Let’s hope sale of Victoria Times Colonist means better days ahead for local jobs, journalism



October 19, 2011 / OTTAWA — CWA|SCA Canada, the union that represents workers at the Victoria Times Colonist, is cautiously optimistic about the sale of the paper to Glacier Media.

For years, Postmedia has been cutting jobs and sacrificing quality across the chain to service a huge debt load. Glacier appears to be in much better financial shape and has recognized the importance of a quality

“We are heartened by statements Glacier has made in the past about quality journalism,” said Martin O’Hanlon, Director of CWA|SCA Canada. “This is not about union versus management; it’s about doing what’s best for everyone. We believe that investing properly in the newspaper and keeping jobs in the community is good for readers, employees, democracy — and profits.”

O’Hanlon said he will be requesting a meeting with the company soon to discuss improving local news coverage and protecting jobs in Victoria from centralization or outsourcing overseas.

In its annual report in 2009, Glacier lamented the “vicious cycle” many newspapers in Canada have fallen into.

“The demise of many North American newspaper and media companies has in part been self-inflicted,” the company said in the report. “The Internet has been a factor, but the reduction of content and quality through continual cost cutting has played a significant role. It has weakened the product and the value of many North American metropolitan newspapers for readers, which has resulted in reduced effectiveness for advertisers, which has reduced revenues.”

CWA|SCA Canada takes the company at its word and hopes the sale means better days ahead.

In discussing the sale of the paper, Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey claimed that employees hadn’t bought into the company’s “digital first philosophy.” In fact, workers simply objected to the centralization of pagination in Hamilton and ad production in the Philippines. “

We bought into Digital First, we just didn’t buy into shipping our jobs to Manila, Dominican Republic, Hamilton, Calgary, etc.,” said Chris Carolan, president of the Victoria-Vancouver Island Newspaper Guild (CWA|SCA Canada Local 30223).

CWA|SCA Canada is a progressive, democratic union that represents more than 7,000 media workers across the country at the CBC, The Canadian Press, Reuters and metro dailies such as The Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette and Halifax Chronicle Herald.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Martin O’Hanlon
Director, CWA|SCA Canada

Chris Carolan
President, Victoria-Vancouver Island Newspaper Guild

Communications Workers of America | CANADA
1050 Baxter Road / Unit 7B • Ottawa ON K2C 3P1
613.820.9777 | 1.877.486.4292

Glacier Media to acquire B.C. papers from Postmedia for $86.5 million

Source: winnipegfreepress.com

Glacier Media Inc. (TSX:GVC) says it will buy the Victoria Times Colonist and other daily and community papers in British Columbia, continuing a recent wave of deals in the Canadian newspaper industry.

The $86.5 million acquisition from Postmedia Network Inc. also includes two other dailies and 20 weekly and bi-weekly community papers and related digital media and real estate assets.

The community newspapers Glacier is buying are on the B.C. Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

Glacier president and CEO John Kennedy said the deal significantly increases Glacier’s presence in B.C. and gives the Vancouver-area based publisher the broadest local newspaper coverage in Western Canada.

“We were in 65 markets before and this gives us another 20 titles,” he said in an interview late Tuesday.

“It significantly increases our reach across British Columbia as well as Western Canada for local, regional and national advertisers and provides significant digital media opportunities.”

While all newspapers have been hurt by the slumping economy in recent years and a move towards Internet news and advertising, publishers such as Glacier and Toronto-based Torstar Corp. have also expanded in the print side of the business.

Kennedy said the community newspaper business offers significant growth and he’s confident that print media has a future.

“We’re fully embracing the digital world, utilizing online mobile tablet and other information delivery devices but at the same time we recognize the print platform —well-provided — still offers considerable value to both readers and advertisers.”

Key to this growth strategy is a focus on cost efficiency, but not to the point where it diminishes the value of the product, he said.

Postmedia, meanwhile, has a strategy to grow revenues by boosting its digital operations and focusing on its main dailies from Vancouver to Montreal.

“The transaction allows us to pay down debt and focus on our core properties, the ongoing transformation of our organization and growth areas of our business,” president and CEO Paul Godfrey said.

Postmedia, former Canwest newspaper publisher and owner of the Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen and National Post, has been focusing on paying down debt inherited from the bankrupt Canwest.

The Toronto-based company said it will use the money from the Glacier deal to further cut debt.

In a note to Postmedia staff, Godfrey assured employees that the sale was not part of a broader strategy to dispose of newspapers.

“It was simply a deal that was too good to pass up,” Godfrey said, adding later in an interview that the company “didn’t have a for sale sign hanging out in front of these properties.”

“First of all, community newspapers are not really core to our long-term future because basically we’re a large, urban city newspaper group,” he said.

However, the papers do complement Glacier’s current portfolio and the transaction includes offering employment to all of the current employees in the group, Godfrey said.

“Deciding to sell these properties was made somewhat easier in that we had been unable to implement any of our transformation projects at the Times Colonist.”

Godfrey explained that unlike the company’s other newspapers, employees at the Times Colonist didn’t buy into Postmedia’s “digital first philosophy.”

As a result, they balked at company centralization and streamlining moves that involved pagination for all its papers in Hamilton, Ont., and doing all its ad production in the Philippines.

“Glacier felt they could live with that,” he said, adding that the paper also had a pension tie-in with the other Vancouver Island properties that made it more attractive to sell them as a group.

Meanwhile, he described the sale as “one-off” deal, saying Postmedia intended to hang on to its remaining assets for the foreseeable future.

“We think there will always be ink on newsprint, we believe in the newspaper,” he said.

“But we also realize that things like websites, iPads, Playbooks and all those other devices are coming out,” adding, “we have to move into digit and we have to do it at a gallop.”

Because people want the news when they want it and on the platform they want to read it on, you’ve got to be in both places, he said.

The Times Colonist was founded in 1858 and serves Victoria and Vancouver Island. It is one of Canada’s oldest newspapers.

Other papers Glacier will buy include the Vancouver Courier, the Nanaimo Daily News and the North Shore News.

However, the purchase did not include The Vancouver Sun or The Province, two of Canada’s most widely read newspapers.

Kennedy said Glacier did not approach Postmedia about those properties as the company tends to focus on smaller papers.

“In local communities you’re the primary source of information and a primary marketing channel for advertisers so it offers you a unique selling proposition,” he said.

The deal won’t much change the reader’s experience, Kennedy said, as Glacier is happy with the direction the papers are taking.

“We think the papers are well run have great staff have great brands, are strong quality and we want to sustain that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Glacier, based in Richmond, B.C., will take on more debt to finance the purchase with bank loans, but its debt load will remain manageable and cash flow will increase.

It said it will focus in the short-term on paying down debt while interest rates are low and integrating the new papers into its business.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of November.

Glacier Media focuses on three media markets: local newspapers, trade information and business and professional information markets.

The deal comes just after rival media group Torstar (TSX:TS.B) made two newspaper acquisition deals in the last week.

The Toronto-based company said Monday it is paying $22.5 million to buy Performance Printing Ltd. of Smiths Falls, Ont., a publisher of community papers and ad flyers.

Late Friday, Torstar announced it will pay $51.5 million to take nearly full control of the Canadian chain of Metro free daily newspapers, which are read by more than one million commuters each day.

The Toronto-based media group, which owns the Toronto Star, other dailies, community newspapers and the Harlequin book-publishing business, said it has raised its stake in Metro to 90 per cent from 50 per cent.

Long-time activist becomes president of Ottawa Local

Source: cwa-scacanada.ca

For more than 30 years, Debbie Cole has toiled in the union activist trenches and has served in all but one of her Local’s executive positions. With her election today as president of the Ottawa Newspaper Guild (ONG) there are no longer any exceptions.

Cole, a data analyst in the circulation department at The Ottawa Citizen, is stepping in to replace Lois Kirkup, an online editor who left in August to take a one-year position at the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Cole, who became acting president of the ONG last month, also continues in her position as treasurer. All of the three-year terms on the executive are up at the end of December.

A vacant Member-at-Large position was filled today by Robert Bostelaar, editor of the Business section.

The position of vice-president remains open. Cole says she hopes the Guild can stimulate interest among the membership in running for the executive when elections are held on Dec. 14.

2008.09.22 Guild members accept ‘final offer’ after warning letter from publisher

Cole has plenty of experience with union activities: over the years she has served on bargaining committees, the original pay equity team in 1989, and is well versed in occupational health and safety.

The ONG is in the middle of a five-year contract that doesn’t expire until July 2013 so there are no upheavals on the horizon.

However, there have been so many staff cuts at the newspaper now owned by Postmedia Network that the remaining workers are under a lot of stress, says Cole. “People are working very hard just to maintain their professional standards.”

Kirkup, who became president of the ONG in January 1999, will remain part of the CWA Canada family, becoming a member of Local 30223, the Victoria-Vancouver Island Newspaper Guild. Meanwhile, she’s also deputy-director of the national union and its treasurer.