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StarMetro Vancouver to Shut Down in Torstar Cost-Cutting Move

Five more daily newspapers shuttered, 73 jobs lost across Canada.

Christopher Cheung 19 Nov 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung is a reporter at The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung or email him here.

Newspaper giant Torstar will shut down StarMetro Vancouver and its four other free dailies across Canada on Dec. 20, company president John Boynton announced today in an internal email.

The closures will mean 73 employees will be laid off, 30 of whom are journalists.

Torstar plans to hire 11 journalists for “new bureaus” in the cities as it makes a “pure digital play outside of Ontario.”

On April 10, 2018, Torstar rebranded its Metro papers as StarMetro with much fanfare. The corporation hired 20 journalists, many of whom were early in their careers.

“At a time when other news organizations are retreating, Torstar… is marching forward with an investment in daily journalism that serves this city and its citizens,” announced Catherin Bradbury, then the editor-in-chief and vice president of StarMetro national. (Bradbury left the company in March 2019 to become a senior director of daily news at CBC.)

The expansion would mean “more original local reporting and in-depth investigations, the kind of journalism our readers want and deserve,” she said then.

The five StarMetro bureaus — in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax — produced stories for their respective free print daily newspapers and the Star website. StarMetro stories occasionally appeared in the print edition of the Toronto Star and there were collaborations by journalists in different cities.

“The StarMetro expansion offered a lot of hope,” said Canadian Association of Journalists’ president Karyn Pugliese in a news release. “Reporters who’d lost their jobs found new homes, and young reporters became voices for their cities. And they were only just getting started.”

Boynton said the “difficult” decision to close StarMetro newspapers was due to a significant decline in advertising revenue that left them no longer “commercially viable.”

“Indeed, StarMetro editions are the last free major English-language daily commuter newspapers distributed in Canada,” wrote Boynton. “Around the world free daily commuter papers have been closed for the same reasons.”

In its latest quarterly report, Torstar reported a 12-per-cent drop in revenue and a $41-million loss. The corporation also reported it expects to receive $4.5 million in taxpayer subsidies this fiscal year from the government’s controversial news media fund.

Pugliese highlighted the irony of Torstar calling the announcement a “national expansion.”

“The truth is this is just another chapter in the contraction of local news,” she said. “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.”

The 73 StarMetro layoffs also include its editorial production staff in Hamilton.

Torstar also announced layoffs at its southern Ontario papers the Hamilton Spectator and Waterloo Region Record, making a total of 121 layoffs announced today by the company.

What StarMetro journalists are saying

What Canadian journalists are saying

Disclosure: The author of this story wrote 12 stories for Metro’s Vancouver paper, before the StarMetro rebrand.  [Tyee]

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