The Toronto Star is laying off 11 page editors and discussing the possibility of another round of buyouts with the union. 

Today, we are announcing three moves that will transform the focus and staffing of our newsroom in order to meet the challenges of producing the Star’s great journalism in the digital present and digital future.

These decisions will bring profound change and so we are writing at some length to explain as fully as we can what they mean.

1. We are posting jobs for five digital producers, who will be responsible for curating the content, experience and journalistic integrity of thestar.com.

We are also posting for three digital journalists, who will bring new story- telling tools to the fast paced work of writing for our digital platforms. 

While we hope to make other digital hires in the future, these are the final postings in a current series of new hires we have been discussing with the union. They will be in new classifications that will be established within our collective agreement and paid at rates consistent with market-based salaries.

“Market-based salaries” – simply put, this means that new digital jobs cannot be rated on print business legacy rates of pay. Digital revenues – as important as we think they will be for our future – are still out-paced by print revenues 9-to-1. We are proposing to pay these journalists at about the same salary levels found at the most progressive and successful digital newsrooms in Toronto – for example, Huffington Post, Facebook, Rogers, Canadian Press, Bell Media etc. 

All these new positions will be open to existing staff and we encourage anyone who is interested to apply.

2. We have approached the Guild to indicate the company’s interest in exploring additional voluntary departure and graduated retirement opportunities for newsroom staff.  We hope to be in a position to announce details of the program in the next month or so.  Our intent is to structure the program to help those who are in a position to leave the newsroom on their own terms make the transition as smoothly as possible, financially and personally.

3. Finally, the most difficult piece of news:

We have spoken with our 11 full time page editors to give them notice of layoff. These moves affect editors in several departments and on the multimedia desk. Some of their work will be absorbed through internal reorganization. The work of two editors who handle digital and print copy editing at night will be performed by PMNA. What finally happens to our page editor colleagues will partly depend on the general take-up on the VSP.

What are the goals of these changes?

The challenges facing our business model mean we need to reduce the cost of our newsroom.

We want to do this in a way that reduces or eliminates roles associated with expensive production of the newspaper especially, and emphasizes and preserves our ability to generate excellent stories and content.

We need to do this while improving our ability to publish to digital platforms in order to ensure that a smaller newsroom continues to bring the Star’s great journalism to a growing audience.

Why are we announcing these moves at the same time?

We want to ensure that anyone who is already contemplating or might contemplate retirement or departure this year has access to the best possible package and advice the company can provide.

We are very aware of the impact of job loss. We want to ensure that anyone named for involuntary departure because their role has been eliminated has access to the widest range of options, including possibly staying on in a new role.

Specifically, we want to avoid instances where people leave as a result of layoff only to have vacancies for which they might qualify open up later in the year as a result of voluntary departures, or miss opportunities to apply for digital roles for which they might qualify.

These changes to structure and staffing will be difficult and in some cases painful to navigate as a newsroom, but the Star will emerge stronger and better prepared to deal with our present and handle our future.

While we are most respectful of the union-management negotiating process, we are both available to answer your questions.

Michael and Jane

 

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.