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Newsroom staff rally against Chronicle Herald job cuts

Layoffs should concern not just Herald readers, journalism professor warns

by Robert Devet

Staff gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Chronicle Herald building to protest the announced layoff of twenty newsroom workers. An additional six positions were lost to early retirements. Cuts of this magnitude will make it difficult to continue to deliver news to Nova Scotians, they fear. Photo Robert Devet
Staff gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Chronicle Herald building to protest the announced layoff of twenty newsroom workers. An additional six positions were lost to early retirements. Cuts of this magnitude will make it difficult to continue to deliver news to Nova Scotians, they fear. Photo Robert Devet
Members of the Nova Scotia Union of Government and General Employees (NSGEU) joined the rally in solidarity. Photo Robert Devet
Members of the Nova Scotia Union of Government and General Employees (NSGEU) joined the rally in solidarity. Photo Robert Devet

(K'JIPUKTUK), HALIFAX - Unionized newsroom staff and supporters staged a brief rally in front of the Chronicle Herald building on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax today.

They gathered on the sidewalk to protest the announced layoffs of as many as 20 newsroom workers.

“We're trying to limit the damage,” Ingrid Bulmer, president of the Halifax Typographical Union, tells reporters. “We have been dealing with (management) in good faith, but we don't necessarily believe that they are reciprocating.”

“We had six union members who took early retirement, with the understanding that this would mitigate some of the layoffs, but it doesn't appear this has happened,” she says.

Seven reporters, two columnists, one editorial writer and one bureau chief position remain on the chopping block. Among the affected are experienced and award-winning reporters such as Selena Ross, Frances Willick, Laura Jane Fraser and Brett Bundale.

Five page editors, two award-winning photographers, one librarian and one graphic artist may also find themselves without a job just ten days before Christmas. These positions are every bit as relevant to a well-functioning newsroom. 

All of these changes combined could reduce the newsroom staff from 83 to 56, the Halifax Typographical Union predicts in a news release.

Stephen Kimber, columnist, author and faculty member of the School of Journalism at the University of King's College, thinks that these cuts will affect more than just Chronicle Herald readers.

“Newspapers have generally had larger newsrooms than other news organizations, and have been able to have reporters who are assigned on an ongoing basis,” says Kimber. “Whether it is at the school board or the court or education, good beat reporters immerse themselves and become experts.”

“They report about these issues not just to us readers, but also to other news outlets who are deciding where to assign their limited resources,” Kimber argues. “If there is no longer a reporter there, than nobody finds out.”

Kimber has some sympathy for the problems that the Herald's management team faces.

Classified advertising, the financial underpinning of the industry, has evaporated because of the internet, but printing press and infrastructure costs remain, he explains.

Meanwhile, through its on-line presence the Herald is competing not just with other news providers, but also with its very own print edition.

Yet cutting jobs is likely not the solution, Kimber says.

“That's a vicious cycle,” says Kimber. “You eliminate your best and brightest reporters, your young talent coming in with new energy and different points of view. As you continue to cut you become less relevant.”

Bulmer agrees.

“I don't know how we can possibly tell the stories that need to be told if we lose 30 people,” Bulmer says.

The final number of layoffs depends on the outcome of discussions between management and the union about pension contributions, wage freezes and mileage reductions.

The company appears to be willing to allow a third party to look at the financial state of the company. That is being negotiated, Bulmer says.

“The mood is pretty somber,” Bulmer adds.

“It is never easy, we went through this in 2009. Now once again we are losing friends and colleagues. People that we have known for years will be gone.”

 

The Halifax Typographical Union ask that the Herald's readers pass on their concerns to its management team: Sarah Dennis, publisher: sdennis@herald.ca, Mark Lever, president and CEO: mlever@herald.ca, and Ian Thompson, associate publisher: ithompson@herald.ca

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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