MEMO FROM TORONTO STAR PUBLISHER
Today, the Star is announcing a series of restructuring initiatives to reduce our costs in the face of revenue challenges. These steps are being taken following careful review.
In the newsroom, we intend to outsource print page production and most print design work to Pagemasters North America. We have today advised the CEP of this intent. We will of course provide the union with the details of our business case for contracting out, and seriously consider any alternatives the union may wish to present. We hope to conclude that process quickly so that affected staff have a sense of certainty regarding the future.
We also today provided notice to the CEP that we intend to reduce staffing levels in other specific classifications in the newsroom and in the Advertising Division of the Star. Meetings are being held this afternoon with staff in the affected classifications.
In light of the magnitude of the changes ahead, we are today announcing our intention to open discussions with the CEP on a Voluntary Separation Program at the Star, to provide staff with additional choices and to cushion the impact on our departing staff. We hope to conclude such discussions quickly so that staff have an understanding of the options open to them. Formal layoff notices will be issued to affected staff once those discussions have concluded.
These are difficult steps to take. The loss of valued, close colleagues will be challenging to all, and we will need to tap into our shared commitment to the Star’s mission and purpose as we navigate these challenging times. No large metropolitan news organization in North America has been spared the intense revenue pressures that we face. It is essential that we act in a responsible manner now to secure our long-term future.
On behalf of the executive team I thank all members of the Star’s staff for their continued commitment and dedication in these challenging times.
MEMO FROM TORONTO STAR EDITOR
We all know these are hard times for this business we love.
I've been stunned at times by the relentless financial pressures, and it is thanks to protection from an enlightened ownership that we have not been squeezed until we bled - like other newsrooms we know.
But the slide in advertising revenues is currently more dramatic and increasing at a speed none of us foresaw.
The Publisher today announced decisions to reduce several areas of staff, and not just in the newsroom and not just among our unionized roles.
These decisions will have wrenching consequences on the lives of many of our colleagues and friends.
I understand how hard this will be on many of the individuals, and it will be weeks before we get a clear picture of who is ultimately affected.
My aim now is to continue to serve and protect the Star's reporting.
Despite the loss of revenue and dozens of staff in the last three years, we have grown readership in print and on the web in particular. I don't know of another Canadian newspaper that can make that claim.
Does anyone dispute the impact Star journalism has on our community?
We cover the ebb and flow of the news and we're the best in the country at that. We have exclusives that leave our opponents choking on our dust, we have investigations that expose astonishing wrongdoing, and we get action for changing lives and making our town a better place.
We can be proud. The thousands of journalists who came before us here and whose legacy we inherited would be proud, too, if they could see our work today. We owe it to them to keep going and to keep getting better at what we do on all the platforms on which we now place our work.
All of this has been accomplished by you, the newsroom, with a much smaller and focused group of colleagues than when I returned to the Star four years ago.
As a matter of record, more young journalists have been hired in the past three years than in the previous decade or longer. We should be very proud of that. I know I am. Look around the newsroom – skilled, talented, new journalists embracing the present and devoted to the Star's future, alongside the ranks of the lions that helped build the modern Star.
The journalism we practise here is worth investing in and worth protecting and I know we take that responsibility very seriously.
It is never easy to take decisions that reduce or eliminate staff. But the real-life business challenges we face (you know what they are, you read the same stories I do) are brutal and require action. Doing nothing – or doing "trims" – is not an option. It's a death sentence.
This is painful in all the areas the Publisher identified today. Out-sourcing print production is especially difficult. I spent much of my career on the desk, putting out the newspaper, so I know how creative and important that work can be.
We will work with your union leaders to mitigate (as much as possible) the impact of this move.
The Publisher has announced the desire and intention to work with staff and the union leaders on a Voluntary Severance Plan (VSP).
As you know, we've used VSP in the recent past to keep staff departures as voluntary as possible. I can't imagine a better basic principle in light of difficult decisions none of us can pretend will simply stop.
I ask that, going forward, we remember and embrace these fundamentals:
- Star journalism is worth fighting for.
- Newspapering is not just a business. But we need to have a business to do the newspapering.
- We remain committed to the Atkinson Principles that are so important to our city, province and country, and remain essential to democracy.
There will be a series of townhalls next week to address your concerns and answer your questions. Today, and the rest of this week, we will focus on those of our colleagues whose jobs are unfortunately implicated directly in these decisions.