Hill Times expansion no surprise, says Carleton prof

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At a time when high-profile media outfits like Postmedia are facing uncertain futures, the Hill Times is doing something different.

Hill Times publisher Jim Creskey

by Marc Shaw

It's expanding.

In an era of media consolidation and layoffs, the Hill Times’ moves aren’t actually that counterintuitive, said Carleton University journalism professor Randy Boswell.

“I know that it sounds unusual, given all we’ve heard lately in the Canadian news industry, but Hill Times is a good model for the kind of news organization that can survive and potentially thrive in this media landscape,” said Mr. Boswell in a recent interview with OBJ. “A lot of news organizations would kill for the kind of loyalty and engagement that the people who subscribe to the Hill Times have.”

Effective April 13, the Hill Times’ print edition will move from publishing once a week, as it has since 1989, to twice a week with editions on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The paper has cultivated a loyal readership over nearly three decades of publication and the time was finally right to expand, said publisher Jim Creskey.

“I think, in a way, this hasn’t changed since the 1980s. We’ve always wanted to look at the government of Canada, the people of the Hill and the politics as if this was a small city. We try to be the small-town paper for the government of Canada and now we’re going to take another step forward and deepen that,” Mr. Creskey said.

The new edition will allow for enhanced political coverage, new Hill columns and features, along with the Canadian global and diplomatic content that was previously included in Embassy, a magazine Hill Times Publishing was already running. The Hill Times will absorb Embassy in order to access its content and the merger has no layoffs attached to it.

In spite of the changes at the Hill Times, it’s hard to think about Ottawa news organizations without the spectre of Postmedia rearing its head. GoldenTree, the hedge fund which owns 52 per cent of Postmedia, is looking to sell its stake in the company. Were that to happen, it would mean a shift in the ownership of Canada’s largest chain of newspapers.

Even with their prevalence in the news, it’s important to remember that the Postmedia properties are different from the Hill Times, Mr. Creskey said.

“I have no information on what (Postmedia CEO) Paul Godfrey thinks aside from what he says publicly,” he said. “When you look around the world and see newspapers where you have a majority ownership that cares about newspapers and they’re willing to take risks or willing to absorb a loss to get by, it’s the right kind of ownership. But when you have to sell shares to a hedge fund, it puts you in a different place.”

Organizations: Hill Times Publishing, Carleton University

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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