Bell Media layoffs slash already-thin resources

Cuts to local, national journalism ‘worrisome’ but not unexpected

Michael D’Alimonte, former weekend anchor at CTV Winnipeg, is one of the 4,800 employees laid off by Bell Media amid recent cuts.

MIke Thiessen

Bell Media’s latest round of cuts and layoffs is shocking but not surprising to some local reporters and journalists.

On Feb. 8, Bell announced plans to slash 4,800 jobs – its largest round of layoffs in decades. It also includes the sale of 45 of its 103 radio stations and the end of multiple television newscasts at CTV stations across Canada.

Michael D’Alimonte lost his weekend anchor position but says he’s not taking the loss personally and wasn’t surprised by the announcement. Bell Media cut 210 employees in 2021 and another 1,300 people in 2023. D’Alimonte says he anticipated layoffs months ago and expected to see more after Bell Let’s Talk Day in January.

D’Alimonte says he spent about six months doing a job that “wasn’t really” his and remembers thinking, “Okay, something has to break at some point.”

“Working at Bell Media ... there is kind of already a culture of ‘When are cuts going to come, and will I be impacted?’” he says.

D’Alimonte worked for Narcity Media before getting his master’s in journalism. He then worked for CTV Ottawa before moving to a producer and reporter role at CTV Winnipeg in 2020.

He says journalists across the industry and the country are being tasked with more work but have fewer resources in the newsroom. Although this isn’t a new phenomenon, this often means TV reporters have to act as their own cameraperson, producer and editor to package stories, on tight deadlines.

At the same time, this means there are fewer reporters available to research and cover news stories which impacts what viewers get to see about what is happening in their communities.

“The less people we have on the ground ... the less people are going to be able to see what’s on the news,” D’Alimonte says. “I think the latest rounds of restructuring is a little troublesome or worrisome, because it’s

not like Winnipeg is a small city.”
Although D’Alimonte says he and his

colleagues were able to continue producing quality reporting with a lack of time and resources, he believes they could have done better if they had more support.

“What happens to all the other smaller cities and towns that don’t boast a million people?” he says. “I can only imagine that their local news coverage is going to continue dwindling, as well, if it’s not already obsolete.”

Bell Media isn’t the only company to announce cutbacks. In December last year, CBC said it would cut roughly 600 jobs and leave 200 positions unfilled.

In the United States, the Los Angeles Times fired 115 journalists, or 20 per cent of its newsroom, in late January, and the Washington Post announced plans to cut 240 jobs in October last year.

Cecil Rosner, an investigative journalist and adjunct University of Winnipeg professor, is shocked but not surprised by Bell Media’s layoffs, because of current trends in the media landscape.

“They’re making decisions based on what’s best for their shareholders, but the thing is, journalism ought to transcend that,” Rosner, who worked at the CBC for three decades, says. “Anyone that owns a newspaper or a TV or radio station or a journalism outlet also has a public responsibility that they need to take on if they’re going to enter into that kind of business.”

He says fewer journalists mean less scrutiny for large corporations and government bodies. It leaves room for the remaining media to be more easily manipulated when they don’t have the time and resources to verify facts or challenge what those groups are telling them.

He says it’s worrisome to see the layoffs happening nationally.

Rosner thinks different levels of government need to step in and have a larger role in ensuring journalism survives.

“If this trend continues, it’s got serious consequences for how the public is informed about things,” he says. “If you’re an ordinary citizen, you can’t go to every city-hall meeting or every legislative-committee meeting. The public depends on journalists to be their eyes and ears all over the place.”

On top of creating more gaps in what is being reported on, a lack of resources leads to burnout for others in the industry like Joey Slattery.

Slattery left CTV Winnipeg in late August after about three years working as a full-time sports reporter. He says he had an epiphany after going on a two-week vacation and felt like there was no path forward for him.

“When I looked at it, there’s no more money, there’s no more help,” Slattery says. “Then I noticed with the resources, there was probably a chance that my sports job would turn into a news and sports hybrid. I saw the writing on the wall, and I just made the decision.”

Slattery had worked for CTV since 2013 in Timmins, North Bay, Regina and Edmonton and then moved to Winnipeg in

2020. Now he works freelance and as a sideline reporter, covering the Winnipeg Sea Bears for the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

Sometimes, after reporting on Winnipeg Jets games, he would be called to fill in for the morning show, just a few hours after his previous shift ended.

“I never worked 24 hours straight, but there wasn’t an hour in the day that I didn’t work,” Slattery says. “It got pretty intense. That’s what was starting to wear on me.”

Working overtime wasn’t uncommon in the other markets he experienced, and he says doing that type of work was different when he was younger, but it became harder to bounce back.

Slattery says he hopes the next generation of journalists will help change the culture in the industry. He also worries that, with the layoffs, many younger journalists won’t receive mentorship from senior reporters to help them find their footing or not have opportunity to find a job.

“You’re walking on eggshells and just thankful to even have a job, which is also a product of the journalism industry,” Slat- tery says. “That’s not a way to keep people motivated.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 29, 2024)

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