Journalists at the Toronto Star dont have a lot to be thankful for this year. Torstar, parent company of the Toronto Star, announced Tuesday it is shuttering five StarMetro commuter newspapers next month, resulting in the loss of 73 editorial, advertising and distribution jobs. The Canadian cities of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax will get their last editions of StarMetro on December 20, reports CBC News. Bob Hepburn, a representative for Torstar, told CBC News that commuters arent reading print newspapers anymore. They are getting their news on digital devices instead. The decline in print advertising also contributed to this decision.
Sean Craig of the National Observer posted the email to staff from John Boynton, president of Torstar, on Twitter. Here is an excerpt
This difficult decision was made after an in-depth review of options for the papers. While StarMetro newspapers have been editorial successes and have developed loyal audiences over the years, print advertising volumes have decreased significantly in recent months to levels below those required to make them commercially viable.
Importantly, more and more customers are consuming our content digitally and we will continue to serve those readers with digital products, including the Stars site, apps, newsletters and podcasts. This decision makes us a pure digital play outside of Ontario. We are fully committed to growing and improving our roster of digital platforms and products to meet the needs of Canadians who rely on their digital and mobile devices to access news and information, wrote Boynton.
As everyone is aware, digital and mobile are our future. We must continue to adapt and transform our company for the digital, mobile, data-driven future in order to provide our customers with news and information where and when they want it. The changes we are announcing today are further steps on that transformation journey, concluded Boynton.
Hepburn told CBC News that digital content would be offered outside Ontario under the Toronto Star brand. The StarMetro brand is being retired. Torstar will also open news bureaus in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax. The company will be accepting applications for those jobs. The laid off staffers will be offered severance packages based on their unions agreements, if they are in the union. Non-union staff will be paid out according to provincial regulations. Torstar is offering a voluntary departure program to newsroom employees. Along with the changes, Boynton said StarMetro readers would be offered discounted subscriptions for digital access to thestar.com.
The Tyee reported that Torstar made additional layoffs at its southern Ontario papers, the Hamilton Spectator and Waterloo Region Record, for a total of 121 layoffs. Here are a few sentiments shared on Twitter from those directly impacted.
The Toronto Star is not the only company shutting down a free commuter paper this fall. In September, after 16 years, The Washington Post ceased publication of Express whose daily circulation had dropped from 190,000 at its peak to 130,000 per day for the same reasons StarMetro was shuttered – people are getting their news on their devices, not from a printed paper.
We are always saddened to hear when newspapers shut down editions or lay off staff, but it is the cold, hard reality of the publishing industry, and it is not likely to change. While legacy newspapers have tried to adapt to the changing news consumption habits of readers, they have not pivoted quickly enough. The newspapers that are still doing well like The New York Times and The Washington Post have adapted more quickly by meeting readers where they are – on their smartphones, tablets and laptops – and by providing the type of bite-size news readers seem to want, as well as long-form, investigative journalism they aren’t getting elsewhere. Publishers that fail to acknowledge that the industry will never be the same will continue down an unsustainable path and will ultimately suffer similar fates or be acquired by larger, more viable companies.