Death of print? News International unveils 'biggest printing plant in the world'

Journalists at News International‘s four national newspapers will face wide-ranging changes when the company moves all printing from its Wapping headquarters in April.

At a tour of the company’s new £187 million Broxbourne plant in north London today, the company’s senior management said that the latest in automated printing technology would give journalists later deadlines and editors greater freedom in redesigning pages.

News International claim the plant, just off the M25 near Enfield, is the biggest printing centre in the world. It is part of a £650m initiative including plants in Knowsley, near Liverpool, and Motherwell, near Glasgow.

The ‘triple-width’printing presses can produce tabloid and broadsheet newsprint simultaneously, meaning that many traditional editorial and printing deadlines could be scrapped.

Clive Milner, News International’s group managing director, told Press Gazette: ‘It affects the process of journalism in a number of ways. It allows the editors to refresh and redesign the product and that’s good news for readers.

‘Our current products are in some cases constrained by the production, this is changed by Broxbourne.’

The Sunday Times, which currently begins printing on Wednesdays, could now be printed entirely on Saturday, he said, putting sections like business into a “live” slot.

The Broxbourne plant is the size of 23 football pitches, it has 12 full-colour printing presses each capable of printing 86,000 copies per hour – the equivalent of 330,000 tonnes of newsprint a year. Wapping’s presses managed 36,000 copies per hour.

Automated, pre-programmed computer technology – including laser-guided trucks and conveyor belts carrying rolls of paper around the vast factory floor – mean that printing staff are to be cut by two thirds making the company an estimated annual saving of £13m.

James Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News Corp‘s Europe and Asia division, said the investment ‘should be ample answer to those who believe the business of journalism, in print, is a business for yesterday’s readers, not tomorrow’s.”

He continued: ‘At News, we believe that print will continue to be a driving force, even as we expand in this connected age.”

The Sun is already being printed at Broxbourne. The Daily and Sunday Telegraph will begin printing from Broxbourne late this year.

NI is currently looking for a new home for its editorial staff. A sale document for Wapping has been issued to potential buyers but no potential site has been mentioned by the company so far.

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