MONTREAL – Transcontinental is selling all of its assets in Saskatchewan, including 13 newspapers, and laying off 65 employees in the latest sign of the ongoing troubles that have beset some of Canada’s largest media empires.
The company’s deal with Star News Publishing announced Monday marks an end to Transcontinental’s 14-year run as a newspaper publisher in Saskatchewan and a retreat from Western Canada altogether.
“From a geographic standpoint, operating just a small number of newspapers in Western Canada was not efficient for us,” said Katherine Chartrand, a spokeswoman for the Montreal-based media giant.
The transaction leaves Transcontinental with about 150 titles in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Star News Publishing acquires weekly and daily newspapers in Saskatchewan including the Moose Jaw Times Herald and the Prince Albert Daily Herald. It also gets some commercial printing equipment and a book business in the province. Both companies did not disclose the value of the sale.
The purchase adds 80 staff to Star News Publishing’s workforce of about 40. It operates five community newspapers in Alberta and Saskatchewan and prints more than 60 community newspapers throughout Western Canada.
President Roger Holmes said while newspapers in large cities have been struggling to stay afloat, opportunities remain strong in smaller western communities, where startups are being launched with success.
“Community newspapers are healthy and strong in the small, small communities … and it seemed like a great opportunity,” Holmes said from Wainwright, Alta., where the company is based. “I believe in print.”
Holmes is a third-generation printer and publisher whose grandfather founded parent company Star News in the 1920s. Last weekend, he was elected president of the Canadian Newspaper Association.
Thirty Transcontinental employees will lose their jobs when its printing plant in Saskatoon closes next month and another 35 editorial positions — 23 in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., along with 12 in Quebec — are being eliminated.
The job losses announced Monday are in addition to 52 advertising sales positions that Transcontinental (TSX:TCL.A) cut last month in Quebec. It has more than 8,000 employees in Canada and the U.S.
Canada’s newspaper industry faces deep challenges as its biggest companies continue to slash jobs amid weak advertising revenues.
Postmedia is struggling with debt while some of the country’s oldest dailies, such as the Guelph Mercury, have ceased publishing print editions.
The company that owns the Toronto Star has shed more than 300 production and editorial positions and Montreal’s La Presse last year sold all its French-language regional newspapers in Quebec and ended the weekday printed paper.