North America's Biggest French-Language Newspaper May Fold in December

By: CHARMAINE NORONHA The publisher of North America's biggest French-language newspaper, La Presse, said Thursday the publication may cease operations on Dec. 1 if the paper is unable to significantly cut costs.

Caroline Jamet, vice president of communications for the paper, said management and the union have three months to reach an agreement on cutting costs, otherwise the 125-year-old paper edition and its newer online version would be shut down.

"We've developed a strategy to permit La Presse to migrate towards a new model and have agreements in place with financial institutions for new financing," Jamet said. "All that's left is the part of the employees, it's the only part left to complete the equation."

La Presse, founded in 1884, could not afford to maintain its day-to-day activities under the current business model, she said. But she also expressed optimism that a deal could be reached with its 700 employees.

Jamet said key concessions would be the end of the four-day work week at the paper, plus approximately 100 job cuts.

La Presse is the flagship newspaper of Gesca Ltee, a wholly owned division of Power Corp. of Canada, that specializes in the publication of newspapers, Web sites, magazines and books.

Like other media, La Presse has been pounded this year by plummeting advertising revenues and the global recession.

In a drive to cut costs, La Presse stopped publishing its Sunday edition earlier this summer.

At the time, publisher Guy Crevier said he hoped to reduce the newspaper's costs by 26 million Canadian dollars ($23 million), including CA13 ($11 million) in concessions annually from unions.

These have been brutal times for the newspaper business around the world, and Canadian papers have been hit hard.

The National Post, which belongs to CanWest Global Communications Corp., canceled its Monday edition for nine weeks, beginning on June 29.

The Halifax Daily News shut down its operations last year.

Montreal-based Transcontinental replaced its Daily News newspaper with a free daily called Metro.

The St. John's Telegram, another newspaper owned by Transcontinental, stopped printing its Sunday edition last September.

In the U.S., the cash-strapped New York Times Co. threatened to shut the doors on the prestigious, 137-year-old Boston Globe, last spring.

The Times bought the Globe, once considered one of the most profitable papers in the U.S., for a record $1.1 billion in 1993.

Scripps Co. permanently stopped the presses of Colorado's oldest newspaper, Denver's Rocky Mountain News.

Earlier this week, Freedom Communications Holdings Inc., the company that owns The Orange County Register in California, and dozens of other newspapers, became the latest publisher to seek bankruptcy protection.

Other major newspaper companies that have filed for bankruptcy protection include the owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and another respected Boston publication, the Christian Science Monitor, stopped daily publication in favor of online news.

The Post-Intelligencer shut down its print edition without even trying to work things out in bankruptcy court.


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