Canadian Commentary: Media and Culture

Bash the Left, Pump the Right:
Welcome to our new "National" Paper

October 1998

Well, Canada has just been given another Toronto-based, right-wing "national" newspaper, Conrad Black's National Post. We should, I suppose, be grateful that he finally managed to snag the Financial Post. The old Financial Post was already very right-wing (understandably enough given its audience), so at least we are spared the pretense that Black's new newspaper provides an original point of view. In effect, it simply makes the Financial Post a full-service rather than purely business paper.

Can we hope that, with this new, broader agenda, the Post will find a new sense of responsibility and provide a broader perspective on national issues? Not a chance. It is clear that the Post will push its owner's right-wing agenda. Consider the front stories on the first issue:

Each story either pumps a right-wing cause, or undermines a centrist or leftist individual or cause. Even the human interest story, about John Glenn, is a form of American hero worship (though at least he was a Democrat). It looks like the Post will be a kind of Sun newspaper for people who think they are smart. Then again, at least the Sun makes no pretense of objectivity (this weeks' headlines were all blatant attacks on non-profit housing. As Mike Bullard pointed out, attacking non-profit housing because it doesn't make money is a little redundant).

By comparison, the Globe seems like a moderate, well-balanced paper. The situation is similar to the emergence of the Reform party - suddenly, the tradionally conservative institution (the Progressinve Conservative Party, The Globe & Mail) doesn't seem so bad anymore. In a way, Black's new newspaper has indeed improved the Globe - notably, by removing Terence Corcoran's absurd rants from the business pages (he is now the Post's business editor. Say no more). His replacement, Eric Reguly, started his column by suggesting that CN was treating its workers badly in its restructuring. Now THAT is a refreshing change! Still, however fond I am of the Globe, it remains essentially conservative. The danger is that, by comparison, we will start to think that it is really centrist - that it represents the full spectrum of possible opinions. Canada still has a crying need for a truly serious, centre-left national newspaper.

How about the new newspaper's appearance? The design of the Post is unarguably attractive. The oversized masthead is strong, the layout is clear, the inside sections are well-defined (something the Globe still has problems with), and the pen-sketches of the columnists are attractive (it used to be one of the more attractive features of the Globe, but it was foolishly abandoned in exchange for photos). However, all of this attractive design is undermined by the sloppiness of the printing. The ink is smudgy and runs, and the photos are low-quality. The inside sections all look a little dirty because of the running ink. The overall appearance is thus rather cheap. By comparison, the Globe's printing is crisp, and its photos are high quality. As long as it maintains this quality, the Globe will look like the truly classy, quality national newspaper, and the Post just a cheap rip-off. Which is, after all, as it should be.

October 29, 1998

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