Postmedia lays off staff, merges newsrooms: company memo

TORONTO -- Postmedia has cut approximately 90 jobs and merged newsrooms in four cities as it steps up plans to slash costs amid mounting revenue losses.

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The company owns two newspapers in each of the cities of Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

On Tuesday, Postmedia said those cities will each have one newsroom, but they will continue publishing two newspapers.

"We will continue to operate separate brands in each of these markets," Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey said in a memo sent to staff.

"What is changing is how we produce these products."

The two Calgary newspapers -- the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald -- will share one editor, as will the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, Godfrey said.

He said the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun will also have one editor and the company is looking for someone to fill that role.

"We know this will not be without its challenges and we know there will be bumps along the road," Godfrey said.

"But not changing is simply not an option and over the next few weeks and months I am confident that our new newsroom design will not only result in some important cost reductions but that we will be focused on creating the best products for our audiences and clients across the country."

In all, about 90 staff were laid off. Phyllise Gelfand, the company's vice-president of communications, said those losses included about 35 people in Edmonton, 25 in Calgary and 12 in Ottawa.

Gelfand said there were no job losses in Vancouver but the company will offer buyout packages in the coming days.

Ottawa Sun columnist Sue Sherring said while she kept her job, the cuts nonetheless sting.

"It's happening everywhere (in the business)," Sherring said. "It's not fun."

Paul Morse, president of Unifor Local 87-M, which represents some of the Ottawa employees who were let go, accused Postmedia of breaking its promise to continue operating two independent newspapers in each of those four markets.

The reality is that all the information will be coming out of one newsroom, he said.

The layoffs included Stephanie Coombs and Margo Goodhand, who were the managing editor and editor-in-chief at the Edmonton Journal, respectively.

National Post sports reporters David Alter and Eric Koreen, as well as the sports department's web producer Kaitlyn McGrath, tweeted that they were also affected by the cutbacks.

Gelfand said the company is creating a national sports writing team, which will consist of existing employees.

The cuts come less than a week after Postmedia announced it was stepping up its efforts to cut costs to overcome continued losses in advertising, print circulation and digital media revenue.

The company, which owns the National Post, the Toronto Sun and other major Canadian newspapers, is now aiming for cost reductions of $80 million by mid-2017 -- up from its previous goal of $50 million in cuts by the end of 2017.

Postmedia said it was on track to meet the $50-million target by this May 31, the end of its fiscal third quarter.


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