HALIFAX - It has been seven months since Mark Lever had to make one of the toughest decisions he’s ever had to make.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lever, the president and CEO of SaltWire Network, decided to close the daily Summerside Journal-Pioneer as well as all of his company’s weekly newspapers in Atlantic Canada to survive the economic downturn that was chopping into its revenues and advertising.
Although the decisions were difficult and painful, Lever said he feels the company is in a position to grow again. He announced Wednesday, Oct. 21 SaltWire Network is bringing back its Summerside paper as a weekly and restoring five popular, well-known weekly papers in Truro, New Glasgow, the Annapolis Valley, and southwestern Nova Scotia areas.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be able to bring these print products back,” he said. “We’ve seen some brands disappear in our industry, but we were able to press pause, get a grip on what this new market was giving us and come back with a well thought out product.”
Lever said he’s excited to be bringing good news to these communities and he’s optimistic more of the papers will return in other parts of the region, including other Nova Scotia communities that lost their papers, as well as in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Markets that were marginal for us were going to be underwater so we made some quick decisions to put them on a hot idle."
- Mark Lever
He’s much more optimistic of the future than he was in March when the region was in the grip of a national lockdown brought on by the pandemic.
“It’s exciting. We’re hiring journalists across the region and we’re building where we see the market opportunity,” Lever said. “We are still active in every market that we pulled a product and we are still telling those local stories that matter. We’re listening more to what the market needs and what the community needs from us. We’re re-imaging these old brands and pointing them in a direction that’s sustainable for the long term.”
Lever said March’s decision was a tough one. Looking back, he said the company was able to make what now appears to be the right decisions.
“We were struggling in some of these markets pre-COVID and we’d come so far in understanding our market and our purpose in these communities two years before COVID that we knew quickly that a lot of our revenue was going,” Lever said. “Markets that were marginal for us were going to be underwater so we made some quick decisions to put them on a hot idle, or pause, until we figured out when there would be a post-COVID world and get a better understanding of what the market would give us.”