Posts By Deborah Jones

Latest Posts | By Deborah Jones

Is Torstar bid favored to buy Canwest newspapers?

A quickening is apparent within Canada’s biggest newspaper conglomerate, long mired in the slough of despond. Beleagued Canwest LP is comprised of the remnants of some once-venerable FP publications, some once-venerable Southam publications and a whole bunch of small newspapers that once served their communities. Other than the relatively new National Post company flagship, mostly these were accumulated by a company controlled by Conrad Black (still embroiled in legal appeals while he serves jail time in Florida), then sold, cut to the bone and run into court-ordered creditor protection by Canwest’s Asper family, who took on massive debt to become media moguls.

Bankers are expected to review the final bids for the chain next week,  reported the Globe and Mail. It added that a bid for Canwest’s newspaper group that includes Torstar Corp. is emerging as the favourite of a field of five remaining contenders for the company. The Globe story speculated that other bids might rely heavily on debt — but the deep pockets of Torstar’s backers, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., would allow it to offer cash, making it the favoured bidder.

Should its bid win, Torstar would be the operator of Canwest’s 11 broadsheets, including the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal and Vancouver Sun, said the Globe. It briefly noted speculation that the chain’s 35 community papers would be put up for sale.

Would a renewed chain, financed by Fairfax, be primarily a for-profit business,
with editorial decisions aimed at maxing the audience eyes it could sell to
advertisers? Would the chain morph into some version of the socially-motivated Toronto Star?

It would be ironic if the Toronto Star were to take over Canwest’s newspapers — especially the National Post — which for the past decade have arguably produced some of the most ideological “right-wing” slanted newspaper writing in Canadian history. The Star itself is steeped in the social conscience of founder Joseph Atkinson; despite business challenges and changes it has long operated under the Atkinson Principles. These include: “promotion of a strong, united and independent Canada; social justice; individual and civil liberties; community and civic engagement; the rights of working people and the necessary role of government.” The specter of Toronto Star influence must be anathema to National Post staffers of a neo-liberal bent.

The bigger question, of interest to all Canadians, is the calibre of journalism the newspaper chain would produce.

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“Public trust” side of CanWest sale

The imminent auction of the CanWest chain of newspapers has drawn the attention of Canada’s largest media union, which urged consideration of the “public trust” in the choice of a new owner. Meanwhile, CanWest appointed an interim president to steer its newspaper division through the final throes of its bankruptcy protection and sale …

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Climate scientist sues National Post

Canadian climate scientist Andrew Weaver is suing the National Post for its coverage of him and his work — and he is also asking the court to force the CanWest flagship newspaper to help scrub the web of its re-posted articles, which a news release from his law firm says “poison” the Internet.

The suit, filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court, names Financial Post editor Terence Corcoran, columnist Peter Foster,
reporter Kevin Libin and publisher Gordon Fisher, “as well
as several still-unidentified editors and copy editors.” Click through for the news release ….

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Study suggests web is free-range

Americans who spend a lot of time on Fox news are also more likely than most to visit the New York Times, suggests a new study by two business professors in Chicago. Their findings counter the received wisdom that the Internet creates citizens isolated in silos, reading only news they choose. “We find no evidence that the Internet is becoming more segregated over time,” Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro concluded. (Subscription or payment required to read in full.)

Or, as David Brooks wrote in the New York Times, “This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal … If this study is correct, the Internet will not produce a cocooned public square, but a free-wheeling multilayered Mad Max public square. The study also suggests that if there is increased polarization (and there is), it’s probably not the Internet that’s causing it.”

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Journalism solution to malfeasance and accountability: study

An academic study on the re-election of corrupt politicians concludes investigative journalism is the solution. But it warns the disappearance of a business model for “a free and aggressive press” does not bode well for political accountability.

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Obama’s media control issues

Restrictions on journalists — both American and from other countries — “have become a common practice for the Obama White House,” reports the Washington Post.

Dana Milbank, writing about the treatment of the press by the American president during the Nuclear Security Summit, called it “a clinic for some of the world’s greatest dictators in how to circumvent a free press.”

“Reporters for foreign outlets, many operating in repressive countries, got the impression that the vaunted American freedoms are not all they’re cracked up to be,” added Milbank.

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Harper government blocks information

A new report questions whether the notion of transparent government, accountable to and for voters, exists in Canada.

Journalists have long found ourselves blocked  by Stephen Harper’s government. Today in a report to Parliament Interim Access to Information Commissionier Suzanne Legault said “growing delays are eroding Canadians’ right to obtain documents from their government.”

So what? As a story in the Globe and Mail notes, “Damning conclusions from the Access to Information Commissioner are nothing new in Ottawa. Yet Mr. Harper came to office in 2006 after making open, transparent government and revived Access to Information policies a central campaign promise.”

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Newspaper integrity: the game (seriously)

Forget the crossword, Sudoko, Tetris — you can now play the newspaper integrity game, voting (or not) as many times as you wish for the newspaper of your choice.

At the time of posting, Canada’s Langley Advance and National Post were among the top-ranked newspapers in the world.


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Dragons, seamonsters and old-school newshounds

Are old-school newshounds mythical creatures? wonders A.O. Scott in a New York Times review of a series on journalism films at Film Forum in New York. The series, suggests Scott, evokes “the quintessence of print journalism in all its inky, hectic glory.”

Real, or not, it’s nostalgia — always a popular draw.
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WikiLeaks: the new journalism?

Is WikiLeaks — the self-styled “intelligence agency of the people” that the American Pentagon considers a security threat — a form of investigative journalism?
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