The Hamilton Spectator may soon be a Postmedia publication as its parent company Nordstar Capital is in merger talks.
Nordstar Capital owns the Hamilton Spectator as part of its Metroland Media Group.
Nordstar is also the parent company of The Toronto Star.
The proposed merger will see Jordan Bitove, publisher of the Toronto Star and owner of Nordstar, retaining effective control of the Toronto Star.
Postmedia will hold the controlling interest in the remaining publications.
The Future of The Hamilton Spectator is Bleak
Becoming a Postmedia publication will devastate what’s left of the Hamilton Spectator.
Recent events at the Montreal Gazette foretell TheSpec’s future.
The Gazette is losing 25 percent of what’s left of its newsroom staff this year.
Following a decade of deep cuts, The Gazette is already a shadow of its former self.
The Gazette and TheSpec were Southam Inc publications during the golden age of newspapers.
The Revival That Never Happened
Shortly after buying the Torstar media empire in August 2020
2022 , Jordan Bitove and Paul Rivett began meeting with Hamilton’s political and business leaders via video conference.
As relayed to me by participants, discussions focused on what people believe needs to change at the newspaper and the paper’s role in Hamilton.
Near the end of 2021, there was increasing chatter about change coming to TheSpec.
Hiring local writers to cover local stories was a consistent theme I heard.
Hopes for a revival of TheSpec – once the flagship of the Southam Inc. news empire – died as the corporate divorce of Bitove and Rivett’s partnership began.
After the divorce, in November 2022, Bitove gained ownership and control of Nordstar’s newspapers.
Bitove’s focus is the Toronto Star.
It is the paper he loves, the paper he wants to succeed.
The Hamilton Spectator is just another property in the Metroland portfolio.
The proposed merger gives Bitove what he wants and Postmedia yet another news brand to strip-mine for short-term profit.
Postmedia’s Roots and (unknown) Presence in Hamilton
The Postmedia chain traces its roots to the former Southam newspaper empire founded by Hamilton Spectator owner William Southam in 1904.
Postmedia’s name is derived from its flagship publication, The National Post.
The National Post was incubated in TheSpec’s former building at 44 Frid Street before its launch in 1998.
The Post was the passion project of media baron Conrad Black, who owned the Hamilton Spectator as part of his Hollinger Inc empire.
TheSpec was still part of the Southam family of papers.
Long story short, TheSpec’s building at 44 Frid Street in Hamilton was the operational centre of the Hollinger empire.
TheSpec experienced four ownership changes in the last half of 1998, eventually becoming a subsidiary of Torstar.
The national operations for the Hollinger papers remained in Hamilton, primarily copy editing and print production, located in a nondescript building at 1605 Main Street West.
Former Edmonton Journal editor Margo Goodhand wrote in 2016:
“Then the tour began, a distinctly depressing stroll past Regina Leader-Post sports pages, Arts fronts for the Montreal Gazette, editorial pages for the Vancouver Sun. The art director told me he was only allowed to use certain templates for section fronts—careful, pretty and bland, the opposite of what I was used to from the Free Press’s brilliant art director.
I leaned over one twentysomething’s shoulder and asked how he was able to edit an op-ed about Granville Street. ‘Have you ever seen Vancouver?’ I asked.
‘I’ve never been outside of Hamilton,’ he said. ‘But I’d like to.'”
Is It Time to Prepare an Obituary for TheSpec?
It has to be written, people are doing good work at TheSpec’s new strip mall office on the East Mountain.
The paper is no longer at 44 Frid. That building was sold.
A sad milestone shared by other once-dominant newspapers across North America.
As staff retire, they are not replaced.
It is the classic newspaper death spiral. Fewer journalists equals less journalism. At the same time, readers are being asked to pay more.
TheSpec will continue to exist as a brand, eventually becoming a zombie publication.
It is a shame.
The newspaper that launches Canada’s greatest news empire is being reduced to not even pulp.
Production Details v. 1.0.1 Published: July 7, 2023 Last edited: July 7, 2023 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version v. 1.0.1 correction to date 2020, not 2022, when TheSpec was sold.
Paul Wells, whose career began during the peak of Canadian newspapers that came with the National Post newspaper war, writes about the fate of The Gazette, how newspapers had an unsustainable monopoly, and what the end of the monopolies means for politics in Canada.