Regional media company ACM, the owner of The Courier, has announced it will close several of its print sites including Ballarat's Wendouree printing complex.
The closure, scheduled for October 2 this year, will lead to the loss of 134 jobs including full and part time roles.
The Courier will continue to be published in a print format, after a new deal was brokered with NewsCorp to have the 153 year old paper printed in Melbourne.
ACM will also close two other print sites at Canberra and South Australia's Murray Bridge on August 28 but has not yet made a decision on its Wodonga site.
In a statement to staff on Friday morning, Chief Executive Officer Allen Williams said the difficult decision was made following a review of all elements of the business and was aimed at ensuring the long term sustainability of Australia's largest regional media business.
"Even before we saw the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, many of our printing presses had more capacity than demand, " he said in the statement.
"As a result we have determined that the overheads of running expensive manufacturing operations are an unsustainable drain on our business and that there are alternatives available to us which provide better commercial outcomes while allowing us to focus on our core publishing business."
But the efficiencies the closures will bring will enable the company to continue to invest in quality journalism for regional communities, he said.
"We assure you that we are not stepping away from publishing printed copies of our newspapers - to the contrary, the printed newspaper will still play a significant role in the future of ACM. We have made the decision that ACM does not need to own print facilities to achieve this objective.," he said.
"As part of these changes, we have entered into agreements with News Corp Australia that will see us utilise each other's printing networks. The highly valued mastheads of ACM, News Corp and Nine Entertainment Group will all benefit from the rationalisation of printing centres that will result in cost savings across printing and distribution."
Federal MP and opposition spokesperson for infrastructure and regional development Catherine King described at is "another sad day for the Ballarat community and regional media" and showed no one could take our media sector for granted, "especially in regional communities".
"My thoughts are with the 134 direct workers who will be losing their jobs, as well as their families." Ms King said
"We must also remember the truck drivers and workers in associated industries who will be affected by these cuts. To see so many job losses - especially now - is simply devastating. Our whole community will have to support these workers and their families through this difficult time.
"These job losses are another symptom of a media sector in crisis. We know that COVID has made things harder, but the support offered doesn't even stack up to what the ACCC told the Government was needed before the pandemic hit."
She encouraged anyone who was affected by the closures who needed help accessing support to contact her office on 5338 8123.
In an opinion piece for his publications ACM executive chairman Antony Catalano said the closure decisions were based on the commercial reality of publishing in the modern digital era when audiences had moved online and the print sites were often a reflection of local historical business models.
"Every publisher had their own printing press - because they could afford to," Mr Catalano wrote.
"And that was OK for those glory days back when newspapers were the main way people got their news and information; back when mainstream media was very lucrative and virtually a licence to print money."
The online shift of news audiences meant fewer printed publications and reductions in the volume of printing, he said.
"This has left our printing presses with more capacity than there is demand - and that was before the economic challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic."
Trades Hall Ballarat Secretary Brett Edgington said workers and members were devastated at the news of the planned redundancies from the closure.
"BRTLC Stands in Solidarity with the large Rural Press workforce and will work with the AMWU and ETU to do whatever it takes to secure their entitlements and a fair redundancy - or even better, fight to save their jobs, conditions and the future of the Wendouree site," he said in a statement.
An ACM spokesperson said all workers would be able to access their full legal entitlements as part of the closures
The spokesperson also said there were no firm plans yet established for the Grandlee Drive site in Wendouree following the October closure.
The printing site was purpose built in 2002 for Rural Press, the then owner of The Courier and became a printing hub for a large number of regional publications across western Victoria.
The investment in the modern site followed the closure of on-site printing works beneath the old Courier building at 110 Creswick Road and increased its capacity to take on more and varied work.
The Age, which has also been published in Wendouree since 2014 will also look to arrangements with NewsCorp to continue printing.
It is not known if ACM's new printing arrangements will affect newspaper deadlines.