Tag Archives: La Presse

La Presse will survive

Two pieces of good news for La Presse today: They’ve reached a deal in principle with their last union – representing distribution workers – and the editorial union has voted 93% in favour of a new contract. Later today, two smaller units, representing IT workers (11/11 in favour) and office workers (29/55, or 53% in favour) also approved their new contracts.

This effectively means that La Presse won’t be shut down on Dec. 1 as it had threatened to do.

The distribution workers will vote on their deal Monday, so we won’t know the details until then.

But we know what’s in the editorial contract (or at least most of it). I’m waiting for a copy of the full contract, but here’s what’s being reported (Radio-Canada, CP, Gazette, Trente, Rue Frontenac):

  • The work week changes from 32 hours over four days to 35 hours over five days, at the same salary. Those who want to keep the four-day work week can become part-time employees (28 hours a week).
  • Salaries remain frozen for 2010 and 2011, but will go up by 2% for each of the last two years. The maximum salary goes to $90,000 in 2012 and $95,000 in 2013. Those who work 40 hours a week have their salaries frozen until 2017.
  • Employees will now pay 100% of dental insurance premiums, and 60% of medial premiums
  • As of Jan. 3, pensions will no longer be adjusted to the cost of living
  • Less vacation: they get 5 weeks at 14 years of service instead of nine, 6 weeks at 22 years instead of 20, and the 7-week vacation plateau has been eliminated. But employees get six more mobile vacation days a year.
  • Employees of La Presse and Cyberpresse are merged under the same unit and will be treated equally.

As a result of the deal, La Presse foresees no layoffs of permanent editorial employees, but expects five to take voluntary departures.

La Presse: Two weeks and counting

UPDATE (Nov. 20): At 3:30am, an agreement in principle with three of the remaining unions, including the journalists. All that remains is distribution, but that’s the bargaining unit that La Presse wants to fire half of.

The deal still needs to be approved by the members, and we don’t know which side caved on the various demands, but the union seems to think this is the best offer they could get.

In case you forgot, La Presse is shutting down on Dec. 1.

While many have dismissed this over-the-top threat (they’d also shut down cyberpresse.ca) as an insane bluff, Gesca has reinforced it, reportedly arranging for BlackBerrys to be returned next week. Managers and employees are clearing out their desks, and the atmosphere in the newsroom is very tense.

The union, which was in negotiations today and will meet with members on Saturday, released this video in which Richard Labbé and Isabelle Masse sing (!) about what people would lose if La Presse gets shut down:

Mind you, I think Patrick Lagacé could find employment elsewhere, and there are lots of options for crosswords.

UPDATE: Rue Frontenac watched the video.

Now it gets interesting

From Friday's La Presse

From Friday's La Presse

The first opinion polling after the Labonté scandal shows the three parties really neck and neck (and neck). Though Harel comes out on top, the real story is Richard Bergeron, whose party is living the wet dream of being a contender.

According to the poll, the number of undecideds has plummeted from 30% to 10%.

Election day is Sunday, and (as a journalist who will spend the night in the newsroom) it’s gonna be fun.

La Presse union deal … or not

La Presse announced on Wednesday it had reached a deal in principle with half its unions (those affiliated with the FTQ), representing advertising, printing and other workers.

The news caught the other unions (affiliated with the CSN) off guard, and they shot off a communiqué accusing La Presse of negotiating in bad faith.

The CSN unions are the more important ones, because they represent editorial and distribution. Without their okay, nothing really changes.

La Presse is about two-thirds of the way to a deadline it has set for its employees to accept wage concessions. It has threatened to shut down the paper on Dec. 1 if its demands are not met.

La Presse still on the path to destruction

In case you forgot, La Presse is about a month away from being shut down.

Negotiations between the paper and its unions have apparently been stalled, prompting editor Guy Crevier to send out a letter to employees, which lays out some of the employer’s offer. They have withdrawn their demand for salary cuts, but are still demanding a five-day work week, laying off 48 people in distribution, and moving from a defined-benefit pension plan to a defined-contribution plan for new employees.

The unions responded with a letter of their own, saying they have accepted the principal demand of moving to a five-day work week but that the employer is refusing to negotiate on compromises. They say they will ask for a conciliator to be brought in.

Shockingly, people still reading newspapers

NADbank, the national newspaper readership monitoring service, released a report on Wednesday with some new numbers (PDF) for newspaper publishers to chew on. And, of course, with all the data there, each newspaper cherry-picks facts to make it look like they’re doing better than their competitors:

So what do the numbers show?

For the sake of comparison, I’m using the “five-day cumulative” number, which measures how many people read the newspaper (in printed form) at least once over the previous five weekdays. The numbers are compared to the last annual report released in March.

  • Journal de Montréal: 1,027,400, up 3.3% from 994,600 despite the lockout
  • La Presse: 678,200, up 0.9% from 672,300
  • Metro: 630,100, up 2.0% from 617,900
  • The Gazette: 454,200, down 1.1% from 459,200
  • 24 Heures: 516,400, up 13.9% from 453,200

Note that no numbers are given for Le Devoir.

The big news here is with 24 Heures, which has shown a huge jump in readership, surpassing The Gazette for fourth place in the market overall.  This is most likely due to more aggressive distribution as well as the increased number of journalists now employed by the paper since the Journal de Montréal was locked out. It also may have picked up some former ICI readers, since ICI is now a weekly supplement in 24 Heures.

For online readership, the numbers are all press-release-worthy:

  • La Presse (cyberpresse.ca): 359,000, up 10% from 326,200
  • The Gazette (montrealgazette.com): 134,900, up 6.5% from 126,700
  • Metro (journalmetro.com): 36,900, up 12.2% from 32,900
  • 24 Heures (24hmontreal.canoe.ca): 27,100, up 24.3% from 21,800

NADbank is also, for the first time, counting Journal de Montréal online readership (the Journal doesn’t have its own website, but Canoe groups some of its articles on a page here). It measures weekly readership at a paltry 130,700, just a bit less than The Gazette.

It’s unsurprising that online has grown quite a bit (in most cases it really has nowhere to go but up), and while Metro and 24 Heures have seen huge gains percentagewise, their numbers are still so small that NADbank puts an asterisk next to them to indicate the sample size was too small to be reliable.

Speaking of small sample sizes, the numbers also include Montreal readership for the Globe and Mail (97.600 Monday-Friday, 79,800 weekly online) and National Post (71,400 Monday-Friday, 41,100 weekly online).

So I guess the newspaper crisis is over, huh?

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.

La Presse minces its paper

It came with little fanfare (so little that even I missed it at first), but La Presse on Tuesday became the latest newspaper to cut its width by an inch in order to save on newsprint costs.

This previously-announced decision is part of that $26 million in budget cuts that also resulted in the cancellation of the Sunday edition.

Before: Aug. 10

Before: Aug. 10

After: Aug. 11

After: Aug. 11

It comes about six months after The Gazette also reduced its width by an inch in a bid to save money. Like The Gazette, La Presse has redesigned certain page elements to accommodate the smaller size (but isn’t altering the size of its body type).

Philippe Cantin explained the decision in a brief note to readers on Page A4:

From La Presse, Aug. 11, Page A4

From La Presse, Aug. 11, Page A4

Various other media reporting on La Presse’s change note that it’s now the same width (though obviously not the same height) as the Journal de Montréal.

More coverage:

Quebec Press Council roundup: Police, Palestinians and the poor

The Quebec Press Council rejects most of the complaints it gets, judging them to be unfounded (usually because the complainants – which include no-hope politicians and conspiracy theorists – have no case and just want to punish a journalist whose facts or opinions they don’t like). You can read those cases on the QPC’s website or see summaries in their press release.

I will highlight one rejected complaint though:

  • Paul Chablo (SPVM) v. Radio-Canada: Chablo, who acts as a media representative for the Montreal police, complained that an Enquête report on Fredy Villanueva was unfair to the officers involved, used young photos of Villanueva to mislead viewers into thinking he was younger than he actually was when he was killed, and showed the faces and names of the two officers involved as if they were criminals. The Council rejected all of these complaints. ProjetJ also looks at this.

Among the complaints they upheld:

  • Dimitri Roussopoulos v. La Presse: Roussopoulos wrote a letter to La Presse to refute another letter that had factual errors concerning the Plateau’s participatory budget process. His letter was not published, and after months of delays (and pestering), he was eventually told it would never be published. The Council agreed that since there were factual errors in the letter that were not corrected, Roussopoulos had a right of reply that was denied to him.
  • Matthew Trowell v. The Suburban: Trowell complained about The Suburban’s biased views on anti-Israeli protesters, specifically a cover article from editor Beryl Wajsman which called them “purveyors of hate” after they took to the streets to denounce Israeli military action in Gaza. It also complained about articles in the next week’s issue from Wajsman, Joel Goldenberg and P.A. Sevigny that painted all Palestinians as child-killers and Jew-haters. The Council, taking pains to note that it isn’t taking a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, upheld a complaint against Wajsman and Sevigny for having exaggerated in their pieces, pretending that the protest was made up mostly or exclusively of Hamas supporters. But it ruled that the Suburban did not incite violence, that quoting a rabbi who was in turn quoting inflamatory things at a public gathering was not inappropriate, and that an editorial cartoon in the paper did not cross the line.
  • Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec v. Sylvain Bouchard and CJMF: Bouchard said on his radio show that people living on social assistance in Quebec were “quêteux” that get free food and lodging from the government (this, during a discussion about whether such people should be denied the right to vote). The Council ruled that Bouchard was disrespectful, prejudicial and discriminatory toward those on social assistance with his comments. This item got a brief in Le Devoir.

The Council has also rejected an appeal from The Gazette concerning a ruling it had made about the paper’s coverage of the Bouchard-Taylor reasonable accommodation report. Though the Council rejected most of the complaints against The Gazette (whose reporter Jeff Heinrich broke the news of the report’s final draft), it upheld one that the paper was misleading about the importance of certain parts of the report’s findings.

Dimanche vide

"Bienvenue aux lecteurs du dimanche" reads the Gazette

"Bienvenue aux lecteurs du dimanche" reads the Gazette

Well that’s it. There’s no La Presse today, and there won’t be any next Sunday, or the Sunday after that.

The painful decision to cut out the most expendable of the seven daily editions, made last month, has finally seen its effect. Except for a blog post from Chantal Guy, there isn’t much mention of it today, probably because everything has already been said.

I’ll note a couple of things though, both involving my newspaper. First is that today’s cover has a note which I’m sure some old lady in the West Island will ask to have translated for her, welcoming former La Presse readers who are so desperate for a paper to read on Sunday that they’ll grab the anglo rag. There’s no article inside or anything, just the banner.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a newspaper has tried to move in on the Sunday market left empty by another:

The other is a notice in yesterday’s paper that warns readers in some far-away areas that the delivery of their Sunday paper will be delayed because The Gazette subcontracted delivery in those areas to La Presse and now there’s no one to bring their newspapers to them. It’s one of those little secrets of newspapers that often the same person will deliver competing papers to an area (especially when there are few readers in that area, as one would expect for Trois Rivières and Sorel). La Presse’s cancellation of its Sunday edition was sudden and caught my paper a bit flat-footed.


... and again the next week

... and again the next week

La Presse to stop publishing Sundays

It’s official: La Presse will no longer be publishing on Sundays as a way of saving $3 million a year. The last Sunday paper comes out June 28.

Take the news through your favourite corporate filter:

Gesca wants to save $26 million. Half of that will come from reducing expenses, including cutting the Sunday issue, reducing the width of the paper by an inch and cancelling internships. It is asking for the other half to come from concessions from employees (including managers), and is throwing out thinly-veiled threats to shut down the paper entirely. La Presse’s union has been without a contract since Dec. 31.

Cyberpresse and other Gesca papers aren’t affected by these demands, though there is still an open call for buyouts.

La Presse’s union says it is studying the concession demands, which would come with a promise that 15% of profits (should the paper become profitable again) would go back to employees.

UPDATE (June 18): Lagacé discusses the business model affecting newspapers (of which La Presse and Gesca are not immune) and predicts that employees will have to make some concessions, though he argues against those who say journalists are overpaid. Yves Boisvert waxes poetic about the physical newspaper and how it will soon be a thing of the past.

National Newspaper Award winners (with links)

Just like last year, The Globe and Mail came out with the longest penis at the National Newspaper Awards gala Friday night in Montreal. Canada’s national newspaper won six awards out of 13 nominations, followed by the Toronto Star (4) and La Presse and the Hamilton Spectator at two each. Seven other papers (including The Gazette) and Canadian Press each picked up a single award.

The Gazette won in the sports category for a column by Red Fisher on the retirement of Patrick Roy’s No. 33 jersey, specifically his unpopular opinion that it shouldn’t be retired. It was also nominated for a short feature by city hall reporter Linda Gyulai on traffic cones.

La Presse’s André Pratte won again in the editorials category, and Julien Chung and Philippe Tardif won in the presentation category, where the paper was nominated twice. La Presse had eight nominations total.

So let the bragging begin:

The Winnipeg Free Press was the only newspaper with multiple nominations (two) to be shut out of the winners category. Their story makes it clear they were hoping for something more.

And the winners are…

Since the National Newspaper Award website list of winners doesn’t include links, I’ve copied my list below from my post about the nominations. Winners are listed first and bolded.

Winners in the cartooning and photography categories are posted on the NNA website.

Multimedia feature

News feature photography

Beat reporting

  • Michelle Lang, Calgary Herald: health and medicine
  • Rob Shaw, Victoria Times-Colonist: policing issues (see “More on this story”)
  • Jane Sims, London Free Press: justice

Explanatory work


  • Steve Rennie, Canadian Press (listeriosis)
  • Linda Diebel, Toronto Star (insider stories)
  • Jeffrey Simpson & Brian Laghi, Globe and Mail (Prime Minister Stephen Harper)

Short features

Local reporting

  • Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer: Ontario Home Owner Employee Relocation plan
  • Gordon Hoekstra, Prince George Citizen: forestry industry in B.C.
  • North Bay Nugget: E-coli outbreak


  • Julien Chung, Philippe Tardif, La Presse
  • France Dupont, La Presse
  • Catherine Farley & Sharis Shahmiryan, Toronto Star

Special project

Sports photography

  • Derek Ruttan, London Free Press: Football fumble (second photo)
  • Tony Bock, Toronto Star
  • J. T. McVeigh, Barrie Examiner




Arts and entertainment


Feature photography

International reporting


Editorial cartooning

Long feature

News photography

Breaking news

Publication ban protects settlement talks

In case you missed it, a judge last week ordered a publication ban on settlement negotiations between the government and Groupe Polygone, an ad agency in the middle of the sponsorship scandal. The ban follows a previous one issued against the Globe and Mail and is more broad in nature, this time directed specifically at La Presse but also any other media outlet.

The gag order is only valid while the talks (which are supposed to be confidential anyway) are ongoing.

Monday in La Presse, Yves Boisvert says that reporting things that are supposed to be confidential is the entire point of investigative journalism. The Globe and Mail makes a similar point.

I don’t know how important it is to know the status of settlement negotiations, but I also don’t agree that either the federal government or a company that broke the law has any right to privacy in these negotiations, especially if one side (almost certainly in the government) has leaked that information to the media.

La Presse adds electronic edition (but it’ll cost you)

La Presse "sur mon ordi" with NewspaperDirect

La Presse "sur mon ordi" with NewspaperDirect

La Presse is promoting its new electronic edition “La Presse sur mon ordi“, which uses NewspaperDirect, the same service that’s being used by The Gazette, Sun Media and others.

For people who want a newspaper subscription but don’t want the hassle of recycling newspapers, want it a bit cheaper, like the computer bells and whistles and don’t mind reading on the screen, this format is a nice option at only $10 a month (about half the price of a print subscription, consistent with other papers).

One thing that’s different about La Presse’s approach is that it wants to charge existing print subscribers $2 a month for access to the electronic version. It’s a small amount, but I imagine reaction being something along the lines of “you want me to pay for something I’ve already paid for?” (except, you know, they’d probably say it in French).

They’re offering a free 14-day trial for those who want to try it out.

(via ProjetJ)

Canadian newspaper readership stable

It seems to go against conventional wisdom, but NADBank results released this morning show that readership at major Canadian newspapers remains stable, with three quarters of Canadians reading at least one daily newspaper each week. Online numbers also remain stable, which is disappointing because they represent so little.

Both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail cherry-picked results to declare victory. The Star has more print readers on a daily, Saturday and weekly basis, but the Globe has more online readers and a higher total readership of both online and print (the Globe also says it won “key” demographics and implies that its readers are smarter). Other newspapers trumpeted their gains, especially the Calgary Herald, whose readership jumped 7% over last year,

In Montreal, the Journal de Montréal is still the undisputed print leader, with 578,800 having read it “yesterday” and 1,129,600 in the last week, 40% more than second-place La Presse (even throwing in Cyberpresse readers, against the Journal’s lack of a website, the paper still comes up short). Note that this is all before the lockout.

For those who care about comparing competing papers, there’s not much new here. The market percentages are almost identical to last year. A slight uptick in online readers for Cyberpresse, but only from 9% to 11% of the market.

In terms of raw numbers:

  • The Journal de Montréal lost about 3% of its weekday and Sunday readers.
  • La Presse lost about 30,000 weekly print readers but gained about 26,000 weekly online readers.
  • The Gazette (my paper) gained modestly in all categories, but online growth is robust, rising 11% since it relaunched its website last fall. In the Greater Montreal Area, it rose 31%. (Still, most of the website’s traffic comes from outside Quebec, an oddity among Canwest’s papers)
  • Metro lost almost 5% of its weekly readers, and though it gained almost 20% online, its web readership is still negligible.
  • 24 Heures gained 2.4% in weekly readers (perhaps partially at Metro’s expense). Its online numbers are similarly negligible.

In general, 49% of Montrealers 18 and over read a newspaper on the average weekday, 74% read at least one a week, and 76% read a newspaper or go to a newspaper’s website in a week (which means a tiny number – 4% nationally – go to newspaper websites but don’t subscribe). Freebie newspaper readership is at 24% here, with 717,000 people having read either Metro or 24 Heures in the past five weekdays.