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Some of Postmedia's newspapers are displayed in Ottawa on Jan. 8, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Some of Postmedia's newspapers are displayed in Ottawa on Jan. 8, 2010. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Postmedia cuts national writer jobs, offers newsroom buyouts Add to ...

Postmedia Network Canada Corp. has cut the jobs of several national writers and offered voluntary buyouts to newsroom staff at the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and Windsor Star.

Employees learned of the latest round of cost-cutting on Thursday, as Postmedia continues to slash spending in the face of diminishing advertising revenue and high costs to service a long-term debt that stands at $483.5-million.

Misty Harris, who covered consumer and social trends, film critic Katherine Monk, science writer Margaret Munro and television columnist Alex Strachan were among those let go, sources said. Ms. Harris and Ms. Monk both posted messages to Twitter saying they were among the staff who lost their jobs.

“The axe has finally fallen after 13 years (like, 30 in newspaper time). Grateful for the time I had to do what I love,” Ms. Harris wrote on the social network. None of the four writers could immediately be reached for comment.

At the Gazette, the “voluntary staff reduction program” is available to editorial employees, subject to management’s discretion, and applications are due by Feb. 19 to leave the company by Feb. 27. The program offers three weeks salary per year of service to a maximum of 78 weeks or $150,000.

“The positions eliminated [Thursday] were national reporters in a couple of markets. National content creation will now be centralized at National Post,” Postmedia spokesperson Phyllise Gelfand said in an e-mail. “This is consistent with other cost-cutting initiatives we have undertaken as we look to reduce costs in a challenging revenue environment.”

The national writers whose positions were axed on Thursday were holdovers from Postmedia’s defunct breaking-news wire service, and wrote for the company’s online portal Canada.com. Postmedia elected to shutter its news wire in 2012, five years after it was founded by previous owner Canwest Global Communications to provide stories to the chain’s 10 daily newspapers, which also include the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and Vancouver Province.

At the time, Postmedia signed on with The Canadian Press. Then, last February, Postmedia laid off five staff from its Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa and merged the rest of its federal political desk with the Ottawa Citizen.

Postmedia company is nearing the tail end of a three-year cost-cutting plan that had already yielded $112-million in annual savings, but continues to incur losses. In its most recent quarter, overall revenue fell 12.6 per cent to $169.5-million from a year earlier, mostly a result of plummeting print advertising sales.

The company is also awaiting regulatory approval for its planned purchase of Sun Media Corp.’s 173 English-language newspapers and digital publications from Quebecor Inc. for $316-million. The Competition Bureau could rule by early March on the purchase, which includes the Sun chain of papers in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg along with the London Free Press, free 24 Hours commuter papers in Toronto and Vancouver, and the English-language Canoe online portal.

A prospectus filed on Thursday as part of the proposed acquisition notes that “The Company continues to explore additional opportunities to reduce operating costs and expects these efforts to continue indefinitely.”

“If your revenues continue to decline, your cost base has to decline. Otherwise you don’t continue to exist,” Postmedia president and CEO Paul Godfrey said in an interview at the company’s annual general meeting in January. “It’s just straight logic.”

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