Postmedia cuts 90 staff, merges 4 city newsrooms

Daily Brew

[Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey prepares to speak at a news conference in Toronto, Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hannah Yoon]

Postmedia has made the move many expected by cutting 90 staff and merging newsrooms in four cities.

In Ottawa, the Sun and the Citizen; in Edmonton, the Sun and the Journal; in Calgary, the Sun and the Herald; and in Vancouver, the Sun and the Province.

“The brands remain, the websites remain, the newspapers remain, the way we’re producing them has changed,” Postmedia vice-president of communications Phyllise Gelfand confirmed to Yahoo Canada News on Tuesday.

Gelfand said all 90 were editorial positions and represent an approximately 8 per cent reduction in staff across Postmedia.

The Canadian branch of the Communications Workers of America (CWA Canada) posted an internal memo sent to staff by CEO Paul Godfrey.

“Since the acquisition of the Sun Media brands, we have been working to move our teams together in order to leverage strengths and also to find synergies and savings,” the memo said. “We have made progress across our Sales, Marketing, HR, Finance, IT and other administrative functions. The next step is our newsrooms.”

The cuts come a day after an email leaked from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s office spurred fresh rumours that Postmedia would shut down one of its two newspapers in that city. 

Godfrey had requested an urgent meeting with the mayor: “a 15 minutes call today with Mayor Jim Watson to brief him an item.”

The confidential communication came to light because the mayor’s staff forwarded it not to Jim Watson but to Jim Waterson, a journalist in BuzzFeed’s U.K. office.

Chatter began in earnest in November about the possibility the company would fold Sun papers into their Postmedia counterparts in some cities. At the time, Frank Magazine cited a “reliable” source in its report, but Gelfand told Yahoo Canada News at the time that the papers were only sharing office space.

Indeed, the Toronto Sun staff is expected to move into Postmedia’s digs by April, but that paper will retain its own newsroom.

Gelfand said Toronto is not considered a “crossover” market: the Toronto Sun remains the local paper, while the National Post, though headquartered there, is national.

The other cities will operate under one editor, with a trimmed editorial staff producing both papers. Several journalists from the papers’ sports departments were cut to pave the way for a new national sports desk.

CWA Canada said it will be asking the federal government to “break up the Postmedia monopoly and outlaw destructive debt-leveraged takeovers of important national companies.”

In fact, the Competition Bureau has until March 25 to challenge the transaction, if it so chooses. The bureau has one year to intervene after green-lighting Postmedia’s $316-million acquisition of Quebecor Media Inc.’s English-language newspapers and digital properties.

On the heels of poor first-quarter results, Tuesday’s move is part of $80 million in cuts Postmedia plans to make by mid-2017.