National Hirschfeld's impending closure: the end of an era -- and a sign of the times

In October 2007, the Denver Post published "Still Printing After All These Years," an article about National Hirschfeld, a firm that sprang from a business A.B. Hirschfeld started in the basement of a LoDo fruit stand in 1907. The piece featured the photo seen here of A. Barry Hirschfeld, who was optimistic that the operation started by his grandfather had gotten new life when it took the National Hirschfeld name in 2005. "Family companies can get stagnant," he said at the time. "The result of our merger is a new energy, a new level of combined expertise."

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough -- and today, the Post is reporting that National Hirschfeld will "close its printing plant and lay off 250 workers by the end of the month." The outfit's struggles are closely related to those afflicting print journalism. Simply put, putting words and pictures on paper is infinitely more expensive than making them available online -- and while National Hirschfeld moved aggressively into the digital realm, it couldn't generate enough new revenue to offset shortfalls in its traditional business.

With workers at the Rocky Mountain News anxiously awaiting a mid-January deadline set by its owner, E.W. Scripps, to find a buyer for the paper, and employees at the Denver Post wondering what will happen if MediaNews Group chieftain Dean Singleton doesn't wring $20 million in savings from various unions by January 16, news of Hirschfeld's forthcoming exit is foreboding indeed. Print may not be dead, but it's not exactly in tip-top shape, either.

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