Union rep says they estimate cuts account for about one-quarter of the newsroom.

By H.G. Watson, Associate Editor

Metro Toronto’s newsroom is now a little smaller.

Layoffs of seven unionized editorial staff members were announced on Mar. 8, Bob Hepburn, the director of community relations and communications for the Star Media Group, confirmed to J-Source.

Seven of those were in editorial roles—five copy editors, one photo editor and a web editor. An additional IT technician was also laid off, according to Emina Gamulin, the chair of the Metro unit at Unifor 87-M.

Gamulin told J-Source in an email that she estimates that the layoffs account for about 20 to 25 per cent of the unionized editorial staff at Metro Toronto. Since the announcement of the layoffs, one of the copy editors has since been recalled to replace a staff member who left.

There were also a management reorganization after Vice-President and Eastern Regional Publisher Greg Lutes retired and his position was eliminated. “Steve Shrout, who was Vice President and Western Regional Publisher became Executive Vice President of Regional Sales with Susan So, who was director of production services assuming additional responsibility for production and printing nationwide,” Hepburn told J-Source in a follow-up email.

Hepburn said a decrease in ad revenue led to the layoffs. “Like all media, they’ve been suffering from a decline, especially in national print advertising. And that disproportionately impacts Metro,” he said. “So, Metro has had to implement a cost-reduction plan.”

The layoffs were announced six days after the release of Torstar’s fourth-quarter results, in which it reported a net quarterly loss of $235 million.

Hepburn could not say whether the advertising decline was connected to the loss of the Metro contract to provide free papers in TTC stations last year. “The declines in advertising have been going on for a number of years.”

“The underlying cause is the sharp downturn in ad income, so no it’s not an insulated impact,” said Paul Morse, the president of the Unifor 87-M. “And yes, we are concerned across the board.”

Hepburn says there have been no announcements about any outsourcing of Metro’s production work.

H.G. Watson can be reached at hgwatson@j-source.ca or on Twitter.

H.G. Watson was J-Source's managing editor from 2015 to 2018. She is a journalist based in Toronto. You can learn more about her at hgwatson.com.