It’s another dark day for journalism in Canada. Postmedia and TorStar traded a slew of media properties today in order to shut them down and layoff workers. The deal eliminates media diversity and concentrates ownership in a number of southern Ontario cities and towns. It’s a reminder that we need a new, not-for-profit model of media in order to produce the kind of journalism that informed citizens and democracy itself require.
The corporate deal announced Monday is a non-cash transaction. The Globe and Mail reports:
Postmedia Network Canada Corp. announced on Monday that it will close 23 of the 24 publications it is acquiring from Torstar Corp. by mid-January, and lay off 244 people. The exception is the Exeter Times-Advocate and the Exeter Weekender, which will continue to operate. The papers slated for closure – including the Kanata Kourier-Standard, Belleville News, Our London, and the Stratford City Gazette – are in markets that have more than one publication, according to the company.
Torstar's Metroland division will continue to publish the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner. The company will close the rest of the papers it is acquiring effective immediately, with 47 full-time and part-time staff laid off.
In other words, Torstar and Postmedia took over each other’s competition in a number of local news markets in order to shut them down.
On social media, the response to the latest media job losses was immediate.
It's become increasingly clear that Paul Godfrey and the rest of the senior executives at Postmedia care very little about the value of local news and the dedicated journalists who cover it. Today is a sad day for so many communities that depend on their neighbourhood reporters.— Noah Richardson (@njdrichardson) November 27, 2017
Paul Godfrey is the Spectre of Death. He presided over the worst eight year period in Blue Jays history and continues his mirthless bloodletting with Post Media. The epitome of soulless corporate vampirism. https://t.co/166ciGs9gB— Sean Cranbury (@seancranbury) November 27, 2017
Paul Godfrey, with his infamous bonuses and gold cufflinks, is the target of well-earned vitriol. But he’s really just the personification of a dysfunctional system — the personification of Capital, as Marx put it. The corporate-owned, advertising-driven media is broken and can’t be fixed — in part because Silicon Valley’s social media behemoths have become everyone’s de facto publishers and are gobbling up most of the digital advertising money.
At this year’s Media Democracy Day in Vancouver, I participated in a session about the future of funding for sustainable, public interest journalism. Editors and publishers from Ricochet, Discourse Media, and Megaphone Magazine took part in the discussion, along with a representative of Unifor’s Media Union and the founder of the Uncharted Journalism Fund. One consensus that emerged from the conversation was that independent media need to collaborate more, whether on content distribution or on fundraising efforts.
It’s not enough for Canada’s independent media outlets to survive, or to carve out niche audiences. We need to be thinking bigger. After all, sooner or later Postmedia will likely disappear altogether. We have to collectively figure out a new model of media that recognizes the importance of quality journalism to the public interest and a democratic society.
In addition to the growing journalistic vacuum independent media has to fill, there’s more political space than ever for publications that are as unashamedly left-wing as the bosses of Postmedia and their predecessors were unashamedly neo-liberal and right-wing.
The progressive editorial positions of the so-called “alternative media” have become more mainstream in recent years. We should aspire to have more than a marginal position in the media landscape. We should aspire to create a radically new and sustainable mainstream media.