OTTAWA – Five major Canadian cities will watch invaluable journalism disappear from newsstands before the end of 2019. Torstar will shut down its StarMetro newspapers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax and Toronto on Dec. 20.
When Torstar expanded boldly into four new markets last year, the plan was ambitious and encouraging news for local journalism in Canada. Twenty new reporters set out to write impactful local news that changed public policy and kept an eye on the people in power. Those cities will now each lose a daily newspaper, and nothing will immediately replace that reporting.
“Journalists know their newsrooms are likely to become smaller, and they know their jobs are rarely safe. The StarMetro expansion offered a lot of hope,” said Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) president Karyn Pugliese. “Reporters who’d lost their jobs found new homes, and young reporters became voices for their cities. And they were only just getting started.”
A Torstar memo penned by company president John Boynton lauded the newspapers as “editorial successes” that had “developed loyal audiences,” but blamed falling advertising revenue for the decision to close them down. The Toronto Star will launch new local bureaus in each city, which Boynton says will give the newspaper an “authoritative national voice.”
A Unifor press release says Torstar will make cuts in additional markets, including several news outlets in southern Ontario. The union claims that will bring the total number of Torstar layoffs to 121 employees, a majority of whom are journalists.
“Journalists in these cities are left to fight each other for a reduced number of jobs that won’t allow nearly as many stories to be told,” said Pugliese. “Torstar calls its digital-only next steps a ‘national expansion,’ but the truth is this is just another chapter in the contraction of local news.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 700 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.