Los Angeles Times press
Five presses anchored the Orange County plant. The facility will be mothballed, Times officials said.

The Los Angeles Times is shuttering its Orange County printing facility and beefing up its downtown Olympic plant as the paper moves to consolidate operations.

The plant will close no later than March 15, costing the jobs of 80 employees.

Russ Newton, senior vice president of operations, told News & Tech that the Times is adding more color to the six Goss International Colorliner presses anchoring the downtown facility in a project managed by Masthead International.

The project, to be completed in May, will allow the paper to print up to 40 pages of color by populating existing 4-over-1 towers with color couples taken from one of the five Orange County presses in concert with cylinders from other sources, Newton said. The other four Orange County Colorliners as well as the plant will be mothballed.

In addition to the color project, the Times also plans to add a new gripper and gripper conveyor, Newton said.

Speculation growing

Speculation had been growing over the past several months that the Orange County plant was to be closed, and concerns that the facility was on the chopping block gained additional credibility when the plant's five presses weren't among those modified for 44-inch-wide production (see News & Tech Dateline, Oct. 12, 2009).

The consolidation means the Times will print the flagship paper as well as The Wall Street Journal, Barron's and the New York Post at the downtown facility. To accommodate the 48-inch web width of The Journal, two of the Goss Colorliner presses sport variable web width, Newton said.

Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein said news deadlines for the Times would be moved up because of the closure of the Orange County plant. The Times began printing a supplement featuring late-breaking news, called LATExtra Feb. 2, in conjunction with the debut of the 44-inch-wide Times.

Upgrade project

Tribune Co., which owns the Times, spent more than $40 million to upgrade the paper's then-three printing facilities in 2004, adding color towers and other enhancements in a bid to improve paging and color capacity.

By the fall of 2005, however, the press capacity of the three sites - then encompassing 15 presslines - was deemed excessive and the paper closed the San Fernando Valley print site and its four presses in early 2006.

As circulation continued to decline - the Times now boasts a daily circulation of 657,000 according to last fall's Fax-Fax, down considerably from the 902,000 papers it distributed six years ago - the Orange County facility itself became expandable. Tribune reportedly tried to market the plant to papers including The Orange County Register to no avail.