Friday, 19 December 2008

Nugget's voice

This is how you speak for employees, advertisers, readers and your newspaper when hit with layoffs.

It is not whether you agree or disagree with the viewpoint, it is the freedom to speak your mind.

Posted online Thursday and written by Dave Dale, an award-winning op-ed columnist at the North Bay Nugget, one of the Osprey Media newspapers purchased by Sun Media last year:

"Christmas has never been my favourite time of year. As a reality-based soul who prefers to keep expectations low, a scheduled season for mirth and good will usually leads to disappointment.

The religious overtones don't make it easier for me to embrace. This week, the Sun Media newspaper chain owned by Quebecor cut its workforce by 10 per cent.

The Nugget lost six workers as part of the process that left 600 of our Sun Media colleagues without employment almost a week before Christmas. They joined hundreds of thousands of people in North America suddenly seeking new jobs this year as the collateral damage of a financial meltdown spreads closer to home.

Auto plants across the continent have run out of gas. Mining sector companies are folding up like cheap lawnchairs.

Lumber mills and manufacturing plants were idled when experts were still debating if the bad times were here for real.

Quebecor, like other media outlets, said it made the cuts as an adaptation to global economic challenges and an evolving news industry.

In a nutshell, advertisers are cutting expenses and readers are demanding instant online information as traditional paper products become more expensive to print.

Such a chilling economic reality reported day after day leaves a person numb and desensitized to the human impact.

Personally, I felt hardened and immune to the trauma of a sudden job loss.

Practicality and a rational mind can fool someone like me into thinking they are prepared for every situation.

The delusion evaporated Tuesday when, as the North Bay Newspaper Guild president, I sat with my colleagues as they were informed of their job loss.

Some of them had been here for decades and weathered major changes before, but the shock reflected in their eyes will never leave me.

The Nugget, celebrating a century of serving local readers and business, has changed hands several times in a dozen years, going from Southam to Hollinger to Osprey to Quebecor ownership since 1996.

Job losses are not new and this latest downsizing was not a complete surprise. Anybody with a passing interest in world affairs would have seen the writing on the wall.

Interesting debates were held among some staff members if it would happen before Christmas or after the New Year.

I'm told Quebecor and Sun Media brass also pondered the best time frame, but layoffs are ultimately about saving money.

Is it better to wait until after the season of hope and good cheer or inform people of their reality before going too far into debt on extra gifts?

Should they end the worry and speculation all staff would carry into the holiday or allow the people who are getting laid off to carry some sense of optimism into the New Year?

It may not sound very union-like of me, but I think they and other companies in similar situations chose the lesser of two evils.

A realist like me prefers to know things up front and not be left hanging on a cliff of doubt.

And while this Christmas will certainly be hard on the individuals and their families impacted by the layoffs, there may be time to rein in spending and put their mind to future opportunities.

I know at least one who is already combing through our classifieds for job prospects.

Which brings me to the crux of the issue, for the people who have paid to read today's newspaper or online edition, for those who are using our advertisements to guide your shopping, we thank you.

The money spent on local products like ours helps keep your family informed and your neighbours employed.

Best wishes for a better 2009."

Best wishes to you, Dave Dale and staff.

Toronto Sun co-founders Doug, Peter and Don and the rest of the Day Oners who launched the Sun in 1971 would salute your editorial and your right to publish it.

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