John Cruickshank stepping down as Publisher of the Toronto Star
Move comes as Torstar outsources its printing operations, and has laid off ten members of the tablet team responsible for work on the Toronto Star’s Star Touch tablet app
The publisher of the Toronto Star, John Cruickshank, will be stepping down Torstar Corporation announced this morning. The announcement comes only two weeks after Torstar announced full year 2015 earnings results, with the newspaper publisher reporting a $233.2 million loss in the quarter, much of its attributable to $213.3 million of in non-cash impairment charges.
The company also, at the time, reiterated its commitment to its Star Touch app, a digital solution based on the La Presse+ platform (La Presse has gone virtually digital-only, only producing a print edition on the weekend, depending on its app and the web to reach readers on weekdays).
“Let me begin by saying that we’re in the midst of a meaningful transition at Torstar,” said David Holland, President and CEO, in the company’s earnings statement. “We did not expect this transition to be easy, but we do believe, it will ultimately prove to be very worthwhile. We’ve repositioned our asset base in part with the allocation of capital to VerticalScope and within the Canadian media operations we are investing in the Star Touch app with a goal of developing another contribution generating platform in addition to the print and browser platforms.”
Torstar invested $14 million in its tablet effort, launching its new app in September of 2015.
“We have really changed the organization so that our newsroom is really doing the tablet first. This is not something that we’re doing in addition to everything else, this is how we’re reorganizing our approach to news,” Cruickshank said in September.
“If we have anything like the success they have, then our business model will work really well. It will provide marketers with a way of connecting with young people that frankly they won’t be able to get anywhere else.”
But its commitment to Star Touch did not last even a year, with the company announcing in January that ten members of the tablet team, along with three in digital, would be laid off. Torstar also announced it would be closing its printing facility as it begins to outsource production.
“These job losses are obviously related to the challenging economic realities in which we operate,” Cruickshank wrote in a staff memo. “I’m sure you read all the newspaper industry stories I read about what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in the next year or two. Growing our digital operation in 2014-15, and launching Toronto Star Touch last fall, were moves we made with a degree of experimentation and uncertainty about what was needed in the marketplace and what the revenue impacts would be. Digital revenue continues to be a work in progress for virtually every media company, but we have had some success on the web and we are seeing a steady and encouraging increase in the number of Star Touch users. And as we anticipated would happen, tablet production has become more efficient each week since the launch.”
David Holland will now assume Cruickshank’s publisher responsibilities on an interim basis.
Here is Torstar’s announcement:
TORONTO, ONTARIO – March 16, 2016 – Torstar Corporation today announced that John Cruickshank will be stepping down as Publisher of the Toronto Star and President of Star Media Group effective May 4, 2016. David Holland, President and CEO of Torstar Corporation, will assume Mr. Cruickshank’s responsibilities on an interim basis.
Mr. Cruickshank has served as Publisher of the Toronto Star since January 2009 and was the 9th Publisher in the newspaper’s 124-year history.
“John’s leadership and strategic thinking in all aspects of the business have had a significant positive impact on Torstar,” Holland said. “Again and again, he made the tough and innovative decisions necessary to move the Toronto Star forward in these challenging times.”
“Ever since he took over as Publisher, John has led the Toronto Star to new editorial heights and our record in investigative reporting is second to none,” said John Honderich, Chair of the Board of Torstar. “At the same time, he has wisely and innovatively guided Star Media Group through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. We owe him a great deal.”
Mr. Cruickshank said it has been “a privilege to serve with such a remarkable team of journalists and all those who support them, including Torstar’s senior management and our progressive, engaged and enthusiastic board of directors. This has been the most stimulating, demanding and enjoyable period of my professional life.”