In a decade that has seen little good news for the newspaper industry, The Ledger has a reason to cheer: The Lakeland newspaper and its Daytona Beach counterpart have been awarded a contract to print The Orlando Sentinel.

The Sentinel announced on its website Wednesday that printing, packaging and transportation will be outsourced to two GateHouse Media newspapers, The Ledger and the Daytona-Beach News Journal. (The Ledger published the Sentinel article online, but I saw no mention of the deal in print this morning.)

It’s too early to determine the effect on the newspaper’s bottom line, but Publisher Brian Burns says he’s meeting today with  GateHouse officials to determine how many production workers he’ll be able to hire to accommodate the new work.

The Sentinel said it will eliminate 89 full-time and 26 part-time positions when it closes its production facility.

“We want to offer jobs to the Orlando people who are losing their jobs,” Burns said. “I’m hoping between the two properties (Lakeland and Daytona) to hire all the full-timers and many of the part-timers.”

The Ledger’s production wing faces Missouri Avenue.

As advertising revenue has declined in the last decade, outside printing has become an increasingly important source of revenue for The Ledger. The newspaper has maintained long-time contracts to print the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for distribution to Florida readers.

The extra printing work will have no effect on deadlines for news at The Ledger, Burns said, noting there is room for more work on the newspaper’s twin Goss Colorliner presses. “We have the capacity; we just need the people,” he said.

Burns said he rushed to the pressroom to share the good news Wednesday when he discovered the printing agreement had been announced.

“It’s thanks to their efforts and hard work and their quality that we were able to get this,” he said.

Negotiations between the two companies have taken place over several months, The Sentinel reported. It also said printing will shift to the new plants in phases between now and September. Papers will be printed and advertising sections inserted in Lakeland and Daytona Beach, then transported to Sentinel distribution centers.

GateHouse and The Sentinel already had agreements for distributing each others’ publications in their respective markets.

“This is a really big deal for us,” Burns said. “Morale in the pressroom was in the tank. This is a big shot in the arm.”

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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