Another sign of circling the drain? The main indicator of trouble times for newspapers has been stagnant (or declining) circulation and declines in advertising, both critical. But maybe we should look too at the printing plants.
Traditionally, daily newspapers have run their own printing presses; those in joint operating agreements (like the dailies in Seattle) have shared that part of their operation, but they have been the exception. Even most small dailies have had their own presses. But that has begun to change. In Idaho, it changed in-corporation a few years ago when the papers at Pocatello and at Logan, Utah (which are about an hour and a half away from each other) quit their local printing and shared a joint press midway or so between them, at Preston. But those dailies were both owned by the same newspaper group.
Now something different is happening: Competing newspapers (which Pocatello and Logan were not) owned by different corporations are sharing printing plants. Today came word that the largest Idaho newspaper, the Statesman at Boise (owned by McClatchy Newspapers), will no longer have its own printing press, and will not even print in its home town, but will share operations with the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune (owned by Pioneer Newspapers). Kinda changes the nature of the competition - a little less pure than it was. The same sort of thing has been approved as well in Washington, between the McClatchy Bellingham paper which will be printed at (Pioneer's) Mount Vernon operation.
Secondarily, there's another hidden question. Many publications depend on the newspaper presses for their printing, including most weekly newspapers. With this consolidation, will they continue to be able to get their papers printed locally, or even in arms length? And what might that do to journalism as it ripples along?