The corporate newspaper industry in Canada is facing hard times, and has been for some time now. The large chains are cutting jobs, even closing many of their papers in smaller markets. For a few years now, Metroland Media, a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation, which own a number of newspapers in Ontario, including the Kemptville Advance, have been cutting back on their operations. In January of this year, they closed the Guelph Mercury, which had been in print since 1867, laying off 23 full-time and 3 part-time employees.
The Advance was a local paper here, too, from the time W. E. Walt started it in 1889 until Metroland bought it out from Runge Publishing Inc. in 2005. In 2011, Metroland bought out Performance Printing Ltd., who publish the EMC chain. Since then, Metroland have closed the Advance operation in North Grenville and moved it to Smith’s Falls, where Performance Printing’s offices are located. Although Metroland continue to employ a few people locally, they have started to cut back in that area also.
One avenue they have taken to stay in business is to outsource much of their work abroad. Now, they have decided to send their graphic design work for the Advance, and other papers, to India, making their motto, “Connected to your community” seem somewhat hollow. Three years ago, a graphic designer for Metroland was laid off and wrote the following about the decision:
“I worked for the Metroland chain of newspapers for 23 years. As a graphic designer who built ads, flyers, newspapers and other print material, I lost my job three years ago to India. Yes, that’s right, my graphic design job at a community newspaper was outsourced to India where people can do my job for a fraction of the price, while the local advertisers are still paying the ridiculous line rate they’ve always paid. So much for the [local newspaper] serving its local community when it won’t employ community residents and where minimum wage and poverty go hand-in-hand. Some say that may be better than shutting the newspaper down altogether, but the hypocrisy is nauseating. Those community newspapers who outsource jobs still push the slogan “shop locally and support you local advertisers”. How can someone like myself do that if I don’t have a job? Or am facing a minimum wage job at the very best because I happen to live in a rural area?”
In an era of globalisation, this kind of reassigning work is becoming more and more common. Car plants, manufacturing jobs generally, are being lost to countries where workers are paid very low, or even minimum-wage, for skilled work. Free trade is not particularly free of cost to workers who are replaced by outsourcing to India, China or South Korea. It now seems that those advertisements in “local” newspapers owned by corporations like Metroland Media [Torstar Corp], or in publications these companies produce, will now be designed and prepared outside Canada, while Canadians will find themselves unemployed.
Employees of Metroland Media, Sun Media and others are now beginning to wonder how safe their jobs are and how long it will be before news reports on local politics and events are being uploaded from Mumbai or Beijing.
I worked for a newspaper that was gobbled up by Metroland and outsourced all of the graphic design to Pune, India.
By the time Metroland was done with us we went from a creative department of 25+ people to nothing but 4 people who continued to manage the catastrophe with mind-numbing beurocratic and ultimately unsatisfactory work via an internet platform for monitoring if ads were done or not.
The sales staff found it to be infuriating to communicate with the designers in India about unsatisfied local advertisers – and the few staff that remained always had to fix their design errors – even though not contracted to do so.
I eventually found myself with another Metroland run operation and it was the same scenario – except the sales staff and the locals didn’t want their ads designed in India. Saving a buck on the corporate level was failing miserably – and publication deadlines suffered.
This is a sign of the times; skilled and trained graphic designers who have spent money on education and time in the field are left to compete with teenagers overseas who will design a substandard logo for a few dollars. Most graphic design positions are posted with wages that are the same as any unskilled labour job, such as Walmart or Starbucks, sometimes less. Numerous Canadian companies are very guilty of this tragic non-appreciation of graphic designers as professionals worthy of a decent wage, and they usually expect you to be a web developer and social media expert as well. Three for the price of one!
Why not be a plumber, painter, and carpenter all in one instead?
It is a sad reality, and I urge anyone in Canada to seriously re-think the passion they feel to enter the industry; especially if it involves years of expensive education which will never be honoured in the workplace.
Or, fight back and demand appropriate wages! And demand work to be done locally, for local publications!