Canada’s largest chain of newspapers is cutting hundreds of jobs and closing several publications to deal with plummeting profits, the second time in less than a year that Sun Media has slashed its staff aggressively to deal with falling print advertising revenue.
The Quebecor Inc.-owned media company said it will cut 350 jobs, bringing the total number of positions lost in the past year to 850 from a staff of approximately 4,500. Sun Media publishes 36 daily newspapers and more than 200 community papers.
It will close L’Action Régionale in Montérégie, The Lindsay Daily Post, The Midland Free Press, The Meadow Lake Progress, The Lac du Bonnet Leader, The Beausejour Review, Le Magazine Saint-Lambert and Le Progrès de Bellechasse. It will also stop printing the free commuter daily 24 Hours in Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary. They will continue to be published in Vancouver and Toronto.
An executive at the company said the cuts will be spread among all of the chain’s titles, but didn’t provide a breakdown of its plans.
One change the company did confirm was the hiring of Wendy Metcalfe to run the Toronto Sun following the resignation of editor-in-chief James Wallace earlier in the week. Ms. Metcalfe oversaw the chain’s Southern Ontario papers, and is the first woman to run the daily tabloid.
The newspaper industry has been under pressure as print advertising revenue decreases faster than online advertising increases.
Sun Media saw its profit fall by 63 per cent in its last quarter from a year ago. It’s been a long-term trend: In 2008, the company earned $45-million in its first quarter on $267-million in revenue. In its most current quarter, it earned $5.7-million on $207-million.
In the past year, the company has also consolidated printing for several of its larger papers and eliminated editor and publisher positions in an attempt to restructure its business.
“The print media industry has been going through an unprecedented transformation such as it has never seen before,” said Julie Tremblay, Sun Media’s chief operating officer, in a statement.
The company said “digital is more than a strong trend,” noting that younger readers are turning away from print. Ms. Tremblay said Sun Media would be “working to meet the needs of our readers and advertisers in this new environment.”
Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild president Paul Morse said the chain is acting too aggressively as revenue falls and runs the risk of gutting itself just as the industry finds alternative sources of revenue.
“There is another shore,” he said. “But Sun Media seems to want to throw bodies overboard before we can paddle over there.”