Dark Days at Black Press

October 4, 2007
in Category: Articles, Media
50 3822 0

There’s a good chance many of you haven’t heard about the recent ugly “purges” at Black Press. That, however, is not due to any dearth of journalists yearning to divulge every detail. Most reporters have been talking about it; with few exceptions, they just aren’t being allowed to report it.

Black Press is local mogul David Black’s company which owns the Victoria News, Oak Bay News, Saanich News, Monday Magazine and some 70 other BC newspapers.

Since new publisher Penny Sakamoto and president Mark Warner came aboard, there’s been a steady exodus of staffers this year. At a recent Movie Monday showing of “The Paper“, Black Press journalists Keith Norbury and Patrick Blennerhassett replicated the movie’s complaints about increasing budget pressures and disappearing lines separating editorial content from advertiser influences.

This real-world tale climaxed in August.

“Public Eye” and CFAX journalist Sean Holman broke the story. It seems the Victoria News ran an article about a local woman who’d saved a whack of money buying a second-hand car in the big-market, weakening-dollar U.S. Now, she intended to publish a how-to pamphlet.

Sounds innocent enough. But in the world of corporate media, apparently not.

Bye-bye senior writer Brennan Clarke. Adios regional editor Keith Norbury. Sayonara and enjoy the fishing supreme news supervisor Brian Lepine.

Yet by Black Press standards, Clarke’s article was completely professional, if typically short. Meanwhile, together, these people represented decades of loyal, successful commitment to Black Press. So what happened?

According to Black Press executives quoted by Holman, major automobile dealer Dave Wheaton complained the story didn’t describe more about cross-border shopping’s drawbacks.

In a letter to employees about the situation, Black Press Chief Operating Officer Rick O’Connor explained that Sakamoto and Warner called a meeting to “express their concerns and explain the impact a potential loss of advertising from the automotive sector would have on these newspapers. Neither Penny nor Mark knew the article was scheduled to run and asked to be apprised in future when potentially controversial articles or editorials were to run.”

Cross-border shopping, highly sensitive, “controversial” news? Yeeeeah, riiiight… By those standards, we should give furniture store ad copyrighters investigative journalism awards for those controversially outrageous low prices they boldly expose.

Clarke and Lepine resigned and Norbury was fired, and Holman’s reports became a cascade of contradictory, dishonorable cover-ups from Black Press executives alternately claiming Wheaton’s complaint had no relevance, Clarke had long meant to resign, Norbury was fired for “confidential” personal reasons etc.

With settlements pending, few will talk publicly, but I can state Clarke’s article was indeed THE issue. However, disagreements were exacerbated by a follow-up, syrupy Norbury editorial, “Cars Be Praised”, which the now-suspicious employers believed was satirically mocking.

Regardless, the mere fact Black Press executives even called such a meeting in the first place says it all. What sort of minds think a 400-word piece about cross-border second-hand car shopping requires a pre-publication summit of the highest ranking executives to discuss the serious issues it raises for the whole corporation?

Instead of impassioned fights about press freedom leading to their uncomfortable exits, it’s more likely Clarke, Norbury and Lepine simply couldn’t politely and professionally suppress their astonishment at their managers’ ridiculous and pathetically small-minded attitudes.

And that’s chilling, because Sakamoto and Warner are establishing a brave new benchmark for advertiser control of pervasive BC news. With this exemplar, every Black Press journalist now knows there’s scarcely any topic they can write about which won’t potentially lead to being summoned upstairs to “A M-E-E-T-I-N-G”.

Unless you’re a rebel ready to be fired, self-editing kicks in as quickly as you can type, and soon imprints a fairly consistent corporate worldview: Don’t mention cars in stories about global warming. Blame government for a lack of readiness to handle toxic spills, but don’t blame the companies involved. No sympathetic explorations of troubled backgrounds–be cold or merciless when writing about criminals who’ve robbed businesses. High rents are caused by a tight market, not by gouging from the landlords who advertise in our classifieds.

So Black Press publications are now spooning utterly unfiltered propaganda, and who’s going to enlighten us?

CanWest Global is still covering its own tracks after canning a reputable writer for gibing about the high costs of tourist attractions, and refusing to let their journalists report or discuss it even as it became national news.

Similarly, when Dave Wheaton Pontiac Buick GMC suddenly and surprisingly took out consecutive full-page, full-colour ads this August-September in our notoriously pro-cycling, anti-SUV weekly, Monday Magazine‘s writers probably choked on their Black Press muzzles while having to, without commentary, witness what looked like some creepy form of post-purge golden handshake.

It’s so exasperating, it all makes one wonder why such people are even in the news business. Why does David Black keep accumulating newspapers, only to constantly institute practices that undermine decent journalism? Can’t he see his senior managers look more like frightened lapdogs than competent executives? Doesn’t he care about how his unnecessarily excessive, profit-squeezing strategies ultimately damage not just the newspapers he buys, but the lives of the people who work for them and the health of the communities they serve?

Of course, David Black and his ilk are also doing a very good job at ensuring such questions rarely emerge prominently in public anymore.

Rob Wipond

Thank you for reading.

View my other posts

50 comments

  1. karel roessingh

    and what about the goldstream gazette? highlands reporter pattie whitehouse was “let go”, ostensibly to save money (though her reports cost the gazette very little), after visits to the office and complaints about coverage from representatives and supporters of bear mountain. thereafter, several other staff members “left the building”. any connection there?

  2. Rob Wipond

    I’m sure there is a connection! It’s been very clear that this ideologically-driven ‘purge’ has been affecting many of the Black Press News Group publications over the past year regionally — wherever Sakamoto and Warner’s hands reach easily. I noticed some ex-staffers even posted to Sean Holman’s articles about it all.

    And personally, I think it’s often less about advertising money per se than it is about ‘who your friends are’. Who are Sakamoto and Warner more likely to be having friendly lunches with, big business owners or their papers’ news staff and $20/article freelance reporters? And when your friend asks for a little favour…

  3. Steve Thomas

    It should surprise no one that mainstream media is in large part governed by corporations. We have passively come to expect it, and even sadder, to accept it. Except for the brave few in the media who dare to speak their minds. Congrats to Mr. Clarke for getting out with his journalistic integrity intact.

  4. S Poystila

    Interesting comments. I also noticed a staff “purge” when Sakamoto held office as Publisher of the Gulf Islands Driftwood. Office manager, writer, graphic designers, and production manager were all out the door within a year of her employment. I think it is her “style” and as earlier noted, about “who your friends are”. Other Gulf Island staffers noticed the same trend in staff turnaround.

  5. rob

    Is that right? May be personal style, or then again the business style. It’s pretty obvious that most of the people that’ve been getting fired were people who’d been working for the newsgroup longer, and were hence usually earning a bit more money than the newer people being brought on…

  6. Toadal

    It is not only the journalists that are being targeted. Since Mark Warner took over there has been numerous long time employees that have been unexpectedly “let go”,”retired” or “forced out” due to budget cuts or difference of opinion’s. This includes, graphic artists, administrative staff, sales people, and smaller publication publishers. Most rushed out the door with total indifference and lack of respect for time served, And If they have not been let go, many have quit due to intolerable expectations, and working conditions. There is an ill wind that blows through the halls of 819 Broughton St. Anyone that is still there is furtively looking over their shoulder or resigned to waiting out their time until they can are offered a buy out. And it is not just on the Island, one only has to look at the Black Press help wanted “page” in any of their publications to see that this trend is happening in all publications throughout BC with the amount of positions being offered publicly. Gone are the days when there was rarely a position even being posted internally in the entire organization. It was a sad day when David’s wife passed away, even sadder when he seemingly walked away from his empire and left it in the hands of evil overlords.

  7. Rob Wipond

    Toadal, thanks for your comments. I’ve certainly noticed the dramatic rise in the number of job openings with Black Press, and the increasingly prominent ways in which they are trying to recruit. It makes one wonder — is this some kind of joke? Doesn’t anyone feel stupid to be driving people away and then desperately trying to find people? Or is it all part of his/their plan, just to get rid of anyone who’s been around long enough to be earning more than minimum wage?

  8. Jim

    This is no surprise to Black Press employees. David Black personally supervised the censorship of his papers in 1998/99 when he forbade any reporter or editor to publish positive stories about the Nisgáa land claim settlement.

  9. JUDE

    AS AN EX-EMPLOYEE IN ONE OF THE BLACK PRESS SMALL TOWN WEEKLIES, I CAN TELL YOU I WAS SHOCKED AT THE LEVEL OF INCOMPETENCE I EXPERIENCED THERE – NO ONE IN THE NEWSROOM WAS ACTUALLY INTERESTED IN NEWS, THE FREELANCERS WERE PAID A PITTANCE (WHICH OBVIOUSLY NEGATIVELY AFFECTS QUALITY), THE STAFFERS MET DEADLINES, OR DIDN’T, AND NO ONE CARED. THE PUBLISHER “WORKED” A THREE DAY WEEK, AND I WORKED UNPAID OVERTIME TO MAKE UP FOR IT. THE WORST IDIOCY, HOWEVER, RESIDES AT THE HIGHER MANAGEMENT LEVELS, WHERE SELLING ADVERTISING IS THE ONLY PURSUIT, AND NEWS IS A MERE AFTERTHOUGHT. AND THE SHIT FLOWS DOWNHILL.

  10. Rob Wipond

    Thanks for your comments, Jude. I know about the appalling freelancer rates myself… Worse, the latest is that even Victoria’s Monday Magazine has had its freelance budget cut to essentially zero.

    It’s really too bad. It all harms the diversity of voices in communities, and over the long term will undermine the already declining level of professionalism in journalism in this country. And yet many of these papers were surviving well prior to being bought up by Black Press.

  11. Bryan

    I really have to wonder about the integrity of a company that hires publishers that have no management skills, no public relations skills, and no employee relations skills. The paper I was employed with has lost better than a dozen skilled, loyal, and educated employees since the current puplisher was hired. The paper (I will not name) as I still have friends employed within, was once a profitable and progressive paper, very well liked by the community it served. Black Press does not seem to care how their employees are being treated by supervisors or management, they don’t seem to care that the highly qualified employees of the past are slowly being weeded out and replaced by those willing to settle for an insignificant wage while keeping thier mouths shut about any and all unethical practices. It reminds me of the way the workplace was portrayed several decades ago. I’m surprised the Union hasn’t tried to convince Black Press employees to join. I am not a bitter past employee of Black Press, I had another very good job before my feet had a chance to hit the pavement. I am just wanting to say whats on my mind without putting any of my Black Press friends jobs at risk. To all of the talented journalists, creatives, sales people, press people, etc. I hope that David Black realizes how valuable you are to the future of his company. The Hench men and women of the company only do his company harm in the long run. A little integrity – please!

  12. Rob Wipond

    I appreciate your contribution, Bryan. It sure is amazing how many people have contributed here or contacted me privately about this story. It shows that Black Press has had a lot of concerned, committed journalists over the years — and seems to be burning through them at breakneck pace.

  13. Former Black Press editor

    I was a very hard working, loyal employee at a small Black Press paper. I was given a huge workload that rapidly grew over time. For the most part I was paid for this work until a new publisher (related to David Black, not coincidentally, and with no credentials for the role whatsoever) was hired in 2008. He refused paying me overtime, implying that I was not working efficiently. He (and his superiors) never read a word I wrote, but if an advertiser complained for any reason, I was raked over the coals. Eventually I was let go even though I had several recent written reports, from an appointed Black Press critiquer, praising my editorial work and journalism. The union pay went up to the top of the collective agreement the week before they decided to go “in a different direction, editorially” and let me go.
    The people on the money side don’t care about the editorial content of the papers whatsoever. They only care about the incoming dollars for each page. That’s all that matters. Reader interest or advertising effectiveness are not considered. Just the line inches of the paper that are paid, and how much is paid for it – the immediate numbers.
    Training is abysmal as well. All in all they treat their general staff very poorly. The relative who was hired as publisher of my paper is currently axing away with the staff of another paper in Vancouver.

  14. Rob Wipond

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Former; though I’m sad to hear them. I guess at some point I have to accept that these people apparently know something about making money that I don’t — I would’ve assumed such a kamikaze approach to staff, community and journalism would’ve undermined their ability to survive financially by now…

  15. judith

    I have sadly watched this corporate shift towards quantity not quality over the past few decades. Not just Black Press either, it seems to be pervasive. I wondered about the wisdom of letting good people go so easily – indeed pushing them out the door, then realized there are ALWAYS replacements waiting to get in. Unqualified and inexperienced as they are, they are cheap, and as long as someone is good at selling advertising it doesn’t matter what the end product is. As a society we seem to be increasinly trash addicted – we need to just say NO to garbage. If we stop consuming it, Black Press and others will stop producing it.

  16. Pleasedtoseethediscussion

    As another former employee of Black Press, a journalist with 20 years’ experience and someone who helped slather the walls of the paper with national and provincial awards, I can attest to the truths being spewed here.
    However, it isn’t just Black Press that has become a shameless shill for dwindling advertising bucks. And goodness knows I witnessed some of the most pathetic displays of weak-kneed shilling and I fought that attitude. It resulted, eventually, in me being removed.
    They could save a few paltry dollars in salary and, more importantly, remove someone who posed a challenge to the middle management corporate ladder spiders who cast the Blackian edicts down to the publishers, most of whom wouldn’t know good journalism if they were being reamed by it.
    Most major newspaper chains have fallen prey to the corporate weasels, who are apparently residue from the industry’s complete failure to recognize, address and use the Internet.
    Typically, the journalists felt the wrath of the falling profits and the bean counters and middle management ilk scampered up their ladders to spin more butt-covering webs.
    The ONLY thing that will correct the continued decline of journalism — in the world — is a return to pure journalism and that will require courageous products operated by people who understand not only what journalism is but why journalism is important. Under-educated foot soldiers operating well below their optimum depths become publishers and talented journalists who believe in the truth and hate giving up editorial space to perform fellatio on some shop owner who has bought a half page ad.
    Stop the presses! Shopkeep McGough has added a third shelf to the gum rack! Don’t spend time interviewing people who may lead you to a major story, young reporter. Quickly now — to Shopkeep McGough’s Emporium of Nothing Really to take a snap and to try and ferret enough interesting blather from his face to pen a 300 word trail of bile-heavy vomit.
    So yes to a dissiing of Black Press. They love their execs and most of their publishers and generally tolerate their editorial staff, but are happier to be rid of proven talent that carried them to CCNA and BCYCNA podiums year after year in favour of cheaper, more-willing-to-kiss-middle-management-rump, fresh-out-of-J-school kidlings.
    Goodness, I suppose I am a bit bitter, eh?
    And yes to the casting of the oogy-boogie eye to the rest of the newspaper industry, for it remains as insidiously cheap and petty as Black Press.
    You get what you pay for, after all.

  17. Pleasedtoseethediscussion

    Oh yeah, and one of Sakamoto’s nicknames, when she was ensconced as an exec. with Westmount Press, a small chain that had its own share of Black-like moments (long live the Coast News!), was the Supplement Queen. It was a title she earned by forcing all Westmount papers to produce a supp a week, or near as be damned. Of course, this uber-greed sat really well with the small numbers of advertisers in the small communities that Westmount inhabited. It resulted in the loss of advertisers who became sick and tired of seeing ad reps come through their doors and it helped inspire new products that sucked even more dough out of the established products.
    Silly gits.

  18. pressentBlackPressemployee

    Well well well….. nothing has changed! Has a sales rep, under the (blind) guide of sakamoto are still forced to sell stupid supplements that have canned editorial and a crazy amount of ads that simply piss off the editorial team. There is no care for the staff, I was recently written up for not being in “business attire”, all the while wearing dress pants shoes and a shirt….. go figure. The middle management has no clue what is going on outside their corner offices and don’t care, the only care is the almighty dollar and bottom line. Black Press has lot their focus of what they are, a COMMUNITY paper. There is ZERO respect for the work their employees do, no wonder in the past 3 years a minimum of 30 sales people have quit, fired or just said screw it I’m out of here. Nothing has changed or will change. Another nickname for Sakamoto is The Cleaner…..cleaner of staff and integrity.

  19. pleasedtoseethediscussion

    For proof to all of this – check out the ‘progress’ being made in the Kootenays as one of Black’s most swine-like middle management types, Chuck Bennett, attempts to murder journalism even further. RIP Nelson Daily News and it appears that the once great Valley Echo in Invermere is tottering close to death as Bennett drives it into the ground because he is simply too stupid to get it. Translates back to Black in a major way.

  20. The Watchdog

    Black Press is so fucked up, it doesn’t know its asshole from its head.

    The amount of firings, lay-offs and buy outs is staggering.

    Sadly, David Black has no fucking clue what is going on in his empire as his former used car sales man, Rick O’Conner CEO is forcing Mark “I suck Rick’s dick” Warner President to nuke as much staff as possible.

    Along with all the in-breeding from senior staff and blow jobs from existing staff to management, the remaining staff will have so much shit on their nose to be able to keep their shit job.

    Good luck Black Press, you’ll need it.

  21. The Watchdog

    Dear Pleasedtoseethediscussion

    I tried, I really did to read whatever the hell you were writing, but you don’t get it. First of all the internet is a fad, newspapers will reign supreme for centuries. Second, The company that spits out their drivel don’t really care what it says so long as it doesn’t piss off an advertiser. BP rags are just condoms for the crap that get stuffed in the middle. Hey when i need a deal from staples, I’m going to pick up a Vic News!

  22. ericlvr88player

    @ladysmith division collating dept.may b @ the bottom but i’m quite happy on the most part!!!!!

  23. Rob Wipond (author)

    Haha, thanks for your comment, ericlvr, I’m glad to hear someone is happy at Black Press.

    I gather most of the concerns and complaints are coming from people who work or have worked in editorial… journalists and editors… They’ll usually have certain expectations of professionalism, and these expectations are often not being met.

    So I guess if, in your position, you imagine someone hiring you to do collating, but then giving you half the amount of time you need to do the work, and telling you to constantly adapt to the requests from advertisers who want you to collate in a certain way… And then the company fires you for holding out and insisting that the page labelled “Page 1″ actually be the first page, and “Page 2″ be the second page, not vice versa as the advertiser has requested… That’s kind of what a lot of professional journalists at Black Press seem to be going through.

  24. Jayne Dough

    Wow. As a former Black press writer in BC who just stumbled across this blog looking for something else, I can tell you it was refreshing to see it all there in black and white… this mirrors my experience with Black Press at a BC weekly. Reporters in my news room used to chafe constantly at the conservative butt-kissing that routinely over-shadowed attempts at even moderately critical coverage…. the fading line between editorial and advertorial — they were almost proud of it!

  25. Rob Wipond (author)

    Hi Jayne, upon seeing your comment I decided to read through the rest of the comments again. Wow — and as you can see, they’ve been coming in for years! It truly boggles the mind to think they can evidently run a chain of newspapers this way.

    Was it in your experience so directly political? — i.e. supporting particular political parties and positions? I get the sense for others it was more commonly toeing the line with advertisers. There are often of course overlaps between those two things, but I’m curious if you’re saying that in your experience it was very explicitly ‘political’.

    A friend of mine once said that, in some ways, his experience with newspaper propaganda arms of the old Soviet regime was better than his experience with news here, because at least there everyone knew they were reading propaganda. Here, many North Americans don’t seem to have that recognition.

  26. Former reporter

    As a former reporter with the Red Deer Advocate, I can only say that things are just as bad David Black’s newspapers in Alberta. Morale is in the toilet at the Advocate and the latest managing editor is letting advertisers rule the roost.

  27. Saved

    I just finished a ”tour of duty” at Black Press. I lasted one week. The treatment I endured, and the workload thrown at me with one hour of training was unbelievable. Penny hired me, then left for vacation. I was thrown to the wolves, on my own. Her henchmen did not want me there. I have many years of newspaper experience, both in print and online. It was the online portion that bothered her management staff. I knew it. She sang my accolades too loud before I was hired, and that set everything in motion. I can be thankful that I lost only one week of my life in that fear based place.

  28. Rob Wipond (author)

    I feel like my website is becoming a “Good-bye and good riddance!” sign-out form for Black Press. This comments section has gotten more regular contributions over the years than, say, my article about Ian Thow or my article about Telus complaints processes, both of which actually generate more traffic to my site — that sure says something! Wonder if those papers aren’t ripe for a union drive…?

  29. Jim

    April 26, 2013 – Victoria

    Yet more dark days for BP. Grant McKenzie was terminated as Editor-in-Chief of Monday Magazine. The company claims “economic reasons”. Too bad, he is a good writer and will be missed.

  30. Rob Wipond (author)

    Hi Jim, yeah, I heard that. I heard they are going to fold the editing of Monday into the job of the editor of a number of their other publications. I guess it will save money, but wow. When I think back on how hard and long the editors of Monday used to work back when I was writing for them as a freelancer 1997-2002 or so, it blows my mind that it’s come to this point today.

  31. Newshound

    The publisher’s purge of Monday Magazine is now complete with the recent axing of alt-voice columnist Simon Nattrass who was told his “column doesn’t fit the mandate of a community paper.” That makes 5 opinionated contributors turfed in the publisher’s sweeping “makeover” to make the Magazine as non-controversial as possible. Mike Delamont better watch out, he actually took a dig at “knitting” this month – the publisher’s third-favourite hobby after firing people and . . .

  32. Rob Wipond (author)

    Whoa, you’re right, we may as well start a post on this thread with Delamont’s name at the top and just wait for him to come fill it in with the rest of the details of his firing!

    The other night I went to an “unofficial” party for Monday Magazine, people going back 30 years. It was incredible to see so tangibly what a vibrant community institution it had been for so long. The moment Black Press bought it, doom and gloom was preached by all observers, and look at what has happened…

  33. Elodie Adams

    I had a short, but telling experience with Black Press when I attempted to be the editor of the Lake Cowichan Gazette, the 3rd one to take on the job within a year. Besides the difficulties with a “one-person newsroom,” the comments above about advertising and advertisers dictating editorial content was too often true. For example, in Lake Cowichan only 2 realty companies were regular advertisers, so guess who – and ONLY WHO – I could interview for any story pertaining to real estate in the area. And, my publisher told me that I could not say that houses were not selling, that the market is in a slump, etc., even if it were true!
    Unbelievable. And other stories come to mind, but we all have had them, if we have been working for David Black’s oligarchy.
    So sorry to read about the evolution of Monday Mag, really just a shadow of its former self, but done gradually and over time so perhaps not obvious to the bulk of its current readership?
    Are we heading back into the dark ages of journalism…?

  34. Rob Wipond (author)

    Oh my gawd, it was THAT explicit?? That is crazy. Wow.

    I’m starting to wonder if I should try to personally contact everyone who has posted here over the years and compile and publish an entire list of these kinds of stories…

    Honestly, I know a couple of the writers, but I don’t know anyone who has been reading Monday Magazine at all regularly for years, so I can’t comment on that. Their readership has definitely collapsed, and that’s part of what’s causing the changes. I don’t know, I guess the mag is just a tax write-off for Black or something? It’s certainly a way of doing business I don’t understand that he’s been able to run for many years. I heard he just recently bought Boulevard magazine primarily because it pays to keep his printing press running?…

  35. Newshound

    Unfortunately, at Black Press Victoria, the publisher openly refers to the community newspapers as Flyer Wrap. She makes no bones that she is in the flyer distribution business, not newspapers. She despises journalists – even though she laughingly claims to be one. On the other hand, you know just how horrible she is to work for when even the Sales people start jumping ship to jobs that pay less — all because of how she treats every single worker in every single department. And despite every person who leaves telling the Island President what a poisonous atmosphere this [**, **] publisher creates, he puts his hands over his ears and whistles so that he can live in denial. As for Boulevard, just wait to see how many of its remaining staff resign in the coming weeks. Most are already looking for other jobs.

  36. Rob Wipond (author)

    Hmm, ‘flyer wrap’, eh? Well, I guess if enough people still pick up those papers for that to work as a business model, then that explains a lot…

    btw I edited out a couple of your words there with asterisks for politeness sake — but I think your point is still clear! If you have any concerns with my doing that just drop me an email to discuss.

  37. Mr. X

    WARNER DEPARTS BLACK PRESS VANCOUVER ISLAND

    Mark Warner, President of Vancouver Island is leaving Black Press. Warner’s position is being eliminated in a move to streamline and reduce executive oversight expenses for Black Press’ BC Operations. The divisions will report to Randy Blair, head of the Lower Mainland titles for Black Press.

    Warner began his career with Black Press in 1992 when he joined the company as the circulation manager for the Kelowna Real Estate weekly. He moved to Vanderhoof in 1993 to take over as publisher of the Omineca Express and then moved to Barriere in 1995 also as publisher. He returned to Vanderhoof for a second stint as publisher in 1996 prior to moving to Cranbrook as the publisher of the Kootenay Advertiser in 2001. Mark moved to Vernon as publisher of the Morning Star in 2003 and was promoted to his present position in September of 2006.

    “This is one of a series of moves to reduce expenses in head office management for Black Press in BC,” said company President and CEO, Rick O’Connor. “Mark has done an admirable job helping to build our newspaper franchises on the Island, but with the economic and secular challenges we face in 2013, there is a need to reduce expenses. While lowering expenses is always a difficult exercise, there is a need to keep as many resources at the newspaper level as possible.”

    Mark’s last day will be September 30th. We would like to thank him for his 21 years of service and wish him well in his future endeavours.

    Rick O’Connor

    President and CEO

    Black Press

  38. The Goon

    It’s been a few months now since Black Press and Glacier Media swapped six papers on the Lower Mainland. One, the Abby-Mission Times, has since been closed. One has to wonder what papers will close next. Will more papers be swapped in the new year, and if so where. My prediction – Island next. What do you think oh wise swami Wipond?

  39. Rob Wipond (author)

    I see that was their way of agreeing to stop competing with each other… So what other communities have more than one community newspaper?

  40. The Goon

    Yeah they’ve not bleeding each other to death anymore are they. On the Island, communities that have both Black and Glacier papers are Victoria, Cowichan, Nanaimo, Parksville, Port Alberni, Comox and Campbell River. Ucluelet and Port Hardy are single paper towns and could get thrown in the mix. Glacier said recently that they were unloading realestate as well as money losing papers as part of their move-forward strategy. They each have a slough of papers through the interior but Glacier has few if any in the north..

  41. Rob Wipond (author)

    My crystal ball says more is coming… Though maybe not right away…

    I often think of some of the other countries where I’ve been — this notion of every city and town having its own newspaper is a mainly North American phenomenon.

    And am I really sad about losing these crappy papers? The fact they were in competition has certainly not helped raise their level of journalism, so non-competition would seem to make little difference. In my dreamier wishfulness, I might hypothesize that some consolidation and strengthening of a smaller number of regional papers might eventually then lead to real competition for readers at some point… and better journalism…

  42. Black Death

    To add to the long list of casualties at Black Press, veteran photographer Sharon Tiffin was laid off from the News Group in Victoria. She was there for decades, such a loss!!! And another reporter from Goldstream News Gazette was let go as well. From what I hear, no one is sure if the cuts are actually due to those papers being in the red, or more the fact that oil tycoon David still needs pre-recession profit margins to help fund his refinery up north.
    Those papers seem to be full of nothing but housing and car advertising “stories” now anyway. What a joke.

    I also hear since BP took over the Yukon News, they’ve gutted its resources as well. That paper has got a dominating number of nominations at this year’s BCYNCAs, but I’m gonna guess 2015 won’t be the same.

  43. anon

    More cuts are coming, and have recently happened. I was at a particular island office for several years during a quick but certain slide downward, leaving the office so understaffed, the demise is not a matter of “if” but of “when”. Reason for the economic slide and degradation of morale is exactly the same as everything mentioned above. This is simply the way that upper management do business, and they do not, and will never, care about the long term. It’s nearly draconian the way the employers are treated. There is probably more job security at Wal Mart.

  44. anon

    If they’re seeking a transient, cheap, careless work force with zero buy-in or loyalty, they’re certainly on the right track. The problem, and blessing, with journalism and related fields in community newsprint is an undying love and passion for the medium. It keeps people around far longer than they’d normally otherwise stay in other fields if paid and treated similarly. To have so many of these newspaper employees so dissatisfied and so stressed and so angry, it really says a lot about upper management’s style. Keep your eyes open for even more changes…

  45. Rob Wipond (author)

    I wonder how many different Black Press publications are represented in these comment posts? It’s amazing to think of how “systemic” this is.

  46. Current Employee

    I’ve worked in newspapers for over 30 years. For Black Press, for Glacier, for “Postmedia” (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days). I’ve been in the trenches. And I can assure you, these complaints exist in EVERY newspaper company. I’ve had good managers, I’ve had incompetent fuckwad managers. It all depends on which office you’re stuck in.

    David Black is, guess what, a capitalist who lives for the bottom line. Just like Jeff Bezos, just like Steve Jobs was. Black Press is not the AntiChrist. If you hate it so much, get the fuck out and find a job you like. Life’s too short to try to assign evil intentions to a successful capitalist company. Jesus.

  47. Rob Wipond (author)

    Morale and editorial successes at Monday Magazine plummeted after Black Press purchased it, so there seems to be a difference being identified here.

    And I don’t go with you on that logical leap you’re doing. Just because a person may have a profit motive, is that a legitimate excuse for that person having little or no sense of community-mindedness or responsibility to their community? This is an especially important question with respect to local news media and news coverage.

  48. anon

    I disagree that capitalism necessitates mistreatment of employees. I don’t buy it. I have had more satisfaction working at McDonald’s, an obviously far more successful capitalist structure. The “if you don’t like it, leave” attitude is dismissive and unhelpful.

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