The Guardian newspaper has been in operation since 1877. In April 2017, the paper was purchased by SaltWire Network Inc., in a deal that included 27 publications in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and PEI, and six printing plants in NS and NL.
On PEI, SaltWire now owns The Guardian and the Journal-Pioneer.
Wayne Thibodeau is the Regional Managing Editor of the two papers. “We have two distinct papers with their own editors and they make their own decisions,” says Wayne. “My job is to make sure that the newsrooms and the advertising departments work cooperatively together, because we have to be efficient.
“This is a fun place to work. There are challenges and stress, but what other position allows you to be at the front line of history as events unfold? We cover some of the most dramatic moments in people’s lives. A hundred years from now, when people want to know what happened today, they will be able to find our archives and see The Guardian.”
About the staff
Saltwire has a total of about 950 employees. About 90 people work at The Guardian, and another 18 work at Journal Pioneer in Summerside. Most positions are full-time. In Charlottetown, 16 of the 18 newsroom staff work full-time. Delivery drivers work part-time.
“If you are looking for traditional 9 to 5 hours, this is not the career for you,” says Wayne. “Journalists work odd hours, most holidays, and are on site during breaking stories at any time. One Web Editor arrives in the building at 5 am and is done by 1:30 pm. The second Web Editor works from 1 pm until 9 pm. The Senior Night Editor works from 4 pm until 1 am.
“This industry offers great excitement, but there are elements of danger too. We’ve been caught in snowstorms, and I have been knocked off my feet while covering a hurricane. When other departments close because of a snowstorm, we bring extra people into the newsroom, because we need to keep our audience up to date on storm warnings, road closures, and weather events.”
- Journalists in Management: Senior News Editor, Managing Editor
- About 18 Journalists in Charlottetown and six in Summerside and Alberton, including General Assignment Reporter, Chief Political Reporter, Editors who edit copy and write editorials
- Production people: Copy Editors and Page Builders who have a graphic design background
- Advertising production: Graphic Artists build print ads and digital ads. Many of the people in these positions were trained at Holland College.
- Digital team: Web Editors and Digital Editors
- Administrative and Customer Service Representatives
- Circulation team is a mix of people in administration and management roles
- Sales team is responsible for advertising and marketing
- Finance and regional administration: Chartered Accountant, Finance and Payroll Specialists, and Accounts Payable and Receivable. Some work locally just for The Guardian and the Journal Pioneer, and some regional positions are based in Charlottetown and support newspapers in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Is there a need for bilingual staff?
“The face of our city is changing, so we need to diversify our front desk and newsroom and look at the segments of our community in addition to French and English.”
“In the newsroom, fundamental journalism skills like being a great storyteller, asking great questions, doing research, and having good contacts in the community have not changed and never will,” says Wayne.
“When I look for great Journalists, I still look for those qualities, and then we look at digital skills. Everyone needs to be on social media. You need to be savvy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and use them to market your stories and generate story ideas. You need to know how to post stories to the web and how to edit your own video.
“A lot of skills are needed – you need to take notes, tweet, shoot video, and take pictures. Photographers have become a thing of the past. Most reporters shoot their own pictures and videos. In a breaking news event, they may be taking videos and photos and filing the story all on an iPhone, and within minutes it is posted on the website.
“I look more for soft skills than hard skills. What I need to see is enthusiasm and excitement, and I am less concerned about your diploma, degree, or experience. I need someone who will not be clock watching, but will get the job done, because in our job there is always a deadline, and the presses will roll with or without us.
“We had a young fellow who came in for his OJT and just wouldn’t leave. He was always at the door asking to help, and didn’t even care if he was paid. It’s nice if someone comes in with a lot of experience, but if you are a young, hungry journalist with fire in your belly, we are prepared to invest in you, because we know it will pay dividends.”
“A lot of the back-end production is done in Halifax, but some of those jobs may be coming this way, and we will be looking for people who know how to build and maintain websites and HTML,” says Wayne.
Positions hardest to fill
“Of all the positions in the building, probably those hardest to fill are in our circulation/distribution department. A lot of that work is done very early in the morning. Our papers and flyers are distributed from our warehouse on Longworth Avenue. There is some heavy lifting involved, and there is a lot of coordination, so those are difficult positions to fill.”
Front desk and administrative positions are also hard to fill these days. “Good people are tough to get for these roles,” says Wayne. “They are the first point of contact with the public, and they need to have great telephone skills, computer skills, and other office skills.”
“Some of the more difficult positions we have had to fill in the past are for people with a sales background who have experience and are comfortable in the sales role. Many salaries are based on commission, so they depend on their ability to sell.
“Opportunities are growing as the baby boomers retire and we continue to see an exodus of our best and brightest to other parts of the country. More and more, it will be the employees who decide where they want to work, and employers will need to really search to find great candidates.”
How to get your foot in the door
“Because Charlottetown is a sought-after location, we get a lot of applicants for our news positions,” says Wayne.
“Some smaller community newspapers continue to struggle to get people to apply. If you are prepared to work in a weekly in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are vacant positions all the time. Working at a small community weekly paper is an incredible training opportunity to get experience in a whole host of skill sets.
“Be willing to start at a part-time position, do the weekend, night, and holiday shifts no one else wants, and wait for full-time work to become available.”
Education required to become a Journalist
“A journalism degree is a good start, but if you have an interest in your community, you can take a picture and you are not a bad writer, you can still get into the business. The key is experience.
“Our schools are delivering great journalists and graphic designers, but we don’t get many applicants with a lot of experience. We get a lot of applicants with the two-year Holland College diploma or the two-plus-two degree in Print Journalism from UPEI and Holland College. We also see candidates from Kings College in Halifax, Carleton University in Ottawa, and Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelors and often a Masters Degree.
“The more education you have, the better, but at the end of the day, you still need a good skill set. Some of the top journalists in the country have no official training.”
Jobs are posted on www.saltwire.com and www.cream.thechronicleherald.ca and in the classified section of The Guardian. “It is also important to reach out, because often jobs are filled by people who already have their foot in the door, who have already worked part-time or who drop off a resumé in person at a time when we are short-staffed.”
The job interview
- Make sure you read The Guardian before the interview, and be able to talk about some of the stories on the front page.
- Show enthusiasm and “fire in the belly”.
- Show that you understand the community you live in. Know what the last big political issue was in the province. Show that you have a good grasp on the latest news, local politics, sports, lifestyles, your country, and your world.
- Why do you want to work at The Guardian?
- What do you know about the journalism industry and the challenges it is facing?
- Have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and keep it professional.
- Show off your soft skills such as team work.
- Describe your education, background, and travelling you have done, which broadens your perspective on the world.
Wayne’s employment journey
“I always knew I wanted to be a journalist,” says Wayne. He grew up in western PEI in Miminegash, and in high school worked on the school newspaper. He connected with a reporter at the Journal Pioneer, and started working there. “I did whatever they wanted me to do – I worked evenings, week-ends, and holidays, and I bought an old car.
“I applied to Holland College, didn’t get in, and by the next year was working at The Eastern Graphic in Montague and then at The West Prince Graphic. It gave me tremendous experience, because I was doing it all.”
Wayne took a year off to take the Holland College marketing program in Tignish, and then worked for a few years as the chief political reporter at The Guardian. He went to Global TV and worked in Halifax and Charlottetown, and then came back to The Guardian. Five years ago, he became the News Editor, and then two years ago became the Regional Managing Editor.
“We are looking at growing some of our regional hubs, adding new digital and web-based positions here on PEI, and we hope to continue to add to the SaltWire family here on PEI.
“SaltWire offers opportunities across Atlantic Canada, including corporate headquarters in Halifax, which is ramping up and filling positions in a whole host of roles. When senior positions come up, they first look to hire from within.”
The future of news
“There is a greater appetite than ever before for local news, and more people are reading The Guardian than ever before in its history. The challenge is to monetize that. Our audience in print is declining, but our digital numbers have been increasing year over year. The challenge for the industry is to figure out how to compete with Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which are multi-billion dollar organizations that funnel advertising money away from small communities like Charlottetown into their headquarters in the US, and invest nothing back.
“We invest in local journalism and in local sponsorships for entertainment and sports teams. SaltWire gives us the strength in numbers and the size to be able to compete. The Guardian needs to stay focused on local news. If we continue to maintain a strong presence on PEI, advertisers will continue to come to us, because we can deliver local attention to the products and services delivered by local businesses.”
For more information about a career with Saltwire Network, visit www.saltwire.com.