The Winnipeg Free Press laid off seven staff members Tuesday, including five reporters, one paginator and one manager.

The Winnipeg Free Press laid off seven staff members Tuesday, including five reporters, one paginator and one manager.

The cut focused solely on the newsroom, and leaves the Free Press with 89 people in the department. Reporters who were let go were the Free Press’ only music reporter, two news reporters, an arts and culture reporter and a sports reporter. The manager who was let go was the deputy editor of online services.

A number of the affected staffers tweeted about the layoffs, including Lindsay Wiebe, who was until Tuesday, the newspaper's social media reporter. "Have tried/failed to find the right words, so let’s just get it out. I got laid off today. So did some terrific colleagues,” Wiebe tweeted

John White, the paper's deputy online editor also tweeted about the news. “I feel worse for the others let go today, but still sad personally because I wasn’t done yet.”

Melissa Martin, who was a news reporter for the paper, wrote: "Mostly, I feel for my coworkers who now have to do the same amount of work with even fewer people." 

Aldo Santin, a news reporter at the Free Press and the President of Local 191 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which represents the Free Press told the Winnipeg Sun that it was the largest layoff at the paper since the 1980s.

“These are young, talented individuals who were making a vital contribution to the Winnipeg Free Press,” Santin told J-Source via email Wednesday morning. “They were part of the creative time that contributed to the product that readers want to buy and advertisers want to be associated with.”

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“The Free Press newsroom has always been a lean operation, and these layoffs, coupled with staff lost in January 2009, is going to make it very difficult for the newsroom to function.”

Bob Cox, the publisher of the Free Press, said he could not confirm anything about the specifics of yesterday’s layoffs due to privacy reasons, though he did reference Free Press Newspapers’ second quarter report — as released on Aug. 16 — that noted that “disappointing revenue reported” for the quarter and “inherent difficulties forecasting future advertising levels” had prompted management to make changes to reduce future costs.

Cox told J-Source via email that “moves made yesterday are part of an overall approach to managing the company responsibly, one that does not single out any department, but takes a broad and balanced view of the operations that are crucial to the operation of the daily and community newspapers that we publish.”

Santin said that since January 2009, five to 10 union members in various departments had been laid off per year.

One former staffer, who asked not to be named, said the cuts came as a shock to the newsroom. "We did not see this coming. The general sense was that … editorial would be okay for the time being," the source said. "Especially since it's hard to imagine how it can survive with fewer bodies."

The layoffs come just over a month after Margo Goodhand left her post as the newspaper’s editor. She was the Free Press' first female editor. During her tenure, the paper was honoured with The Canadian Journalism Foundation Excellence in Journalism Award. Paul Samyn, who replaced Goodhand after she quit, announced the cuts at 4 p.m. yesterday according to a release from CEP Local 191.