It’s been a while since we had news about triple-digit job cuts. Today’s news is that Postmedia (my employer) and Torstar have come to an agreement where they swap dozens of newspapers and shut most of them down.
No cash is being exchanged in the transaction.
Most of the newspapers going either way are Ontario-based community publications, but there are four major-market free dailies affected: Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver. All will close.
J-Source reports that Postmedia’s closing of ex-Torstar papers will result in 244 job losses. Torstar’s closing of ex-Postmedia papers will lay off another 46, for a total of 290.
Competition Bureau approval is not required for the transaction, the companies say, so there’s no government regulatory step required for the deal. The bureau did nothing to stop the deal between Postmedia and Quebecor that saw major-market dailies come under the same roof. Nevertheless, the bureau says it will review the deal after the fact.
Unifor has unsurprisingly condemned the shutdown.
As bad as the news is, and as many communities are losing local coverage, the deal won’t be cutting the last local paper out of most communities. Many are community papers covering parts of cities that have a daily, or competed directly with another newspaper being kept. Exceptions are the tiny town of St. Marys, near London, and Meaford, near Owen Sound.
There’s also Barrie and Northumberland, which lose dailies but are still covered by weeklies.
More coverage and reaction from:
- J-Source (plus a later story with social media posts of people losing their jobs)
- Globe and Mail
- Toronto Star
- Financial Post
- BNN, which interviews Postmedia’s Paul Godfrey
- CBC Ottawa (focused on eastern Ontario)
- Georgia Straight (focused on 24H Vancouver)
The big question you might be asking yourself is why buy papers just to close them? The answer is synergy. In most cases, the papers being closed compete either directly or indirectly with existing publications already owned by the new owner. Postmedia’s acquisition of Metro Ottawa and community papers in Ottawa allows it to remove competition for the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun. Torstar buying 24 Hours Toronto allows it to shut down the main competition for Metro Toronto, which isn’t included in this deal and will remain running.
Similar asset swaps to reduce competition have happened in the past: Quebecor and Transcontinental in Quebec, Glacier Media and Black Press in B.C., Transcontinental and the Chronicle Herald in Atlantic Canada, and the Postmedia/Sun Media deal. They all served to carve the country into geographical areas each served by one company.
Once the newspapers in this deal are shut down, here’s how the free daily picture will look like in Canada for the two major brands:
- Previously shut down:
- Hamilton (digital-only, 2014)
- Kitchener (digital-only, 2014)
- London (2014)
- Regina (2014)
- Saskatoon (2014)
- Victoria (digital-only, 2014)
- Windsor (digital-only, 2014)
- Purchased by Postmedia for shutdown:
- Owned by Torstar and still running:
- Halifax (replaced Halifax Daily News in 2008)
- Owned by Transcontinental, up for sale:
- Previously shut down:
- Calgary (2013)
- Edmonton (2013)
- Ottawa (2013)
- Purchased by Torstar for shutdown:
- Owned by Quebecor, still running:
Pretty clear geographies for Postmedia and Torstar after today's deal. Blue is Postmedia, Red is Torstar #cdnmedia pic.twitter.com/MEIf6cW2ij
— Ian Vandaelle (@IanVandaelle) November 27, 2017
Newspapers in italic are the last daily or weekly in their community, not counting papers serving parts of cities that still have a daily newspaper.
Papers Postmedia is buying and keeping:
- Exeter Times-Advocate (and the Exeter Weekender)
Papers Postmedia is buying and closing:
- Metro Ottawa
- Metro Winnipeg
Belleville region (covered by Belleville Intelligencer and Community Press):
- Belleville News
- Central Hastings News
- Quinte West News
Kingston region (covered by Kingston Whig Standard and Kingston This Week):
- Frontenac Gazette
- Kingston Heritage
Brockville region (covered by Brockville Recorder & Times and Brockville This Week):
- St. Lawrence News
Ottawa region (covered by Ottawa Citizen/Sun):
- Kanata Kourier-Standard
- Nepean/Barrhaven News
- Orleans News
- Ottawa East News
- Ottawa South News
- Ottawa West News
- Stittsville News
- West Carleton Review
Southern Ontario (Brantford/Norfolk):
- Brant News (covered by Brantford Expositor)
- Norfolk News (covered by Simcoe Reformer)
Southwestern Ontario (London region):
- Our London (covered by London Free Press and Londoner)
- St. Mary’s Journal-Argus (and the St. Mary’s Weekender)
- St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News (covered by Elgin County Market)
- Stratford City Gazette (covered by Beacon Herald)
Georgian Bay (Meaford):
- Meaford Express (covered partly by nearby Owen Sound Sun Times)
Papers Torstar is buying and keeping:
East of Toronto:
- Peterborough Examiner
- Niagara Falls Review
- St. Catharines Standard
- Welland Tribune
Papers Torstar is buying and closing:
- 24 Hours Toronto
- 24 Hours Vancouver
North of Toronto:
- *Barrie Examiner (covered by Barrie Advance, but would downgrade from daily to weekly)
- Bradford Times (covered by Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic)
- Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin (covered by Collingwood Connection)
- Innisfil Examiner (covered by Innisfil Journal)
- Orillia Packet & Times (covered by Orillia Today)
East of Toronto:
- *Northumberland Today (covered by Northumberland News, but would downgrade from daily to weekly)
Niagara region (covered by Niagara This Week, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and St. Catharines Standard):
- Fort Erie Times
- Inport News (Port Colborne)
- Niagara Advance
- Pelham News
- Thorold Niagara News
So… how have other communities dealt with loss of local news outlets? Any successful examples? Can we possibly not end up with multiple lower budget versions of Your Ward News?
It really depends on the community. In many cases there are still newspapers covering the region. In places where it’s really a news desert, some people have tried starting something new. When the Guelph Mercury shut down, GuelphToday.com started up. Barrie, the biggest loss here outside the free metro dailies, has a local CTV station.
Brantford / Norfolk leaves Postmedia no competition for the Brantford Expositor and Simcoe Reformer, in case you wanted to add that to the article.
Any news about how many journalists are affected by these lay-offs? I’m guessing de 290 is the total number of employees…?
These closings also mean the loss of valuable training ground for J-school grads, and the opportunity to build a portfolio of bylines for job interviews in the big-leagues..
To be fair, it’s unlikely at the current rate that there will be a “big leagues” to aspire to soon enough. The future of written news isn’t as clear as it once was, and it was plenty murky at that point.
My thoughts on this are actually pretty simple: End game moves.
The companies appear to be giving up on the idea of direct competition, there is only so many ad dollars and so many readers left in the diminishing pool of those likely to read an inky paper. This clears the deck pretty much across all of Ontario. There are only two or three spots of even potential competition. It buys both of them perhaps another few years before they will once again have to face the reality of diminished returns.
The newspaper coal mines are littered with Canary carcasses. It’s sad.