TORONTO – The stark economic reality facing the newspaper industry was made all too apparent for hundreds of staff members across Sun Media Corp.’s national operations Tuesday, as parent Quebecor Media Inc. announced sweeping job cuts.
Gone are 500 positions or 8.8 per cent of the Quebecor news unit’s workforce, affecting both unionized and non-unionized ranks, from advertising sales personnel to circulation workers to members of scores of newsrooms — some of whom have worked for decades creating the stories that helped define their cities, towns and communities.
In addition, two publishing facilities, one in Ottawa and a second in Kingston, Ont., are being shuttered, moves that will allow the Montrealbased telecommunications and media conglomerate to save $45 million in annual costs.
“It’s a blow to journalism in Canada today, there’s no question,” said Paul Morse, a union executive for Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, a branch of the main Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union, which represents most of the country’s organized media professionals. The branch represents about 700 Sun Media workers.
The Ottawa Sun — part of Quebecor’s urban Sun chain, which produces daily publications in six big cities between Ottawa and Edmonton — will outsource editing and page composition functions to a centralized location in Toronto, a move following similar consolidation efforts made by larger rival Postmedia Network Inc.
Though Quebecor has not completely outlined the full extent of what appears to be a substantial reorganization, the union executive said he expects outsourcing of editorial duties to become “a theme” for other Sun Media publications — which, like competitors including Torstar Corp. and The Globe and Mail, continue to see gains in digital revenues outstripped by declines in traditional print sources such as circulation and advertising.
On an earnings call, Quebecor executives said thirdquarter revenue at its news media unit fell four per cent to $227 million, led by a seven-per-cent decline in print advertising revenue.
Net earnings, which include contributions from Quebecor’s cable and wireless provider Videotron, were $18 million, down 30 per cent. The results were affected by a $36-million restructuring charge taken in part to pay severance costs.
Echoing comments made by other executives in the sector, CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau said that as a result of a “pervasive, industry-wide transformation, we’ve decided to take decisive and strategic action to align our cost structure with future revenue prospects.”
Unlike competitors, including Postmedia Network, the company did not say whether it will adopt a digital subscription model or “paywall” at its major papers to try to recoup circulation dollars