Quebecor Media announced today that it is launching two new weekly community newspapers: Echo de Laval and Echo de la Rive-Nord. (Their newspaper naming team must have spent minutes on those.)
Like similar papers throughout the province, these are free papers heavily supported by advertising. Echo de Laval will be distributed to 120,000 homes in Laval, while the Echo de la Rive-Nord goes to 66,000 homes in Saint-Janvier, Sainte-Thérèse, Blainville, Rosemère, Boisbriand, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Bois-des-Filion and Lorraine (in other words, the middle north shore).
The papers’ launch is significant for a few reasons:
- Quebecor decides on the business model for these publications, without having to worry about appeasing unions. They’ve already said the two newspapers will work together, and other processes might be in place that would make unions cringe.
- The launch comes while journalists at the Journal de Montréal are still locked out. Having newspapers in Laval and the immediate north shore will give much-needed content to Quebecor’s Agence QMI, which could in turn feed the Journal de Montréal. (The Laval paper is already making heavy use of QMI stories from 24 Heures.)
- The launch of these papers breaks an unofficial agreement between Quebecor and Transcontinental Media to stay off each other’s turf. Transcontinental has papers all across the island of Montreal, as well as the Courrier Laval, one of its larger papers. Quebecor has papers on the south shore, meanwhile. The launch of the Echo de Laval will put the two in direct competition, during a time when that’s the last thing small newspapers want.
- The previous point is made worse by the fact that two of the people named in the press release used to work at Transcontinental’s Laurentians paper, Le Trait d’Union. Mario Marois, who was Trait d’Union’s publisher until recently, becomes publisher of l’Echo de Laval. Guy Crépeau, who has worked as a journalist and as ad sales supervisor for Trait d’Union, becomes the news director for both Quebecor papers.
Quebecor says the two papers will add 23 jobs (Sun Media VP Charles Michaud specifies this includes seven full-time journalists and one part-time journalist). Their first issues come out Thursday.
Non, l’autre pair
Quebecor’s press release says that “selon le nouveau modèle d’affaires de Quebecor Media, journalistes et équipes de ventes travailleront de pair au sein des deux publications.” Some have interpreted this to mean that the wall between editorial and advertising would come down at the two papers, with both sides working together. Cécile Gladel and the STIJM are already calling foul.
Michaud, who is the big boss of Quebecor’s community weeklies, says this isn’t the case:
Pas question de mélanger les genres. La publicité et la rédaction restent bien distincts l’une de l’autre.
Il faut comprendre que les deux salles de rédaction travailleront de pair pour les nouvelles qui touchent les deux territoires. Ce sera d’ailleurs la même situation au niveau des ventes de publicité.
In other words, the papers will work together on news-gathering and advertising sales, but there won’t be advertorials or special journalistic treatment for advertisers. The advertising-editorial wall remains in place. (He made a similar statement to Le Trente when asked about it.)