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.
- Globe and Mail story from Steve Ladurantaye, which includes details, plus audio of an interview with Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey
- An interview with Godfrey by Ladurantaye, which explains a bit how Postmedia Editorial Services will select, edit and proofread national and world news stories for local papers
- A La Presse story focuses on The Gazette, and includes comments from Montreal Newspaper Guild president Mona Leroux explaining the union knows very little of what’s going on so far.
- CTV Montreal had a live report on Monday evening and is following the story again Tuesday, including an interview with union VP Irwin Block, who explains that the amount of editorial content in the paper (stories and photos and other things that are not advertising) will drop by 35%.
- Canadian Press
- Toronto Star
- CBC, which includes a brief TV story and an interview on Tuesday’s Daybreak with Gazette publisher Alan Allnutt, in which he confirms that The Gazette and other papers are still profitable on an operating basis
- QMI Agency story in English comparing this move to Warren Buffett’s recent vote of confidence in newspapers
- A story from Argent, focusing on The Gazette
- Projet J
- A story at GigaOM, written by former Globe journalist Mathew Ingram, which talks about newspaper cuts in general
- A statement from CWA Canada, the parent union of the Montreal Newspaper Guild.
- Stories from Postmedia itself – from the Financial Post and The Gazette, the latter including comments from management
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.