Last days of a first job: newspaper carriers cut as community papers fold

Delivering newspapers has been a first job for countless Canadians, but in just a few days that iconic role will disappear for hundreds of young people in the Ottawa region as a raft of community newspapers close for good.

Community newspaper closures to eliminate about 1,000 distribution jobs in Ottawa, distributor says

Sebastien Tubb's first job has been delivering newspapers in Ottawa. But the 12-year-old will deliver his last paper Jan. 11 after Postmedia made the decision to shut down 24 of the 26 community newspapers and metro dailies it acquired from Torstar in November. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

Delivering newspapers has been a first job for countless Canadians, but in just a few days that iconic role will disappear for hundreds of young people in the Ottawa region as a raft of community newspapers close for good.

The decision to shut down dozens of free community papers, primarily in Ontario, was made in December by Postmedia and Torstar after they struck a deal to swap media properties.

In all, 37 community newspapers and commuter dailies are shutting down.

Grade 7 student Sebastien Tubb will make his final delivery of the Ottawa West Community News this Thursday after starting his paper route six months ago.

"It's my first job and in general I think it's been fun and easy to do," says Tubb, who wanted the job to earn extra money to help pay for a used Apple computer.

'Going out of business for ... years now'

The 12-year-old gets most of his news from television, the internet and his phone, so he isn't surprised the newspaper he delivers is folding.

"It's been going out of business for quite a few years now, with, like, all the big companies trying to get rid of all the smaller companies," Tubb says.

Neil Tubb's first job was also as a newspaper carrier. (CBC)

This week, a final stack of 200 newspapers will be dropped off at the Tubb family home. And as he's been doing for half a year, Tubb will load the papers into his green wagon and drag it door-to-door around his neighbourhood, stuffing the bundle of news and flyers into mailboxes, or throwing them onto porches.

It's a task that takes about two hours to complete and pays Tubb $11 per week.

'Taught him self-discipline'

For his parents, the job provided their son with a reason to get fresh air, as well as invaluable life experience.

"I think it taught him self-discipline because we weren't going to do it for him," says father Neil Tubb, whose first job was delivering the Kanata Kourier-Standard community newspaper, another pending victim of Postmedia and Torstar's deal.

"It was great to see the wheels turning in his head, how he had to just put on his jacket and get out there and the sort of pride when he came home and got it done."

Sebastien Tubb says he isn't surprised by the newspaper closures. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

The Tubbs received a pink slip in the mail the week before Christmas from TIPs Distribution, an independent distributor for Metroland East. It informed them all deliveries would end with the last edition of Ottawa West Community News on Jan. 11, 2018.

TIPs owner Rob Campbell says the closure of the community news outlets has a financial impact beyond media employees. His operation generated about $500,000 in revenue annually, and not only is he out of a job, but so are the approximately 200 newspaper carriers, drivers and administrators he employs.

'They need it to get by on'

TIPs was one of six distributors of community newspapers in the capital. Between them, Campbell estimates about 1,000 people have lost a valuable source of income.

"We hire carriers as young as 10, but our carriers are also in university. They're seniors. They don't make a lot of money delivering newspapers, but for so many people they need it to get by on. Seniors deliver to make ends meet," says Campbell.

"And kids, the only way they afford to go on school trips or participate in sports is the money they make delivering newspapers. They've lost that opportunity now."

Although there are plans in the works to revive at least two Ottawa community newspapers, those business plans involve using Canada Post or providing information online.

But Sebastien Tubb isn't dwelling on the end of an era.

Instead, he and his parents are searching for another job and wondering if they should put the boy's babysitting certificate to work.