Tag Archives: Transcontinental Media

Posted in Media

Quebecor sets sights on Transcontinental with two new weeklies

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.)

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Posted in Media, West Island

West Island newspaper editors give up on former jobs

A month after their positions were eliminated, and after surprising their bosses by saying they would not accept demotions, the editors of the West Island Chronicle and Cités Nouvelles have both confirmed that they’re not going back to their jobs. Negotiations between their union and Transcontinental Media general manager Serge Lemieux did not result in a decision favourable to them, and they’re leaving their newspapers.

For reasons that are still unclear, Lemieux apparently agreed to consider reinstating the editor position at Cités Nouvelles, but not the Chronicle. Both newspapers previously had one editor and one reporter. Even then, Marie-Claude Simard said she wouldn’t be interested in returning to her job at Cités Nouvelles.

So all that’s left for her and Albert Kramberger is to discuss their severance packages.

Of the four journalists at the two newspapers, only Olivier Laniel of Cités Nouvelles is still there. His reporting has been the only news in either paper since the beginning of January (his Cités Nouvelles articles are translated for the Chronicle). Raffy Boudjikanian, his former counterpart at the Chronicle, has already moved on and has been getting some work at the CBC.

One journalist covering the entire West Island for two newspapers.

It’s possible Transcontinental might choose to hire someone new, at least for the Chronicle. Maybe they’ll pick some eager kid straight out of university. And that kid will jump into a job with a lot of responsibility and little pay, and wonder: How did I get so lucky to land this job?

It’s amazing how much history can be erased with a simple turnover.

Posted in Media

Transcontinental centralizes pagination in Maritimes

It’s the craze that’s sweeping the nation: centralized pagination. Instead of having people layout their own newspapers, big newspaper companies (including Quebecor and my employer Canwest) and have editors send stories to a pagination factory where specialists put together the pages for you and send them back.

The presentation is usually the same: The specialists are well-trained, local reporters and editors remain in control and have the final say, this will create “efficiencies” and allow journalists more time to focus on their core function – writing copy.

The hidden reality is that these copy editors tend to be non-unionized and have lower salaries, they have little connection to and may not even be familiar with the communities they serve, and the local journalists don’t have the time to correct all of the things a lazy, overworked copy editor hundreds of kilometres away might have done that they don’t agree with.

And, of course, with efficiencies come layoffs.

Transcontinental Media, which has already done this for its community papers in Quebec, is setting up a pagination shop in Charlottetown to handle layout for its Maritime papers. The number of layoffs isn’t known yet, but there will be some.

It could be worse: They could be outsourcing pagination to Bangalore.

Posted in Media, Montreal

Merry Christmas from Transcontinental (P.S.: You’re fired)

When was the last time you read a community weekly from Transcontinenal Media? When was the last time you learned anything interesting from it about your neighbourhood that you couldn’t get from the borough newsletter?

Most of the on-island community papers are pathetic – many don’t even have a full-time journalist – but others have been giving it the ol’ college try despite their tiny budgets.

Those budgets, though, are about to get smaller.

On the Friday before Christmas, just days after the latest earnings report showed good news for the parent company, journalists at Transcontinental-owned weeklies across town got the news that their services would no longer be required starting Jan. 8. Among them are two on the West Island: Raffy Boudjikanian of the West Island Chronicle and Olivier Laniel of Cités Nouvelles. It’s unclear at the moment (even to them) if these are temporary or permanent layoffs.

Normally, the downsizing of two journalists wouldn’t be a big deal, but these newspapers are running on a skeleton staff as it is. What was once a newsroom of three now becomes a newsroom of two.

One of those is the editor, who will now become a reporter. Albert Kramberger at the Chronicle, Marie-Claude Simard at Cités Nouvelles and Wayne Larsen at the Westmount Examiner. This appears to also be the case chain-wide. Their salaries will remain essentially the same or have slight reductions, depending.

Montreal regional manager Stéphane Vinet

The exact nature of the measures taken by Transcontinental is not absolutely clear. According to Benoit Leblanc, president of the Syndicat de l’information de Transcontinental, they affect a dozen employees, three of whom have definitely lost their jobs. Another vacant position is being eliminated.

As for Transcontinental, it’s not talking to the media. Stéphane Vinet, the Montreal regional manager for Transcontinental Media who is responsible for weekly papers on the island, did not respond to a request for information.

His name, meanwhile, is being spoken along with unkind words by some of the journalists involved.

Those who spoke to me asked me to not to name them for fear of reprisals. So I offer them anonymity even though the entire pool of editorial staff at the three newspapers mentioned above is less than a dozen. One journalist was angry, saying Transcon “declares journalists are obsolete for their ad rags” and that this was a retaliation for union grievances. Two others shrugged and accepted the cost-cutting as a fact of life, and that they’ll just find other sources of income.

It’s easy to say (as I did above) that these newspapers are garbage and this is just the continuation of their suicidal death spirals. Looking back just a decade, many of these newspapers looked a lot different, they were well connected with their communities, they didn’t just copy-paste press releases or use the same stories as their neighbours.

But there’s still just a little bit of journalism coming out of these papers, and that’s where they’re cutting. Laniel last week compiled a list of salaries for West Island mayors. Boudjikanian has been following the case against a snow plow company that hasn’t delivered on its promises. Neither of these can be replaced by a press release.

The cuts also mean an end to paid freelance work, what little is left of it anyway. Unpaid contributors, of which there are unfortunately many, will not be affected. Since, you know, they’re unpaid.

Posted in Media, Montreal

Transcon makes bilingual papers French-only

CTV seems to be the only outlet so far to note that five Transcontinental community weeklies in Montreal have given up on trying to be bilingual and have switched to French-only publication.

The papers in question are:

Transcontinental says they’ll keep some English content online (and by that I assume they mean they’ll link to stories from the anglo papers like the West Island Chronicle and Westmount Examiner).

The anglos CTV talked to complained about the lack of news about their community as a result of this change, but when we’re talking about 12-page issues that contain maybe a page and a half of editorial content (most of which is fluff pieces or borough announcements), I think it’s a bit too late to complain about the loss of community news.

Posted in Media

Transcontinental wants your copyright

Following in the footsteps of TVA Publications, Transcontinental is now demanding that freelancers sign contracts that assign to the publisher all rights associated with submitted pieces (PDF).

In Transcon’s case, at least, there is still a provision for additional fees if the pieces are reused in other publications.

Like it or not, publishers (especially mega-corporation multi-media publishers) are pushing freelancing in this direction. The issue is whether freelancers will be paid more for the additional rights they’re giving up.

Posted in Media, Montreal, Opinion

NDG Monitor news article actually a press release

NDG Monitor

The NDG Monitor, which shut down in February and became online-only, and recently criticized a borough-produced newspaper for being nothing but press releases, is now itself cutting and pasting press releases to create news stories, as evidenced by this story which is identical to this release from Concordia University (and doesn’t mark it as such).

I’d say I was shocked, but I wasn’t. I’d say I was disappointed, but my expectations for this Transcontinental project were low to begin with.

The Monitor’s deterioration as a legitimate news outlet began long before its last issue came off the presses. It started in 1996 when it was sold to Transcontinental, which gutted everything to save money.

Now all it does is list community events and republish open letters, while contributing whatever news articles can be churned out with as little effort as possible. The rest of the website is filler from Transcontinental and its other community weeklies.

The Monitor is going to die eventually as a forgotten relic of a time when small communities could sustain local newspapers. Though I mourn the loss of any voice and the job of any journalist, part of me thinks they should just put it out of its misery.

Posted in Media

All communities are alike to Transcon

Transcontinental weekly feeds

This is one of the reasons I’m not crazy about the Transcontinental weeklies. They have so little content of their own, but mask that by copying content from other papers or from the network. The result is the exact same story on the websites of multiple papers.

Perhaps I’m the only one affected because I subscribe to many of these papers, but I don’t understand why stories not based in a particular area are included in the feed (and posted to the website) of a community newspaper for that area.

Posted in Media

Michel Vézina moves to Transcontinental

Michel Vézina, the former ICI columnist who quit in January when he wouldn’t sign a contract that would allow his work to be republished freely in other Quebecor publications (including the Journal de Montréal), has resurfaced at Transcontinental, where he will be writing about the arts for MontrealExpress.ca and the various Transcontinental-owned community weeklies.

I’ll note the irony that he will now be writing what is essentially a syndicated column after having objected to syndication.

Posted in Media

Courrier Laval loses half its reporting staff

Transcontinental

The fallout from the cuts at Transcontinental are starting to trickle down. The Courrier Laval has lost two of its four reporters, leaving two people to write all the news from across the island.

One of the reporters losing her job is Nathalie Villeneuve. You might remember her as the person whose story TVA picked up without attribution. Now what will TV news report on?

Meanwhile, the union representing employees at Transcon’s community weeklies is bemoaning the situation at papers in the centre of the island of Montreal (Villeray, Rosemont, Ville-Marie, etc.) who have even fewer journalists and can’t do much journalism of their own.

I can attest to that. There’s plenty of syndicated content (mostly about cars), but very little of local interest comes out of those papers.

UPDATE: Voir’s Steve Boudrias calls this cut “absurd”, with some thoughts on the state of community journalism.

Posted in Media

Journal Daily Digest: Cauchon sticks his nose in it

Journal de Montréal picket

The link of the day comes from this morning’s Le Devoir, in which media reporter Paul Cauchon does an analysis of the Journal situation, the freelance columnist problem and the role of unions in media. It’s a bit opinionative (and, since it’s in Le Devoir, that opinion is left-of-centre), but worth a look.

Tout le monde won’t shut up

Patrick Lagacé and Bernard Landry were on Tout le monde en parle last night, and both answered questions about the Journal. Landry recently quit his column (with a lame excuse) and Lagacé had to answer for his boyfriend Richard Martineau, who just won’t quit. Rue Frontenac was watching and has the play-by-play. As does Richard Therrien.

On the other channel (with twice the audience), TVA had the premiere of Star Académie, and Journal workers were picketing outside giving out flyers to audience members. (The Clique du Plateau wonders if Rue Frontenac’s critique of the show would have been as critical if it had appeared in the Journal)

In other news

Meanwhile, a journalist at Transcontinental in Quebec City has gotten her job back after she was fired last year, coincidentally (or not) as she was organizing a union for their community weeklies in the area.

Posted in Media, Montreal

End of the road for The Monitor

The final issue of the NDG Monitor went out today. It includes a column from editor Toula Foscolos on the print shutdown, one from Noah Sidel and another from Bram Eisenthal, plus a message from the publisher. Foscolos says many readers accused Transcontinental of not caring about them, which she counters with the fact that the paper has been running with a deficit for years now.

Frankly, I’m surprised they’re keeping the editorial staff and trying to do this online. Transcontinental’s cookie-cutter community websites are awful, and most of the content you find on them links to or is copied from other community newspaper sites.

Though I don’t want to see any local journalists lose their jobs, I can’t help but think that the online Monitor experiment will eventually fail, and those remaining will either have to move to other papers (the Westmount Examiner and West Island Chronicle are also owned by Transcon) or find another career.

Hour also covers the NDG Monitor shutdown, and CTV News had a story about it on today’s newscast, but its website won’t let me link to a specific video, so you’ll have to find it yourself.

Posted in Business, Media, Montreal

NDG Monitor to go online-only

NDG Monitor

Less than a year after it relaunched itself, the NDG Monitor newspaper will stop printing as of next week and focus exclusively on its website. The decision results in the layoff of two salespeople and a newspaper manager, but not the editor, reporter or freelance columnists.

The newspaper dates back to 1926, though its downfall began in 1996 when it was acquired by Transcontinental. In an effort to save costs, the community newspaper chain (which owns just about all of the community weeklies in the Montreal area, except The Suburban) cut staff and increased “efficiencies” by having the newspapers share content and design. It even went so far as to rename the Monitor the West End Chronicle, essentially making it a zoned edition of another newspaper (and confusing plenty of readers).

Transcon brought the name Monitor back last year, but by then it was too late. The paper had lost all its personality, and people stopped reading it.

I’d wish it luck online, but the website is so crappy (Transcon cookie-cutter messiness that’s more interested in pushing other Transcon products than featuring local content) that without a significant redesign I’m pretty sure it’s on its way to failure as well.

The Monitor’s final print issue will be Thursday, Feb. 5.

Posted in Media

Halifax Daily News gone, replaced by Metro

The news was announced this morning, with some Daily News employees hearing about it from other media (how classy). Transcontinental, the publisher of the Daily News, as well as free daily Metro newspapers in major cities (including Montreal), and community weeklies including the West Island Chronicle and Westmount Examiner, is going to replace a small daily newspaper with a free one that relies mostly on wire copy mixed with advertising.

The paper will go from 92 employees to 20. And journalism in Halifax suffers.

The Chronicle Herald, the other (and much larger) Halifax daily, naturally has the story.

Some other coverage:

UPDATE: The King’s Journalism Review has an entire section on the Daily News and its history, including interviews with now-unemployed staff. Meanwhile the Canadian Association of Journalists calls the paper’s demise a “dangerous trend” towards “news lite”