So much for the power of the press. As first reported in this space on Oct. 10, 2010, the floundering Edmonton Journal is about to push its valuable – or expensive, anyway – printing press in Edmonton’s East End over the side.
Starting next summer, the Journal announced yesterday, the moribund Alberta daily will contract out the work now done at its Eastgate plant to the Gazette Printing facility operated in St. Albert by Greatwest Newspapers, which publishes the St. Albert Gazette and other community papers.
Significantly, according to the short story in the Journal, “the change will provide the Journal with better reproduction, more colour and greater size flexibility for the print edition.” (Italics added by me, as Gore Vidal would have said.)
In other words, it’s likely only a matter of time before the Journal shrivels into a tabloid, a format familiar to the paper’s Sunnified senior managerial ranks. At that point, one supposes, readers will begin to refer to it regularly as “The Little Paper That Shrank.”
Evidently there were no buyers for the outdated plant, so the Journal will simply shut the doors and lay off its 70 unionized printers. “We are excited about the new possibilities for more colour and better reproduction,” Journal publisher John Connolly said. “However, we are sorry to be losing many of our dedicated Journal staffers.” Well, somewhat sorry, anyway.
Alert Alberta Diary readers will now be waiting for the other shoe to drop – that is, the prediction also made here in the fall of 2010 that this closing was but a step down the garden path to an all-Internet operation, along the lines of Seattle’s venerable Post-Intelligencer, at least for the time before the Journal gasps its last.
That may yet happen, of course, but not for a spell. The Journal will try publishing first without its Sunday edition, which was shut down on June 15. And after that, there is still the option of going to two or three print editions a week, like the New Orleans Times-Picayune, while a desperate search by Journal owner Postmedia News for a buyer continues.
Since the Journal pulled the plug on its Sunday edition, the competing tabloid Edmonton Sun boasts, the Sunday Sun’s circulation has increased by 6,000 and its one-off sales of Sunday papers by 4,000 copies for a net gain of 10,000 additional papers sold.
Interestingly, the non-union Greatwest press in St. Albert is owned half-and-half by a corporate partnership made up of Jamison Newspapers Inc., which is property of St. Albert’s Duff Jamison, and Vancouver-based Glacier Ventures International Corp., a company that started out selling bottled water and later enjoyed a significant if confusing involvement by David Radler.
Readers will recall that Mr. Radler was once a business partner of Conrad Black, before the two had a falling our over their concurrent legal troubles south of the Medicine Line. Mr. Radler was the newspaper owner – known unfondly as “the Eradicator” by his unfortunate employees – who is said to have boasted he gave Canada “the three-man newsroom, and two of them sell ads.”
Like Mr. Radler, Mr. Black – also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour – spent a period of time in the United States free of the responsibilities of newspaper ownership.
Mr. Radler now runs a company called Alberta Newspaper Group Inc., which owns several small Alberta publications including the Medicine Hat News (once owned by the same company as the Edmonton Journal) and the Lethbridge Herald (once owned by the same company as the Globe and Mail), plus some in other provinces.
For his part, Mr. Black has recently returned to Canada after his sojourn abroad and is said to be pondering acquiring some newspapers anew with what remains of his fortune.
Perhaps one or the other of these gentlemen – or even both, happily together once again – will take a look at the Edmonton Journal now that it has shed its inconveniently unionized printing operation.