Nunatsiaq News suspending print edition because of COVID-19

Nunatsiaq News has announced it is suspending its print edition because of COVID-19. 

Publisher Michael Roberts pointed out that changing flight schedules had slowed down paper delivery.

"There was no point in printing a newspaper we couldn't get to the readers," Roberts told CBC. "Even moving the newspapers around by truck in Iqaluit was becoming a problem."

A press release from Nunatsiaq also states that while the company was making the decision, the printing plant the newspaper works with announced it was closing. 

Roberts also said the newspaper's ad revenue had taken a hit.

Our whole financial model is under duress. - Michael Roberts, Publisher of Nunatsiaq News

"We're providing, I think, a critical service … but with many organizations shutting down or sending people home to work, the flow of advertising which funds the news is being disrupted," said Roberts. 

"Like many newspapers across the country, our whole financial model is under duress."

Earlier this week the federal government announced simpler access to money from the Canadian Periodical Fund, as well a new advisory board to oversee which news outlets were eligible for journalism-related tax breaks. Roberts said those efforts won't help his paper, as Nunatsiaq is ineligible for either. 

Submitted by Michael Roberts

Roberts said one thing the federal government did do is buy ads to put public health information about COVID-19 in the online paper.

"But we're not really seeing anything from the government of Nunavut or the large Inuit organizations," he said, calling on other governments to consider buying ads. 

"The value of using northern media is it supports the news gathering process which is a critical thing during this health emergency," said Roberts. "And it gets the information out. So it's a double whammy."

Nunatsiaq News will continue to publish for free on its website. It's also making a PDF version of the print edition. 

The press release states that the website reaches 67,900 people a week, compared to only 5,000 printed weekly copies, and that March reported a surge in readership as well. 

Five years ago, most of the outlet's readers read it in print, whereas last week 95 percent of readers were going to Nunatsiaq online, he said.

Roberts said that the decision to suspend printing is temporary and that the company intends to print again when the spread of COVID-19 is under control. But he also said the suspension fits into a long-term trend to publish fewer papers as more people move online. 

"What the future will bring, I don't know. But it is true that ... fewer people are reading print newspapers."