Torstar laying off more than 50 people, job losses at Toronto Star, tablet app

The parent company of the Toronto Star is laying off more than 50 people.
The parent company of the Toronto Star is laying off more than 50 people. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Eduardo Lima

TORONTO – The company that owns the Toronto Star said Tuesday it is laying off more than 50 people, mostly from its newsroom and tablet edition, amid increasing pressure from declining print advertising revenue.

Twenty-two employees, including 19 full-time workers in the Toronto Star newsroom, will be among those let go, said David Holland, Torstar’s acting president and publisher, in a memo sent to staff.

Another 26 temporary staff working on Star Touch, the paper’s tablet app that launched in September 2015, will depart the company over the next couple of months, Holland said.

“We knew that once we became more and more efficient on the tablet, we would need fewer people,” said Bob Hepburn, a spokesman for the Toronto Star.

The remaining seven job losses come from the Metro newspaper chain, beauty and style publication the Kit and digital operations outside the newsroom, Hepburn said.

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The layoffs come months after a previous round of cuts that saw Torstar terminate 12 temporary contracts – mostly employees at Star Touch – early.

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The tablet has not lived up to management expectations. Holland has said the uptake has been lower than the company wanted.

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Despite that, Torstar remains committed to the venture, he said.

“While our current audience size is not yet what we had initially anticipated, we are pleased that Star Touch has developed a highly engaged and loyal audience of committed readers,” he said in the staff memo.

The head of the union representing newsroom employees at the Toronto Star said the job cuts are a “heavy blow.”

“This is a very difficult day for many exceptional people at the Toronto Star who deliver extraordinary journalism daily, in print, through the tablet, and on the web,” Paul Morse, president of Unifor Local 87-M, said in an email.

Morse said there were three more people losing their jobs than the company announced – 55 in total – but Torstar said it stands by its tally.

The layoffs come amid print advertising revenue declines that continue to bite away at Torstar’s bottom line. Torstar reported its second quarter results last month, posting a $23.9-million loss.

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“These moves, in combination, are in response to declining advertising and our need to allocate the company’s resources as cost effectively as possible,” Hepburn said.

Earlier this year, Torstar outsourced printing of the Toronto Star to Transcontinental and eliminated positions in circulation, IT and other departments.

The announcement Tuesday, which will leave the Toronto Star with about 200 contract and full-time employees, is just the latest sign that Canada’s print media industry is in distress.

Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain, slashed about 90 jobs in January and merged newsrooms in four cities as a cost-saving measure.

The situation has become so dire that it has prompted calls from some media industry executives for the federal government to intervene, possibly by offering subsidies – an idea that would have been anathema years ago.

Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with a subsidiary of the Globe and Mail and the parent company of Montreal’s La Presse.

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