Retiring Postmedia executive may be taking home $200,000 in retention bonuses, as newsroom layoffs continue, says media union

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Front page of the Vancouver Sun days after announcing layoffs. Photo by STUART NEATBY

A representative of BC’s biggest media union says that a third Postmedia executive, who received a retention bonus of $200,000 last fall, has left the company.

In a statement, Postmedia announced today that Executive Vice-President Gordon Fisher would be retiring at the end of April. Fischer was appointed to the position of head of National Post in March of 2015. The statement did not indicate why Fischer was stepping down.

Postmedia owns multiple news outlets across Canada, including Vancouver’s two biggest dailies, and recently announced another round of newsroom layoffs. Fifty-four staff members from the Vancouver Sun and the Province, including several grads from Langara’s journalism program, were handed pink slips last week. Although the Pacific Newspaper Group division of Postmedia, which operates these two newspapers recently reported profits of $18 million, Postmedia currently has a debt load of $341 million, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

“Back in the fall [Postmedia] set aside $2.3 million in bonuses for their top executives,” said Jennifer Moreau, vice-president UNIFOR local 2000, which represents newsroom staff at the Sun and the Province.

“These so called retention bonuses are going to people who are leaving the company. Meanwhile they’re laying off 54 reporters from the Sun and the Province.”

Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey has previously accepted a retention bonus of $900,000, but admits in a Feb. 7 interview with the Toronto Life that he probably would not have left without the bonus.

Surrey newspapers merging

 

 

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Front page of The Leader’s website on March 31.

One more metro newspaper closing its doors today

The Surrey Leader celebrated its 88th year in publication this year, but announced that it will be merging with the Surrey Now. Only one staff member, Rick Kupchuk, from the Surrey Leader will be moving over to the Now.

Kevin Diakiw is one of the journalists leaving the Surrey Leader today, and despite an invitation to join the Surrey Now, decided to leave his journalism career behind him.

“I’m going to miss all of the people I work with, this is probably one of the most crack team of journalists in community journalism today,” said Diakiw. “Journalism has been great to me, it’s been a marvellous ride, we’ve done some amazing work here, but I think it’s time to move on.”

In its final issue, the newspaper published an obituary with condolences expressed by several civic leaders including former mayors Diane Watts and Bob Bose, longtime MLA Sue Hammell, Surrey Food Bank Executive Director Marilyn Herrmann, and Dave Hayer, former assistant editor of the Indo-Canadian Times newspaper.

Each remaining staff member also wrote their own opinion piece, as their personal goodbye to the longstanding paper.

Jennifer Moreau, the Vice President of Unifor Local 2000, said the merging of the two papers means less coverage of local news.

“My heart really goes out to those people losing their jobs,” said Moreau. “It means there’s going to be fewer reporters covering the stories so it’s going to be more difficult to get a really good in depth understanding of what’s going on in your local community.”

Dale Bass, the B.C. and Yukon representative for the Canadian Association of Journalists said the loss of the Surrey Leader means a loss of community history.

“Anytime a newspaper is shut down, it silences voices, it means stories that won’t be told, people who won’t be heard,” Bass said in an email. “In the case of the Surrey Leader, that voice being silenced is 88 years old and that’s a lot of history that is being given up on. It’s been the newspaper of record for many who live there.”

Langara rapper getting ready to release new EP

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Tobias Ramage during the Guilt&Co. open mic night on Mar. 26. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Social work and rapping may seem like polar opposites, but it’s all part of one Langara student’s life.

Tobias Ramage is a second-year social work student by day, and rapper by night. His artist name is NamedTobias. and is currently looking to release his next EP by the end of summer, and it will consist of three songs.

“The theme is, I wanna say strength,” said Ramage. “The title is the Blood Work, so I believe that like the blood of Jesus, in terms of him dying for our sins, can, cover us, make us pure, and we can shoot for the stars.”

Religion

Although God is an inspiration for his songs, Ramage tries to make his music mostly positive, rather than just religious.

“I try my best not to make my music preachy,” Ramage said. “It’s more so my belief and my stance and all my music is more so positive motivating type music.”

Collaborations

Eyren Uggenti, a rapper by the name of Somethin’ Like That, performed with Ramage on Sunday at Guilt and Co. during Emotions open mic night, and has collaborated with Ramage previously. He said Ramage brings a lot to a team, and is his favourite collaboration to date.

“To date, he’s my favourite collaboration that I’ve experienced as an artist,” Uggenti said. “His focus and his eye and ear for music and the pursuit of music has been really really constructive, on the part of us progressing through both the Vancouver hiphop scene, and the even broader scene outside of the city.”

Different approach to rap

Sarah-Audrey Mome, a freelance stylist, is a fan of Ramage, and said he has a different way of approaching hip-hop, which is one of the things that draws her to his music.

“I like Tobias’ music because he takes a fresh take on what it means to be hip-hop and what it means to rap about struggles,” said Mome. “He just tries to sound like himself, and I really appreciate that about him.”

Pole dancing still has a stigma attached

 

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Roberta Hayes after teaching the beginner pole dancing class on Mar. 27. Photo by LAURA BROUGHAM

Normally entering a room with one wall covered in a black sheet and fairy lights, with multiple poles throughout the room would be unusual, but not at Ava Fitness.

Ava Fitness offers a variety of pole, aerial, dance and fitness classes, and focuses on being an accepting and welcoming place, according to Alex Connolly, pole dancing instructor at Ava Fitness New West and co-owner at Ava Fitness Vancouver. Pole fitness classes originated in the ‘90s from Canadian-born Fawnia Mondey, and have grown in popularity since. There are now provincial and national pole dancing competitions, and the next national competition will take place June 10 in Vancouver. The pole dancing community supports and motivates women, rather than focusing on the negatives, according to Connolly.

“I was just really inspired by the community and how it encourages women to root for each others rise, and their physical, actual, literal rise up the pole,” said Connolly. “We live in a society where women are constantly told to judge each other, and bring each other down…and in the pole community it’s completely opposite.”

Roberta Hayes, a fitness instructor at Ava Fitness, said the stigma around the sport has shifted, due to the shift in public perception of women.

“I think there’s been a cultural shift in general, with the growth of awareness of sexism and exotic dance and feminism,” said Hayes. “There’s a general consciousness shift that’s gone on, and also we’re getting better and better with women being sexual over time.”

Cyanne Nisbett, a student at Ava Fitness, said that even within her own family there is a stigma against it, and that she faces criticism when she posts things online.

“I’ve definitely encountered the stigma, and it blows my mind,” Nisbett said. When she posts things online, “I’ve had people in my family be like ‘well what about when you go to try and find work?”

Ava Fitness is opening a new studio on Oak and Broadway April 1.

Future of McBarge still a secret

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McBarge during renovations. SUBMITTED PHOTO

McBarge may have started as a fast food outlet, but there are no fast answers about the future of the barge.

The barge, originally built as the first floating McDonalds for Vancouver’s Expo ’86, was recently moved from the Burrard Inlet to Maple Ridge to begin renovations after being in the inlet for 30 years. Howard Meakin bought the barge in 1999, and said he will be ready to announce what it will be used for in three to four months.

“It’s an exciting venue, it’s world class,” Meakin. “It will appeal to all people and all countries.”

One thing Meakin did say is that the barge will look different than people remember.

“The roof has to be completely replaced, and we’re putting a new roof-deck on it and it will actually have quite a nice display area on the roof deck as well.”

What will be on display? “That’s the secret,” Meakin laughed.

Two possible locations

According to David Eaton, the architect working on the project, there are two places currently being considered to anchor the barge.

“We’re looking at two locations, both have different timelines, both have different aspects to them that make them quite unique in their solutions,” said Eaton.

Barge with a long history

Suzan Stamenkovic, a travel account manager at Brave New World Travel, used to work on McBarge, and said that she hopes they return the barge to False Creek, as a way to honour the Expo.

“I would actually really like to see it back in False Creek, and turned back into a McDonalds,” Stamenkovic said in an email. “Looking at the area now, you can’t even tell there was a World Exposition there. This would be a perfect reminder, be a ‘living’ reminder of what was and how exciting and lively the city was then.”

And for people who want more information about the McBarge project? Eaton says, “Stay tuned, I guess that’s all we can tell you.”