The Hamilton Spectator is losing its office space as its owner tries to save money, CBC Hamilton has learned.
It means one of Ontario’s longest-running newspapers with roughly 50 editorial staff will no longer have a physical newsroom.
Bob Hepburn, a spokesperson for Torstar Corporation, which publishes the Toronto Star, the Spec and Metroland community newspapers, declined an interview but said The Spec’s offices will close in early October.
Torstar is owned by Nordstar Capital.
The Spec has been publishing since 1846. The paper moved its office from the lower city Frid Street location to Pritchard Road on the east Mountain in 2020.
While the physical newsroom will shutter in efforts to reduce office leasing expenses, the company, Hepburn said, remains “fully committed to the Spectator and its readers and advertisers, both in print and online.”
“This decision was not made lightly,” he said, pointing to financial woes from the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing loss of advertising revenue.
He said a small office in Waterloo and one in Markham — the latter serving as a hub for several community newspapers, are also closing, Hepburn said.
The closures, Hepburn said, won’t impact the quality of the journalism as the company has experience working remotely with many of its publications.
Community newspapers closing
Late last week, Nordstar said it is laying off 605 people and is seeking bankruptcy protection for Metroland, the unit that owns 71 community newspapers and six regional daily newspapers.
The Toronto Star, which has its own company owned by Torstar, is still running. Metroland’s six regional dailies — the Hamilton Spectator, Peterborough Examiner, St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune, and the Waterloo Region Record — will also keep printing newspapers and publishing online news.
Metroland’s community publications are moving fully online.
That includes Ancaster News, Dundas Star News, Flamborough Review, Grand River Sachem/Glanbrook Gazette, Hamilton Mountain News, and Stoney Creek News. They’re all collectively known as Hamilton Community News (HCN) and have been around for decades.
Over the years, those newsrooms became more closely affiliated with The Spec, with many HCN stories appearing in The Spec’s print and online editions.
Unifor, which represents some of the workers being let go by Nordstar, said in a press release Friday that union leaders and employees were “blindsided” by the news and will fight back.
“We will use every and all legal actions at our disposal to fight this inhumane treatment of our members, many of whom spent their whole careers at their paper serving their communities,” Carleen Finch, president of Unifor Local 87-M, which represents 106 of the impacted workers, said in the press release.
‘The news consumer is going to be poorer for it’
Mark Newman and Kevin Werner, reporters with Hamilton Community News since 1996 and 1999 respectively, are both among those being laid off. Their jobs end after December.
They both said the changes will mean communities across Ontario won’t have a local news source.
Even in cities like Hamilton, with multiple news outlets, the changes will be felt in communities and neighbourhoods, they said.
“The news consumer is going to be poorer for it. They’re going to know less about their city … less about everything,” Newman told CBC Hamilton.
He said the cuts were “a shock,” and that he and his colleagues are “still trying to get their heads around it… all walking around partly numb because we don’t know what the future brings.”
Werner said he’s been overwhelmed by the support and outreach he has felt since the news of his layoff. In addition to the personal impact, the cuts will also have an effect on the Spec newsroom, he said.
“They will have to decide how to cover all of Hamilton … you can’t just focus on the downtown and the big stories,” he said. “It will be a challenge for them to do so or they will have to decide if they have the resources to do that.”
As for The Spec’s office closing, Newman said he doesn’t think it will impact the quality of the journalism but said the paper will lose just about all of its visibility in the city.
“Out of sight, out of mind, that’s how I look at it,” Newman said.
“I don’t know where this is all going but it’s not good.”