Thursday, April 12, 2012

Postmedia...Is Somethin' Happenin' There?


Last week, after Peter O'Neill took a well-deserved run at Jason Kenney for yet another outbreak of demogoguery, I wondered, particularly in the wake of the unleashing of GMcGregor and SMaher on the fraudulent phonecall file, if something is going on at Postmedia News.


I have heard from somebody who has done a little time on the inside of that fine news gathering organization and, while they are most definitely no FoxNews Mole, they do have a story to tell and some interesting hypothysizospeculatin' to offer up (while also responding to some of our fine commenters).


"Ok, RossK, I'll bite. As a news worker at Postmedia, I think this is an interesting and important question you've raised about this odd shift in the commercial media.

(As an aside to folks like Mr. Koot, I agree it's hard to see anything right in what most commercial media outlets are doing, especially Postmedia; most of us in the newsrooms would agree with him. But it's important not to let your well-founded biases keep you from noting when the enemy has reloaded and taken new aim, so this is for Koots too.)

It was McGregor and Maher at the Citizen and the National Post who picked up the rifle first, as you note, with the robocall scandal. And now there's O'Neill. And there are more to come. The Postmedia chain has turned against the PM. Period.

There is no way to understate the importance of that shift. It hasn't worked its way through the whole empire; you don't immediately change the attitude or approach of the hundreds of idiots you've appointed to management jobs over the years. Or all the columnists, or reporters.

But it's started.
And it's huge. It should NOT be underestimated.

The question for us in their newsrooms is: What in the hell can the PM have done to piss off Postmedia (run nominally by the Tory-loving former managers of Canwest, but in reality owned and funded by GoldenTree, a New York hedge fund)?

Well, here's one theory:
1. GoldenTree invested in the chain in 2010 because newspapers are high cash generators. (Usually, anyway.) Because Canada has foreign-ownership media laws, the new company and its share holdings had to be very carefully structured.
2. But maybe that wasn't such a big deal, because Harper was making a lot of big, loud promises about opening up ownership to foreign interests. That would mean GoldenTree could unload the chain, or parts of it, in future with relative ease. Hedge funds like to get in and out quickly, and there aren't a lot of Canadian buyers for a property that big. Quebecor was really the only competitor that GoldenTree faced in 2010 as Canwest lay dying, and Quebecor lost out because it couldn't put together a big enough offer.
3. Foreign ownership isn't anywhere on the apparent radar for Harper anymore. At all. Period. Unless he's in completely secret talks that no one has heard a word about.
4. Postmedia isn't making money, certainly not at the rate GoldenTree needs it to. As a hedge fund, it would have wanted to move in, tap the cash flow and sell it on. There are lots of more promising cash machines for GoldenTree to move on to.
5. Postmedia executives, including CEO Paul Godfrey, toured newsrooms in BC just weeks ago to announce that while the two papers in Vancouver were still clinging by their fingernails to the black side of the ledger, red ink looms with absolute certainty in the very near future. An online-only Monday-Friday edition of the Province is widely rumoured to be in the works, with staff busy working on a new design for the weekend edition. (Yes, some of this is company trash talk aimed at turning newsroom workers against pressroom workers in talks for a contract that expired about 18 months ago. But that's not the whole story. True, newsroom workers have taken huge hits; press workers haven't, yet. And true, pressroom costs are high, and they were high in Victoria, where the chain used them as an excuse for selling the paper there to Glacier. But it is also true that the papers aren't making the money they should, costs aside. That's because the company doesn't understand its product or its readership and can't think of any other way to fix the problem than to continually cut costs, which in fact only makes the product worse.)
5. Quebecor, which owns the Tory-worshipping SunTV, is now the PM's best friend and only defender.
6. So should GoldenTree force a sale of Postmedia, with foreign ownership rules still in place, well, the best and maybe only positioned buyer might be ... ta da! ... Quebecor.
6. Which would result in a takeover of the majority of Canada's news outlets by a completely right-wing company.
7. Say it all together now: Hmmmmmmmm. Can this have been the plan all along?

As I say, just a theory among some of us.

But it would be fair to say that the shift in Postmedia's Tory coverage is significant enough to have most of our newsroom radar on full alert.

And I would add one other thing, since none of us know where this ride will take us. For everyone feeling so rightly cynical about the media, you will note that there is the odd MSM reporter left who can, when turned loose, still produce. You will note that there were others at the Globe and CBC etc who joined in after the Post kicked off the robocall-fest. I would argue that the heavy lifting was still done by the blogosphere, including you and many of those in your own circle. But I think there is still a rescue-able body of journalists left should the MSM, or any portion of it, come under new ownership that actually understands it own product, readership and social contract -- something that Postmedia fails entirely to do.

Interesting that, no?

And now....

This is the time on Sprockets when we sing.

Our Anon-O-Media-Mouse who has roared also has some interesting ideas about who, specifically, may have given McGregor and Maher the time and space to do (and keep doing) their thing, but I'm going to wait on that a little while I sniff around a bit more.
And apologies Ian....Maybe next time Bowie, OK?



Eleanor Gregory said...

Fascinating story...and a fitting musical note to add.

Laila said...

Wow.... this is something RossK. Brava to your anono-mouse for sharing - makes sense for me!!

RossK said...


It is a fascinating story - I must confess, however, that I still don't quite get the motivation for taking a turn back towards the CPC...

The musical note is pretty interesting to me...I think for our Neil BSpringfield is much more fun than CSNY...Regardless, I like the way Stills goes into a blues growl rather than trying to recapitulate the 1967 sweetness 'n lovebeads sound.



And this is someone who really does know of what they speak.


West End Bob said...

The shift in attitude toward the CPC/PM confuses me, also, RossK.

What's the connection there to a secret plan to sell to Quebecor?

Puzzling, but maybe I'm missing the obvious ? ? ? ?

Grant G said...

Mr. K..There may be something to it..Let me explain, Harper and big oil are prepared to sacrifice all business in Canada, as a petro state our dollar rises and rises, central Canada manufacturers can`t compete, exports collapse.

Robyn Allen has the Straight Goods over at the Tyee, also the Hughes report.

Canadian wages are too high now to compete with China, El Salvador etc..Corporate world keeps harping about Canada`s need to increase productivity(code for LOWER WAGES)

Wages must drop even more with high dollar, with Canadian people drowning in debt..Something has to give.

With a high loonie dollar, Ontario and Quebec get crushed.

Could we be seeing a corporate war?

Oil companies against everyone else, and as you know, oil has boots full of money, maybe others would like a fistful of dollars too.

Good Day

RossK said...


If I'm reading Anon correctly it is the idea that the Hedge wanted to be able to easily flip things out to a foreign swoop artist...Now that the Harpoon isn't making good on that 'promise' (remember what he announces is rarely what he actually intends to really, which is the essence of the Straussianism that underpins so much of what has come out of the so-called 'Calgary-School') the selling of a big stake to Quebecor, in the end may be an unintended consequence.

Now....if one wanted to go really deep here...One might wonder if, maybe the Harpoon is really actually trying to get PostMedia into Quebecor hands...Now if that's the case, well...Perhaps the fact that the Hedge feels it is being railroaded into taking a lowball could be a real motivator.


West End Bob said...

Now it's making sense - Thanks, RossK . . . .

kootcoot said...

Canned Waste and now Post(how appropriate)Media, have been dying due to producing garbage for years now. If Quebecor gets its mitts on the rest, or most of the rest of Canadian Media, then perhaps it will only hasten the death of media as we known and hated it - leaving room for smaller more independent minded media to move into the void.

From all I've read, SunTV is only justified by the message it transmits, to very few people. The NaPo as well has been run as a loss leader forever, earning its keep by working the desired message.

Meanwhile it appears that Murdoch's ill advised threat to take down the New York Times may lead to the collapse of his empire, his own potential incarceration and a rebirth of the Times as a real paper, like the one that published the Pentagon Papers, once upon a time.

Perhaps if Quebecor and PostMedia join forces, they could fire all editorial staff/and printers and just manufacture shredded litter for pets, saving their customers the chore of shredding it themselves. Oh yeah, I forgot the important part, the advertising, real estate ads could go on the bags!

Kim said...

The problem with that idea koot, is that they have "reformulated" the actual paper (newsprint) to a more glossy stock that is not absorbant, ruining it for firestarting, fishwrap or kittylitter!

Great work RossK.

RossK said...

Thanks Kim--

Not my work though.

All Anon on this one....


What will Mr. Lee think?


Jim Parrett said...

Holy smokes! The Post runs a piece by Jodie Emery, on the ravages of the war on pot. Wow.

RossK said...


Hard to figure out what the heckfire they really are up to given that they also just endorsed the fine, fine folks at the Wild Rose Party.