CanWest cuts: opposition

Unions are starting to speak up against the latest CanWest newsroom cutbacks, which they argue will erode local news coverage.

But where are the people who read/watch the news, and use it to help make decisions? When threats were perceived to California newspapers in recent years, in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, politicians, businesspeople and even some ordinary citizens protested — including with a small demonstration in the streets. Are Canadians completely apathetic? Are perhaps they ignorant, because they subscribe only to CanWest news for all their information? CanWest is apparently not reporting at all on these issues  — at least as is suggested by the fact recent searches of the CanWest database, for stories about the cutbacks, the formal complaint to the CRTC and the union grievance, failed to get any results. If you’re in CanWest, or know of CanWest reports about these issues,  speak up, won’t you?

From Vancouver radio station CKNW, one of the few commercial radio broadcasters with a newsroom any more:

The Union representing newspaper employees at the Vancouver Sun and Province has filed a grievance following a planned restructuring.
Mike Bocking with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union adds they are speaking with lawyers to figure out what to do next.

Last week, the Pacific Newspaper Group, which owns the two papers, offered buyout packages to its newsroom employees. Up to 30 employees could be lost. It’s also shifting jobs related to electronic layout back east.

A spokesperson for Pacific Newspaper says the changes will free up resources for the papers’ online and breaking news content.

Bocking says the moves could cost the papers their local voice.

Here’s a Canadian Press story that puts the issue in context — including the 200 job losses at CanWest TV operations across Canada. Excerpt:

Tensions are running high in CanWest newsrooms from Montreal to Vancouver in the wake of recent layoffs at the company’s television stations and fears that more cuts are ahead amid an apparent push to centralize editorial operations.

“Everybody in the newsroom has received a letter with the buyout offer,” said an editor at the Vancouver Sun who didn’t want to be identified.

“And in the case of the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal – those are non-unionized newsrooms so the company can do whatever it wants to do in a non-union situation. People are very fearful not just about layoffs but for the industry; deskers are quite depressed about the future of newspapers in general.”

The CP story quotes a CanWest executive defending the cuts as a means  to bolster local coverage and simply defer some pagination duties to CanWest Editorial Services in Hamilton, as well as critics who say CanWest is making a dramatic attempt to prove to their debt-holders that it can afford to buy Alliance Atlantis and its array of successful specialty channels.

Is it relevant to note that CanWest recently dumped the Canadian Press news service, to provide its own news?

Here’s the last Townhall post on CanWest, including context and criticism.