After 178 years, The Advocate no longer has a press in Stamford

After 178 years, The Advocate no longer has a press in Stamford
By Angela Carella - Stamford Advocate - 12/31/2007
STAMFORD - The Advocate's press shut down early yesterday after 178 years of printing newspapers in Stamford.

The bells that signal the start of a press run went silent. The web of newsprint stopped spinning over the cylinders. The conveyors carrying freshly printed newspapers were still.

In a deal that closed Nov. 1, Hearst Corp. bought The Advocate and Greenwich Time for $62.4 million from the Tribune Co. MediaNews Group Inc. of Denver now manages the newspapers for Hearst.

The Advocate and Greenwich Time now are printed on the presses of two other newspapers that MediaNews owns or operates. The Advocate will be printed at the News-Times in Danbury, and Greenwich Time will be printed at the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport. MediaNews also operates six weeklies in Fairfield County.

In Stamford, 15 press operators and two supervisors are out of jobs.

It is the end of a long run.

The first issue rolled off a flat-bed hand press April 8, 1829. Initially on Main Street, the newspaper and press were on Atlantic Street for many decades. In 1981, the operation moved to Tresser Boulevard, a building Tribune plans to sell.

The Advocate newsroom will move from that downtown building to a building in the Riverbend office complex off Hope Street. The Norwalk edition will be headquartered on Westport Avenue in Norwalk in a building with some of the weeklies. The Greenwich Time newsroom will move from downtown to Old Greenwich.

"For almost 200 years, the papers have controlled their own destinies," said John Dunster of Stamford, the new publisher of the newspapers. "The pressmen are like family members to us. We hate to do this, but it's a necessary part of the industry."

The biggest change for readers will be that, because of earlier deadlines, the newspapers no longer will report late sports scores in the print editions, Dunster said. Recent changes in print quality and how stories are booked in The Advocate will improve as the pressmen in Danbury adjust, he said.

Joseph F. Pisani, editor and senior vice president of The Advocate and Greenwich Time, said nothing compares to a printing press.

"When I first arrived at these papers in the 1970s, they were owned by the Gillespie family and there was a press in Greenwich and one in Stamford," Pisani said. "I can still remember the exhilaration I got when I took the paper off the press for the first time and checked the headlines. For me, it was like a scene out of 'Deadline USA,' but now it's over. Believe me, that's a thrill you'll never get from the Internet."

The Greenwich Time was printed at its East Elm Street building until it was switched to the Stamford press in 1981.

Dunster replaced Durham Monsma of Stamford, who was publisher for seven years.

"I still get a thrill - the hair stands up on the back of my neck - when I hear the printing press start up with the big story," Monsma said. "There is an emotional connection a lot of people in this business have with the sound of the press running. I will miss seeing the first papers come off the press, and watching the pressmen pick up the first few and leaf through, checking the registration to see if they are making good copies."

Pressmen have a tradition of taking a page from the day's newspaper, folding it into a hat and putting it on. The press was the highlight of a tour of The Advocate, he said.

But the Harris 1660 10-unit press, which takes up portions of two floors, was a bit much for the Tresser Boulevard building. Those who visited The Advocate while it was running sometimes had a question: Are we having an earthquake?

"When we run the press at top speed, there's so much vibration that you can feel it in the floor," said Dennis Tidrick, the prepress manager. "We don't operate the press at full tilt because of the vibration. It would be very annoying."

The press could print 50,000 copies an hour, but it was kept to 80 percent of that, said Craig Allen, vice president of operations.

"We can do up to 40,000 without shaking things up too much," Allen said. "Apparently, they didn't put enough concrete base under the press when the building was constructed. We'd really feel it if it ran full out."