A Deal with the Devil for our heritage.

The Toronto Star owners have made a deal with PostMedia to divide Ontario between them. Talk about a deal with the devil! Did they think that the Competition Bureau in Ottawa would fail to notice? Is this what heritage minister Mélanie Joly meant when she said the government was not interested in aiding newspapers because they were an industry model that is no longer viable?

PostMedia has not been viable since it was cobbled together by CEO Paul Godfrey. The newspaper company is a nightmare of fire sale accumulations of small community media. Godfrey has been well funded by American investors who wanted to gain a foothold in the Canadian media market. The last we heard, they were adding the American executive responsible for the electronic version of the National Enquirer to the PostMedia board.

You should try to imagine Paul Godfrey in a toga standing on a soap box on the spit by the east channel to the Toronto harbour holding up a flashlight. He could say: Give me your tired, unprofitable papers, your befuddled editors yearning to promote the Conservatives, the wretched refuse of unwanted reporters. Send all those rags to me. (With apologies to Emma Lazarus, author of The New Colossus.)

Of course, Paul Godfrey knew what he was doing as he assembled this list of losers. He made millions while his American investors paid the piper. As time went on, he just kept adding more losing papers.

TorStar, owners of the Toronto Star, paid heed to his wishes and assembled all their losers and cut them loose in a swap for some of the PostMedia stable. Of the local papers they got in return, TorStar will only keep three of them in business. I checked the lists and I find our town’s ancient Barrie Examiner is ‘Gone baby gone.’ TorStar has a competitive paper here that serves as the weekly grocery flyer wrap.

The two chains have effectively divided the province between them except for the largest markets. And what Minister Joly should worry about is the number of single newspaper markets in Ontario now served by the strongly Conservative leaning PostMedia newspapers.

What the heritage minister needs to realize is that those small dailies and weeklies serving us across the hinterland are the lasting record of the communities and their citizens. TorStar has just flushed down the drain a huge chunk of Ontario’s heritage. They are a critical part of what makes our communities, our towns and cities work. They cannot be replaced by electronic media. Those local papers were never just a business.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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