Posted in Media, Navel-gazing

Blue Monday at The Gazette

It’s annoying when big news happens on your day off.

There was an email to all staff shortly before 3pm calling for a meeting about something “important”. I was at home, enjoying my first day off in a while,  so I couldn’t come in to attend.

I got most of the news first on Twitter, particularly Steve Ladurantaye of the Globe and Mail. Postmedia is engaging in another round of deep job cuts, which include “more than 20″ at The Gazette.

Eventually, we got the memos from the president of Postmedia and the publisher of The Gazette, the contents of which are being widely reported (see links below). But a lot is still unclear.

The job cuts are being described as “layoffs”, though it’s too early to say that. Voluntary buyouts will be offered, and if enough people take them, layoffs won’t be necessary. Despite all the rounds of job cuts at the paper in the seven years I’ve been there, no permanent union jobs in the newsroom have been forcibly cut.

People have asked me if I’m on the “list” of people being laid off, and the truth is no such list exists yet, and whether this ends up with me eventually losing my job is something I just don’t know. If it comes to layoffs, I’m No. 105 on a newsroom union seniority list of 107 (which also includes photographers, columnists, reporters, designers, clerks and other newsroom employees), so my chances of being bumped out of a job is high higher. Looking at that list, 63 of the 107 have more than 20 years of seniority (which is adjusted for part-time workers and those who take leaves of absence). Only seven (including myself) have an adjusted seniority of less than five years. It’s a simple reality of work in a union environment where hiring has been rare recently because of the industry’s struggles.

More details will come out as the decisions from higher up trickle down to the department level, and later when we know who is taking buyouts. But whether it results in layoffs or not, the result will be a blow to the paper. National and world news stories, which are no longer being edited in Montreal, may not even be selected by local editors, though that’s still unclear. The amount of space devoted to editorial content (stories and pictures in all sections) will be reduced 35% (though I’m told this is just during weekdays). Virtually all More editing for print will be done by editors at Postmedia Editorial Services in Hamilton, Ont.

I’m not in a position to criticize the decisions of upper management at Postmedia, who have to deal with a substantial debt load and declining revenues. There are plenty of pundits not employed by this company who can do that. But whether or not it’s the right decision, it’s still sad. It’s a blow to seasoned workers who may feel more pressure to retire early or face a newsroom with declining morale. It’s a blow to young workers like myself. And it’s a blow to people looking for jobs (people like Adam Kovac), who have just seen their slim prospects here get even slimmer.

Coverage

UPDATE: I’ve clarified a few items above where I made statements about things that will happen that I’m told are still not clear. Don’t put too much emphasis on the details, which still have to be worked out. We know there will be more centralization and fewer local jobs, but how that will play out exactly still has to be determined.

13 thoughts on “Blue Monday at The Gazette

  1. mike

    It’s sad that you don’t understand that newspaper industry is dying. Start looking for a job with some future before is too late.

    Reply
  2. wkh

    You’re making me feel glad I decided to donate on the sustainer level to the Dominion.
    I just can’t get excited about corporate media anymore enough to actually invest my money in it. That kind of attitude is probably helping kill it faster.

    Reply
  3. Kevin

    @mike
    So where will you get your daily news? Rabble.ca?

    I really think that all Canadian mainstream media has dropped the ball on news aggregation.
    Take the existing content and throw it online, then give everyone else at the office training to add everything they scan during the day to one massive blog.

    Reply
  4. Konger

    While it sucks for you Steve, honestly we can all see this coming. Print media is in a steep decline, it is losing it’s relevancy and has become mostly so untimely as to be the source of last choice, rather than the first. When a story breaks online at 8 AM, and runs through the day, by the time the Gazoo is writing about it, it’s already been sent through the mill twice – and Tommy Schnurmacher has already murdered it dead by adding some anglo angst or a little jewish conspiracy theory to it.

    It is sad for those people involved, but at the same time you don’t have to look any further than your own union(s) to see the problems – silly work rules, insane redundancy, and people kept on for jobs that really don’t exist much anymore (how many typesetters? really?).

    Keep your chin(s) up, you may be surprised by how many people in front of you choose to take the door this time out. You may also find your internet related post being a bit more sacred.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      When a story breaks online at 8 AM, and runs through the day, by the time the Gazoo is writing about it

      How does the story break online? The Gazette has reporters filing online through the day, and an online staff as of 6am on weekdays. Often when a story “breaks online”, it’s through a story at montrealgazette.com, as well as other media.

      you don’t have to look any further than your own union(s) to see the problems

      What’s your evidence of this?

      silly work rules

      Like what?

      insane redundancy

      Where?

      and people kept on for jobs that really don’t exist much anymore (how many typesetters? really?)

      The Gazette doesn’t employ typesetters and hasn’t for years.

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        “How does the story break online?”

        I think you answered your own question completely. By the time it’s in print, it’s already too late. Since you aren’t the only media out there, well, you aren’t the old ones breaking stories or talking about them. When they break at 8AM (online, or on the radio, or on TV, or “live on the scene”) by the time you guys are printing it the next day, it’s already been used up. Your online version may be more up to date, but the print version is a day late…

        “silly work rules”

        I am thinking of the people who work 4 days instead of 5, but spend half their time not doing so much.

        As for the typesetters, it’s not a current this week issue… but it’s sometimes from the past that has showed the union dragging it’s feet to keep people in jobs, even as it is to the detriment of the whole. Please go back and review the history of typesetters and other print related employees in the last 20 years to get an idea.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          When they break at 8AM (online, or on the radio, or on TV, or “live on the scene”) by the time you guys are printing it the next day, it’s already been used up.

          The Gazette and other newspapers are well aware of this issue, and have been for years. That’s why they post breaking news stories online as they break, and work to try to offer analysis or depth for next-day stories in print. There’s also a lot of news that doesn’t “break” – features, exclusives and other stories that only reach the 24-hour news cycle after they’re published by the paper.

          I am thinking of the people who work 4 days instead of 5, but spend half their time not doing so much.

          Who? I don’t know of any unionized employee in the editorial department that has a four-day work week and is considered full-time. And even for places where this is true, those four days are longer than normal. When editors had four-day weeks, they worked nine hours a day (without a lunch break), so their work week had the same number of working hours.

          As for the typesetters, it’s not a current this week issue… but it’s sometimes from the past that has showed the union dragging it’s feet to keep people in jobs, even as it is to the detriment of the whole.

          Unions are always going to defend people’s jobs. That’s their purpose. They’re definitely going to fight for jobs when a profitable company tries to lay off workers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to insist that people are paid for work that isn’t necessary – and employers would never agree to such contract language anyway. What it does mean is that when technology changes, unions expect employers to retrain workers to do those new jobs and when that’s not possible, that workers who are laid off be given proper compensation.

          The Gazette hasn’t employed typesetters in decades, doesn’t have four-day work weeks in its editorial department and has a well-staffed online desk that covers breaking news. So I don’t see why you’re using these as arguments against it.

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            Hey, then I entirely agree with you. It’s absolutely NOT the unions fault at all. There are no redundancies, no obstructionist work rules (reporters carry their own camera when they go to stories, and photographers write stories as well, right?).

            I guess everything is good. Not sure why they need to lay anyone off then.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              reporters carry their own camera when they go to stories, and photographers write stories as well, right?

              Reporters carry BlackBerrys or iPhones, and will sometimes take pictures, but for anything of printable quality, a professional photographer is sent. For major news events, reporters are busy enough with writing, blogging and tweeting. Photographers, meanwhile, have been trained to create videos, but don’t really have time in their day to write stories.

              Reply
  5. Becks

    I said it a number of years ago right here on this blog…..The Gazette is dead…it’s just a matter of when will it finally realize it. Looks to be very very soon. IMHO it’s not due to anything else except a number of really bad decisions from corporate/upper management over the past 4-5 years. It’s sort of been watching a car wreck in really really really slow motion.

    Reply

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