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18 October, 2015

THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF OUR NEWSPAPERS AS WE KNOW THEM


Big oil. Big media. And now, a big endorsement.

Postmedia, a company now largely owned primarily by U.S. hedge funds, has championed Stephen Harper as a "clear choice" in Monday's federal election.

The Ottawa Citizen became the latest of the network's publications to endorse the Conservatives in a Friday editorial, joining the Edmonton Journal, the Toronto Sun, The Province, the Globe and Mail, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, The London Free Press and at least five other news publications. The endorsement wasn't by the editorial staff, however...It was made by the owners of the papers, as is their prerogative of course.

The endorsement touts Stephen Harper as the best choice to deal with an "increasingly unstable situation in the Middle East," and of course, the ongoing "economic uncertainty" Canada has faced in the wake recent recession. It is no secret that the Conservative prime minister has prioritized oil and gas development as part Canada's economic future — his government has approved the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, and his party supports the proposed TransCanada Energy East and Keystone XL pipelines project.

Postmedia's endorsement should come as no surprise then, given the network's relationship with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada's largest official advocate for the oil and gas industry.

But what really bothers me is the fact that The Conservative Party of Canada has also bought out the front pages of Postmedia newspapers across the
country and replaced them with an ad made to look like it's coming directly from Elections Canada, warning Canadians not to vote Liberal or NDP. To me, the fact that the publishers have sold out their front news pages to questionable political interests on the eve of a crucial election, its totally distasteful and dishonorable.

The newspaper industry in Canada generally will never recover public credibility from this unprecedented action. Truthfully, when the news broke, I thought that it was a hoax of some kind. I refused to believe that the report was true...A full-page political advertisement on the front page of a newspaper in Canada? 
Never!!!... As a former newspaper editor, I was appalled, embarrassed and ashamed by the evidence that followed in the next 12 hours.

Readers have vowed in online backlash to never again subscribe to Postmedia papers and I am with them 100 percent. This is not newspapering and this is not just campaigning. This is financially-motivated
deceit that reflects terribly on Canadian leadership and a time-honoured industry. 

It's not unprecedented for newspapers to increasingly run front-page ads -- the New York Times has done it for years, and USA Today recently began doing it. Community weekly newspapers in Canada have also been doing it for some time, but the rule of thumb
has always been to leave a certain amount of space open for the top news stories of the day/week and an impactful photograph.

Sadly, however, Postmedia has gone too far with the latest wholesale sell out of their front pages and it is only natural that other news conglomerates will be following suit in competition for the advertising dollar. Good local news coverage on the front pages of our newspapers will increasingly give way to premium advertising. Editorial pages will be redundant. 

But Postmedia does not care...The network has seen its publications invest greater resources in digital news gathering and distribution, including expanded websites and digital news apps for smartphones and tablets, so that should tell you something about the future of their print publications.

I am sick at heart and disillusioned by all of this...I do not want to talk about it any more! I am nauseous!

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