Generations of production workers gathered Saturday night to witness a milestone in Newsday’s nearly 80 years of serving Long Island.
The newspaper brought to a close its 77-year tradition of printing in-house. Going forward, Newsday will be printed and brought to Long Island by The New York Times Co. from its production plant in College Point, Queens.
When publisher Debby Krenek announced the arrangement four months ago, she emphasized the company’s commitment to Long Island, the print edition and its high standard of production and distribution.
Krenek revisited Newsday’s rich printing history in a letter to employees commemorating Saturday night.
“The production of Newsday has a distinguished history over the many years and various locations,” she said. “The one common thread has been the dedication of the men and women who made it all happen.”
The change allows the company to devote even more resources to its journalistic mission — gathering news for delivery in print, online at newsday.com and on its mobile app — as well as move forward with relocating its headquarters, Krenek said.
Newsday plans to leave its campus in Melville, which it rents, for a more modern space, also on Long Island. The new location has not been announced.
Scores of Newsday employees — past and present, from the press workers and truck drivers to editors in the newsroom — came together to watch the last newspapers roll off the presses in Melville. Generations of families reminisced — of going to each other’s weddings, having kids at the same time or retiring as best friends now.
“I just grew up here with all the guys,” said 36-year veteran Alex Cutrone, 54, an electrician who met his wife, Angela, at Newsday and worked with his pressman father, Alex Sr., and brother Frank, who is vice president of production. “It’s like family.”
As the belts of newspaper “grippers” slowly rolled overhead, oiling up for the fast-paced production, old-timers hugged. Cameras flashed for last photos, and some admitted they had already shed a few tears before coming.
Machinists Michael Corrigan, 62, and Sal Scallo, 68, started work on St. Patrick’s Day 1986 and became best friends, both awed by “the power of machines” that shook the floor.
“We’ll walk out of here together,” Corrigan said.
Newsday owner Patrick Dolan honored the workers for their “craftsmanship” for a newspaper that brought exclusives to Long Islanders.
“You were the heart that pumped it out every day . . . never missing a beat,” he said. “We’re going to miss the roar of those happy machines and the smell of ink in the hallways.”
The significance of the moment brought to mind many memories for the workers, more than a few who like Cutrone, Corrigan and Scallo, have been around the giant machines for 30 or 40 years.
In 1973, Michael LaSpina came straight out of Jamaica High School into Newsday’s production shop, working his way up from a helper on the presses to a journeyman pressman.
LaSpina, 64, of West Islip, recalled how Newsday bought new presses when it moved from Garden City to Melville in 1979. He saw history being made with the changeover to color printing and was part of many a day that tested the staff’s ability to produce a newspaper.
“We never, ever missed a circulation,” said LaSpina, who also serves as president of Local 406 of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents Newsday workers.
“We did it through hurricanes and [superstorm] Sandy. When there was a power outage on the East Coast, we kicked in the generators,” he said. “We never missed a day.”
The decision means the loss of 225 full-time and about 300 part-time jobs. Under a labor contract ratified in January, the affected workers will receive severance. Employees also had the opportunity to apply for jobs at the Times, and about 80 press workers, drivers and packaging workers have been hired, he said.
Working together day in and day out made many workers feel like family.
“We’ve known each other longer than we’ve known our wives, in some cases,” LaSpina said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included an incorrect reference to Newsday printing another newspaper during a strike.