Black Press speaks to newspaper closures

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
July 7th, 2010

 Since Monday’s announcement of the sale of Glacier Venture’s 10 newspaper holdings to Black Press, and the subsequent announcement of the closure of the Nelson Daily News and the Weekender, there seem to have been more questions than answers – why close a 109-year-old paper? What will happen to the two Trail papers now owned by Black Press?

Black Press chief operating officer Rick O’Connor said some of those questions don’t, as yet, have answers – but some decisions have been made.
For starters, he said, the Trail Daily Times will continue to be the paper of record in Trail, while the Trail/Rossland paper will relocate its circulation to Rossland alone.
“It will become a Rossland-focussed paper,” O’Connor said.
As for the daily papers being closed – not just the 109-year-old Nelson Daily News, but also publications in Prince Rupert, Quesnel and 100 Mile House, O’Connor said Black Press didn’t even want to purchase the papers, but had to as part of an all-or-nothing package deal.
“Collectively, the four papers being closed lost over $1 million last year alone,” he said, adding he’s not without sympathy for those saddened by the loss of their local newspapers.

“It’s very, very much a sad day for us as well,” he said. “We didn’t put them in the situation they’re in, but we’re having to deal with the emotions of closing them.”

As for when, exactly, the Nelson Daily News and the Weekender will close their doors for good, he said it’s tough to say, as there’s a process involved in meeting with the unions, negotiating severance, and so forth.
“I’d like to add that we are going to make sure the files (archives) of the Nelson Daily News remain available to the public …we’ll preserve that history,” he said.
He said he does not accept the paradigm calling this the death throes of the print newspaper industry, adding only three per cent of their revenues come from online, even in the products that are quite profitable.
“We’re still very much a print-focussed organization – and our sales from the past six months are up from the six months before that,” he said.
He said readers should not expect changes in the editorial content of the remaining new B.C. acquisitions, including papers in Grand Forks, Trail, Creston, Williams Lake and Bella Coola.
“Typically, what Black Press does is let the local editor and publisher run the editorial side of the paper,” he said, adding Black Press offers business guidance and assistance. “Editorially, we allow a great deal of independence to the papers.”
Both local MP Alex Atamanenko and the Canadian Association of Journalists CAJ) have decried the closures.
“The CAJ is concerned about the livelihoods of more than 50 employees who will lose their jobs between now and Sept. 3. In addition, the residents of those four communities will suffer. They’ll lose a voice that has kept them informed about their community and reflected their lives through local coverage,” said a CAJ press release.
“We’re not ignorant of the challenging economic conditions that exist for media owners. But we’re disappointed and saddened by this decision that will reduce the quantity and quality of journalism available to residents in these communities. People in these communities knew they could seek out several perspectives and several opinions on what was happening around them. Now they will get fewer perspectives and opinions.”
The closure of the Nelson Daily News will translate to roughly 25 lost jobs.

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