It’s unusual for the Chronicle to bury the lead.
“Look for improved print quality in your Chronicle,” read the headline below the fold in Wednesday’s Chronicle.
The story from Executive Editor Jim Gouvellis said, starting next week, the Chronicle would be printed at The Ledger plant in Lakeland and we’re going to see a cleaner and more colorful newspaper because of it.
The Chronicle, no longer needing that manufacturing facility in Meadowcrest, is in the market for something smaller that’s more of an office for the editorial and advertising employees.
That’s nice but it glazed over the real story:
Citrus County’s daily newspaper for 129 years will be printed in someone else’s backyard and then delivered locally.
That’s a lot to unwrap.
First off, no issue here with any business decision the Chronicle makes. When Paxton Media Group bought the Chronicle two years ago, we knew big changes would follow.
And they did. Trina Murphy became publisher in August 2021 and the newspaper sought to adapt to a new way of doing things. There's still an emphasis on local content and advertising.
Other than the beautiful print job the Chronicle now promises with the Lakeland facility, we might not notice this one either.
It’s a subtle difference but one that speaks volumes about the Chronicle, our community and the ties that bind.
Far as I know, the Chronicle has always been printed in Citrus County. In Inverness at the Heights Avenue facility for decades, then to Meadowcrest in, I’m going on memory, around the mid-1990s.
Meanwhile, we all see what’s happening to the print industry. With news at our fingertips, print newspapers are struggling to stay relevant.
Who knows this better than me? I’m a newspaper guy through and through, ink in the veins and all that. A newspaper career, here and in Michigan, that reached close to 40 years. Even as the internet expanded, I reasoned that Citrus County residents can read about local news like the Lecanto garden club in only one place — the Chronicle.
Well, one day I was a Chronicle employee in August 2021 and the next day I retired. A month later I had a blog and see where we are today. I made the transition from print to online practically overnight and readers came right along.
Just Wright Citrus now has a slot in the Citrus County media scene that didn’t exist two years ago. I definitely understand the changing dynamics between print and online.
But, man, these transitions in our community are just so tough to watch. The Crystal River Mall is being demolished. The corner of County Roads 491/486 will never be the same. And now our hometown newspaper is being printed in another county.
Truth is, though, these changes are necessary for success. That Meadowcrest building served the Chronicle well for 30 years but now it’s a dinosaur. I don’t know how much a press goes for, but it can’t be cheap. Keeping all that stuff in working order must be quite the challenge.
Just take this as nostalgia and little else.
The best part of the newspaper process is the press. I never could understand how it takes a roll of white paper and magically transforms it into a newspaper. Every tour we host — that’s what people want to see. Especially little kids and retirees.
Sometimes I’d stand in the hallway watching through a window as the press roared. I’ve been around the loading dock post-midnight as the night crew bundled newspapers for carriers, who would head off before dawn with freshly printed newspapers for our readers.
I haven’t graced the Chronicle pressroom floor in a few years. I can’t imagine what it’s like for Trina and former Chronicle colleagues to see this traditional mainstay of the newspaper tossed aside in our economic reality.
The newspaper will survive and likely thrive with this move. Being printed by a Gannett company will, for sure, improve its quality. And looking to pull out of Meadowcrest to a more office-type environment makes sense.
The Chronicle is Citrus County’s oldest continuous business and plays a vital role in the community’s success. It’s going through a significant transition, as we all are.
Let’s hear it for the men and women who, over numerous decades, kept that Chronicle press roaring. God bless each of them.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.