Black Press has shut down the Abbotsford-Mission Times on the day it took over the operation from Glacier Media as part of a swap of six community newspapers.
Rick O’Connor, the president and CEO of Black Press, said the company made the difficult decision to close the newspaper after most of the unionized staff took a buyout from Glacier Nov. 29.
O’Connor said the newspaper had been a money-losing operation for some time and there were no prospects of it regaining profitability. With the buyout of staff the company had no editorial staff.
“We are pretty good at running newspapers, but we are not miracle workers,” he said.
Black Press owns the competing older and more established Abbotsford News, which is profitable and will remain in business, O’Connor said.
Four management staff who remained with the Times and were acquired by Black Press will be offered jobs within its other operations, he said.
The inevitable death of the Times was set in motion earlier this year when Black Press bought it and the sister Chilliwack Times in October from Glacier, which in turn bought four Black papers: the North Shore Outlook, the Westender, Bowen Island Undercurrent and the South Delta Leader.
Both companies own competing newspapers in all of those jurisdictions, with the exception of Bowen Island. Glacier continues to own the Maple Ridge Times, which is a competitor to Black’s Maple Ridge News.
O’Connor said the Chilliwack Times remains financially sound and will continue along with the company’s Chilliwack Progress.
Christina Toth, a former reporter with the Abbotsford Times, said five staff exercised a clause in the collective contract that obligated Glacier to offer them a severance package if it sold the newspaper. She said the staff believed Black would shut the Times since it owns the Abbotsford News. Glacier management told the staff there were no positions available to them in other newspapers it owns, Toth said.
The Times had been in business for 30 years and had gone through a series of corporate sales as the province’s once largely independent newspaper industry consolidated under two or three major owners. At one point it was owned by Canwest News, which was taken over by Postmedia Group, which in turn sold the Times to Glacier in 2011.