My first article for Presstime was on the then-launch of the National Post. With all the fanfare and the fact is was entering the market in the late 1990s by a media outlet with properties in Canada and the US, the editors green lit my pitch.
It was a maddening article to write. I had a lot of research to do, and I had many people to interview, but there were problems galore: I knew going in that the “top-secret” name for it was the National Post, but like the old fable of a rotten boy holding a pigeon behind his back to ask the old wise man whether the bird was dead or alive, if I said anything, the name could be changed to something else; so I didn’t divulge in the piece, even though my editor also knew it independently.
Then there was the last-second sale of the Financial Post to Southam that had me doing a complete rewrite, but even then after the piece ran, then Toronto Star managing editor Jim Travers accused me of making up a quote in the article that he said that the Star saw other papers come and go, and they’d see the Post come and go as well. I flat-out asked him if that was printable and he said yes. I didn’t include his various references to the Post as the Daily Tubby, a swipe to then owner Conrad Black.
My editors asked me what my notes said, I sent them the tape where they could easily confirm it. They went to him and he said he would personally apologize to me; he died and that sorry never came.
But it was a breakthrough article for my career.
For all the hype and fanfare, the National Post was always a middling, ineffectual paper.
It never made money. It never had strong circulation numbers. It never found its own niche or inspired a younger generation of readers. It made a deal with Torstar to shut down papers, and the Competition Bureau came knocking. It couldn’t give away its wares. It openly used its own papers to lobby the federal government for money to save it from ruin as it was in debt. Worst of all, it never understood this whole journalism thing, let alone bring it to a new level of rejuvenation.
So to mark its 20th year of survival, it wrote cheap articles adoring itself because the paper can’t afford to spring for the reporters’ mommies to write them for them.
The narrative-spin is truly amusing. This article is one for the books:
Rebecca Eckler and Leah McLaren: The bad girls' club of Canadian newspapers
No, smug, ignorant, sheltered, and trivial isn’t “bad girl”: it is stay-at-mall mom.
They didn’t do exposés. They didn’t transform the profession or create a new style. They didn’t go into war zones or take on gangs or organized crime; so shut up about it. It’s like calling the kid who eats crickets in the backyard an adventurer.
Then, when the Post discusses 20 way they pretended to shape Canada, they had the nerve to have this entry:
We did Fake News before it was a thing
In the spring of 2006, the Post had an opinion piece that suggested the Iranian government of notorious Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was considering a law that would have forced non-Muslims to wear identifiable insignia on their clothing. Subsequent reporting, which included a refusal to comment from the Iranian embassy, led to a front-page story that proved to be completely wrong. But in the “fake news” era, when many believe that mainstream media organizations knowingly and breezily publish lies, let’s note that as spectacular a mistake as that piece proved to be, the Post then ran a front-page story about the doubts that were raised about the piece and then a 960-word explanation and apology from the then-editor about how we got it wrong.
I remember that hoax they swallowed whole, because this web site from author Richard Seymour had discussed the episode and how easy it would have been had someone at the Post been literate enough to read my first book:
Hardly any sources, obtuse style, vagueness of details, nothing but colourful, arresting and emotionally involving claims and expostulations that divert one from analysis. As Alexandra Kitty explains in her useful book on lies becoming news, those are the absolutely standard tell-tale signs of a hoax.
Yes, but I am an atypical Canadian who does not have a Stepfordian middle class mindset, and I frighten the little peons at the Post; so they don’t like admit they read me.
But wasted copy inch after copy inch, even scribes, such as Andrew Coyne are amazed they lasted twenty years, but then, so did Zellers until someone wouldn’t lend them any more cash.
Others, such as free PR flunkie for disgraced hack Steven Galloway Barbara Kay, who also tries to convince the little people that the Post had some impact on Canada and improved it, but narcissistic delusions aren’t reality, kids.
The Post has always been hollow snooty trash for ditzy nerds who think they can fool people into thinking they are smart and cool.
Not a chance.
Self-congratulatory media anniversary editions are nothing new. Many US outlets go all out to town, publishing books on their delusions of grandeur. They are never instructive, and seem antiquated in a world that has gone on without them.
But it is instructive in how sheltered their own stifling worldview is — and why they never kept up with the times: when you too busy telling the middle class minions how great and important you are, you place yourself in a corner where you can never change, and you are saddled with the very problems that will destroy you…