Ultimatum time at La Presse

On Thursday morning, La Presse editor Guy Crevier sent out a mass email to all employees saying in no uncertain terms that, unless the union agreed to $13 million in concessions, the newspaper would be shut down on Dec. 1.

Within minutes, the email was forwarded to other news outlets all over the place (including Fagstein), the first news stories appeared within two hours, and the union quickly organized a press conference to respond.

Stories with the basic facts are all over the place:

and, of course, La Presse itself.

The big question now becomes: Is this a bluff? There are reasons to think it might be, and reasons to think it might not.

It’s a bluff

  • They’re going to shut down a newspaper just before the Christmas advertising season, when newspapers are the most lucrative?
  • Aside from shutting down the Sunday edition, La Presse hasn’t made very serious efforts to reduce costs. It still has things like foreign bureaus that newspapers twice its size would consider luxuries. Normally newspaper shutdowns follow years of cutbacks of increasing severity.
  • This is a union negotiation tactic – and employers tend to exaggerate the dangers ahead when they’re in negotiations for a new contract.
  • La Presse and Cyberpresse are vital to other newspapers in the Gesca chain. Shutting them down would do huge damage to those papers as well.
  • Flagship papers like La Presse (and the National Post and Journal de Montréal) tend to have sentimental support from big media owners, even when they’re losing money.
  • The political fallout from such a decision would be enormous, especially in an environment like Quebec.

It’s not a bluff

  • Advertisers get really scared at stuff like this. They probably won’t buy ads for after Dec. 1 until they know the paper is still going to be around (and there won’t be a lockout).
  • Management has agreed to have a third party look at the paper’s financial situation, which will no doubt confirm that it’s losing money hand over fist.
  • Gesca isn’t stupid enough to try a bluff like this without following through.

Right now my gut feeling suggests that “it’s a bluff” is more likely.

But it’s not my job that’s on the line.

UPDATE: Patrick Lagacé doesn’t know what’s going on (just like I don’t know what’s going on at Canwest – being an employee of a media outlet gets you some inside information, but only on the small scale). Talks are on behind closed doors.

Meanwhile, locked-out Journal de Montréal workers (remember them?) are calling for Quebecor to release the Journal’s financial information like La Presse is doing.

11 thoughts on “Ultimatum time at La Presse

  1. Jean Naimard

    Desmarais is not different from other media pigopolists; they just want more! more! more! more! and union busting is nothing new for those scumbags.
    Let’s call a pig a pig, and it’s a bluff from a pigopolist.
    And, besides, Desmarais would not willingly close it’s mouthpiece that has been the most instrumental in defeating Québec sovereignty and casting doubt in Québec’s viability as a separate country (which would mean less profits for Desmarais because we can’t stand such pigopolists), which isn’ really different an entreprise as in seeding doubt in it’s employees.

  2. Richard

    My first instinct was to cancel my subscription, or at least put it on hold until after December 1st, just in case (and to avoid being charged). I wonder how my others thought the same…

  3. bob

    actually I recently cancelled my subscription to La Presse because of nasty delivery person combined with their “can’t cancel the weekend paper when you call on thursday night – and then their automated system cancels the next earliest available date which is monday & tuesday.” Not the days we wanted cancelled at all! The gazette was the winner here, no problems at all.

    I consider La Presse to be Montreal’s best paper (by far!) and I do miss it a lot. But they got to fix that glitch first.

    I can do without sunday papers. I like the full-weekend wrap-up on Monday morning, something I first missed when the gazoo first produced its sunday edition.

    Another paper that shrank recently is the Espaces free outdoor paper. I noticed they had an english/ontario-version this summer (it was the first edition I saw, not sure if first edition ever), and it was not nearly as good as their french edition, which I think is very good.

    For paying for reading online, I believe a real MICRO-payment scheme has to come into existence. I am talking about very small fractions of a penny per “item.” Companies can make it up in Volume. (Worked for wal-mart)
    I’m NOT into paying online subscriptions, esp. not $10 month, but maybe $10 per year, but that had better give me a lot!

  4. Tym Machine

    Shut down La Presse, I don’t really care. It’s citizen blogging time no need for corporate bloggers paid in the 5 digits.

    At least they shouldn’t be making that much money when the average Joe Sixpack and Sally Soccermom are barely making both ends meet.

    1. Kahn

      Maybe Joe should lay off the beer, and Sally should sell her superfluous SUV.

      Seriously, though, you’re complaining about “corporate bloggers” making “5-digit salaries”? I just can’t take you seriously. There will still be professional journalists. Perhaps they will become professional bloggers, but your citizen bloggers don’t just do all that full-time work, with decent quality control and editing, for free. It’d be like trying to replace a professional standing army with a part-time citizen militia. Good luck.

    2. LittleEdie

      What exactly will citizen bloggers be commenting on from behind their computers once the source material is gone?

  5. Kahn

    This smells like a desperate union bargaining bluff from a mile away… I say, what have they (the journalists) got to lose? Either they continue the slide towards losing their jobs, or they lose their jobs. Call that bluff.

  6. Pingback: La Presse union deal … or not – Fagstein

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