Toronto Star cuts get mixed reactions

Mar 5, 2013 | News

toronto star

By Amber Daugherty

There’s a mixed reaction after an announcement this week that the Toronto Star will be making some deep staff cuts.

The Star’s spokesperson Bob Hepburn said the move, announced Monday, is necessary because of “tough economic times,” which he pointed out were not just affecting Toronto papers.

“These are challenging times for the news industry,” he told Humber News on Tuesday. “We need to contain our costs.”

The proposed cuts will affect 55 jobs with the majority coming out of the editorial department. Hepburn said the Star will outsource some of its copy editing and page design to Pagemasters North America, which is also based in Toronto.

The move would save a lot of money, a report said this week.

The Globe and Mail’s Steve Ladurantaye wrote in an article Monday that “the top union rate for an editor at Pagemasters is $48,000, while the same job at the Star comes with an annual salary closer to $85,000.”

Depsite the cuts, Hepburn said he doesn’t expect the Star’s reputation for quality and investigative journalism to decrease.

“We’ve maintained reporting duties which are vital,” he said.

“Our reporting abilities will be unchanged.”

One of the main areas that might be affected by these cuts is the Star’s radio room program, where young journalists get a hands-on experience and make their debut in the paper’s newsroom. The union said the Star is contemplating outsourcing it as well.

“In a time of mobile computing, the urgency is to get spot news right away,” Stuart Laidlaw, unit chair of the union at the Star, told Humber News on Tuesday.

“It’s the radio room, by monitoring the police scanners and social media, that gets us the early warning on those stories. That’s what got us first at the Eaton Centre shooting,” said Laidlaw, whose union is part of the larger CEP national union.

“We’ll have a diminished capacity to be first on breaking news stories for crime and fires and any other such things that come through the radio room,” he said.

Laidlaw said an emergency meeting was called Monday night for union members. The memo for the meeting called the announcement “short-term thinking meant to placate analysts on Bay Street who understand balance streets, but not our industry.”

Laidlaw said his gut reaction to the thought of losing nine per cent of the Star’s staff – many of whom he says are personal friends – was “anger” and “sadness.”

“We’re in the most competitive media market in north America and to be diminishing our competitive advantage seems rather foolish,” he said.

“I think the quality can only be diminished by these cuts,” he said.

“I think it’s a sad day for journalism.”