Saltwire, the company that owns most Nova Scotia newspapers, including the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, has announced major cuts at some of the smaller papers it bought just over a year ago from the Quebec-based company Transcontinental Inc.
As part of the changes, the weekly Amherst News and the weekly Citizen-Record will merge to become one weekly paper that will be delivered free to about 12,000 households in Cumberland County bundled with the advertising flyers that Saltwire already distributes.
Saltwire is laying off one reporter and one administrative staffer in Amherst. It means that only two reporters will be left covering local news when the changes take effect on July 1. The first edition of the free Amherst News will be delivered along with the advertising flyers on Wednesday, July 4.
In a message to staff on Wednesday, Saltwire President Mark Lever said the company is responding to dramatic changes in the newspaper business over the last couple of decades.
“Companies of all kinds constantly update their product offering to respond to the preferences of consumers and the marketplace,” Lever wrote. “It doesn’t mean they’re dying, it means they’re alive and dynamic. Product evolution is not an uncommon practice and newspaper media must do the same.”
Ian Scott, chief operating officer at Saltwire, insists the company is still committed to providing local content both in its weekly papers and in the Chronicle-Herald.
“We will maintain the quality and consistency of local coverage on a weekly basis,” Scott said during a telephone interview.
He added that more of the local news content would move to the provincial pages of the Herald.
Saltwire’s other changes include converting the Truro Daily News and The News in New Glasgow from daily papers into weeklies while consolidating the Queens County Advance and the South Shore Breaker into a single community paper.
Scott says there will be a total of five layoffs affecting three administrative staff and two reporters including the one in Amherst.
In July 2017, Lever told the Financial Post, he didn’t foresee cuts or layoffs at the 28 publications Saltwire had bought from Transcontinental in April. He said the papers had already been heavily cut.
“There’s still a heartbeat, but the patient is open on the table and in desperate need of a transfusion,” he told reporter Quentin Casey.
“So we’ve added pages to those papers. We’re hiring reporters,” he added.
But now, Ian Scott says it would be “an understatement” to say that the newspaper business is facing a tough economic climate.
After Saltwire’s announcement of the cuts, Frank Cassidy, retired managing editor at the Truro Daily News posted the following comment on Facebook:
“The Truro Daily News, during my 23-year tenure, was the information lifeblood of Colchester County.
We dealt with issues. Editorials were local, poignant and controversial.
The newspaper created change.
The Daily News, under administrations of the past nine years, turned its back on the community and — in return — the community turned its back on it.
It’s that simple…This evening I weep.”
The announcement about cuts at the Amherst papers came a week after the Saltwire-owned Sackville Tribune-Post announced it would be closing its business office to the public and laying off a part-time clerk to save money.