By: Jennifer Saba
The Wall Street Journal has shuttered its Canada bureaus, a move that affects six staffers that work out of offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary including the bureau chief based in Montreal.
Dow Jones spokesman Robert Christie wrote in an e-mail to E&P that the Journal will continue to cover “Canadian international affairs, politics, and economics” by using about 20 employees with Dow Jones Newswires who are based in Canada. Journal reporters in Chicago, New York, and Washington “who already have contact with the Canadian companies on their beat” will pick up the slack.
But staffers and union representatives are skeptical that the Journal can adequately cover Canada without the additional manpower.
“This means that Canada is the only G7 nation where the Journal doesn’t have a presence,” said Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publisher’s Employees (IAPE) and a news anchor on Wall Street Journal radio. “The message you send to Canada is we just don’t care.”
Management has not made a formal announcement to the Journal newsroom, according to union officials who learned of the situation this week. The union covers Dow Jones employees in Canada.
The cuts come at a time when Dow Jones — like every other big newspaper company in the country — has been under intense pressure to control costs amidst declining advertising revenue and circulation.
According to the Journal’s latest publisher’s statement from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Canada accounts for about 0.5% or 11,196 copies of the paper’s total circulation.
E.S. “Jim” Browning, a 27-year staff reporter at the Journal who is chairman of the bargaining committee for the union, calls the layoffs “sleazy” and says it was “doubly sleazy” that management has not yet explained the move to the newsroom. “We have no idea how we are going to cover Canada,” he added.
Paul Steiger, managing editor of the Journal, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The company is also preparing to unveil to the press on Monday the newly redesigned Journal with a much trimmer web-width from 60 inches to 48 inches. The new paper will hit the street on Jan. 2. Because of the pruning, Dow Jones will save some $18 million annually.
The layoffs in Canada were made during the middle of negotiations between representatives of the union and Dow Jones for a new contract.
The talks started off on a sour note, when both sides submitted proposals that varied widely. Early in the process, union members stopped making appearances on CNBC (to which Dow Jones provides content).
Yount said both sides have made some progress towards crafting a new agreement (the current contract expires at the end of January 2007). “They are talking and exchanging ideas,” he said. “They realize they have to come to an agreement with us. They don’t want to spend the first quarter introducing the paper while fighting a public campaign with the union.”