Layoffs, outsourcing and a byline strike: A roundup of news from the Toronto Star

This week, at Canada's largest-circulation daily newspaper: Layoffs; the possibility of print production and the young-journo developing radio room being contracted out; a reporters' byline strike; and a more definitive timeline on the impending paywall. Belinda Alzner rounds up this week in news at the Toronto Star. Under the same financial pressures as most North American newspapers,…

This week, at Canada's largest-circulation daily newspaper: Layoffs; the possibility of print production and the young-journo developing radio room being contracted out; a reporters' byline strike; and a more definitive timeline on the impending paywall. Belinda Alzner rounds up this week in news at the Toronto Star.

Under the same financial pressures as most North American newspapers, the Toronto Star announced Monday it will look to contract out its production and cut jobs, including radio room intern positions that have proven to be valuable in developing young journalism talent in Canada. On Wednesday, the journalists responded with a byline strike that saw the newspaper full of stories written by simply "Star Staff."

Belinda Alzner has rounded up the coverage and the commentary surrounding the cuts, contracts and byline strikes. 


A week at the Toronto Star: A round-up

So far, in things that have happened at Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper this week: Layoffs announced; the possibility of production and young-journo incubator radio room being contracted out; a byline strike; a paywall announcement


Storified by Belinda Alzner· Thu, Mar 07 2013 09:28:22

On Monday, Toronto Star employees were informedthat the company would be looking to cut job and outsource copy editing andprint production to Pagemasters North America. Memos from publisher JohnCruickshank and editor Michael Cooke outlined the cuts and the challenges thenewspaper faces.
Toronto Star’s John Cruickshank on outsourcingOffice of the Publisher Date: March 4, 2013 To: All Staff From: John Cruickshank Today, the Star is announcing a series of restructuring …
Memo: Toronto Star editor " Steve LadurantayeI’ve been stunned at times by the relentless financial pressures, and it is thanks to protection from an enlightened ownership that we ha…
“It is never easy to take decisions that reduce or eliminate staff,” Cooke wrote. “But the real-life business challenges we face (you know what they are, you read the same stories I do) are brutal and require action.

This came just days following a note to staff Friday afternoon from Cooke announcing that National Editor Colin Mackenzie would be “leaving the Star.” Rod Mickleburgh, a national correspondent at The Globe and Mail, tweeted further about Mackenzie’s departure.
The much-loved, capable Colin MacKenize has been dismissed by the Toronto Star…a great, great guy and superb journalist #media #torstarRod Mickleburgh
clarification re Colin MacKenzie: he calls it being "fired" …Star says context is "these are difficult times"…either way, he’s goingRod Mickleburgh
Our full story on the cuts and outsourcing, including a look at the proposed company that would take on the work from the Star. From our story:

Managing director Ed Brouwer told J-Source that Pagemasters currently employs about 20 journalists—eight of which are full-time—who provide production services for 22 titles. Pagemasters would need to hire more people if it were to take on the Star’s proposed production services, Brouwer said, though he stressed such moves would not be made before the paper and its union had worked through the necessary processes.
Toronto Star intends to cut jobs, outsource production in face of revenue challenges | J-source.caThe Toronto Star told staff on Monday that it intends to cut jobs and outsource print production in the face of revenue challenges that h…
In terms of outsourcing the copy editing and page layout jobs, Poynter takes a look at the numbers involved.
How an $85,000 editing job is becoming a $48,000 job: http://journ.us/YTEjiV Toronto Star outsources to save $, lays off 55Poynter
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) Local 87-M, which represents Star employees, issued its response to the cuts.
Toronto Star Union MemoToronto Star Union Memo – Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Word Doc (.doc), Text File (.txt) or read online for free.
Drawing attention to a single sentence at the end of a paragraph in the union memo was Star reporter Robyn Doolittle.
Wow. The union memo just said the Star also intends to contract out our radio room. The Box. It’s where I got my start. Very sad.robyndoolittle
The radio room is one of two intern programs that the Star runs throughout the year, and is described by the Star itself as a program “proven to be excellent preparation for summer programs at the Star, other dailies and websites.”

I reached out to publisher John Cruickshank to confirm this, and spoke with Toronto Star director of communications Bob Hepburn the following morning.

Toronto Star director of comms Bob Hepburn confirms that contracting out the radio room is "one of the options" the company is looking at.Belinda Alzner
The company is open to proposals from the union, Hepburn said, to help cut costs. Should know more after talks with union in coming weeks.Belinda Alzner
Toronto Star intern program not affected by this, Hepburn said. I spoke to him for response to yesterday’s union memo http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/toronto-star-union-says-paper-is-looking-to-outsource-radio-room-program/article9284111/Belinda Alzner
Our full story on the uncertain future of the radio room
Future of Toronto Star radio room uncertain as company looks to cut costs | J-source.caYesterday, the big news out of the Toronto Star was the dozens of jobs the company intends to slash as it looks to outsource some of its …
The Globe and Mail media reporter Steve Ladurantaye curated former radio roomers’ memories of their time in the Box.
Love pours in for Star’s radio room (with tweets) · sladurantayeSo this is all going on against the backdrop of the larger story of cuts in in the Toronto Star newsroom. While I was focusing on that st…
He also curated a list of some of the best stories heard by journalists on the scanner. (Radio room reporters monitor emergency scanners, television, radio and online news as well as social media, filing breaking stories and updates for the website as well as reporting stories for the newspaper.)
Greatest Hits: Canadian journalists share scanner stories | J-source.caNews of the possible closure of the Star’s radio room program sparked a slew of memories for Canadian journalists, many of whom spent cou…
In response to the cuts, the union asked its members to go on a byline strike Wednesday.
No Byline DayAt the core of the company’s layoff plans for the newsroom is the notion that underpaid, non-Star people can do as good a job at editing,…
This led to a byline-free Wednesday, March 6 issue of the Toronto Star (save for columnists and opinion pieces).
In case you missed it earlier, here’s the front page of today’s byline-free @TorontoStar http://pic.twitter.com/zhdDgB1vZfJ-Source
(“Taking one for the team” was a subtle touch on that front page)
Star today has many great stories, some days or mos in the works. All w/o bylines in support of axed co-workers. Amazing #journalism #canlabStar Union
Toronto Star reporters withhold bylines from Wednesday edition in protest of looming layoffsReporters at the Toronto Star withheld their bylines from the newspaper’s Wednesday edition in a show of protest against upcoming layoffs…
Joe Fiorito’s byline ran in Wednesday’s paper, above a column describing the cuts and the effect it will have on his coworkers and newspaper.
Star family shrinking: Fiorito | Toronto StarWant to work at a little newspaper? Why, nothing could be easier. All you have to do is get a job at a big one. Newspapers are shrinking….
The byline strike came as Torstar announced its fourth-quarter results. As expected, they weren’t positive. As Ladurantaye reports in The Globe:
Torstar profit falls 65% on weak ad market, writedownDays after announcing cuts at its flagship Toronto Star newspaper, Torstar Corp. said profit fell almost 65 per cent in the fourth quarte…
During the results call, the Star‘s impending paywall was also brought up. As previously announced, Star online readers will be asked to pay for content in 2013.

John Honderich, chair of the board of Torstar, joined CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway this morning, and said the Star was looking at the summer for the paywall launch.

CBC.ca | Metro Morning | Star Cuts
Galloway and Honderich spoke in-depth about the paywall, the cuts to the Star and the newspaper industry, in Toronto, particularly. Here’s a few quotes from the Torstar chair:

“There’s no question that newspapers are facing hugechallenges. We are going to survive but we are going to have to find adifferent model. And the answer, quite frankly, lies in the challenges we facefrom the Internet. The Internet has offered opportunities for people toadvertise and to do various parts of their life in a different way.

“The revenue that newspapers used to rely on—from things like careeradvertising, from travel advertising to classified advertising—those have alldisappeared. What we’re doing is going through a process to try and adjust towhat the new model will be going forward.”

“We brought this paradigm on ourselves. If you getyour newspaper delivered to your door, you expect to pay for it. But if youread that same content online, you expect it to be free. That doesn’t makesense.

“So, how do we get to a situation where in fact people are prepared to payfor that content? And we believe that given the content the Star provides—theinvestigative reporting, the look at the events of the city—that we have aparticular product in a particular way that should be attractive.”

The Metro Morning interview concludes with Honderich discussing the competitive newspaper market in Toronto, which boasts six dailynewspapers—four paid dailies and two free dailies. Honderich says that while hedoesn’t believe the Star will ever get out of print, he doesn’t see the the market as able to sustain that many publications, either.