Thursday, 25 June 2009

Go Soo This Week

Sun Media's Sault Ste. Marie This Week posted this an hour ago and we are repeating it verbatim should it soon vanish from the web site.

Based on a survey and "posted by Communications Workers of America Canada," the comments about Quebecor's newspaper decisions and strategy echo what frustrated Sun vets have been saying for years.

The heading: "Newspaper chains could reverse readership losses by restoring local content: survey says"

The story:

June 25, 2009 / OTTAWA — Newspaper chains such as Quebecor Sun Media could reverse readership declines in mid-size Canadian cities if they restored local content and once again became a pillar of the communities they purport to serve, a poll commissioned by CWA Canada indicates.

“Publishers and newspaper companies complain that the financial model for the media industry is broken and papers are endangered because of competition from the Internet. This poll shows that providing quality local coverage and properly serving and representing their readers may be the real remedy for newspapers, particularly those in medium-sized cities such as those that were surveyed,” says Arnold Amber, the director of CWA Canada, the union that represents thousands of media workers in the country.

"Although our poll was conducted in six cities in Ontario where Quebecor Sun Media publishes daily newspapers and we have hundreds of members, we believe the findings would apply across Canada," says Amber.

Citing tough times in the media industry, Quebecor has over the past 18 months cut hundreds of jobs at its newspapers and exported editorial, circulation, production, and advertising work to non-union facilities outside of the communities where the newspapers are published.

"These communities have supported and depended upon their local newspaper for, in some cases, more than a century. To be a good local newspaper, it needs more than just the name of the city on its front page," says Amber.

The CWA Canada poll found that Quebecor could regain almost half the readers it has lost in major Ontario cities in recent years were it to improve the quality of coverage of local news, people and events.

Of those who had been regular readers, 42 per cent said they would become so again if they could be assured that local coverage would be improved. Were that to happen, Quebecor could increase its readership in the six cities from 53 to nearly 58 per cent of the adult population.

The polling company Vector surveyed 611 people in Kingston, St. Catharines, Peterborough, Sudbury, North Bay and Sault Ste Marie between May 19 and 26. There is 95-per-cent certainty the poll results would not vary by more than 4.0 per cent in either direction if all adults in the six cities had been interviewed.

The regular (at least five times a week) and long-term readers were the ones to most readily identify a decrease in local news and the corresponding increase in the use of content from Quebecor's other Sun papers from Toronto, Ottawa or other places. On both counts, about one third noticed these changes: 32 per cent registered the drop in local coverage and 31 per cent the increase of material from Sun Media sources outside their cities. About 23 per cent of all readers were aware of the drop in local coverage and 25 per cent noted the increase of Sun Media content.

The poll shows extreme opposition to suggestions floated by Quebecor earlier this year that it might on Saturdays substitute the Toronto or Ottawa Sun papers for the local daily. An overwhelming 68 per cent said this is a bad idea; only 20 per cent liked the suggestion.

If Quebecor stops publishing its local newspapers on Mondays - another idea the company has bandied about - approximately one in six readers (16 per cent) said they would not buy their local paper on the other days of the week. These findings indicate that, if Monday editions were dropped, Quebecor could lose up to 22 per cent of circulation in the six cities polled.

For more than the past year, the company has been reducing the editorial work it does in the cities where it publishes the local paper, moving it to other Quebecor facilities in Ontario.

The poll shows that, overwhelmingly, people in these communities are worried about the effects of this change:

• 82 per cent said they were very or somewhat concerned that there would be fewer stories about local news, people and events;

• 77 per cent said they were concerned that there would be fewer stories about what's wrong in their community that needs to be corrected;

• 76 per cent said stories are often inaccurate or not checked;

• 70 per cent were concerned there would be less space in the paper for articles by people in the community expressing their opinion on the news;

• 58 per cent were very or somewhat concerned there would be less room in the paper for letters to the editor.

"One of the functions local newspapers have is to be the watchdog over what goes on in government, school boards and other things vital to the citizens of each and every city,” says Amber. “Less local editorial input in each city doesn't make those papers better. It doesn't help them at all."

Most residents in the six cities also were upset to learn that their local newspaper no longer keeps its business office open throughout the week. In the poll, 27 per cent described their reaction as 'angry'; another 28 per cent described themselves as 'annoyed'.

In the minds of those polled, the Quebecor brand is badly tarnished, with 69 per cent saying the people running the company are "trying to do what is best for themselves" and 62 per cent saying corporate executives are most concerned with what is "best for their shareholders."

Only 32 per cent identified Quebecor as "a good corporate citizen" and only 27 per cent said they believe the company’s leaders "care about the community.”


  1. Well you can't teach the top dog any new tricks...all he knows is slash and burn and PKP knows best. He is a micromanager of the worse kind who has no faith in the people he hires and so he fires them easily.
    He is also volatile and easliy moved to anger. He runs the company as if it were his personal fiefdom and that he alone knows what's right. He may talk up shareholder value but really in my opinion there is only one shareholder whose voice matters, and that's his.

    The last guy to run a newspaper or a corporation that way is serving time in a Florida jail. The line between what's right for the business and what's right for the shareholders in the long run should be the same thing. They bought into newspaper empire and they can't expect 20% returns on their money. That's a fact. But PKP thinks he alone can turn back the tide like King Knute.
    He is the worst of the worst kind of owner. Oh for the days when publishers had been editors or at least knew the value of quality content and local news coverage. You still can't get that on the web for the most part.

  2. Bill Duke, Editor of the Strathmore Standard just resigned! He says his goodbye in this week's editorial online. First the publisher Mario is fired and Duke wrote a very upsetting column and now he's finally packed it in for an online publication. Best of luck Bill!

  3. What would you expect from someone who has never created anything - and merely inherited it from his father?

    That article is dead on. In my city, people want their local news, local perspective on national/world/sports/business/entertainment, local comment page columns, etc...

    But Sun Media believes they don't.

  4. I can't beleive the paper had this online. Surely once this gets back to Sun Media higher ups they'll crack the whip because the truth hurts.

    Great poll...too bad nothing will come of it aside more cuts and further local content being crushed for the almighty Toronto content.