The Saskatoon Star Phoenix’s newsroom is getting smaller.
Sources from within the paper told 650 CKOM nine positions at the Postmedia newspaper had been cut through a combination of voluntary buyouts and attrition.
Six senior staff have elected for buyouts according to the sources, while three open positions will go unfilled.
The move comes days after word of eight buyouts from within the Regina Leader-Post, which is also owned by Postmedia.
The company, which owns most of Canada’s english-language daily newspapers, wouldn’t confirm the cuts.
However, they did tell 650 CKOM the company is offering voluntary buyouts to staff across the country.
The final numbers from the buyouts will be publicly released at the end of November.
At the same time, $2.3 million in bonuses were awarded to top executives.
The move has caused alarm from newspaper unions and academics alike.
“I’m very concerned,” said Patricia Elliott, a journalism professor at the University of Regina. “There just isn’t much left to be plundered out of these newspapers.”
She said the financial state of Postmedia has been a problem for several years, and concentrated ownership of newspapers country-wide has been a “disaster.”
“We’ve reached the stage in this country where we need to break up these chains,” she said.
Elliott noted the cuts could affect local news coverage conducted by the Star Phoenix, as “less boots on the ground” results in time constraints for journalists.
She said if they operated on their own, without Postmedia as a parent company, both the Star Phoenix and Leader-Post could be financially solvent.
“I think these newspapers would still be struggling, but they wouldn’t be where they are now,” she said. “They would not be having their profits sucked down into a larger corporation to float other businesses.”
But Elliott points to the competition bureau’s decision to allow Postmedia to take over the Sun Media newspaper chain as a turning point.
She says the organization had an opportunity to deny the massive purchase on the basis of Postmedia’s financial losses.
“Government needs to step in and ensure that our newspapers are held in responsible hands of responsible companies that are solvent,” she said.
“We need to end this downward slide.”
-With files from Bryn Levy and David Kirton