Those ubiquitous StarMetro free daily newspapers dotting the street corners, lunchroom counters and seats of city buses across Canada will be disappearing as the holidays approach.
Torstar Corporation is ceasing publication of the print editions of the Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax StarMetro papers effective Dec. 20.
“We are going digital-only outside of Ontario as more and more of our commuter readers are using their smartphones, laptops and tablets to access their news on their way to and from work. This trend, coupled with a corresponding decline in print advertising volumes, has decreased the need for a free daily commuter newspaper in these cities,” a Torstar spokesman said in an email to Business in Vancouver.
Torstar president John Boynton stated in a November 19 memo to employees the shuttering would affect 73 editorial, advertising and distribution employees in the aforementioned cities, as well as production staff in Hamilton.
Eleven workers with the Unifor union are among those losing their jobs.
“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,” Boynton said in the memo.
But he also clarified the company would open new bureaus in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax staffed by journalists to offer local coverage in those markets as part of its digital-only offerings.
Torstar’s revenue for the third quarter of 2019 came in at $111.8 million, down $14.6 million compared with the same period a year earlier.
It recorded a net loss of $40.9 million in Q3 compared with an $18.8 million loss posted during the same period a year ago.
At least one StarMetro reporter took to social media to express her disappointment in the closures.
“A fairly unsurprising turn of events: the Toronto Star is shutting down the Star Metro newspapers across the country, which means I (and all my colleagues) will soon be out of a job. Last print edition coming Dec. 20,” Halifax-based reporter Taryn Grant tweeted.
A fairly unsurprising turn of events: the Toronto Star is shutting down the Star Metro newspapers across the country, which means I (and all my colleagues) will soon be out of a job. Last print edition coming Dec. 20.— Taryn Grant (@tarynalgrant) November 19, 2019
Many in the industry took to Twitter in the wake of TorStar’s announcement.
Well that’s that, folks. We’ve all been laid off at @starvancouver. Big love to all my colleagues in the newsroom today. I’m in shock and processing all of this while away from newsroom and on vacation. #cdnmedia #journalism— Tessa Vikander (@TessaVikander) November 19, 2019
It's sad to hear about the closing of all Star Metros after it was launched with such fanfare and optimism.— Christopher Cheung (@bychrischeung) November 19, 2019
Thinking of the amazing journalists at @starvancouver (and the two in Alberta I'd started following).
A bad day for print, #vanpoli, #cdnmedia and all of us.
73 people laid off five days before Christmas as Canada's last free daily commuter paper folds. Some will be "re-hired" for digital bureaus, which one affected colleague describes as: "It's now Hunger Games." https://t.co/9HySymNiQv— Andrea Woo | 鄔瑞楓 (@AndreaWoo) November 19, 2019
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