A deal between Postmedia and TorStar to swap a total of 41 daily and weekly newspapers then shut most of them down is a “dark day for local journalism,” says CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon.
Postmedia will close 23 of the 24 publications it takes over, putting 244 people out of work by mid-January. TorStar will, effective immediately, shut down 13 of the 17 newspapers it acquired from Postmedia and lay off 46 staff.
The deal that will see 36 titles shuttered — all but two of them in Ontario — is a “deathblow to local newspaper competition in many communities,” said O’Hanlon. “It’s bad for local journalism and bad for municipal democracy.”
O’Hanlon said it’s “outrageous that such a sweeping and damaging deal is legal and shows once again why the Competition Act needs to be beefed up.”
In a news release, CWA Canada called on the federal government to take urgent action to save local news coverage.
CWA Canada represents workers at the Peterborough Examiner, which will continue to operate under TorStar ownership, and at Northumberland Today, one of the three dailies that will shut down immediately.
Postmedia will close free commuter dailies Metro Winnipeg and Metro Ottawa; the company owns other papers in both cities. (CWA Canada has members at The Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun.)
With the exception of the Exeter Times-Advocate/Weekender, Postmedia plans to close all of the community papers it acquired. They include:
Brant News, Belleville News, Central Hastings News, Frontenac Gazette, Kingston Heritage, Kanata Kourier-Standard, Nepean/Barrhaven News, Orleans News, Ottawa East News, Ottawa South News, Ottawa West News, Stittsville News, West Carleton Review, Quinte West News, St. Lawrence News, Our London, St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News, St. Mary’s Journal Argus, Stratford City Gazette, Norfolk News, and Meaford Express.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a Twitter post that he was “Very sad and sorry to see the closure of several community newspapers in our city. They were great vehicles to connect with our many neighbourhoods and their voices will be missed. My thoughts are with the dedicated employees who will or have lost their jobs.”
Of the 17 newspapers TorStar acquired in the swap, only four dailies will survive: St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner. Along with Northumberland Today, the Barrie Examiner, Orillia Packet & Times, free commuter dailies 24Hours Toronto and 24Hours Vancouver are gone.
The weekly papers closing immediately include: Bradford Times, Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin, Fort Erie Times, Innisfil Examiner, Niagara Advance, Pelham News, Inport News (Port Colborne) and Thorold Niagara News.
In making the announcement this morning, Postmedia noted that “the transaction is not subject to the merger notification provisions of the Competition Act and no regulatory clearance is required.”