“It’s definitely going to be driven from the local level,’’ says Mark Lever, president and CEO of SaltWire Network Inc., the company that now owns the Charlottetown Guardian, St. John’s Telegram and Cape Breton Post.
The Chronicle Herald announced Thursday it has acquired the newspaper and publishing assets of TC Media – the media sector of TC Transcontinental – in Atlantic Canada.
With TC Media’s 28 brands and web-related properties added to The Chronicle Herald’s seven Nova Scotia publications, the new company, SaltWire Network, becomes the leading media company in Atlantic Canada.
Lever says he would rather see his newspapers produce accurate, thorough and balanced articles than simply getting the story first.
“To me I believe we are story tellers,’’ he says.
“Our roots are in publishing.’’
Wayne Thibodeau, regional managing editor with The Guardian in Charlottetown, says The Guardian has always been committed to telling compelling Prince Edward Island stories.
That won’t change, added Thibodeau.
“We have a new owner who is based here in Atlantic Canada who has nearly 150 years of daily news experience.’’
Lever says the key to the biggest east coast media shakeup in recent memory proving to be a solid business deal – no financial details of the deal were disclosed - for SaltWire is in restoring the connections to the communities served by the large collection of Atlantic Canada media assets.
“The business plan for SaltWire is to breathe life back into those brands and platforms in the communities,’’ he says.
“We’ll centralize some functional operations but really give control and autonomy back in the communities. We think there’s a value in local content. We really believe this is about audience and local content and not so much about distribution platforms.’’
Lever notes SaltWire is going to be in over 30 communities in Atlantic Canada “with boots on the ground.’’
The timing of the expansion – against the backdrop of a bitter strike by members of the Halifax Typographical Union – will likely cause the most debate among media analysts, the general public and union supporters.
The dispute is over a year old, and has seen 55 journalists and support staff from the Herald newsroom walking the picket line.
The Halifax Typographical Union, the union that represents the striking employees, criticized the purchase as a sign that SaltWire Network Inc. is in a better financial position than it has claimed during collective bargaining negotiations.
“We were told that the Herald’s demise was imminent if it didn’t immediately cut wages and other benefits to newsroom staff,” says Ingrid Bulmer, president of the HTU, in a statement.
“Apparently, that was a total fabrication. The company is not struggling but is instead planning to expand.”
Lever said the labour issue is very different from the dawn of SaltWire.
He says the deal is about creating platforms, which the company can grow.
“I am not naïve enough to think that there is not going to be a lot of skepticism,’’ he adds.
“We are going to have to earn that trust over time with the employee group – and certainly there is no business without an audience and we have to earn that trust.’’