CanWest to expand

CanWest Publications, the print media arm of CanWest MediaWorks, which is owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp., is expanding its CanWest News Service to open new bureaus locally and abroad.

What the glowing press release masquerading as a news story doesn’t say, however, is that the reason for this expansion is that CanWest is pulling out of Canadian Press, the national nonprofit wire service that just about every news outlet in the country is part of because of its comprehensive coverage of Canadian affairs.

The expansion is necessary because CanWest has no publications east of Montreal and only a couple of bureaus abroad. Pulling out of CP (and by extension losing Associated Press copy as well) will save the chain a few million dollars but kill its main source of wire copy. Even the hiring of 25 new journalists isn’t going to make up for all of that.

Nevertheless, I’m not entirely denouncing the decision. Wire copy (and especially copy from CP and AP) is so easy to get online that it gives almost no added value to the newspaper. Those 25 new journalists, however, will probably represent a net gain as far as the industry goes; CanWest represents only about 10 per cent of CP’s revenue, far less than it used to now that free wire-service-only papers like Metro and 24 Heures are all over the place.

I could be wrong about this, but I’m hoping that this turns out positively for the industry. I just wish CanWest would do more with its seven-figure savings than hire 25 journalists and pocket the rest.

UPDATE: Deborah Jones has some comments as well on the announced expansion, and some concerns as well.

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