Postmedia Network Canada Corp. is closing six more newspapers in Ontario and Alberta and ending print production at three others, while also announcing another round of layoffs and buyouts aimed at cutting staff by 10 per cent.
The papers to be shut down include the Camrose Canadian and the Strathmore Standard in Alberta, and in Ontario, the Kapuskasing Northern Times, the Ingersoll Times, the Norwich Gazette and The Petrolia Topic.
Meanwhile, the Portage Daily Graphic in Portage La Prairie, Man., the Northern News in Kirkland Lake, Ont., and the Pembroke Daily Observer, based in the Ottawa Valley, will all cease their print editions, but will maintain a digital presence.
The cuts are part of an effort to reduce salary costs by 10 per cent across the Postmedia chain, which the company said is required to meet this year’s financial targets.
“If we intend to survive and create a new model for the new reality, then we must continue to take the necessary steps to focus on areas where we can win and make the tough, yet decisive, decisions about where to make these changes,” the company said in an internal statement.
The newsroom closures will eliminate about 16 jobs and add to mounting casualties in Canadian print media. Last November, Postmedia and Torstar Corp. announced a deal to swap 41 local and community papers, the vast majority of which were promptly shut down. One of those shuttered newsrooms was the Orillia Packet & Times, which had been in publication since 1870.
Even older is the Pembroke Daily Observer – now seeing the end of its print edition – which, founded in 1855, pre-dates Confederation.
“Now, another historic Canadian newspaper will die, and proud Pembroke will face the threat of becoming a local news desert,” Paul Morse, the president of the Unifor branch representing some Daily Observer employees, said in a statement.
“We have asked the federal government to help newspapers transition to new and economically sustainable ways to deliver local news, but have been met with essentially empty platitudes,” Mr. Morse said.
Unifor calls on @melaniejoly to speed up policy measures to #savelocalnews after Postmedia cuts jobs and closes 9 weeklies in Ontario & Alberta and the daily newspaper in Pembroke #onpoli #canlab https://t.co/145c40Nrd1 pic.twitter.com/m9avwMffEs— Unifor Canada (@UniforTheUnion) June 26, 2018
Industry-wide media outlets have struggled to replace lost print advertising revenue, as social media and search giants such as Facebook and Google have come to dominate the digital ad space.
So far, the federal government has resisted calls from the print industry for substantial subsidies to alleviate the financial pressure. The federal budget, tabled in February, did, however, indicate openness to allowing media organizations to receive charitable status. Ottawa also allocated $10-million in annual funding to support local journalism in under-served communities.
For Postmedia, continued losses in subscriptions and print ad revenue have made further cuts unavoidable, the company said.
“The traditional revenue balloon continues to deflate at a much faster rate than we can inflate the digital revenue balloon,” Postmedia’s note to employees said.
In the second quarter, the company’s print and circulation revenue combined were down by almost $21-million from the prior year, while digital revenue rose over the same period by less than $3-million.
Postmedia has been cutting its staff for nearly a decade. In 2010, its headcount was 5,400, falling by more than half to 2,500 in 2015. In 2016, the purchase of Sun Media’s English-language papers and digital properties from Quebecor Inc. brought the total up to 4,800. That has since fallen to about 3,300.