Ghosts laid to rest as 'simplified' News gets out of print

News Corp is to close its only US printing plant, putting production of its daily and weekly publications out to contract as part of "simplifying" the company.

The plant at Bronx Print Plant, which prints the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and the weekly Barron's, is likely to close in the New Year, with union negotiations already underway, News & Tech has reported.

Printing of the three titles - which are already produced at a number of interstate contractors - will switch to the New York Times' College Point site in the city.

In 2003, then Australian group technical manager Barry Johnson told GXpress of his role the year before in the establishment of the Bronx plant, where new press and mailroom equipment had been installed.

"I had been keeping an eye on the project with monthly trips between Australia and the US when Lachlan Murdoch walked past and told me the vice president of operations was leaving and I was in charge until a replacement was found". What followed was an 18-month rollercoaster assignment embracing a tricky plant commissioning in a hostile industrial environment.

The fragmented project included a shaftless Goss press, hopper-fed inserting in a GMA-equipped mailroom, and a "premature" switch to CTP. Johnson learned fast about the power of the city's unions and problems dating from the previous ownership which included manning practices evocative of the bad old days of London's Fleet Street.

The intrusion of the Australian at the plant was not well received, "but if I achieved anything there, I think it may have been more on the human part of the exercise than the mechanical one," he said.

Some 400 redundancies are expected with the closure.

Peter Coleman

Pictured: Lachlan Murdoch with Barry Johnson on the New York project in 2002

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