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Newspaper chains could reverse readership losses by restoring local content

Newspaper chains such as Quebecor Sun Media could reverse readership declines in mid-size Canadian cities if they restored local content and once again became a pillar of the communities they purport to serve, a poll commissioned by CWA Canada indicates.

“Publishers and newspaper companies complain that the financial model for the media industry is broken and papers are endangered because of competition from the Internet. This poll shows that providing quality local coverage and properly serving and representing their readers may be the real remedy for newspapers, particularly those in medium-sized cities such as those that were surveyed,” says Arnold Amber, the Director of CWA Canada, the union that represents thousands of media workers in the country.

“Although our poll was conducted in six cities in Ontario where Quebecor Sun Media publishes daily newspapers, we believe the findings would apply across Canada,” says Amber.

Citing tough times in the media industry, Quebecor has over the last 18 months cut hundreds of jobs at its newspapers and exported editorial, circulation, production and advertising work to non-union facilities outside of the communities where the newspapers are published.

“These communities have supported and depended upon their local newspaper for, in some cases, more than a century. To be a good local newspaper, it needs more than just the name of the city on its front page,” says Amber.

The CWA Canada poll found that Quebecor could regain almost half the readers it has lost in major Ontario cities in recent years were it to improve the quality of coverage of local news, people and events.

Of those who had been regular readers, 42 per cent said they would become so again if they could be assured that local coverage would be improved. Were that to happen, Quebecor could increase its readership in the six cities from 53 to nearly 58 per cent of the adult population.

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