Longtime journalists laid off from Vancouver weekly Georgia Straight

The Georgia Straight was purchased by Victoria-based Overstory Media Group, which oversees 12 digital publications across Canada.

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Longtime employees of Vancouver weekly publication The Georgia Strait, including editor-in-chief Charlie Smith, have been laid off.

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Smith, senior editor Martin Dunphy and reporter Carlito Pablito were given the boot days after the announcement that the alternative weekly has been acquired by new owners Overstory Media Group.

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In a post written on Substack, Smith said he is grateful to have worked at the Straight for 28 years where he was given “tremendous freedom.”

“I’m healthy and happy and looking forward to the future. I’ve been given many breaks in life and we’ll see what doors open for me in the weeks and months to come.”

Smith thanked his colleagues for their work during the pandemic and getting the publication “to the point where it could be purchased by a new owner.” 

Former staff reporter Carlito Pablo wrote a succinct farewell on Twitter, saying: “It’s been one hell of a ride. So long.”

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Wednesday appeared to be Smith’s last day at the Straight, with his Twitter bio saying he won’t be able to access his former work email address after Sept. 28. Smith started as a news editor at the Straight in 1994 and became editor-in-chief in 2005.

Founded by Vancouver resident Dan McLeod in 1967, the Straight went on to be Canada’s largest urban weekly publication known as an outspoken alternative outlet and for its arts and entertainment coverage. McLeod was editor and publisher until 2020.

Georgia Straight staff Mason Dixon (left) and Ken Lester (centre) meet with publisher Dan McLeod in this 1972 archive photo.
Georgia Straight staff Mason Dixon (left) and Ken Lester (centre) meet with publisher Dan McLeod in this 1972 archive photo. Photo by Gord Croucher /PNG

That year, the Straight was purchased for $1.25 million by Toronto-based Media Central Corporation Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in March. 

The subsequent acquisition by Overstory was announced in a news release on Tuesday, touted as a return of the company to West Coast ownership. The acquisition price was not disclosed.

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In a statement, Overstory pledged to reinstate the Straight’s focus on arts and culture and enhance coverage of news, entertainment, music and food. It has posted positions for a new arts editor, music editor and food writer.

The statement also hinted at more change to come.

“Over the coming weeks and months we’re going to take time to talk with readers, partners, and the community at large to redefine and rebuild the publication that’s lost its way over the past several years,” said Overstory CEO Farhan Mohamed.

“At its best, The Straight captured and explored the beating heart of Vancouver’s culture — and became part of it. We are committed to bringing that back.”

Overstory  has more than 50 employees and 12 digital publications, including the Capital Daily in Victoria, Burnaby Beacon, and Fraser Valley Current.

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