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Metro Winnipeg axed in Torstar, Postmedia deal

36 newspapers closed across country

Monday's edition of the free Metro Winnipeg newspaper was its last.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Monday's edition of the free Metro Winnipeg newspaper was its last.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2017 (358 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Canadian newspaper industry has a new Black Monday.

Postmedia Inc. and Torstar Inc. announced a deal on Monday in which the two companies have swapped ownership of 41 community and commuter papers with plans to close 36 of them, including Metro Winnipeg.

Postmedia said the publications it is acquiring would close by mid-January, but Monday’s edition of Metro Winnipeg was the last for the six-year-old publication.

“We are packing up our office right now,” Metro Winnipeg managing editor Lucy Scholey said Monday morning.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/11/2017 (358 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Canadian newspaper industry has a new Black Monday.

Postmedia Inc. and Torstar Inc. announced a deal on Monday in which the two companies have swapped ownership of 41 community and commuter papers with plans to close 36 of them, including Metro Winnipeg.

Postmedia said the publications it is acquiring would close by mid-January, but Monday’s edition of Metro Winnipeg was the last for the six-year-old publication.

"We are packing up our office right now," Metro Winnipeg managing editor Lucy Scholey said Monday morning.

Click to Expand

Postmedia to close:

Belleville News

Brant News

Central Hastings News

Frontenac Gazette

Kanata Kourier-Standard

Kingston Heritage

Meaford Express

Metro Ottawa

Metro Winnipeg

Nepean/Barrhaven News

Norfolk News

Orleans News

Ottawa East News

Ottawa South News

Ottawa West News

Our London

Quinte West News

St. Lawrence News

St. Mary’s Journal-Argus (and the St. Mary’s Weekender)

St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News

Stittsville News

Stratford City Gazette

West Carleton Review

Torstar to close:

24 Hours Toronto

24 Hours Vancouver

Barrie Examiner

Bradford Times

Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin

Fort Erie Times

Innisfil Examiner

Inport News (Port Colborne)

Niagara Advance

Northumberland Today

Orillia Packet & Times

Pelham News

Thorold Niagara News

In addition to Scholey, the paper had two reporters up until last week, when one of them resigned, and a sales staff of seven, as well as other support staff.

"It’s a sad day," said James Turner, journalism instructor at Red River College. "I was the first reporter hired there when it opened in 2011. I’m shocked. I don’t know how the economies worked, but it seemed like they were running an efficient ship. There were always ads in it, so it must have been making some money."

The closures will mean the loss of close to 300 direct jobs across the country, but there will likely be more spin-off job losses.

For instance, Derksen Printers in Steinbach (owned by FP Newspapers Inc., the company that also owns the Winnipeg Free Press) printed Metro Winnipeg, with an average daily press run of 32,000 papers. Bob Cox, publisher of the Free Press, said the loss of that contract will mean some job losses at Derksen.

Postmedia said in a news release that the transaction was not subject to merger notification provisions of the Competition Act, but Competition Bureau spokesman Jayme Albert said in an email that a review is planned.

"Under the Competition Act, transactions of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy are subject to review by the commissioner of competition to determine whether they will likely result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in any market in Canada," he said, adding the transaction can be challenged before the Competition Tribunal for up to a year.

The deal announced Monday was roundly criticized by observers and unions who said it will lessen competition and hurt local news coverage in the affected communities, but defended by the companies as necessary to reduce costs as advertising revenues shrink.

Postmedia announced it will cut 244 jobs as it plans to shutter 21 of the 22 community newspaper properties it is acquiring from Torstar, including the Metro Winnipeg and Metro Ottawa free dailies. The only paper in the group that Postmedia will continue operating is the Exeter Times-Advocate (including the Exeter Weekender).

Torstar’s Metroland Media Group Ltd., meanwhile, said it will close three of the seven daily newspapers in Ontario it’s buying from Postmedia, including all eight community newspapers it’s purchased, resulting in the loss of 46 jobs. The company said only one job will disappear as it buys and closes the free dailies 24 Hours Toronto and 24 Hours Vancouver.

Torstar will continue to operate St. Catharines StandardNiagara Falls ReviewWelland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner through its Metroland Media division.

Media experts decried the loss of diversity in the information and news that communities will have access to about their own communities, but it was also acknowledged that many of the businesses were likely struggling.

"It is beyond print," said Phyllise Gelfand, a spokeswoman for Postmedia. "It is print, it is online... I don’t think there has ever been more access to more diverse voices with the options that are available today. What gets difficult is the business model for a legacy publication."

Cox said that three daily papers was a lot for the city the size of Winnipeg.

"That was a lot," he said. "From a market rationalization point of view it made sense."

But Cox, the chairman of News Media Canada, the 800-member national association for the Canadian news media industry, said it’s disturbing.

"It’s the biggest single closure of newspapers we have seen in Canada that I can remember," he said.

April Lindgren, an associate professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism, said, "The scale of it, I think, is stunning and will be stunning for people who live in these communities who are going to lose access to, really, their local news."

More than 200 local news sources — newspapers, online publications and others — have closed for various reasons in Canada since 2008, she said, citing data she’s helped compile for the Local News Research Project.

"What they’re doing is shutting down newspapers in their immediate environs so the circulation can be taken over and the news coverage can be expanded by their existing papers in the area," she said.

She said Postmedia, for instance, is shutting down Torstar newspapers in the coverage area of its Ottawa Citizen and Torstar is buying and closing Postmedia products in southern Ontario that might compete with its Toronto Star.

In Winnipeg, Postmedia already owns the Winnipeg Sun. Gelfand said, "Our local advertising team at the Winnipeg Sun will absolutely be reaching out to Metro customers to talk about what offerings we have, for sure."

Even though the Winnipeg market might have been crowded with three dailies, industry officials said the free distribution model of the Metro allowed papers to penetrate markets that might not otherwise have read papers.

The loss of local news titles will likely get worse, not better, as advertising dollars continue to migrate to the internet, said Mitch Diamantopoulos, an associate journalism professor in the University of Regina.

"An attempt to cut costs by eliminating competition is bad news for Canadians," he said.

He said the closing of free daily newspapers isn’t surprising because some of them were created to block competitors, not make money. The closings suggest their publishers no longer think that’s a necessary or affordable strategy, he said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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History

Updated on Monday, November 27, 2017 at 3:01 PM CST: adds photo

10:29 PM: Full write throught

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