I don’t have much to say about the announcement Tuesday that Postmedia is cutting more than 90 jobs, particularly in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, the three markets where it owns both subscription daily newspapers.
Not because it’s not important. But because (a) Postmedia is my employer, which puts me in a conflict of interest, (b) I don’t have anything really to add that hasn’t been written by the Globe and Mail and others, and (c) aside from the details, it’s the same story that has been written about double-digit and triple-digit layoffs at large media companies over the past decade.
Postmedia job cuts: Edmonton: 35 Calgary: 25 Ottawa: 12 National Post: 5 Saskatoon: 1 Windsor: 1 https://t.co/aSXiGl80Jb
— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) January 19, 2016
The basics are this: Postmedia is cutting 90 jobs as part of cost-cutting that they need to do to cut $80 million in annual spending by 2017. (A math genius would note that, unless these 90 people are being paid $1 million a year each, this won’t even come close to meeting this goal on its own.) In Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa, the broadsheet and Sun tabloid papers will share a newsroom, with stories rewritten to fit each paper’s audience. They will also work under a common editor. Sports reporters across the country will also be working under a national sports desk.
That’s about all we know, even inside the organization. I don’t have more details to give you.
It goes without saying that this is sad news, as it is when any journalistic enterprise cuts jobs. Unions are predictably upset, suggesting that Postmedia is going back on its word about keeping newspapers separate, but the Competition Bureau won’t be using this as a reason to revise its decision not to intervene on the Postmedia/Sun acquisition.
The cuts won’t stop there. While the news staff in Edmonton and Calgary aren’t unionized, those in Vancouver and Ottawa are, so they’ll be offered buyout packages to entice more experienced staff to leave. (The Globe breaks down how each paper is affected.)
Because Postmedia doesn’t own any other papers in Montreal, the Gazette isn’t affected by the cuts announced so far.
Journalists are vital to our democracy. I'm saddened to hear of the cuts at #Postmedia today and my thoughts are with those affected.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 20, 2016
Who’s to blame?
News like this inevitably leads to opinionators who think they know everything assigning blame from on high. They point to things like executive salaries, or experiments that failed (paywalls, tablet editions, etc.), or Postmedia’s debt-heavy structure, which they directly blame for the situation we’re in. I’m neither defending nor condemning those things, but the reality is that every print media company is suffering through advertising revenue losses in the double digits year-over-year.
We live in a world where The Onion is worth twice as much as the Washington Post. And you can’t blame that on Paul Godfrey or Bell Media.
I don’t want to see Postmedia go down, but it’s hard not to see the similarities with the slow downfall of Canwest before it.
I still have a job. I’m grateful for that, and I’ll keep working hard while I do, despite disagreements I have with management and ownership over their business decisions. I still believe that even despite these cuts, newspaper newsrooms do more original local journalism than any other type of media. And I believe that deserves to be supported.
I hope one day Canadians will realize that good quality news is worth paying for. Once that economic demand materializes, the supply will get better.
- J-Source presents the news as a timeline of information learned throughout the day
- Global News focused on the Alberta papers
- Metro Ottawa focused on the Ottawa papers
- Awful Announcing focused on how this might affect sports coverage
- The Star’s Chantal Hébert on how cuts at Postmedia and elsewhere are bad for democracy
- The Globe’s Simon Houpt on why the cuts are bad
- The Walrus’s Jonathan Kay on how good journalism will no longer be economically sustainable and will need to be financed as a charity in the future
- The Rebel’s Brian Lilley blames it on the CBC
- This news even provided fodder for satirical news site The Beaverton