The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) has condemned the closure of nine newspapers in Canada and called for urgent action to preserve local media.
Canadian company Postmedia announced it will end the publication of eight weekly newspapers and one daily in Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba and cut about a tenth of its workforce across the newspaper chain.
The IFJ joined its Canadian affiliates Unifor and CWA in condemning the decision which will cut citizens off from a fundamental source of information about their local communities and harm media plurality. Together, the unions and IFJ demanded the federal government take urgent action to stop the destruction of local news.
Postmedia’s decision came on the heels of 36 community papers shutting down as a result of a controversial swap of titles between the company and Torstar in November. Postmedia had already slashed 20 per cent of its newspaper workforce in 2016.
The titles being closed are the Camrose Canadian, Strathmore Standard, Kapuskasing Northern Times, Ingersoll Times, Norwich Gazette, Petrolia Topic, Northern News, The Graphic, and the Pembroke Daily Observer. These publications will continue to have a digital presence.
“This ‘let’s-do-more-with-less” plan has failed repeatedly as the company races to the bottom. The newspaper chain is collapsing, communities are being hurt, journalism is in steep decline, and it’s long past time for the government to do something”, said CWA Canada President, Martin O’Hanlon.
“We have asked the federal government to help newspapers transition to new and economically sustainable ways to deliver local news but have been met with essentially empty platitudes”, said Paul Morse, the head of UNIFOR local 87-M, the union representing a number of Postmedia newspapers.
Unions have called for a reform of tax measures to make advertising in Canadian newspapers more attractive or the launching of a news tax credit to promote subscriptions, among other measures.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Local news is a cornerstone of media plurality, social cohesion and civil engagement. We urge the Canadian authorities to take action and save local media from an advertising revenue crisis. We believe that a media model where revenues are siphoned off from the local economy to tech giants, leaving no benefit to local communities is undesirable and harmful to democracy and the democratic and economic health of those communities”.