A Financial Crisis May Jeopardize Local News in Most of Atlantic Canada

Local news outlets have, of course, been in trouble in Canada and around the world for years. But now a lender has asked a Halifax court to dissolve the two companies that jointly own most of the newspapers in Atlantic Canada outside New Brunswick. And that has opened up the possibility that the region may end up without any legacy news outlets aside from broadcasters.

A lender has asked a court to dissolve Atlantic Canada’s leading news media company.Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times

Much of the trouble with the two companies — which are commonly owned and whose holdings include The Chronicle Herald in Halifax and The Telegram in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as well as The Guardian in Charlottetown — is of their own making. They have either refused to cover, or paid very little, on 40 million Canadian dollars in debts over the past five years; they owe the government just under 5 million dollars in H.S.T.; and they have funded operations using employees’ pension money.

But the move to dissolve the companies, and a corresponding filing they made for creditor protection, come at a time when news outlets large and small are facing yet another major threat to their existence. My colleague David Streitfeld writes that “there are signs that the whole concept of ‘news’ is fading.” While he was writing about the United States, it appears that his findings also apply in Canada.

[Read: How the Media Industry Keeps Losing the Future]

Dean Jobb, who teaches in the journalism program at the University of King’s College in Halifax, told me that the situation created by the potential collapse of the two companies, SaltWire Network and The Halifax Herald, might create a local news desert.

“It’s a real shock,” said Mr. Jobb, who worked as a reporter, an editor and a columnist at The Chronicle Herald for 20 years. “It’s not an announcement of cutbacks or layoffs or the closure of one or two papers. It’s potentially the region ending up with very little media surviving in most of its communities.”

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