Montreal’s community weeklies must make do without journalists

Can you have a newspaper without journalists? Transcontinental certainly seems to think you can. It announced that the 22 community weeklies in the Montreal area, which include the West Island Chronicle, Westmount Examiner and papers that cover various boroughs in Montreal, will be cut down from 23 to 12 journalists. That’s about half a journalist per paper.

The CSN union got angry about this and sent out a press release on Monday, which prompted stories from the FPJQ and Projet J. La Presse’s media columnist used it to lament the decline of newspapers in general. Everyone seemed to agree it was sad news.

And it is, for the people who are losing their jobs, plus those who may have had some connection to these once-respectable papers that have since been left to rot into empty shells for advertising.

The two journalists at the Chronicle (Marc Lalonde and François Lemieux), and Toula Foscolos, who is the news director for the Chronicle and Westmount Examiner, will survive the cuts, Foscolos tells me. Union rules dictate that those with less seniority will get the boot. That means part-timers like Morgan Lowrie, who had been doing most of the reporting for the Examiner and will be looking for a new job in a few weeks.

What the papers will look like after these cuts is unclear.

According to the FPJQ, the remaining journalists won’t even really be journalists. They’ll be community representatives, tasked with desperately filling the space available the cheapest way possible. The papers will lean harder on free content from citizens, people with axes to grind or things to promote, and businesses who want free advertising.

The point of no return is long gone. Does anyone still read the West Island Chronicle, or the Messager LaSalle, or the Courrier Ahuntsic? Now there will be even less of a reason to do so.

It’s a shame. But if Transcontinental had any shame, it would have let these papers shut down with some dignity many years ago.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog post said there was just one journalist left at the Chronicle. There are actually two. It also failed to mention Morgan Lowrie, who is among the cuts.

UPDATE (May 7): Projet Montréal plans to present a motion to city council denouncing the cuts. It’s an entirely symbolic move that will change nothing, but I’m sure the laid-off employees appreciate it.

9 thoughts on “Montreal’s community weeklies must make do without journalists

  1. Jacob P

    “They’ll be community representatives, tasked with desperately filling the space available the cheapest way possible” Yikes.

  2. Michael D.

    Well, this is not a shocker, I saw this coming but not like this, and I do lament this..

    but lots of uestions, but I will shed some light…Below is the electronic version of Last week’s Chronicle ( April 17)..turn to page 3 to see the story they ran signed by the regional director-general of the 4 regions on the Island of Montreal..

    Interesting to note their online web versions have disaappeared, possibly to minimize the impact..The french and English versions were there yesterday..

    Miss Foscolos doesn’t say who’s leaving..and I feel sorry for those honourable gentlmen who were the editors of their respective papers: Pierre Lussier in Verdun; Pierre Boulanger in LaSalle, Robert Leduc in Lachine and Pierre Vigneault on Nuns’ Island.. they all have in the area of 25-30 years of service..If they are all given the boot, the question is why them and not Miss Foscolos, besides the fact, that, anybody in the local scene, knows that she has become through the years, a cost-cutter, a ” Yes-man” or in this case, ” yes-woman” A orporate darling..

    I have become knowledgeable of this local scene as I had become close friends with a freelance contributor named Bob Dubois in Verdun..For several years, he wrote an educational Column in the Verdun paper, it was reading that our household was looking forward to about the goings-on in our local schools from who won sports championships, special features on students of our high school, Beurling Academy..He wrote it with pasion…

    Many times, we would learn of events before getting it through the school in what they call ” kiddie mail”

    and for a few few years, he had a monthly column featuring Celebrity interviews, and he had big names like Lloyd Robertson..Olympic sweetheart Jennifer Heil, that great singer Petula Clark to local names like CTV’s Lori Graham..they were popular features as we got to know a little more of these names…

    he seemed to have raised the profile of this almost French-only publication..As I relatives at the high school, I would run into him at the school, but near the end, he was running out of patience with TC..he saw what was going down..starting with the elimination of the southwest..and papers getting smaller and thinner, that he used to tell me that a slice of ham at the local butcher was thicker…

    I remember Mr.Dubois telling me when he came back from meetings, that he would tell them in possibly trying to save the papers, the answer was to go regional, for example, the papers of the southwest from LaSalle, Verdun, Nuns Island, Ville Emard, would be one paper like the Chronicle for the West Island…It was only was to go….

    Mr. Dubois had become the English media voice or face for us in Verdun..and the story that went around at the papers’ offices was that Miss Foscolos wanted to turf him out when she got there a sit seems to put it mildly, was getting jealous of his Celerity interviews, He even did one of the best interviews I ever saw with Justin Trudeau..In fact, Mr. Dubois probably, most of the time his articles were the only worthwhile things left to read..

    All that became left here in the southwest in English was Miss Foscolos rant and rave piece called, “Toula’s Take” which was of Sun News quality..

    so we are where we are..I suspect the Chronicle people are not gettng touched as they have competition with the Suburban, unlike the other areas, it’s a monopoly..

    So Steve I agree with you, they should have closed them with dignity a few years back when they did that first cost-cutting demoting the editors-in-chief to status of reporter..So yes,I have become frustrated with local media.. If you want Steve, I could probably get a hold of Mr.Dubois and I am sure he would be delighted to enlighten you some more..

  3. Darlene Cousins-Larsen

    As you can probably tell from my name, I have been very close to the ongoing Transcon saga of downsizing at the expense of quality. I agree wholeheartedly with Michael D.’s synopsis of what has transpired with the once thriving community papers such as the West Island Chronicle and the Westmount Examiner. No amount of screening or blocking comments will eventually be able to keep the true shame of what has happened to these papers from coming to light.
    As far as these latest cuts are concerned, this is the equivalent of Habs owners cutting all the players but keeping the management. The damage inflicted by management to these once excellent papers over the past ten years is disgusting.

  4. Media Man

    One of my first times looking at this blog of yours, and can’t get over all the subjects you cover. I did not realize this was going to happen, living on the West Island I had seen article last week in the Chronicle about a new look or something to that effect.

    Sorry to hear about all the firings. so where will we get our local news from, certainly not the Gazette. Maybe the time might be right for some serious entrepreneur who’s into journalism to start some new regional weeklies as suggested by Michael D…

    Excellent points brought up here by those who replied previously. Keep up the good work..

  5. Darlene Cousins-Larsen

    Just wanted to point out that the job of News Director is a management position not a unionized editorial\journalist position. So the News Director being kept on has nothing to do with the editorial cuts or with seniority–not like the position was saved from the cuts or so valuable that the position could not be eliminated. As Michael D. said, the editors that have been demoted or let go have a lot of seniority behind them (from 15- 25 years in some cases) but basically it means nothing if you are up against a non-unionized position with much less seniority. Just thought that should be clarified. Other than that, as I’ve said, I agree with Michael D. and everything he has said seems very accurate to me.

  6. Media Man

    Steve, I just noticed these changes in those local papers, and in the southwest, where they had dropped English in print, now the English section has been dropped from their websites from Lachine to Nuns Island. What’s going on here?

    Have the local advertisers been told about this and given a discount because less readers are reading…

    You’re right, maybe they should have been given a dignified ending years ago.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      now the English section has been dropped from their websites from Lachine to Nuns Island. What’s going on here?

      That happened a while ago. Yet another cut.


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