Editorial from a former editor : “Selling off the furniture to pay for the groceries”

So, last night I received this email from a former Postmedia editor, an update, a tip on the Dan Murphy story. The kind of thing you can take to the bank, if you know what I mean. I stand by it, and my source, who also forwarded me this link to a story this morning…the same link a reader sent to me today in the comments later on : http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Postmedia+sells+office/6846848/story.html#ixzz1z08sL8Xy


 Postmedia Network Canada Corp. has agreed to sell its Toronto head office for $24 million, money it will use to pay down its debt, the company said Tuesday.

The property is home to the media chain’s corporate head-quarters and the National Post.

The sale to property developer Rose and Thistle Group Ltd. is conditional on Postmedia leasing another property within 30 days.

The former editor had this to say: “They’re selling their house to pay the bills. Same thing happened in Vancouver when we moved from our own building at Sixth and Granville to downtown rental space, which has since been downsized about four times.That gives you an idea how much more they borrowed than they should have been allowed to and how tough a time they are having making money off the crap they are producing.It’s what’s so infuriating for journos when they go through all that lecturey bullshit about new revenue models online and “the old model is broken”. It isn’t. People want news and will pay for it, and cross-platforming really works well, both for content and profit. They just haven’t got a clue about either.”

Keep in mind, this was after the second great email to come my way from said former editor, one they agreed to let me publish, despite the fact ” the writing isn’t good”. I told them it doesn’t always have to be to reach people, sometimes it needs to be real, like regular people write to each other, you know?

So here it is, timely I think, because of the Dan Murphy Incident… I feel that deserves capitals, for some reason. Perhaps because it’s only the second time I can recall one of the troupe speaking out, since Kai Nagata walked away from a budding career… for not so different reasons.

Here it is, raw, unedited. Editorial from a former editor.

Just thinking.

 Not to belabour this when the focus is Enbridge, but I meant what I said. Much of the problem here is media concentration, and the poor managers at the company that has managed to assemble most Canadian papers under one roof.

 People like Godfrey, and many of his managers, have zero understanding of the product they produce. Zero. That’s just a fact. They are running a chain of newspapers, which used to be like cash machines. And that’s why the hedge fund lent them money. Hedge funds get in and out fast; they expected this chain of Canadian newspapers to bring in cash. Sadly, the people running them (and Godfrey is a classic example) don’t know what to do to keep their product lively, bright and appealing. They don’t understand that people still want news. Or at least a print or online product organized around a core of news.

 They talk ads, and deals and leveraging but they don’t talk news.

 They don’t invest in news. In fact, they pull money continually away from their newsrooms.

They de-invest in their product.

 And then they lose readers, and advertisers, and money. 

Godfrey did a tour of Postmedia newsrooms a month or so back. He was at both the Sun and Province. He told them the papers are losing money faster and faster that advertisers are bailing, that the banks have gone to electronic media, for example, and those were big advertisers.

 So when you have big ad money at risk, as with Enbridge, what do you do? If readers are bleeding away and advertisers with them, the ones who remain, and are willing to pay for print ads, or those lucrative few seconds at the beginning of online video clips, what do you do?

 Postmedia has massive loans to repay. 

 The problem is that whole process that allowed a chain to grow and grow, for Conrad Black to assemble so much, and then Canwest, and then the same jokers who drove Canwest into the ground to get their hands on even more money and resurrect it as Postmedia.

 This mess means that some guy can sit atop an empire, at a desk in Toronto, and take a call, and make a call, and what used to be an independent paper on the west coast is told to kill an opinion piece.

It’s a piece by a very popular cartoonist, an artist who the managers in fact like very much. He’s smart, he’s good and he attracts clicks, as we say. But they have no choice in the matter.

 If that video had been a shared piece with the Sun, well, it would have been pulled from both outlets, because they’re all under the same thumb. 

 That’s a problem for communities all across Canada who need and deserve accurate, complete news. A lot of them got it, in varying degrees, when papers were independent. Or when there was competition. But all that is gone. 

 And when the guys left running what is almost the only game in town (commercial media-wise, anyway) are incompetent with news, well, the problem is heartbreaking.

 So yes, the Enbridge thing is a scandal. And Postmedia’s response is a disgrace. 

 But it isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.

 That it can happen at all is just as troubling for journalists.


12 thoughts on “Editorial from a former editor : “Selling off the furniture to pay for the groceries”

  1. It is a disgrace. For most of the 20th century, since Ambroise Pierce, the North American media has been at the forefront of investigative journalism, social commentary, speaking truth to power and exposing social ills. Now that is all forgotten. Now, here in the bizarre world of 2012 the mainstream media has become as yellow as it was a century or more ago. There is no reporting of note outside the blogosphere, and we are marching like lemmings off the cliff into the ever rising sea. What will it take to wake up the citizenry and shout, enough is enough, I’m not going to take it any more.


  2. at the rate things are going the newspapers will be going out of business. new entrepreneurs can simply set up “newspapers” which only report sports because that is about all that newspapers report accurately these days.

    News isn’t published all that often anymore. What we read is car accidents, drug/gang wars, etc. National or regional news of any importance just isn’t there. t.v. news isn’t any better.

    the only real news is being published on blogs. the stuff real newspaper reporters used to do but have been shut out of by their owners.


  3. “National or regional news of any importance just isn’t there. t.v. news isn’t any better.”
    I know it doesn’t seem possible but I think TeeVee news is even worse……

    Great scoop, as is so often the case Laila!


  4. I suspect Postmedia and other large news conglomerates are merely tools run by consortiums of business that have no interest in providing news. They want spin and drivel to keep us un-informed, absorbing a message they want delivered.

    They are pablum-pushers.

    Investigative journalism has few places to be published.
    Thought-full opinion pieces are disappearing.
    Critical thinking is becoming a lost art.

    Except for op-ed pieces and a few journos I always read, my daily print newspaper fittingly lines my compost and goes out to recycling.


  5. Thanks for posting this Laila. Things are getting pretty grim when someone in a city a couple of thousand miles away, dictates and controls what is printed in the local newspaper – and I don’t mean Godfrey.

    The very fact that Enbridge is controlling news media outlets and contents sends out disturbing messages – what next I wonder ? What this does do is clearly illustrate why the people of this country and province cannot trust Enbridge. The fact that they will do anything to get the NGP in operation is a real wake up[ call to the people. It is bad enough that Stephen Harper wants to ram it through, but to have a company try and control the news, people and government is something from a nightmare.

    The people of Canada are slowly wakening up but is it too late – I sure hope not. All the more reason to put a stop to thisoutrageous proposition and insult to British Columbia and the people of Canada – no company dictates what will happen without dire consequences.



  6. We were warned what would happen to Canada, if Harper ever got a majority. His win is highly suspicious. The first thing a dictator does, is control the media. Then they grab control of everything they get their hands on.

    Newspapers pretty much tell the exact same story. I cancelled my papers because of the, word for word duplications. TV media is a joke. The media are propaganda machines for the government. No wonder they are having to cut staff. Their bias against citizens has earned them, nothing other than contempt.

    They have decided Harper covered up and held back information, on the torture of the detainee’s. Perhaps Luis Moreno-Ocampo, ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, will press on with his summons of Harper. He will be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Harper breached the Geneva Convention. The U.N. wonders why Harper didn’t arrest Bush? No wonder Harper was refused a seat, with the U.N. Security council.

    It isn’t beneath Harper’s dignity, to govern by threat. Spiteful Stevie has struck BC with many blows. We forced his best partner in crime, to resign. Harper and Campbell did sneak deals, behind the peoples backs. We have opposed the Enbridge pipeline. We fought back against the BC HST.

    Shame on the media, for supporting the Enbridge pipeline with their lies and deceit.


  7. Here’s a thought on how to drive down relevance and internet revenues for the local corporate controlled media. When I do a search on a news story I try to choose a link outside of BC that doesn’t involve Post Media or other corporate media( look for independent bloggers). I have done a few comparisons and as one would guess the information from one news source to another is essentially the same. If I have to go to corporate media for a story I completely avoid their advertisers links and rarely comment on stories( how could you call it news). It may not be much but I think every little bit helps to hit them in the pocket book.


  8. interested to see Ambrose Bierce’s name mentioned…I think of him as a horror writer, somewhat comparable to Poe…..if not as literary or poetic….

    There’s a long list of people who’ve quit the major media…Lynn somebody did a resignation piece from the Vancouver Sun; she was hired to write soft core news, never touching the political stuff, once she began to get her own opinions in public view she was terminated…..it’s like we shoulld start an honour roll of these people, it’s not just Kai Nagata and Dan Murphy, it goes back years….


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