The Toronto Sun, a saucy morning tabloid, has put plans for a Washington version "on hold" because there is no printing plant available in this area, general manager Donald Hunt said yesterday.
He said "there is room for another paper, it would be viable, but there is no press capacity, and you can't run a newspaper without presses."
The Sun is printed by the offset process, which is simpler and less costly than the traditional letterpress. The only offset printing plants in the Washington area capable of producing a large-circulation daily paper are the Army Times Co. plant, which prints the five suburban Journal daily newspapers, and The Washington Post's satellite plant in Springfield.
Neither would be available to the Sun--The Post plant for competitive reasons, The Journal plant because The Sun, as a morning paper, would have to be printed at the same time as The Journals and because Army Times has a contract to print a new national daily paper planned by the Gannett chain.
The Sun is an employe-owned paper, started by workers from the defunct Toronto Telegram in 1971. It has reached a circulation of more than 200,000 in Toronto with a breezy mix of sports, personality stories, local news and crime. The Sun also operates newspapers in Edmonton and Calgary, and has been studying the Washington market since Time Inc. folded The Washington Star in August.
Sidney Epstein, former Star managing editor, has been hired by the Sun as a consultant to search for a printing site. Hunt said Epstein would be retained because "it's worthwhile to have someone on the scene, but basically we are on hold. There's nothing new."
Hunt said that the former Star plant at 225 Virginia Ave. SE--now owned by The Post--was never a candidate because it does not have offset presses.
John Morton, a prominent newspaper-industry analyst based in Washington, said he also was consulted by The Sun and concluded that "there is no offset capacity for a daily of any size" in the Washington area or in Baltimore.
Even if there were, he said he is not convinced that the market here would support a newspaper like The Sun. He said it is a "subway paper," sold to commuters at rail stations, avoiding the distribution problems associated with home delivery. Subway ridership is far greater in Toronto than here, he said, and many riders are part of Toronto's large European immigrant population, Morton said. "They're used to the kinds of newspaper The Sun is puting out."