A lot has been happening in Quebec’s media landscape!
Over the last few months, Quebec’s media sphere has been jolted quite a bit. However, the abolishment of jobs in written and online media is not new, which is what Laval University’s Centre d’études sur les médias (CEM, Media Studies Centre) noted in its “État des lieux 2020” (2020 situational analysis).
In fact, the CEM says that the journalist workforce decreased by 10% between 2006 and 2016, followed by further losses due to budget cuts as a result of the pandemic.
The crisis in traditional media has been going on for a long time and newspapers have been trying to reinvent themselves for years. Now, however, it is not only traditional media that are suffering but digital media are also facing job losses and the decline of competing outlets.
The end for HuffPost Quebec
After about 10 years of dedicated service, HuffPost Quebec and HuffPost Canada ceased their activities on March 9. Online since 2011 in Canada and 2012 in Quebec, these two media outlets (as well as the whole HuffPost group) were bought by the American company BuzzFeed in fall of 2020.
Financial losses are at the core of BuzzFeed’s decision, which had a significant loss in 2020. In fact, the media company abolished almost 50 jobs in the United States. In Canada, 23 employees lost their jobs, five of them in Quebec.
Major restructuring at CJAD
CJAD, the leading player in Quebec English talk radio for 75 years, was at the heart of important restructuring moves made by its owner, Bell Media. On air since 1945, the radio station became part of the Bell group in 2013 as part of its purchase of Astral Media.
In the first week of February, Bell Media eliminated the positions of all the CJAD journalists, replacing the majority of content, including the news, with feeds from the Bell-owned CTV network. At the same time, cuts were also made at CTV. In total, almost 230 high-calibre employees, including 100 journalists, had their jobs terminated. Even CTV’s parliamentary correspondent in Quebec City lost her job.
Noovo: a new arrival in the media world
Despite these closures and cuts, a new arrival is bringing change to Quebec’s media world. You most probably have heard of the information service Noovo Info, alluding to the French word “nouveau”, meaning “new.”
Bell took a gamble by launching the new channel that will focus on topics such as local news. In addition to news stories broadcast on television, Noovo also has a network of radio stations.
The information program Noovo Le Fil has been broadcast on television since March 29, 2021. A Quebec-wide news report is presented at 5 pm from Monday to Friday, and regional news follows at 5:30 pm. In the evening, at 10 pm, the Quebec news portion is shorter to focus more on local news stories. Also, on the weekend, a Quebec news report is presented at 9 am.
The channel employs around 15 journalists in Montreal, in addition to 15 journalists at their Quebec, Sherbrooke, Saguenay and Trois-Rivières offices. It is like a breath of fresh air for the industry considering that local media have been in trouble recently. Indeed, the CEM’s “État des lieux 2020” (2020 situational analysis) reported that 34 weekly regional newspapers closed between 2006 and 2016. Since then, we have mourned the loss of a dozen other regional news outlets. “Reflecting our regions,” that is the wish of Suzanne Landry, Vice-President of Content Development, Programming and Information at Bell Media.
Finally, in addition to prioritizing a different approach, Noovo relies on new angles and new voices, those of people representing diversity. The digital platform was launched in September of 2021.
20 years for Métro and an editorial shift for 24 heures
Even though times are tough for some printed newspapers, the free daily Métro (the French version of Read Metro) celebrated its 20th birthday on March 1. Although many were concerned that free daily newspapers distributed in the métro would harm the traditional competition, this type of newspaper is actually read by a complementary customer base.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the use of public transportation: there was a 74% decrease in métro ridership in 2020. That is why the printed version of Métro is only published twice a week. The digital version is still read daily by many people online.
The same applies to Québecor’s free publication 24 heures (24 hours). Distributed in the métro on Thursdays only since February 11, this outlet is now using a magazine-type format with photo essays, portraits and interviews.
Wishing to make an editorial and digital shift, the website and logo of 24 heures were revamped. They are focusing on problem-solving journalism, social and local (even municipal) issues, all while looking to attract a younger audience.
Media outlets are reinventing themselves
Luckily, all is not doom and gloom in Quebec’s media universe. Traditional and digital media both understand the importance of reinventing themselves and bonding with their readers.