The Western Star newspaper in Corner Brook is morphing from a daily newspaper to become a free weekly one.
The change is the result of shifts in the marketplace and the media landscape over the years, says parent company Saltwire Network, which also owns The Telegram and several N.L. weeklies.
But instead of ceasing publication, the paper will change to adapt to the new reality, and will actually reach many more people than before.
The news was announced Wednesday.
A letter to readers posted to The Western Star website by SaltWire Network’s president and CEO Mark Lever said Wednesday’s edition was the final publication for the daily product.
“The paper has now shifted from a paid-for daily subscription publication to a free weekly community newspaper, which will be delivered to residents of Corner Brook, Massey Drive, South Shore, North Shore, Pasadena, Deer Lake and Stephenville,” the letter stated.
Also announced Wednesday were changes to other SaltWire publications in the province.
The two Labrador weeklies — The Labradorian and The Aurora — will merge to become one new subscription-based weekly publication called “The Labrador Voice.” Subscribers of The Labradorian and The Aurora will be switched to the new product.
The first weekly edition of The Western Star and The Labrador Voice will be published April 24.
The changes mean the layoff of some 30 employees.
The company says it will work with affected staff and their union representatives on severance and/or relocation packages, according to the collective agreement.
“There’s no doubt that the newspaper business has changed dramatically over the past two decades. But when a model or product is outdated, we don’t simply say there’s no other way. We evolve,” Lever said. “Companies of all kinds constantly update their product offering to respond to the preferences of consumers and the marketplace. Product evolution is not an uncommon practice and newspaper media must do the same.”
Ian Scott, executive vice-president, was in Corner Brook this week to inform employees and the city.
He said while the loss of jobs is unfortunate, the company remains committed to ensuring communities have access to local content.
He said the weekly publication enables the company to stay true to that commitment.
The Western Star was founded in 1900 in Curling as a weekly newspaper.
The paper was printed on a hand-operated press until 1912 and used hand-set type until 1931. The paper moved to Corner Brook in 1941, becoming a daily paper in 1954.
Lever said the change at The Western Star is aligned with a business model that’s been highly successful in other areas.
SaltWire has a number of freely available weekly newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, he noted. Those newspapers have a combination of local news, profiles and events, as well as games, puzzles and community listings.
“We’ll increase our circulation footprint (on the west coast) to more than 21,000 homes weekly, and that means more people will know what’s going on in western Newfoundland and our advertisers will reach more consumers,” Lever said.
He also noted that premium, local journalism focused on western Newfoundland will continue to be available through a subscription to The Telegram, both in print and online.
A media statement noted that production of the weekly Western Star will move to SaltWire's facilities in St. John’s.
“The Western Star building in Corner Brook is under agreement, which means a buyer has committed to acquiring the property, and the sale is expected to close in early June,” the statement said. “Staff who will continue working with the new weekly publication will work from newly leased premises or from home.”
Subscribers who have pre-paid for their subscriptions to The Western Star will see their subscription fees applied to their online accounts or have them refunded.
Another change announced Wednesday was that The Southern Gazette, Gulf News and The Packet will all be distributed on Wednesdays — previously they were distributed on either Tuesdays or Thursdays — to allow the company to align the printing, shipping and distribution of several products.