Will newspaper production return to the Electric City? | Local News


As soon as the presses of The Great Falls Tribune and River’s Edge Press fell silent, the publisher of the Fairfield Sun Times began working to acquire the smaller newspaper printing press located within the Tribune facilities.

In 2006, The Great Falls Tribune acquired Northwinds Publishing so the newspaper could enter the commercial printing market.

The purchase provided a smaller, more efficient Goss Community printing press. Operations grew to such an extent that newspapers from across the state sent their pages to the printing press located on the banks of the Missouri River.

Before River’s Edge began closing, the plant was one of the Treasure State’s leading community newspaper printers. Customer logs included Flathead Beacon, Bitterroot Star, Blackfoot Valley Dispatch, Boulder Monitor, Cascade Courier, Choteau Acantha, CMR High School Stampede, Cut Bank Pioneer Press, Fairfield Sun Times, Fort Peck Journal, Glacier Reporter, Gospel Mission, Great Falls College MSU, Independent Observer , Tricia’s Trader, Liberty County Times, Lively Times, Missoula Independent, Seeley-Swan Pathfinder, River Press, Shelby Promoter, Trader’s Dispatch and Valerian.

Unpublished clients included the State of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, several Remax real estate groups across the state, Rocky Mountain Outdoor Structures, Walleyes Unlimited Of Montana, Citizens For Balanced Use, Electric City Speedway, Montana Contractors’ Association, Montana Electric Cooperatives Association, Montana Snowmobile Association, North 40 Outfitters, Outlaw Partners, Exit Realty and American Legion Of Montana.

As River’s Edge drew to a close, some customers found other printers; a few customers left early for issues such as capacity.

The Sun Times, needing more color pages available, switched to River’s Edge around 2010.

“At first, the quality at River’s Edge was inconsistent,” said Darryl L. Flowers, publisher of the Sun Times. “I remember a quality issue on one of our first print jobs there, and when I called to ask about the problem, one of the team members at River’s Edge came up with an excuse that as someone with 30 years under my belt as a printer didn’t make sense I got in my truck, drove to Great Falls and watched crew get their press working, straight away I could see that the press was not set up properly, but the press team was doing their best.

Darryl L. Flowers, about 6 years old, was photographed in front of the 1957 Goss Universal Letterpress model at Jackson’s sun in Jackson, Tennessee. The photo was taken in recognition of National Newspaper Day. As a young child, Darryl worked at the Sun after school wiping the press, earning around 50 cents – at the time, enough to buy a Zero candy bar and a Coke. On January 1, 2008, Flowers acquired The Fairfield Sun Times after more than thirty years in the production of newspapers and commercial presses.

Flowers said he made suggestions, and over time, and to the credit of the folks at River’s Edge, they worked to improve their quality. “At the time they closed, River’s Edge was producing high quality prints and the team was great to work with.”

Flowers went on to say that while he wasn’t shy about letting the press team know where there was a problem with their product, he did let them know when they did a good job.

Flowers recalls the time he received a call from Amy Thomas, River’s Edge’s customer service representative at the time, letting him know that The Sun Times would be running late due to problems with manufacturing equipment. of plates. “I knew,” Flowers said, “this team was up to their ass in alligators, working hard to fix the problem, which wasn’t with the press, but with the high-tech platemaking equipment. I I also knew that the team was getting a lot of calls from disgruntled newspaper editors angry at the delay.

Flowers said he kept his cool, and the next morning he drove to Great Falls, stopping at the Big Sky Deli in Vaughn and then at Domino’s Pizza. “I walked into the River’s Edge press room knowing the team had faced angry phone calls from editors, so I walked through the door with pizza and cinnamon rolls for the whole family. ‘team. By doing this, I knew the Sun Times would be the first newspaper out when the presses rolled. I can still remember what it meant to a haggard press crew from my time running presses when the publisher arrived with a box of Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Before long, River’s Edge had spent a lot of money updating its press and prepress equipment. Only the Great Falls Tribune press, a Goss Metroliner, produced better quality. Flowers said that while you could criticize the way Gannett ran a newspaper, the company, through USA Today, revolutionized offset printing quality in the United States.


The community-style rotary offset press used to print newspapers and other commercial work at River’s Edge Press in Great Falls.

“I can’t tell you how many small-town publishers have called me to work on their presses and train their teams and said, ‘Make my newspaper look like USA Today.’ Of course, when I told them how much it would cost, they went for something a little more economical,” Flowers said.

When the Tribune plant closed, Flowers began working with an experienced printing equipment broker and installer to acquire the equipment at River’s Edge. “It was a nightmare, we never really knew where we stood with Gannett, so we never had a firm position to go ahead with the project. We were still in limbo.

Flowers said when he learned the building had been sold, he was told the presses went with the building. “All we could do was wait. Would the new owner want to use the equipment? Would they just take it to the junkyard? According to Flowers, even though Gannett had invested a lot of money in press updates that improved the quality, “it’s still old press; bad press, covered in filth. The press is really worthless unless it can be acquired and does not need to be moved very far. If you put that press on trucks and haul it a long way, you’ve just invested more money in the press than it’s worth.


One of the latest printings at River’s Edge Press.

Shortly after receiving the notice of sale of the building, the broker working with Flowers was contacted by the new owner. Soon after, Flowers contacted Pastor Nate – not about the press, but to set up an interview. “I had covered The Tribune’s last day of production. It’s not the last issue of The Tribune to hit the press – which we covered – but the last print job to come out of The Tribune’s Metroliner as well as the latest weekly newspapers to come out of River’s Edge Press.

Flowers said that growing up in a daily the same size as the Tribune and which followed the same path – and decline – as the Tribune, made him want to document the last images of the Tribune building before it took a turn. new life.

“Whether it was a wrecking ball or a rebirth as a facility that would continue to serve the community of Great Falls, I wanted to be there.”

Flowers, who describes himself as a “gypsy presser,” said speaking with Pastor Nate and his father, he could tell they were saddened by the decline of the print media in Great Falls.

“I think as we were talking, standing on the newsroom floor, that the pastor and his father understood my passion for establishing an independent newspaper production facility in Great Falls. I shared my concern that if newspapers like the Sun Times had to go out of state for printing, it would be difficult for these local newspapers to survive. Flowers said while researching a business plan for the printing project, he discovered that in Montana less than 50,000 people read a daily newspaper, while more than 200,000 readers open the pages. of a local non-daily newspaper each week. “And that number is based on subscribers, not readership.”

“In the few weeks that we have worked with Pastor Nate, we have made much more progress than ever with Gannett. We are now in a position to move forward and conclude our work to acquire the press and install the equipment in a location close to Great Falls and return newspaper production to the electric town.


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