Wed, 09/28/2016 - 19:16

Posted by Tamara Baluja on April 24, 2013

Staff at The Province and the Vancouver Sun are bracing themselves for impending layoffs to achieve “dramatic staff reductions.”

In a bluntly-worded four-page memo sent to all employees on Wednesday, Pacific Newspaper Group president and publisher Gordon Fisher said the two competing newspapers have seen an “alarming and unprecedented revenue declines,” and layoffs will likely follow a voluntary buyout program that will be launched soon. 

Fisher told J-Source he does not have a specific target for the number of employees or the amount of cost savings the company hoped to achieve through the buyout. He added that he has been in conversation with the union, and said the existing contracts make the two Vancouver-based newspapers costlier to produce than others. 

"Look, we have to find significant savings and I'm anticipating we will have to resort to layoffs," he said. "We're looking at the legacy part, so definitely managers will also be considered for these buyouts, and I'm hoping we can find a way to keep some of the younger journalists ... I'm not really keen on the idea that just because you're last one in, I don't want it to be like you're first out."

Fisher says the Pacific Newspaper Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Postmedia Network, cannot afford to live in a nostalgic past. Print revenue fell 16 per cent in March, and online advertising revenue has not been able to make up the shortfall. “These are not easy decisions,” he said, but for now, says there is no plan to eliminate one of the two newspapers. "There will be more integration. Already there is more of that."

On the long four-page memo, Fisher says he wanted to give employees as "complete a picture" as they could get from him. And he asked his staff to consider what they're doing to make sure the company survives this downturn. 

“Please understand that we need your help. And if you do anything every day of the week let it be this: ask yourself if you are part of the solution or are willing to be part of the solution. lf you aren`t part of the solution, ask yourself why that is. We are all in this together and we are all lighting not only for the future of The Vancouver Sun and The Province, but for the lives and well-being of our families.”

Earlier this month, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey said the company will be shrinking and will look at all options, including outsourcing.  It posted a 10 per cent revenue loss in its second quarter earnings, and will be rolling out paywalls for all its online newspaper websites.

The announcement of layoffs at PNG follows a similar one made by the Globe and Mail earlier this week, which is also offering a voluntary separation program to its employees and hopes to reduce its staffing* by eight per cent.

A former Province employee Suzanne Fournier, who worked for 37 years at the newspaper and took the buyout last year, told CBC that she "isn't surprised about today's news." 

"If the time is right, make the jump," she recommended to her former colleagues, the CBC reported. "And if you don't make the jump, you're going to be pushed."

Read the memo here, courtesy of steveladurantaye.ca

*The article incorrectly states The Globe planned to reduce its costs by 8 per cent, when in fact, it hopes to reduce its staffing by 8 per cent. We regret the error. 

Comments

The most interesting comment to make is that nobody has made any comments about this. In 2013 these kinds of layoff/cuts are a news story with the lede not just buried but truly interred. A truer intro might have read: "In another likely failed effort to save big city newspapers from bankruptcy caused by the destruction of their business model by the internet, the publisher of the Vancouver Sun and Province has written a memo to staff...."

One of the less sensational aspects of Gordon Fisher's memo was telling staff: "lf you aren`t part of the solution, ask yourself why that is."

I can only surmise what he had in mind when he made that comment, because he did not elaborate. But it sounded a lot to me like he's asking his handsomely paid and practically undismissable employees to quit taking advantage of their untouchable positions and put in an honest day's work.

The Sun, especially, has had a fleet of business reporters whose idea of "jouralism" is to rewrite a press release, get a comment from the CEO, and call it a day at Steamworks where the backslapping begins.

Is there a company in the world that can afford that kind of output from an employee? Not in the real world, there isn't.

It is not just unionism to blame. Mr. Fisher makes a big deal about how the newspapers have to get on-line in a big way to compete with all the other free digital media. But when Patricia Graham was dropped from her post as editor-in-chief, this friendly old face (known in the Southam days as a "good old boy") took a job heading Postmedia's digital strategy.

Mr. Fisher, if you want twentysomething readers, you're going to have to set the bar a little higher on the digital side.

There are some very good people at Pacific Media, no doubt, but the days of higher pay and greater benefits should have ended decades ago, when the journalism tapered off, the stenography began, and reader interest waned.

The Sun has no columnists with any bite, and its failure to stand up to developers during the leaky-condo crisis, and its failure to hold the VPD accountable during the Missing Women's crisis of the late 1990s has readers saying, "Why should I bother subscribing?"

It is truly sad.

Jerome Collins

Back in the mid to late '80s I tried talking to folk at the newspaper at which I worked about computers and newspapers. At the time I belonged to something run by GE which was called Genie, I believe. I sent and received text-based info over a 300 baud modem. I tried telling the people I worked with about getting a newspaperat home using a personal computer. Won't happen in our lifetime, I was told. Computers will never be popular, at least not in the foreseeable future, I was assured.

When I brought my Mac to work to demonstrate how the photo department work flow could be done more quickly using a computer rather than an IBM Selectric typewriter, everyone's eyes glazed over. Assignment sheet "fields" could be linked to negative tracking sheet "fields" and any other related sheet. "Fields? What are fields? And who cares?"

After the paper finally entered the computer age, they began looking for hard drives for the Fat Macs in the graphics department. I suggested they buy at least 80 MB LaCie external drives; They laughed. That is ridiculously big, I was told and they bought Apple 20 MB drives. I bought the LaCie for home. We were both wrong. Both drives were quickly too small.

Over the years many of the leaders at newspapers have been proud to boast they were Luddites when it came to computers. These newsroom leaders seemed equally proud that they didn't know anything about halftones or how to achieve good reproduction in a newspaper. They weren't Luddites. They were and are simply incompetent when it comes to some of the "factory" aspects of the business.

I can show you examples of photos in my paper today that are plugged with black ink, leaving the halftoned pictures impossible to read. I have looked at pictures from Iraq and had not a clue as to what I was looking at. I understand from chatting with workers from the backshop that the halftones I am complaining about are created by a computer. The software is fooled by spectral highlights and sets the wildly bright highlight as the area where the dot is dropped. The next tone down, one in which the dot should also be dropped, is now given a dot the drags the highlight well down into the shadows. The majority of the image tones are dark end and when dot gain hits the pictures plug up almost completely.

Is it really any wonder that newspaper are dying?

Break up the chains. Newspapers need local ownership to thrive. Link newspapers across the world in an updated manner similar to the way newspapers of old once cooperated through CP. Develop a newspaper search engine that make finding info in any member paper easy.

Link all classified ads and make sure they are easily searched by the industry-created search engine. Reclaim the lost classified advertising revenue. With major ads, carry nothing but advertising that seems truthful and offers consumers value. (No more ads for Amish electric fireplaces. Such ads lower reader respect and raise doubts about all ads carried by the newspaper.)

Work closely with universities, medical centres and others who produce valuable content. The goal is to go up against the present search engines, beat them at their own game and regain a great deal of the lost revenue stream.

Newspapers must hire copy editors, not lay them off, they must up become information factories and they must profit from what they create.

Newspapers believe that they are roadkill on the information highway. They aren't. They are just another badly mismanaged industry.

(Please forgive my typoes and grammarical errors. I once won a writing award at WONA, not a first but I got a plaque, and I always give some of the credit to the fine editing my copy received. Think of my errors in this posting as an excellent example of why copy editors are needed and should not be jettisoned at a well-run paper.)

oh my gush. hope this can be remedy immediately if not resolved as those employees or workers have also families to feed. besides, the court should issue a status que order to let the employees go back to their work until a proper solutions can be initiated. get plays on soundcloud

The Sun, especially, has had a fleet of business reporters whose idea of "jouralism" is to rewrite a press release, get a comment from the CEO, and call it a day at Steamworks where the backslapping begins.

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.