One expert at the intersection of journalism and policy says Postmedia Network Inc.'s decision to end the Monday print edition of nine of its urban daily newspapers next month is an "important moment" for news media in Canada.
Edward Greenspon, CEO of the Public Policy Forum, says it's "more breadcrumbs" about the lack of viability of physical newspapers in the long run, but hopes it does not signal a lack of viability of news itself.
The Vancouver Sun and the Province, Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun, Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun and the Montreal Gazette will all be affected when the move takes effect on Oct. 17. Postmedia said no jobs will be cut in its announcement earlier this week.
EPaper versions of the affected newspapers – a digital replica of the print edition – will be published on Mondays and each outlet's websites will still be updated with stories and news content.
Postmedia said it is making the move as reader habits continue to change.
Greenspon notes that Monday has always been a weak day for newspaper revenue in general, adding that physical newspapers might eventually become a "luxury item" reserved for weekends.
Colette Brin, director of the Center of Media Studies, says 13 per cent of Canadians still read a daily newspaper in print format, down from 32 per cent in 2016, and three per cent of Canadians consider it their main source for news, down from seven per cent in 2016.
While physical newspapers have been disappearing for years, the COVID-19 pandemic added flame to the fire, with fewer people subscribing to daily print editions, fewer shops willing to sell them, and print and distribution costs no longer making sense, Brin explains.
"I find it sad because we don’t read news online with the same attention as a printed paper," she says.
Greenspon agrees that people tend to read newspapers differently compared with online news.
"Print newspapers offer you a hierarchy of stories and the ability just to scan. Some people think it offers more serendipity because most people read it page by page by page or at least they turn to a section and read it page by page by page," he says.
"I find online that you run into serendipity as well, but it might be a different thing because it may be out of left field, it might be disinformation."
Greenspon says the loss could be quite difficult for the dwindling group of people, mostly skewing older, who rely on the Monday newspaper out of habit.
"A lot of people are not accustomed to eating cereal without having a newspaper. And for readers who've been doing it for a long time, it's a habit that maybe they've had for four, five, six decades," he says.
In a tweet posted Wednesday, Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Deborah Yedlin called it a "sad day."
"Local newspapers serve a vital role in linking communities — and are important to our democracy. Forcing readers online is a way to entrench polarization as readers 'playlist' what they choose to read," the tweet said.
In July, Postmedia announced chairman Paul Godfrey would be stepping down from his role at the end of the year, with current board member Jamie Irving stepping into the job at the start of 2023.
And in February, the company reached a deal to purchase all of the daily and weekly newspapers owned by the Irving family for more than $16 million in cash and shares.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.
The Canadian Press