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Content reduced zone - what cutting reporters really means at the Chronicle Herald

by Judy Haiven.

Today's Herald - front page Dec. 1
Today's Herald - front page Dec. 1

In early November, the Halifax Chronicle Herald announced it was laying off 11 senior and junior reporters and photographers, and offering retirement packages to 10 other journalists.  By doing these two things, the Herald has reduced its newsroom by 25 percent.  Some of the laid-off journalists, notably Selena Ross and Frances Willick, are award-winners for their coverage on the Rehtaeh Parsons case. The Herald, which is privately owned, justifies putting journalists on the street because it says it has to save $1.4 million.  The Herald is going to do this by dismissing newsroom staff, trying to reduce management’s pension contributions, deferring a 2% raise for reporters (basically cost of living) and reducing mileage rates for reporters having to drive to cover stories.  Today, we read that just this past weekend, the union gave concessions to management to save some jobs in the newsroom.

Five years ago, there was another bloodletting at the Herald. In 2009, 25 journalists were sacked. This was around the time of the Herald’s big investment in new printing equipment. The newspaper also sold its downtown Halifax building—which occupied one large city block --  to a prominent developer.

Let’s have a look at today’s Chronicle Herald (1 December).  Most of the unionized journalists decided to withdraw their bylines, as a way of protesting the job cuts.  Instead,

·      35% of the editorial content is signed “The Chronicle Herald”.  This means that unionized journalists wrote the articles but will not put their names to them.

·      38% of the paper is taken from the wire services of Canadian Press (CP) and Associated Press (AP)—the majority of which are from AP which supplies mainly US and international content. 

·      Only 15% of today’s newspaper articles have bylines, usually by columnists. 

·       And in 11% of the articles, there is no author attribution at all.

In case anyone thinks it sounds like a lot of content, I need to emphasize that today there are only 60 articles (excluding the editorial, the letters to the editor and advertising copy) from a glut of wire service news briefs of 50 words, to a few longer articles such as Dan Leger’s op-ed piece.  23 articles are from the wire services, 21 are from the working reporters who refused to use their bylines. Only 9 articles have bylines.  And 7 articles are without any author attribution. 

This is the slow death of a daily newspaper. Right before our eyes, fresh to you every morning. But the more the Herald management slims it down, it becomes attractive to  buyers from a media empire such as Quebecor.  And if Quebecor buys it, the Herald will morph into a tabloid.   Is everyone ready for the Halifax Sun


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