A Different Point of View....: Don’t weep for censoring, right-wingPostmedia newspapers

Another 90 dedicated journalists in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa lost their jobs Tuesday as cutthroat Publisher Paul Godfrey slashed away again in an effort to turn Postmedia into a profit-making business. 

In a bizarre move, two competing papers will continue to be separate entities, but there will be one set of editors and most journalists will be shared.

Paul Godfrey – CEO Postmedia Corp

In Vancouver, the Sun and The Province will come under one roof. In Edmonton, the Journal and the Sun will come together; in Calgary, the Calgary Herald and the Sun; and in Ottawa, The Ottawa Citizen and the Sun.

This latest maneuver, in effect, reduces the four cities to print media monopolies. Even as weak as the original Postmedia and Sun papers were, they still competed with each other. Now the same editors will assign reporters from both papers.

Competition Bureau screwed up

This fiasco is possible because the Competition Bureau was wrong in allowing Postmedia to buy the Sun chain less than a year ago. Godfrey had promised the Bureau he would run two separate chains, but this hybrid arrangement clearly violates the spirt of Godfrey’s promise.

Godfrey’s likely last move to try to save his flagging empire will see him close one of the papers in each of the four cities. Look for this to happen within a year.

Postmedia is losing millions each year because of the collapse of newspaper advertising. Meanwhile, the papers have failed to make a successful move to the Internet. Postmedia, which is controlled by American hedge funds, is carrying a debt of $671-million.

Martin O’Hanlon, president of the Communications Workers of America, said “This is not because these papers aren’t making money, this is because Postmedia has a massive debt. “This money that they’re saving by laying people off is going to hedge fund managers in New York.”

If Godfrey cared about journalism he would have been out of the field long ago. Anyone of integrity interested in good journalism would not have stayed around to see these papers turned into shells of their former selves. Maybe it helps that Godfrey commands a large salary, is a multi-millionaire and that, as a prominent (yet failing) businessman he can strut around town as though he is important. In 2014, when the company lost $263.4-million, Godfrey’s income was $1.7-million.

Media experts talk about the day when someone will come up with a formula for quality media to hold its own on the Internet. We’ve been hearing this for 10 years.

Canadians deserve better

While local communities still rely on the shrivelled remains of the once proud broadsheet newspapers, our cities deserve much better. In addition to the problem of the cuts, corporate-owned media in Canada censors or ignores important news. Officialdom commands their full attention, while unions, the climate crisis, and family issues are pretty much ignored. All Canadian papers except The Toronto Star supported Harper values during his ruthless run in Ottawa.

Because of their systematic censorship and support for damaging neo-liberal policies, we should not weep over the decline of Postmedia newspapers. But communities and all levels of government better wake up and get involved in re-establishing credible media.

Firstly, there are about 10 small, independent news sites on the Internet, ranging from iPolitics, to The Tyee to rabble.ca. None of them reach very many Canadians. I’ve been telling them that if they want to really serve the public, they should amalgamate or co-operate in some way. Among them they employ about 20 journalists. I have fundraising experience, and I know money could be raised for such a project. Nothing has come from my suggestion.

By the way, I’ve developed a model that I think would allow a community-owned, Internet-based news organization to become self-sustaining. If anyone is interested, please email me: fillmore0274@rogers.com 

I’ve berated progressive, experienced journalist for not getting out of the mainstream media racket and helping operate or set up media groups to serve their communities. But they’ve been beaten down so badly they don’t have any spunk left, let alone demonstrate a social conscience.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is the one organization that could help lead Canadian journalism back from the wilderness. However, the CAJ has lost influence in recent years, and nothing on its website indicates it is concerned about the big picture of quality journalism in Canada being crippled.

If Canada were part of Europe, our mainstream media would probably be more healthy. Europeans read papers a lot more than Canadians. I recall a few years ago that the average Canadian read a daily newspaper once a week, while the average Dane read a paper every day. Those sales help cover more of the costs of European papers compared to fewer sales in Canada.

Some European governments, recognizing the importance of quality journalism, provide different forms of financial support for newspapers. Grants are either awarded to all papers or through a competitive process.

 I’ve discussed this possibility of government support for media with Canadian friends, and most of them reject the idea. They say people wouldn’t want government interfering with our media. Hmmm . . . . it’s true that Harper interfered with the CBC but, even so, the CBC remains the best broadcaster in the country and it does a lot of socially responsible journalism.

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Contact Nick Fillmore at fillmore0274@rogers.com
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Impolitical: Paul Godfrey’s endorsement of Patrick Brown for PC leader of Ontario

Earlier today, Paul Godfrey, the President and CEO of Postmedia Network Inc., attended at the Ontario legislature where he stood next to Patrick Brown, candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, to announce his endorsement of Brown. This is a moment that warrants some critical observations on the appropriateness of a major media CEO making such a public statement of support of a political candidate.

Here was the scene on the north lawn of Queen’s Park where, facing the legislature, the endorsement was rolled out:

.@brownbarrie announces Postmedia boss Paul Godfrey and PC titan Derek Burney are supporting him. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/5JYJIRMouz
— Robert Benzie (@robertbenzie) April 2, 2015

Godfrey is President and CEO of one of Canada’s largest media operations. Indeed, this announcement occurs on the heels of the federal Competition Bureau having given the green light to Postmedia Network’s acquisition of 175 Sun Media newspapers. There is a public democratic interest that the Competition Bureau took into consideration when granting public approval over this expansion and the recency of that decision and his company’s expanded media footprint in Canada might give some executives cause for extra caution and care when considering such a political endorsement. 

Further, Godfrey’s endorsement of Brown cannot help but be viewed without considering Godfrey’s recent history with the Wynne government. Recall that in the spring of 2013, he was removed from his position as Chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. That history informs his announcement today and bolsters a perception of an adversarial political context.

A President and CEO of a company is the chief spokesperson for that entity. A President and CEO doesn’t simply “run the business part of the newspapers,” as Mr. Godfrey stated today, but speaks on behalf of the organization. Herein lies the perceived conflict of interest in a media CEO endorsing a political candidate, and the importance of journalistic objectivity. A CEO speaks on behalf of, represents and embodies that corporation’s public and private dealings with its many stakeholders. It is quite difficult to unpack the chief executive’s persona from that of the corporate entity due to their position and the scope of their authority. This is why, as Postmedia Network’s Business Code of Conduct, provides – “Postmedia Personnel may participate in the political process as private citizens.” – there is a signalling implicit in Mr. Godfrey’s endorsement to his company’s journalists, customers and shareholders. In short, Mr. Godfrey is not speaking as a private citizen. CEOs rarely do.

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