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Metroland to cease print publication of dozens of community newspapers across Ontario

The move involves 605 layoffs, nearly two-thirds of the workforce, the company said in an announcement Friday morning.
Sept. 18, 2023

Metroland Media Group, the Toronto Star’s sister company, has sought bankruptcy protection and will cease the print publication of its weekly community newspapers across Ontario, moving to an online-only model.

The move involves 605 layoffs, nearly two-thirds of the workforce, the company said in an announcement Friday morning.

The bankruptcy will spare the company’s daily newspapers -- including the Hamilton Spectator, Peterborough Examiner, St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and the Waterloo Region Record -- which will continue both in print and online.

The Toronto Star will also continue to operate, as it is owned by a separate company and not part of the bankruptcy filing.

“Metroland has faced substantial declines in both print advertising and the flyer business over the past several years, to the point where the community newspaper business is no longer viable in printed form. We simply don’t have the financial resources required to fund large, sustained operating losses indefinitely,” states an FAQ prepared by the company.

No termination or severance pay will be paid because “the Company does not have sufficient funds,” according to the FAQ.

“Affected Employees will have the opportunity to file a claim in the course of the restructuring process for the amounts that they are owed by Metroland.”

According to a breakdown of the jobs affected, 104 unionized employees, including 68 journalists have been laid off, with the rest coming from non-unionized job categories.

Metroland’s bankruptcy is the latest in a long series of cutbacks for Canadian media, which is in crisis as the advertising that once underwrote robust newsgathering and employed tens of thousands of people, now exists as a shadow of its former self.

“The media industry continues to face existential challenges, largely because digital tech giants have used their dominant positions to take the vast majority of the advertising revenue in Canada,” said a statement put out by Metroland.

Its community newspaper business, which saw tens of thousands of free weekly papers delivered to homes bundled with advertising flyers that covered the cost of the operation, has suffered as advertising revenue plummeted.

“The decline of the print and flyer distribution business was significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by the reduction of flyer usage both by readers and advertisers as a marketing vehicle,” the statement added.

“The Company has determined that in order to survive as a going concern, it must end its weekly paper and flyer businesses and convert to a digital strategy.”