The Portage Daily Graphic, Portage La Prairie’s local newspaper, was altered from a daily publication to a weekly on Mar. 11. The decision was announced by Sun Media and came after large company cuts in November, 2012 and newspaper staff layoffs around the country.
According to Portage la Prairie Mayor Earl Porter, the paper had been featuring more Winnipeg content than Portage news for the past year. This began to affect local advertisements in the publication.
“I’d rather have a weekly paper that had local content than have a daily paper that had all Winnipeg content in it,” Porter said to the CBC.
On Nov. 13, Sun Media CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said of the company cuts, “This restructuring is regrettable but warranted by changes in our industry which force us to align our cost structure with the new reality.”
The cuts, which were reportedly saving the company $45 million per year, included 500 jobs across the country and the closure of two print presses in Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.
Earlier this month, the Toronto Star announced large layoffs were to be executed due to “revenue challenges.” Forty-four editorial and advertising staff members of Canada’s largest newspaper were expected to lose their jobs after the notice.
Newspaper downsizing hit Winnipeg in September, 2012 when the Winnipeg Free Press let go of eight per cent of their newsroom.
CEP Local 191 president Aldo Santin said at the time of layoffs, “The ownership group is following the dead-end solution followed by several other newspapers in the United States: a series of layoffs that end in closure.”
Duncan McMonagle, a journalism instructor at Red River College, told the Manitoban that, while there are still loyal readers of newspapers, the audience of print journalism is declining and many people are switching to reading online news outlets. It is up to newspaper companies to continue satisfying their viewers with new and interesting content online, he said.
Porter told the CBC that many Portage residents had recently been receiving their news primarily from the Internet.
McMonagle said that printed newspaper circulation has been slowly declining for some time, making it more expensive to distribute a smaller amount of papers over the same large area.
“Newspaper publishers are driven by short-term results, so they want to cut costs wherever they can. That’s fine, but they also need to invest in online content. For example, they need to have at least as many reporter-photographers and editors for online products as they do for print products. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that many publishers are willing to do that.”
This evolution of print newspapers has also altered the creative communications program at Red River College.
“Our students and graduates are very aware of the changes in the newspaper business [ . . . ] When students think of print media they also think online. There is no such thing as a print reporter any more. The first thing a newspaper reporter does on any story is to file a web version,” said McMonagle.
The Daily Graphic did not respond to a request for comment at the time of print.
The format change to a weekly paper is expected to begin at the end of March.