By Chantal Braganza, Associate Editor
Last week, Canadian newspaper publisher Black Press closed two Vancouver Island newspapers and laid off nearly 20 staff at another in a restructuring of resources after purchasing a number of titles from its area competitor.
The Oceanside Star, in Parksville, B.C., and Courier-Islander, in Campbell River, B.C., both published their last issues on Mar. 26 and 27, respectively. Their closure leaves the Black Press-owned Campbell River Mirror and Parksville Qualicum Beach News remaining in those two areas. The Nanaimo Daily News will continue to operate, CTV and CHEK have reported, though mailer and printing press staff at that paper would be laid off.
In December, the Surrey-based publisher acquired 11 titles from Glacier Media and sold the Vancouver-based newspaper publisher another four. A similar transaction happened in 2013, when Black Press sold four titles to Glacier and bought two.
These recent deals, which closed and took effect as of Mar. 24, leaves Black Press owning of all Vancouver Island-area newspapers except for the Victoria Times-Colonist.
“The majority of papers we acquired on the Island were losing money,” Black Press president and CEO Rick O’Connor told J-Source. “Some we are attempting to restructure and fix and others, such as Campbell River and Parksville, we didn’t feel we could,” he said.
Restructuring at nine of the remaining titles, he said, may include such measures as shifting publication dates for titles in cities where the publisher now owns two titles.
“In the lower mainland we took papers we acquired form Surrey, White Rock, Maple Ridge and Langley,” he said. “What was happening prior to the transaction was we were coming out on the same days with the same content, sometimes delivered by the same carrier.”
O’Connor declined to discuss severance terms for employees at the closed papers or the number of people affected by the closures and cuts in total. “There are contracts and employment standards, and we follow all those approaches,” he said. “But personnel issues are a private discussion.”