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Challenges with our press
John Ingebritsen

For more than six months in the last half of 2023, we were having printing issues with our weekly newspapers that made it difficult for us to provide quality products. We brought in a consultant who indicated our 1970s press had seen its better days and replacing parts on it to bring it back to health would have been extremely expensive, as well as time consuming. When you are printing 24 publications a week, extra time is not something we had available to us. 

So we ended up finding a replacement and for the first time in more than 60 years we would be starting over with different presses in our central printing plant in Lancaster. We had no idea on the timeline of removing an old press, setting and installing a different press in its place. It turned out it was not the two-week process we had initially planned. 

We started the project on Monday, March 18 and on Thursday, May 16 we were waiting on one final part, a bushing the size of a thumbnail. Unfortunately, it was not a part sitting in any parts store anywhere from Dubuque to Madison to Prairie du Chien to the 20 other places we looked. That one part for the folder, that allows us to quarter fold our papers, required us to delay printing through one entire week cycle of papers and shoppers when we thought we were ready to go.  Until we started running papers on the press and having them going through the folder, we didn’t know we had a problem and then once we did, we had to find the replacement for it. 

We had an electrical power issue that delayed the early part of the process. The new press required significantly more power to run and we didn’t have the capacity. That meant waiting several weeks for a transformer and the setting of a power pole behind our building and then running the power cabling under the parking lot to the transformer. I’ve always wished there was a way to slow down time and when you’re waiting for something, time can be interminably slow. And yet through this slow process, I’ve aged five years in eight weeks. 

While we are working to make the press operational, we have printed with Woodward Printing in Platteville and they have been accommodating and patient with us as well given we don’t know from one week to the next if we’re able to print our own products or if we need to rely on them for printing our publications.

Scheduling challenges have dogged us during this entire time, which have kept us from meeting the delivery times at our local post offices. Post offices around here no longer have delivery trucks at 3 and 5 p.m., now only at 3 p.m. When we print ourselves, we can be inserting one product while printing another and then while we are inserting one product we can be labeling and bagging the previous one we had been inserting. That works great when we have six or seven papers in a day to print. 

During this press change over time, we pick up three to four papers at one time in Platteville — some in the morning and some in the afternoon — and then bring them back to insert in Lancaster, and then label and bag before sending out to various places — from Platteville to Richland Center to Monroe to Darlington to Cuba City to Fennimore to Boscobel to Guttenberg and Elkader, Iowa to Prairie du Chien to Gays Mills.  For many that is a 90-minute process to insert, label, bag and get on a truck, especially if there are multiple inserts. Picking up the Platteville Journal from Woodward at 1:30 p.m. and expecting to be at the Platteville Post Office at 3 p.m. wasn’t possible, the same was true for several other papers as well. We were told after missing two 3 p.m. deadlines by the Platteville Post Office that if we couldn’t drop off papers before 3 p.m. to not come back until after 9 a.m. the next day. We would have been there by 4 p.m. every week but we abided by their wishes and dropped off papers the next morning. There used to be a 6 a.m. delivery truck, but that’s not there anymore either so that delayed papers by more than we would have liked. It’s ironic how we’ve paid more and more and more with three postal increases in 18 months for less and less and less delivery options. 

So for that we apologize to our readers, who very much want their papers on Wednesday or Thursday and not on Friday or Saturday. We sincerely appreciate your patience and hope you better understand now why it is we have not been in your mail on the day you’ve been getting your papers for years and years. Hopefully we will be running our presses and utilizing our inserting team and getting back to being ahead of that 3 p.m. window postal window for our products. 

To our staff, thank you for your patience through all of this as well. None of it has been in your hands to control. As I said to our press team on Thursday, I want you back working as pressmen and not mechanics.  To Woodward, thank you for dealing with the short notices as our optimism in completing this project far exceeded our ability to get this up and running. One thumbnail size part blocked us from printing 24 press runs this week. That’s frustrating to all of us here. 

— John D. Ingebritsen is the Regional Publisher of the Morris Newspaper Corporation of Wisconsin.