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The Southern’s Final Press Run

End of an era: The Southern Illinoisan to move printing operations to St. Louis

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CARBONDALE — Technology now connects the world.

Facebook allows residents of Southern Illinois to see their grandchildren in California and New York. Soldiers stationed across the world can Skype with their families at home. Smartphone apps will order dinner and set the time to arrive.

Technology also allows businesses to consolidate operations into regional centers that specialize in one part of that business. Lee Enterprises, the company that owns The Southern Illinoisan, has done that with accounting, human resources and page design. Now, they are consolidating printing operations.

The newspaper you are reading is the last one that will be printed in Carbondale. Beginning with Tuesday's edition, The Southern will be printed in Maryland Heights, Missouri, by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch press crew.

From the Editor: We’re still here

We are joining the ranks of newspapers who have moved printing operations to another location, including the San Francisco Chronicle, Belleville News Democrat, Casper Star-Tribune and Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. 

“We are all saddened to idle our local press and lose our friends who run it. They are a fantastic group of guys who will be missed,” said Craig Rogers, publisher of The Southern Illinoisan. “Unfortunately, we are no longer able to efficiently compete with modern, regional printing plants.”

While The Southern will adjust as an organization and individual employees, customers will see few changes. The way they get the newspaper will stay the same.

Here’s a little snapshot of how the newspaper is created before it is delivered to your door or purchased in a local store: News and advertising content is — and will continue to be — produced in Carbondale. Pages and sections are created in Carbondale and decisions about where to put advertising is done.

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Press operators Jim Herley (left) and Tim Stephenson load plates onto The Southern's printing press as they prepare to print Sunday's classified ad section on Friday evening. Today's paper will be the last printed in Carbondale as printing will be done in St. Louis starting with Tuesday's edition.

After news content is edited and page placement is decided, advertising and news content is sent electronically to our regional design center in Munster, Indiana, and placed on pages. Completed pages are checked in Carbondale. Pages are sent to the press, which will be in Missouri.

Once the newspapers are printed, they will be loaded onto a truck to be delivered back to The Southern in Carbondale.

Papers will be bundled by route and picked up by carriers in Carbondale and at their regular spots in towns throughout the region. Our carriers will deliver the newspapers to stores and subscribers in the morning. Then, the whole process starts over for the next newspaper.

The changes in printing will change the daily deadlines for evening news and sports coverage. In many cases, we will just have to file stories a little quicker. The changes will require us to rethink our coverage in other cases. Late city council meetings and sporting events may have a shorter piece saying what happened in the next morning, with analysis on our website and in the newspaper the next day.

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Saturday's edition of The Southern comes off the press.

“We were extremely disheartened when we learned that The Southern would no longer be printed in Carbondale. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with our colleagues who have lost their livelihood.” said Shawn Anglin, a copy editor and unit chair of the SI News Guild, the union representing newsroom employees.

“We remain committed to producing journalism of the highest quality and we look forward to working together with local management as we make this transition. One thing not changing is that we will continue to be a watchdog for the region,” Anglin added.

The history

The Southern Illinoisan was created in 1947 by the purchase and merger of three local newspapers — the Daily Free Press of Carbondale, the Murphysboro Independent and the Herrin Daily Journal — by Southern Illinois Publications Inc., which became Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers Inc. in 1952.

In 1979, Lee Enterprises purchased The Southern Illinoisan and other Lindsay Schaub papers.

The press at The Southern Illinoisan has been documented over the years in stories marking newspaper anniversaries. A story in 1957 on the 10th anniversary of the newspaper talks about the addition of a high-speed rotary press in 1949 capable of printing 10,000 24-page newspapers per hour.

In an article about the newspaper’s 40th anniversary, former reporter Nancy Weil wrote the transition to “an efficient computers operation with an offset printing press and full-color capabilities have vastly helped those of us who produce the newspaper, as well as improving the look of The Southern Illinoisan.”

Evening to Morning

Former Southern Illinoisan publisher Steve Burgess pulls the first paper off the conveyor on June 10, 1985, the first edition of the Southern Illinoisan as it became a morning paper. It had previously been delivered in the evenings.

Pete Selkowe, former editor and publisher of the newspaper, spoke of the press in memories he submitted for a 50th anniversary section in 1997. He said The Southern Illinoisan was the first Lee newspaper to use the Harris Pagination System and converted to offset and full-color printing in 1982.

A picture of that press being installed in 1982 is with this story. That press, now 35 years old, has been at The Southern Illinoisan longer than the men who run it.

The new press arrives

The "new" offset press arrived at The Southern Illinoisan in 1982.

The crew

Press Manager Dean Thompson started working part-time at the newspaper in 1985 and full-time in 1988. It has been his full-time career for 31 years.

Jim Herley, assistant press supervisor, has worked with Lee Enterprises for 22 years, the first 10 in Madison, Wisconsin, and the last 12 at The Southern Illinoisan. He has been a printer for 42 years.

Pete Dunkel, one of two press operators, has worked on the press nearly 20 years, starting May 31, 1999.

Tim Stephenson, the other press operator, is the newbie in the group. He started at The Southern on May 16, 2016.

Nathan Hagler, pre-press and plate room, also is affected by the change in operations.

“We are all saddened by losing it,” Thompson said.

Thompson and the others are receiving what he called “very generous” severance packages and help finding their next jobs.

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Press operator Jim Herley starts up The Southern's printing press on Friday evening to print the classified ad section for Sunday's paper.

“I’ve had a rewarding career at The Southern Illinoisan. I will take the knowledge and experience to my next position,” Thompson said.

Some customers have asked about submitting information to the newspaper. Most information can be submitted through our website, www.thesouthern.com, by scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking the "contact" link. There, you can subscribe to the newspaper, submit advertising, events, letters, obituaries, news tips and more.

For help submitting information, call the Carbondale office at 618-529-5454. 

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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