Closing of HuffPost Canada 'abrupt' and 'devastating,' editor says

The closing of HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec was an abrupt development for the journalists who were in the middle of a workday when the announcement was made by new ownership.

Midday announcement and decision to immediately stop publishing caught staff off guard

HuffPost Canada, whose Toronto newsroom is shown above, abruptly announced it was closing its operations in Canada on Tuesday. It also announced layoffs in the U.S. (Supplied)

The closing of HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec was an abrupt development for the journalists who were in the middle of a workday when their new ownership made the announcement.

"It was devastating," Maija Kappler, lifestyle editor for HuffPost Canada, told CBC News in an email on Tuesday. "I love my job so much, and I know it will be really difficult to find another one in journalism."

The outlet said in a statement on its website that it will "no longer be publishing content" as of March 9 while existing content will be kept as an online archive. The site was shut down later in the day.

"People who were working on stories weren't able to finish and publish them," Kappler said. "There are stories written by freelancers that have been submitted and were ready to be published, but we have no way to get them out now.

"For a group of people as dedicated as our staff, that's been hard to deal with too — it was just so abrupt."

BuzzFeed recently acquired HuffPost from Verizon. BuzzFeed, which also announced layoffs for the U.S. newsroom on Tuesday, said it's closing HuffPost Canada and HuffPost Québec's operations and laying off 23 workers as part of a broad restructuring plan for the company.

Kappler said layoffs weren't ruled out when the acquisition was first announced in November, but she didn't expect them to happen so quickly after it was finalized in February.

"I've been with HuffPost Canada for about two-and-a-half years, but some of my co-workers have worked here since it was launched," she said. "I can only imagine how hard it is for them."

BuzzFeed also said it is beginning consultations in Australia and the U.K. to propose "slimming operations" in both places, according to a statement from the company.

"One of my co-workers said to me that part of what's hard is losing an important support network during the pandemic," Kappler said. "We were a small office and really close, so that's a hard part of it."

Decision not connected to unionization, company told union

"All of our staff are now out of a job," the HuffPost Canada union said in a series of tweets. It said the decision "was made before our organizing effort and is not linked to our unionizing."

Kappler, who was among about two dozen workers at HuffPost Canada who had filed for union certification in February, said they're hoping to get more information.

In a statement of its own published shortly following the announcement, BuzzFeed Canada's union criticized the decision to "take these websites' homepages offline barely an hour after employees were told of their impending closure, and without warning."

"We cannot overstate the loss of an entire publication from this country's media ecosystem," the statement read. "We stand in solidarity with the HuffPost Canada union and ask BuzzFeed to provide fair and generous severance that recognizes the dedication of these employees."

Kappler echoed the BuzzFeed Canada union's sentiments.

"Canadian media is shrinking all the time, and so many talented journalists are getting fed up with the instability," she said. "A healthy media landscape is diverse and wide-ranging, but it seems like every year, Canada's gets smaller.

"That means important stories continue to go unreported, and it's a loss for all of us."

With files from The Canadian Press

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