leadership for its editorial department, as of July 1, all printing is moving from the company’s printing plant on Commerce Road to Trumbull Printing in Trumbull.
For 140 years, Bee Publishing has proudly handled its own printing. Until this month, The Newtown Bee, Antiques and The Arts Weekly and The Bee Extra were all printed in house, by members of Bee Publishing Company’s staff. Special projects, including the annual Guide To Newtown, were handled by Trumbull Printing. That company has also stepped up in times of weather emergencies or when mechanical difficulties prevented Bee Publishing from otherwise printing on time.
A need to modernize the newspaper’s print process in a cost-effective manner led Bee Publishing to this new step.
Founded in 1959, the award-winning commercial printer in Trumbull is a subsidiary of Hersam Acorn Newspapers. Bee Publishing ompany has more than 65 years of working with Trumbull Printing, according to Bee Publishing’s Production Director/Circulation Manager Scott Baggett.
“We’ve called on them for parts, and swapped plates in the middle of the night in emergencies,” he said. “And they’re right down the street. You can’t get much better than that.”
The full collaboration with Trumbull Printing will commence with the July 2, 2021, print editions of the three aforementioned publications.
Moving forward, all items will be printed in Trumbull and then delivered immediately to the local businesses that sell the paper.
Bee Publishing’s newspapers will also be delivered immediately to Newtown’s USPS location and mailed from the Commerce Road post office, therefore still obtaining the Newtown postmark.
The timing of the newspapers will not change, allowing The Newtown Bee to still be printed on Thursdays, mailed that afternoon, and delivered to subscribers.
Baggett says multiple changes in the newspaper industry led to the decision to have Trumbull take over printing for Bee Publishing.
“First and foremost, decreasing readership and advertising has made it difficult to maintain our own printing press and the building,” he said this week. While the company’s office building is at 5 Church Hill Road, its printing facility is on Commerce Road.
“Being a family-owned, independent newspaper, we don’t have the buying power other companies do,” he added.
Newsprint is no longer “the norm,” he said. “It’s a specialty grade now, and if one company raises its prices on the paper, all of them do. It’s outpacing what we can raise on rates for advertisers and subscribers.”
The pandemic also put new pressures on the longstanding Church Hill Road business.
“I know a lot of people are blaming the pandemic for a lot of things, but that really put the nail in the coffin for us,” regarding the printing presses, Baggett said. “We use a lot of small vendors, and many of them sold to larger companies or were forced to close. Those who merged, their prices went up.”
Prices for chemicals and negatives used in the newspaper printing process went up 32%, “just like overnight,” the production director noted. The company that makes the aluminum plates that are also part of the printing process was bought by Kodak, Baggett said, “which in turn meant another increase in prices.”
The USPS wants newspapers to standardize sizes, he said, to improve the mailing. The very traditional broadsheet size of The Newtown Bee, with each page measuring 16¾ by 22¾ inches, is far from standard.
“That would have been another $50,000 investment for us,” he said.
The company that produces the large-format printers Bee Publishing relies on also has a new owner, which in turn raised prices. The paper for mailing labels is increasingly difficult to locate, and even the machine that adheres them to newspapers is nearly irreparable.
“This all happened in a matter of months,” Baggett said. “It was like a house of cards. One card was pulled, and everything else started coming down.”
All of this is not to say Newtown’s hometown newspaper is folding. It is not. It is adapting.
Publisher R. Scudder Smith said one very good thing will be noticed immediately with the next issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly (A&A). Trumbull’s facilities can do something Bee Publishing currently cannot: print in full color.
The newspaper’s production department — which puts out the pages for all three aforementioned papers — is already focusing on adapting all of A&A’s pages to color.
There are plans for The Newtown Bee and The Bee Extra to eventually be printed in color, but those changes are further down the road, according to the production director.
“There is no timeline for when The Newtown Bee will be printed in color,” Baggett said. “We’ll get there.”
The Bad News
Unfortunately, the move to off-site printing means six people are losing their employment.
“This is really tough,” Baggett said this week. “We can’t afford to keep the staff at the plant.”
Head Pressman Brian Sacco is the one member of the printing staff who will remain fully employed. Sacco will be the liaison between Bee Publishing and Trumbull Printing.
Bee Publishing Company Business Manager Sherri Smith Baggett was visibly upset when making the announcement in April of the impending changes to the company’s roster.
This week, she noted that the seven current employees, including Sacco, make up a combined 140 years, 6 months of service.
“That is hard to fathom, and harder to replace the dedicated and competent employees that show up in snow and ice storms to make sure our publications are printed and mailed to subscribers,” she said.
According to Smith Baggett’s records, Sacco has been with Bee Publishing for 27 years, 7 months. Additional printing plant employees and their tenure include Pete Pollitt, 26 years, 9 months; Eileen Hardiman, 23 years, 9 months; Emery Klein, 18 years, 1 month; Ashley Zenhye, 16 years, 3 months; Matt Seaman, 14 years, 7 months; and Ben Ford, 13 years, 6 months.
The Newtown Bee is available on newsstands, through subscriptions, and at the company’s 5 Church Hill Road office. The office is open weekdays, generally 8 am to 5 pm (earlier and later by chance).
Newtown points of sale include Bagel Delight, Big Y World Class Market, Caraluzzi’s Newtown Market, CVS, Dodgingtown Market & Deli, Misty Vale Deli, Newtown Convenience Store, Newtown Deli & Catering, Newtown General Store, Newtown Mobil, Stop & Shop, and Wheels (Church Hill Road and South Main Street locations).
The paper can also be purchased at Big Y World Class Market in Bethel, United Cigar LLC in Derby, Hamden News in Hamden, Martin’s News in Stratford, and Woodbury Shell and Woodbury Convenience, both in Woodbury.
Subscriptions are available by calling 203-426-3141 (ask for Circulation), online through newtownbee.com, or by filling in the subscription form found on page A-2 each week and mailing that in.
Subscriptions start at $38 for six months, less than the $1 cover price. While many of the stories, features, press releases, and advertisements are posted online, all of those offerings and more are always included in each week’s print edition.
The Newtown Bee was founded in June 1877 by Bethel resident John Pearce. The newspaper was purchased by the Smith family of Newtown in 1881 and has remained in the family since.
Its current owner and publisher is looking forward to the updates to the company that has been in his family for 135-plus years.
“It’s going to be so nice,” Smith said.
Baggett is also optimistic.
“Printing at Trumbull gives us more opportunity to make Bee products better,” he said.
Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.