Tag Archives: Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Transcontinental/Chronicle Herald sale continues regional monopolization of newspapers

The Halifax Chronicle Herald surprised me this morning by announcing it is purchasing almost all of Transcontinental’s print assets in Atlantic Canada, including 27 newspapers, one online-only news outlet, and four of Transcon’s six printing plants. (This despite the fact that the paper is 15 months into a general strike.)

Included in the sale are newspapers like the St. John’s Telegram and Charlottetown Guardian. The sale takes effect immediately, Transcontinental said. No word on purchase price, but we’ll probably learn that at Transcontinental’s next financial report to shareholders.

This sale follows several recent region-wide newspaper selloffs, including Quebecor selling 74 community papers in Quebec to Transcontinental, Transcontinental selling its 13 Saskatchewan newspapers to Star News Publishing, Transcontinental buying all of Rogers’s business-to-business magazines, Gesca selling all its newspapers except La Presse, and swaps of newspapers between Black Press and Glacier Media in B.C. (Not to mention the whole Postmedia/Sun Media thing.)

The result of most of these transactions is that the country is being divided up regionally, and community newspapers are avoiding competition so much that their owners are swapping assets to stay away from each other’s markets.

After the Transcon/Chronicle Herald deal, the new owners (who have incorporated as Saltwire Network) made it clear they have no plans to expand into New Brunswick (beyond the purchased Sackville Tribune Post, which is on the Nova Scotia border) to avoid competing with the Irving-owned Brunswick News. The Transcontinental-Quebecor deal ended the companies’ competition in Quebec, which had heated up a few years earlier when Quebecor decided to launch some new publications on Transcontinental territory.

A look at which groups own more than a nominal number of newspapers in each province shows how fragmented it has become (numbers are based on a quick count and may not be exact):

  • British Columbia: Black Press (77), Glacier Media (25)
  • Alberta: Postmedia (36), Glacier Media (17), Black Press (12)
  • Saskatchewan: Glacier Media (15)
  • Manitoba: Glacier Media (9), Postmedia (9), FP Newspapers (9)
  • Ontario: Torstar (115), Postmedia (61)
  • Quebec: Transcontinental (100)
  • New Brunswick: Brunswick News (24)
  • Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island/Newfoundland and Labrador: Saltwire Network (34)

Besides Alberta and Manitoba, no province has more than two major community newspaper publishers (as measured by number of titles). But just as importantly, no publisher operates substantial operations in more than four provinces.

As a result of the latest sale, Transcontinental will drop to being a Quebec-only newspaper publisher (except for papers in Cornwall, Ont., and its partnership in the Halifax Metro free daily).

The transactions make sense from a business perspective, and as much as we can complain about lack of competition, the truth is that healthy competition in community newspapers just isn’t possible as the industry continues its slow death march.

We may see further consolidation (particularly in western provinces) in the future, and if the situation doesn’t improve, major shutdowns. And if one of these companies goes under and is forced to shut down completely, it could leave an entire province without community media.

Halifax Chronicle Herald strike begins with bitterness on both sides

It’s been a while since we had a good old-fashioned newspaper labour conflict in this country.

On Friday night, the Halifax Chronicle Herald entered one as the union and its 61 workers went on strike to avoid severe cuts the company said it would impose. This despite the fact that the union had offered concessions — including wage decreases — at the bargaining table.

J-Source has background on the issues here.

And today, as union members walked the picket lines and encouraged people to unsubscribe to the paper and boycott its advertisers, 18 of its members received layoff notices, and seven of them additional offers to return to work in non-union positions with different working conditions. (The CEO explains in this memo sent to those who weren’t laid off.)

The Herald plans to continue publishing, using managers, but also some more creative ways of getting around the union. It has an agreement with Brunswick News to provide copy that might appeal to a Nova Scotia audience, and it has reportedly approached students and others to act as freelancers during the strike.

The Halifax Typographical Union is active on its Twitter account, with bitter comments about the newspaper’s management. The newspaper also got a bit snippy today:

And Herald president and CEO Mark Lever has been responding to some critics on Twitter, though judging from the replies he’s getting he’s not a very popular person.

On the CH website, they’ve so far played it safe and posted Canadian Press coverage of the strike, which is a good practice in general for media reporting on themselves. (It might help if they posted that story anywhere on their homepage.)

You only need to look at the Journal de Québec and Journal de Montréal lockouts to know that they can lead to a lot of resentment. Even if a deal is reached here, the Chronicle Herald may never be the same.

UPDATE (Jan. 24): The layoff notices have been suspended.

Not just the big guys

One thing I should note about this: The Halifax Chronicle Herald is an independent newspaper. (It’s described as Canada’s largest independent daily, which is true only if you ignore the Globe and Mail, La Presse and the Winnipeg Free Press.)

Those who blame the media’s problems entirely on consolidation should remember that the Chronicle Herald, CHCH TV, the Hudson Gazette and other independent media are also feeling the squeeze.

Speaking of which, the Nanaimo Daily News, owned by the Black Press, just announced it’s shutting down next week.

Raitt’s state

It’s the kiss of death for a cabinet minister when the prime minister issues a statement saying he has confidence in him or her.

“The Prime Minister has confidence in his Minister of Public Works” was the word from Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s spokesperson on Jan. 9, 2002, when the minister in question was a man named Alfonso Gagliano, who was facing allegations of patronage. Six days later, he was dropped from cabinet in a shuffle.

So you can imagine how Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt feels that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has confidence in her, after her latest embarrassment.

It seems her aide had mistakenly left a tape recorder with a mistakenly-recorded private conversation in a bathroom (this was before she was fired for mistakenly leaving “secret” ministerial documents at CTV), and that tape got into the hands of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

After successfully fighting off an injunction to stop its publication, the Herald put the tape online last night and is going to see its hit count skyrocket over the next few days.

Opposition MPs are, of course, outraged to hear a cabinet minister think that a cancer treatment crisis is “sexy”. Except, it is sexy from a political and journalistic perspective, if not a human one. And opposition MPs were just as outraged at Raitt yesterday in question period.

Neverthless, Raitt’s days as a cabinet minister are numbered. Not because she’s incapable of handling the portfolio (though she probably is), not because she has poor choice of staff (though she does), and not because she doesn’t have a soul (she doesn’t, and neither does any other politician), but because she got caught talking about the stuff that every politician thinks but no one will admit publicly.

And so Raitt will be replaced by some other politician who’s better at lying and keeping things out of the grubby hands of the press. And our government will continue to be run by people who can manage their image instead of people who can do their jobs.

Such is politics, I guess.

Now if you’ll excuse me, question period is about to start. And it’s gonna be gooooood.

Another day of newspaper pink slips

The Globe got 60 people to agree to buyouts, but that still wasn’t enough, and they’ve laid off 30 more for a total reduction of 90. The cuts were previously announced, but now we know a third of them are involuntary.

Meanwhile, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, which we’ll remind you is newly without competition, is firing a quarter of its newsroom staff, confirming previous rumours.