The Guelph Mercury, one of the oldest newspapers in the country, is the latest casualty of a wave of austerity that has swept through Canadian newsrooms this winter.
Citing overwhelming financial strains and declining readership, the Mercury’s owners said the paper’s final edition will be printed on Friday, bringing an end to a publishing history dating back to Confederation.
The Mercury’s demise comes amid a quick succession of layoffs, cutbacks and closings in recent months as the pressures on Canadian print and broadcast media have intensified.
“I’m pretty startled by how quickly things have declined,” said Dwayne Winseck, a Carleton University journalism professor.
The challenges remain declining advertising revenue and heightened competition for audiences.
Monday also saw one of the country’s media giants roiled by the same forces. Rogers Media announced plans to cut 200 jobs across its television, radio and publishing divisions, representing 4 per cent of its work force.
“The media industry continues to experience significant pressures from a softening advertising market, fierce competition from global players, and shifting audience consumption habits,” spokeswoman Andrea Goldstein said in an e-mailed statement.
The recent turmoil in Canadian media has spanned the country, with the 141-year-old Nanaimo Daily News announcing on Friday that it was shutting down, while on the other side, the Halifax Chronicle Herald – the largest independent daily paper in Canada – is locked in a labour dispute with its newsroom employees.
Meanwhile, Bell Media told the federal government in early November that it planned to cut 380 jobs – 270 in Toronto and 110 in Montreal – and also made further cuts in other offices and bureaus from Ottawa to Vancouver.
Rogers itself announced 110 job cuts last year as it scaled back its Omni stations, and Shaw Media also said it would cut at least 30 jobs as it consolidated news production functions across the country.
Montreal-based La Presse, which is owned by Gesca Ltée, a subsidiary of Power Corp. of Canada, stopped publishing weekday print editions of the newspaper in early January. In the process of moving to a tablet-focused publication, it cut almost 160 full- and part-time jobs across its newsroom as well as in circulation, administration and customer service.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Star said it plans to outsource the printing of its paper and will close its printing plant in Vaughan, Ont., likely in July. The move means that 220 full-time and 65 part-time staff at the plant will lose their jobs, and the Torstar Corp.-owned paper also said it is cutting 13 digitally focused positions from its newsroom and 15 from circulation and is offering voluntary buyouts to remaining newsroom staff. Torstar’s subsidiary, Metroland Media Corp., also owns the Guelph Mercury.
And last week, Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced plans to merge competing newsrooms in cities where it owns multiple newspapers and said it would cut 90 jobs in the process.
Traditional Canadian media seem vulnerable in a way the U.S. media business did during, and in the aftermath of, the 2008-09 recession, Mr. Winseck said.
“These things hit us later than it did in the U.S,” he said. “It just seemed to be on a bit of a delay. Then it slammed home and in a compressed period. Where does it stop? I don’t know. Because digital ad revenues are not soaring.”
Daily newspaper revenues Canada-wide declined by almost 40 per cent from 2008 to 2014, Mr. Winseck said.
Lost advertising revenue and lost readers were behind the closing of the Guelph Mercury, which made it “impossible for the printed copy of the daily newspaper to remain profitable,” publisher Donna Luelo said in a statement.
The end of the Mercury’s print edition will put 23 full-time staff and three part-time employees out of work and will leave the burgeoning Southwestern Ontario city without a daily newspaper. “It was a last resort,” Ms. Luelo said.
As of last summer, the Mercury’s average weekday circulation was about 9,400, which represented a 25-per-cent decline in less than two years, according to figures provided by CCAB.
Mercury reporter Tony Saxon, who writes about the Guelph Storm and the Ontario Hockey League, said the closing leaves a void in a city of more than 120,000 people.
“This city is growing every day, and there is so much money and new business and infrastructure here. Now who’s going to watch that?” he said.
“It’s hard to believe that a vibrant, relatively well-off city that continues to grow can’t sustain a daily newspaper.”Report Typo/Error
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- Updated July 21 2:36 PM EDT. Delayed by at least 15 minutes.