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Torstar shutting down StarMetro papers across Canada

Last Updated Nov 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm CST

Torstar Corp., is shutting down its StarMetro free daily newspapers across Canada.

The move was announced to staff on Tuesday.

Final print editions in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Halifax will be published on December 20, 2019, the company confirmed.

“We are going digital-only outside of Ontario as more and more of our commuter readers are using their smartphones, laptops and tablets to access their news on their way to and from work,” Torstar said in a statement to CityNews.

“This trend, coupled with a corresponding decline in print advertising volumes, has decreased the need for a free daily commuter newspaper in these cities.”

The closure will result in 73 job losses.

In October Torstar announced that it was suspending its quarterly dividend after reporting a quarterly loss of $40.9 million. Torstar stock, which soared to over $30 back in January 2004, has fallen to .50 cents.

“This difficult decision was made after an in-depth review of options for the papers,” wrote John Boynton, Torstar president, in a memo sent to staff Tuesday.

“Print advertising volumes have decreased significantly in recent months to levels below those required to make them commercially viable,” he wrote, adding the papers developed loyal audiences over the years.

Boynton said employees were provided with layoff notices and explanations of their severance entitlements.

Additionally, the company is offering a voluntary departure program to Star editorial employees, said a Torstar spokesperson in an email.

The deadline to apply is in early December. The company did not confirm what target it is looking to reach through the program and whether further layoffs would be required.

“At this stage, we do not know how many employees will apply,” the spokesperson said.

The company also announced in the memo it plans to open new Star bureaus in the coming weeks in four of the cities that will see their free, commuter papers shutter: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax.

These will be staffed by Star journalists who will provide local coverage and job postings will be posted internally Tuesday and externally Wednesday.

StarMetro journalists will be able to apply for these postings along with others, Boynton said.

“Coming soon, we will be revealing news of a further expansion of our digital presence across Canada,” he wrote in the staff memo.