Synergy at Sun Media

In an effort to cut costs, Sun Media is combining resources at its small Ontario dailies (which formed the Osprey Media chain that is now part of Quebecor). It’s being described as “synergy”, but it basically means replacing local jobs with fewer, lesser-paid jobs at larger production centres.

Among the changes:

In each case, jobs that were considered technical rather than editorial in nature are being replaced by a centralized operation that can be more efficient and work with fewer people. But the worry is that the people doing these jobs now have no connection to the papers and don’t care about the quality of what they put out. The fact that union jobs are replaced by non-union jobs with less pay and no benefits only makes that problem worse.

It’s also touching aspects of editorial too. As the Observer article points out, the papers are taking advantage of “synergy” by running national columns rather than local ones wherever possible. The Sun and Osprey chains are even copying whole pages (taking advantage of their similar layouts) from each other, and outsourcing layout work to a centralized location (which is how the Journal de Montréal is still functioning despite a lockout of 253 workers).

If this sounds familiar, a similar strategy is at the centre of stalled contract talks between my union and Canwest, which has centralized its customer service call centre, is centralizing some layout and copy editing work, and started printing standardized business pages in its major dailies.

I think some centralization (even of editorial work) makes sense, and I understand the need of these companies to reduce costs, but there’s a fine line between outsourcing a technical job to a company that specializes in that work and removing parts of what give local papers their identity, which go beyond just what names appear in the bylines and what you get in the police blotter.

In the end, it will be the subscribers who decide whether or not any cut goes too far.

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  1. Pingback: Fagstein » Sun Media’s new insert-paper-name-here redesign

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