First there was Postmedia, with our largest national newspaper chain offering up endorsements of the Conservative party from coast to coast. According to one columnist with the chain, the order to endorse Harper came from the conglomerate’s owners.
Then there was the Globe and Mail, with a Conservative endorsement so confused that perhaps the most charitable interpretation is that editor-in-chief David Walmsley was forced to write it with a gun to his head. Walmsley insists it was all his idea, but memories of the 2014 Ontario election are still fresh, when the Globe’s owners reportedly overruled their editorial board and changed their endorsement of Liberal Kathleen Wynne to an endorsement of Conservative Tim Hudak.
But the most curious case on a pre-election weekend rife with discussion of newspaper endorsements and the process followed to arrive at them may be unfolding at the National Post, where comment and editorial editor Andrew Coyne is at the heart of the Post’s second censorship scandal of this long campaign.
Dissent will not be tolerated
On Friday evening Canadaland broke the story that a column by Coyne, in which he reportedly endorsed a party other than the Conservatives, had been pulled from the Saturday edition of the newspaper at the last minute. Although Coyne the editor had reportedly signed off on the Post’s official endorsement, which joined most other Postmedia papers in endorsing the Harper government, he had reportedly also written a dissenting opinion in the form of a column he scheduled for publication on Saturday.
That column was never published and Coyne, a prolific Twitter user and political junkie, has not tweeted or spoken publicly since Thursday evening. That has led to speculation that his column was censored, and that he may be planning to resign from the Post.
Ricochet reached out to both Coyne and Anne Marie Owens, the Post’s editor-in-chief, for comment. Neither responded immediately, but we will update this story with their responses if and when they do.
Meanwhile Twitter users have noted his absence, and some cheekily raised the possibility he’s been kidnapped by Postmedia’s president and CEO, Paul Godfrey.
Amber Alert issued for Andrew Coyne, last seen getting into a white van registered to a P. Godfrey. #cdnpoli— Coco Cabrera (@coco_urnews) October 18, 2015
His last activity on Twitter was to retweet the one section (out of six) of the Post’s editorial endorsement that was heavily critical of the Harper record, focusing on democratic accountability.
Twice in a campaign
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time the Post has been gripped by a censorship scandal during this campaign. Back in August, a flighty but critical piece about Stephen Harper’s hair from acclaimed author Margaret Atwood was published, removed from the newspaper’s website for several hours, and then republished with several passages taking aim at the Harper government’s scandals removed.
At that time Canadaland reported what most assumed, that the decision to pull the column was made by the National Post’s management, not editors.
Coyne was the editor responsible for that piece, as he is now for his own column, but it appears clear that someone else was calling the shots in both cases. Back then Coyne also disappeared from Twitter for a time, and now, on the eve of a crucial national election, he is once again nowhere to be found.
It’s one thing for newspaper owners to call the shots on editorial endorsements, as they obviously do now, but there are more serious issues of editorial integrity involved when a publication's owners seemingly make a habit of censoring their own columnists, and even editors, for criticizing the government at inopportune times.
We’ll update this story as more details become available, but for now if anyone has information on the whereabouts of Andrew Coyne, please contact us. You can tell him the internet is worried.