Tue, 06/27/2017 - 18:32

Posted by H.G. Watson on November 24, 2016
Image courtesy of Eric Mark Do.

Image courtesy of Eric Mark Do.

By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor

A memo sent to National Post staff on Nov. 18 by editor-in-chief Anne Marie Owens details 20 newsroom departures, most the result of a round of buyouts aimed at reducing salary costs at Postmedia by 20 per cent.

In the memo obtained by J-Source, Owens writes, “We are losing a fifth of this newsroom to voluntary buyouts. People will be redeployed to help fill the gaps and to bolster the newsroom reorganization. We have already begun talking to people about new roles, and will continue over the coming days. We want to implement these changes as quickly as possible, and we’re going to need people in place to make it happen.”

Among those who J-Source has confirmed took the buyouts are Graham Runciman, a video producer, and John Shmuel, a Financial Post reporter. Gillian Grace, an online news editor at the National Post, told J-Source she did not take a buyout. She’s leaving to join Chatelaine as their senior managing editor, digital.

News of the buyouts has been slowly trickling out since they were announced on Oct. 20. Eight people took buyouts at the Regina Leader-Post, according to the CBC.

Owens also wrote that the focus of the newsroom reorganization would be “geared towards being a digital-only operation. We are, of course, continuing to publish print products from this newsroom, but the amount of attention that it occupies will be isolated to a much smaller portion of this operation.” 

CWA president Martin O’Hanlon described the buyout process as “confusing and disorganized” in an iPolitics story.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reported on Nov. 23 that five Postmedia executives received $2.3 million in retention bonuses.

The full text of the memo sent by Owens on Nov. 18 is included below:

I want to give you an update on the voluntary buyouts and the changes we are going to be making to our newsroom in the coming weeks. We’ll have an informal huddle where I can answer your questions in the newsroom at 1pm today.

 

As I told you in the earlier town hall, the focus of this newsroom reorganization will be geared towards being a digital-only operation. We are, of course, continuing to publish print products from this newsroom, but the amount of attention that it occupies will be isolated to a much smaller portion of this operation.

 

Mick Higgins will run the print hub, which will be where all the attention to print resides. This one dynamic hub will oversee the slotting and content decisions for NP, NP2, FP, FP2, Comment and FP comment and A&L daily.

 

Ron Wadden will run the presentation hub, which tackles all the special treatments that we want to give to stories. It will be primarily digitally focused, but it will also pay attention to specialty print items.

 

The new deadlines from PES – which are considerably earlier for every single section — will help enforce our new digital focus.

 

Erin and Jordan and Nicole and Dustin have come up with new workflows for their teams that rely on earlier starts to the day and a full integration with web. Kevin is going to take on oversight for all of comment — both FP and NP comment — rebuilding it into a digital powerhouse. In this new universe, there will not be a news desk and a digital desk—they will be one, seamlessly connected team.

 

Editors will be trained to post the stories they are handling; reporters will be trained to produce their own stories. All of this will begin immediately and continue through the next several weeks.

 

Your editors will meet with you to talk through some of the specific changes impacting your teams. We have moved quickly to come up with a plan, but the scope of this change to the way we do things is huge, and it will be a bumpy ride for all of us.

 

We are losing a fifth of this newsroom to voluntary buyouts. People will be redeployed to help fill the gaps and to bolster the newsroom reorganization. We have already begun talking to people about new roles, and will continue over the coming days. We want to implement these changes as quickly as possible, and we’re going to need people in place to make it happen.

 

These are the talented people who will be leaving our newsroom in the coming weeks:

 

Angela Hickman, Gary Loewen, John Shmuel, David Yasvinski, Al Zabas, Jesse Kline, Damon Van der Linde, Brian Hutchinson, Araminta Wordsworth,Genevieve Biloski, Nancy Truman, Graham Runciman, Gord Isfeld, Liza Sardi, Chloe Cushman, Kelly McParland, Jeff Wasserman, Ron Hartwell, David Berry, Gillian Grace.

 

We are sad to say goodbye – which we’ll do in a single farewell gathering on Dec. 2 – but wish them all the best.

 

For all of us who remain, this will be an exciting period of change – on a scale that we haven’t yet experienced. You are an unbelievably resilient and energetic and creative bunch and I have no doubt of our success. Your editors and I are here to support you, and walk you through the changes every step of the way. When we come out the other side of this, we will be a newsroom transformed, and galvanized by this change.

H.G. Watson can be reached at hgwatson@j-source.ca or on Twitter.

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J-Source and ProjetJ are publications of the Canadian Journalism Project, a venture among post-secondary journalism schools and programs across Canada, led by Ryerson University, Université Laval and Carleton University and supported by a group of donors.