Local Xpress launches full-service news site to compete with Chronicle Herald

Striking Chronicle Herald reporters have turned their online news site, Local Xpress, into a full-service online newspaper.

The revamped site contains advertising, obituaries, national news and flyers

Striking newspaper staff have been off the job since Jan. 23. (CBC)

Striking Halifax Chronicle Herald reporters have turned their online news site, Local Xpress, into a full-service online newspaper. Their parent union expects the move to set up a rival that will draw retaliation from the newspaper.

"It'll be putting some economic pressure on the employer, which is totally allowed under a legal strike," said Martin O'Hanlon, the president of CWA Canada, the national union representing the Halifax Typographical Union.

"If you're not going to play ball with us, then we're going to do our work wherever we have to."

CBC News has placed calls to the Chronicle Herald and has not yet received comment.

'They will threaten legal action'

O'Hanlon said the union is prepared for possible disciplinary action from the employer.

"They will threaten legal action, they will threaten to discipline members. They will do all sorts of things. But we have lawyers ourselves and we've had this fairly checked out," said O'Hanlon.

O'Hanlon said the Local Xpress is registered in Nova Scotia as a non-profit, and the people working for it will not make money from it. He said any money generated by the site will be plowed back into the product.

The Chronicle Herald work stoppage began Jan. 23. Throughout that time, union members have been writing for Local Xpress on a volunteer basis.

Partnership with Ontario company

"People have asked for more," said Local Xpress editor Pam Sword.

Sword said Local Xpress has struck a partnership with Village Media, a digital news company based in northern Ontario, which will allow the site to offer more features.

The new version of the site will be free, and includes national news, obituaries, event listings, weather and flyers.

"So we'll keep doing the local journalism we've been doing, with a few other features that people are talking to us on social media all the time and asking for things. We had the opportunity to get more, so we took more," Sword said.

"We sort of found each other a little while ago, and they offered to help us set up our new, improved site, and we went from there," she said. "It's been a work in progress for a few short weeks. It worked out really well."

Advertising and donations

The site will sell advertising and already features New Brunswick tourism ads. Local Xpress is also accepting donations through a Patreon campaign. Patreon is a type of crowdfunding website that allows content creators to make money off the work they create.

Sword said the journalists working for Local Xpress do not draw a salary from the site, but any advertising revenue or donations will go toward expenses incurred by news gathering such as parking, mileage and website hosting costs.

If the strike is resolved, Local Xpress will be shut down.

The Halifax Typographical Union represents 57 striking workers. The union says the paper's management, led by CEO Mark Lever, has refused to return to the bargaining table.

Martin O'Hanlon said the union was contacted this week by a mediator and will be meeting with him next week. He could not say if the Chronicle Herald would also be at that meeting.

The CBC's Canadian Media Guild belongs to the same parent union, CWA Canada.