It’s hard not to feel sorry for the average workers at CanWest, who now face an uncertain future during economically troubled times thanks to the decision by the company to put the National Post and Global Television into receivership, but I have to square that with the fact that, since it was founded, I have been looking for the National Post to fail.
It seems irrational for me to have such ill will towards a newspaper, and it is irrational, but the National Post started out on the wrong foot with me when Conrad Black set it up specifically to go after what he perceived as a leftist-liberal bent in Canadian media and politics. I realize that Black’s stance harkens back to the old days of newspapers when they were started out as the publication arm of various political parties, but I did not feel that this approach had a place in this day and age. And in the various persecution complex of some conservatives, they would often point to the financial success of Fox News and the Post as proof that their way of thinking was the right way of thinking because, when that way of thinking was brought out and sold on streetcorners, people picked it up.
But today, not so much.
It just shows to conservatives that, if Canadians are too liberal for their taste, the fault rests not with the politicians or any media bias, but with the Canadians themselves. It’s not enough to put out a newspaper and tell us what to think and expect that we’ll think the “right” way, in your opinion (as Black tried to do); instead, you’ve got to engage us ‘liberal’ Canadians personally, in an honest debate — a debate that you enter into with an open mind. That’s the only way to bring real, lasting change about.
Black eventually sold the Post, and it eventually found its way into the hands of CanWest. The Post’s political allegiances shifted, and at times CanWest exerted, in my opinion, excessive editorial control over journalistic freedom. For that reason, neither the Post, nor CanWest’s news was totally credible for me, and I can’t see its failure as being a particular blow for the journalistic industry.
That being said, good people worked at CanWest and at the Post. Very good people. And it is a shame that these workers, not to mention all the support staff, should have to suffer so. But perhaps the failure of CanWest is, in some ways, an opportunity.
A month ago, before CanWest went bankrupt, the conglomerate sold its Victoria television station CHEK-TV to its employees and other local investors, opening the door for an independent media voice covering local issues in Victoria and the lower BC mainland.
CanWest may be bankrupt, but it still has value. It has television studios and equipment, printing presses, and access to significant markets across the country. And presumably, all of these resources are now on sale, cheap. Could the model of CHEK-TV in Victoria be applied to, say, Saskatoon or Winnipeg? Could perhaps more local voices, working cooperatively, spring up, restoring something that may have been watered down in the drive to build a strong, national media corporation?
It’s worth noting that the Toronto Sun is still around. This paper rose from the ashes of the Toronto Telegram, thanks to the efforts of its employees, who decided they just didn’t want to shut up. It produced a new and interesting voice on the Toronto newspaper scene — largely because the paper was a wilder conversation of a wide variety of viewpoints, with New Democrat Douglas Fisher sharing column space with the arch-conservative Peter Worthington.
If something similar could be achieved in newspapers and television across the country, then something unexpectedly good will have come from all this.