Postmedia to close community newspapers across southern Ontario

A deal between Postmedia and Torstar will result in the closing of more than two dozen community newspapers.

Sale of community and commuter newspapers between Torstar and Postmedia announced. Exeter paper will stay open

Pat Payton holds up the sports section of the St Marys Journal Argus, which will shut down after 160 years of operation because of a deal between media giants Torstar and Postmedia. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Pat Payton was at the St. Marys Journal-Argus until almost midnight Sunday night, putting together the sports section. 

When he arrived at work Monday, he was told those pages would never see the light of day. 

That paper, along with more than two dozen others, has stopped operating, effective immediately. 

"I guess a 34-year newspaper career is over. It's just really surreal," said Payton, who has worked at the paper since he was 27 years old. 

The Journal Argus has been publishing since the mid 1850s.
Lorne Eedy's family owned the St. Marys Journal Argus for four generations. He holds up a London Free Press article announcing its sale in 1990. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

A deal between media giants Postmedia and Torstar will result in the closing of many community newspapers. 

In this region, Our London will be closed, as will the St. Marys Journal-Argus, the St. Marys Weekender, the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News and the Stratford City Gazette. 

"This transaction allows Postmedia to focus on strategic areas and core products, and allows us to continue with a suite of community-based products, in a deeply disrupted industry," said Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey in a statement. 

The Exeter Times-Advocate and the Exeter Weekender will continue to publish. 

Local loss

"That's shocking after so many years," said St. Marys mayor Al Strathdee noting that the Journal-Argus has been publishing since the mid 1850s.  

He said the paper has covered many important issues facing the town located northeast of London, as well as sports and community history. 
The main street of the Town of St. Marys. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)
In London, employees at Our London, a digital and paper publication that covers everything from music to news, learned Monday they would be out of work in six weeks. 

Editor Scott Taylor broke the news on social media saying Our London started out as a "big idea" that has been a success.

Widespread closures

Torstar bought eight community publications, seven daily newspapers and two free dailies from Postmedia. They are: 

  • Barrie Examiner
  • Niagara Falls Review
  • Northumberland Today
  • Orillia Packet & Times
  • Peterborough Examiner
  • St. Catharines Standard
  • Welland Tribune
  • Bradford Times
  • Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin
  • Fort Erie Times
  • Innisfil Examiner
  • Niagara Advance
  • Pelham News
  • Inport News (Port Colborne)
  • Thorold Niagara News

The Niagara Falls Review, the Peterborough Examiner, St. Catharines Standard and Welland Tribune will stay open. 

Torstar also bought the free dailies 24Hours in Toronto and Vancouver, which will close.

In the same transaction, Torstar sold Metro in Winnipeg and Ottawa to Postmedia, and the following weekly community newspapers. 

  • Brant News
  • Belleville News
  • Central Hastings News
  • Frontenac Gazette
  • Kingston Heritage
  • Kanata Kourier-Standard
  • Nepean/Barrhaven News
  • Orleans News
  • Ottawa East News
  • Ottawa South News
  • Ottawa West News
  • Stittsville News
  • West Carleton Review
  • Quinte West News
  • St. Lawrence News
  • Our London 
  • St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News
  • Exeter Times-Advocate
  • St. Marys Journal Argus
  • Stratford City Gazette
  • Norfolk News
  • Meaford Express

All but the Exeter papers are to close. 

"What makes this particularly difficult is that it means we will say goodbye to many dedicated newspaper people," said Godfrey in the statement.

"However, the continuing costs of producing dozens of small community newspapers in these regions in the face of significantly declining advertising revenues means that most of these operations no longer have viable business models." 

The transaction will allow Torstar to operate "more efficiently through increased geographic synergies," said president and CEO John Boynton. 

"By acquiring publications within or adjacent to our primary areas and selling publications outside our primary areas we will be able to put a greater focus on regions where we believe we can be more effective in serving both customers and clients." 

The Competition Bureau confirmed it will be reviewing the deal. 

By law, the Competition Bureau must generally be given advance notice of any deal involving Canadian assets worth more than $88 million.

Because no cash changed hands in this case, the bureau wasn't informed — but that doesn't mean it's being bypassed, or that the deal doesn't require its approval. 

"I can confirm that the Competition Bureau will be undertaking a review of the transaction," a spokesperson told CBC News in a statement.