Postmedia cuts: Edmonton Journal, Sun dismiss top editors

Two top editors of the Edmonton Journal are among 35 positions cut Tuesday at two Edmonton newspapers.

'It's going to be hard to replace some of the experience that's being lost,' says former staffer

Postmedia Network Canada Corp. owns major daily newspaper across Canada, including the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun. (CBC)

Two top editors of the Edmonton Journal are among 35 positions cut Tuesday at two Edmonton newspapers.

Postmedia Network Canada Corp. confirmed the news Tuesday, saying the Journal's Managing Editor, Stephanie Coombs, and the Editor-in-Chief, Margo Goodhand, have been let go as the chain prepares to merge operations in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver. The Journal's newsroom operations will be managed out of Calgary.

The Managing Editor of the Edmonton Sun, Donna Harker, was also let go Tuesday. The Sun newsroom will merge with the Journal's but two newspapers will continue to be published. 

The remainder of the 35 layoffs in Edmonton are expected to be announced by end of day Tuesday, Postmedia spokeswoman Phyllise Gelfand said, and are among 90 positions to be eliminated from Postmedia papers in four cities across Canada. 
35 positions will be cut from the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun by end of day Tuesday, Postmedia announced. (CBC)

"There are two initiatives today," Gelfand said. "One is the combining of the crossover in newsrooms, the other is the creation of a national sports writing team and together that represents approximately 90 departures today."

"In those four markets, each of those newsrooms are combining into one newsroom for each market."

The 90 positions cut represent about eight per cent of Postmedia's editorial staff, Gelfand said.

Postmedia recently announced a cost cutting program to find at least $80 million in savings before the fiscal end of 2017.

Edmonton Journal and Sun staff were made aware of Tuesday's cuts in an email from Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey Tuesday morning. 

Not changing is simply not an option.- Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey wrote in an email

"That significant of an initiative requires looking at everything in a new way and considering approaches we have never taken – truly nothing is off the table," the email read. "We will be working closely with those affected to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.

"We know this will not be without its challenges and we know there will be bumps along the road. But not changing is simply not an option and over the next few weeks and months I am confident that our new newsroom design will not only result in some important cost reductions but that we will be focused on creating the best products for our audiences and clients across the country.

Both Coombs and Goodhand confirmed their departures on Twitter Tuesday morning.

Others took to Twitter to announce their own job loss, or to support former colleagues.

Postmedia Network Canada Corp. is a Canadian news company that publishes newspapers in Edmonton and many other cities and towns across Canada.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Don Iveson confirmed he received a call from Postmedia's Godfrey on Monday in advance of the cuts. 

"It's unfortunate to hear of layoffs in any sector," Iveson said. "Media is a critical component of our democracy, so we'll see what the effect of the consolidations is over time.

"But certainly our condolences go out, particularly to Margo Goodhand. She was fantastic to work with at the Journal, and I'm just hopeful everyone will land on their feet."

Today, dozens of Canadian journalists were Tweeting out breaking news: that they were out of work. We'll speak to one Postmedia editor who lost her job at the helm of the Edmonton Journal.

'The people that are left are very sad about what's in the future'

Goodhand gathered at a downtown pub with more than a dozen Edmonton Journal editorial staff who had been cut Tuesday, as more continued to trickle through its doors.

Former Winnipeg Free Press editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand's new book 'Rogue Feminists: The Origins of the Women's Shelter Movement in Canada' tells the story of the women’s shelter movement in Canada. (Margo Goodhand/Twitter)

While staff were aware there was a possibility of cuts coming to the paper, Goodhand said the news still came as a "bit of a blow."

"When you hear they need to make another 30 or 50 million dollars in cuts by a certain time and you've sold every asset you have, it's very difficult," Goodhand said. "They do have to make these cuts, they do have to sustain themselves, there has to be somewhere where they save money.

"It's a number of people that are going today, and the people that are left are very sad about what's in the future."

Goodhand said she wasn't sure how it was decided which editorial staff would be laid off and which would stay.

Postmedia caused a flurry of controversy in the fall when executives decided to run front page endorsements for the Conservative party across its newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal. 

The columnists that people love at the Journal in particular are still there, and they're the heart of this newsroom. They will prevail.- Editor-in-Chief Margo Goodhand

Goodhand spoke out against the endorsement, calling the tradition outdated.

On Tuesday, she said she had no regrets.

"I truly believe the media has to be as accountable and transparent as every organization they demand it from," she said. "So there was no way that I wasn't going to speak up."

Goodhand said the Journal newsroom remains a place of "tremendous" talent. One editor of 40 years who was laid off Tuesday refused to leave until she had fulfilled her duties, she said. 

"We are pretty tough journalists. The columnists that people love at the Journal in particular are still there, and they're the heart of this newsroom. They will prevail," she said. 

"I'm an incredible optimist. I always think something around the corner is going to be even better. I'll be fine."

Karen Unland worked at the Journal for 14 years and spoke with CBC Tuesday afternoon. She said it's been a "devastating" day for the paper, and said she was surprised about Postmedia's decision to eliminate the Journal's top two editors.

"Part of me thinks that when you're going to do a big change, you need leadership in place, that it's going to be empathetic," Unland said. "I think when Postmedia bought the Suns it was predictable that something was going to happen as far as amalgamation if the finances didn't turn around, and the quarterly results that were released recently were terrible. So something was going to happen."

As laid-off reporters and editors took to Twitter throughout the day Tuesday to announce their departure, Unland said it's a loss that will resonate throughout the city.

"That's bad for Edmonton, because these are people with enormous institutional memory, enormous talent and just a deep caring for this city," she said.

  "It's going to be hard to replace some of the experience that's being lost."