Coronavirus continues to upend Atlantic media outlets as SaltWire lays off 40% of staff

The Chronicle Herald building is seen in Halifax on Thursday, April 13, 2017.
The Chronicle Herald building is seen in Halifax on Thursday, April 13, 2017. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Atlantic Canadian media landscape continued on Tuesday, as one of the largest newspaper chains in the region announced they’ll be laying off approximately 40 per cent of their staff for at least the next 12 weeks.

CWA Canada, which represents workers at SaltWire’s Chronicle Herald and Cape Breton Post, says the layoffs amount to 250 staff members across the chain of papers.

Mark Lever, President and CEO of SaltWire Network, says that the decision comes in response to “rapidly changing economic conditions related to COVID-19.”

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Chief among those changes is the cancellation of nearly every event or conference in the region and the suspension of most advertising.

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“The economic ripple effect of COVID-19 hit us faster and far more aggressively than we could have ever planned for or anticipated,” said Lever.

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The layoffs come a little more than a week after Halifax’s alternative weekly, The Coast, halted printing and laid off 20 staff members.

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The decision will help “protect the long-term viability of the business,” Lever said.

The layoffs — which sources tell Global News includes all of the Chronicle Herald’s sports desk — went into effect on Tuesday and will last until at least June 15, 2020.

Lever said the chain has temporarily suspended the production of all weekly publications across Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia in favour of producing four daily publications; The Chronicle Herald, Cape Breton Post, The Guardian and The Telegram.

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The Guardian and Journal Pioneer will be combined for subscribers in PEI, receiving The Guardian for the duration of the 12-week period.

Lever said the company will provide medical benefits for all of the staff it has temporarily laid off.

Staff earning a certain amount who have not been laid off will operate under reduced hours.

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