Rafe- Canada's biggest newspaper chain has sold its soul to oil and gas

Rafe: Canada’s biggest newspaper chain sold its soul to oil and gas


Rafe- Canada's biggest newspaper chain has sold its soul to oil and gas

Well, fellow friends of freedom of the press, what now?

Agreements between Postmedia – the country’s largest newspaper chain – and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), plus an equally disgraceful deal between the company’s Vancouver Province and the LNG industry have permanently stained the organization’s journalistic credibility.

Postmedia is broke and then some. That, however, has never been an excuse for losing your moral compass. I can’t imagine Postmedia forgiving an embezzler because he was broke, yet they’re happy to abdicate journalistic standards and morality because they’re unable to pay dividends.

We all know about the obsequious and idiotic editorials the Postmedia press did while falling all over Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in the recent election. Added to this list is the Toronto Globe and Mail which, while not directly linked to the fossil fuel industry so far as I know, is obviously wed forever to the right wing and it’s acolytes.

Recent Vancouver Sun editorial headline
Recent Vancouver Sun editorial headline

Newspapers have long taken an editorial position in favour of one party or another, loftily insisting that it was the “view of the newspaper” as if it had been revealed by the Delphic Oracle, not dictated directly from the publisher. This, however, is the first time in my memory that newspapers and newspaper chains have formally locked themselves into agreements with one side of a highly contentious issue. Their loved one, the fossil fuel industry, is condemned by every reputable scientist as harmful to the environment and a serious contributor to climate change. We know we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels but that effort must be supported by government and all reasonable people, including responsible news outlets.

When you read your newspaper, apart from the obituaries, you can’t believe a damned thing. It’s worse – you don’t know what’s not printed and should have been.

Once a newspaper is committed to a controversial view, it’s like a clock that strikes 13 – it can never be trusted again. Even the mildest “puff” pieces may well contain propaganda. Unquestionably, Postmedia coverage of controversial issues relating to fossil fuels and the industry can never be accepted in light of their commitment to CAPP.

What about those things not covered?

For example, where in the mainstream media have you read any serious questioning – let alone criticism – of “fracking”? Or the impact of extraction of the natural gas on water, air and the climate?

Where you seen any criticism of LNG tankers in the far too narrow Howe Sound and Fraser River?

Woodfibre LNG- Shady PR firms, lobby violations, fraudulent owner - Is this the kind of business BC wants to welcome
Sukanto Tanoto (right), the man behind the proposed Woodfibre LNG

Where have you seen any criticism of, or questions about Sukanto Tanoto, the crooked tax-avoiding, forest-destroying, owner of  Woodfibre LNG?

Where have you seen any careful evaluation of the government’s secretive deal with Petronas? And where the government’s “due diligence” was?

Where have you seen the even mildest criticism of premier Clark, her inarticulate toady, Rich Coleman, and their gross exaggerations and bungling negotiations on LNG?

When was the last time you read a columnist in any of these papers be even mildly critical of either government on energy issues?

We’ve all seen the recent resignation of Andrew Coyne, as editor of the National Post after they spiked his election column for the venal sin of criticizing Harper and the Tories. For some reason, Coyne decided to be half an honourable man and kept his column.

Television can hardly be relied upon.

Global TV is owned by Shaw Media. Due to their connection, they and Corus Entertainment are considered to be “related” by the CRTC. Corus, also controlled by the Shaw family, owns radio station CKNW which, under them, abandoned its longstanding reputation for holding the “establishment’s” feet to the fire in favour of good manners unto servility.

CTV is a division of Bell Media (BCE), Canada’s premier multimedia company, with leading assets in television, radio, and digital, and owns 15% of the Toronto Globe and Mail – which has already shown its loving attachment to the Conservative Party. Now, to add to the media incest in Canada, Bell Media (BCE) is in partnership with, guess who – well done, you got it – Corus Entertainment in HBO and other deals.

Not only is there no media outlet in Canada independent of the “establishment” – there is not even an opposition newspaper worth noting. In Great Britain, at least there have long been papers that supported a favourite political party and independents. In the United States, there are Democratic and Republican papers and some independents. This carries on into TV.

Postmedia Headquarters (Ryerson Journalism)
Postmedia Headquarters (Ryerson Journalism)

My first conclusion is that every Canadian must understand this situation. The news is going to come strained through the establishment sieve and we must all know that and take the credibility of all the mainstream media as one would a declaration of innocence by a child with sticky fingers and jam all over his face.

Secondly, we must watch with care how the media treats the new government. Don’t get me wrong – they must have their feet held to the fire every bit as much as any other government and we at The Common Sense Canadian will do that.

What concerns me is will the mainstream press look at Trudeau through the Conservative party prism?

On the other hand, Liberal coffers are full of oil money – will this mean that the media will see them as safer than the NDP and go easy on them?

Thirdly, it’s going to take more work by Canadians to get a fair assessment of public affairs. Reliable blogs must be found and relayed to others. There are plenty of them with all manner of points of view from far-right to far-left and everything in between.

There remain a number of features for which newspapers will have some value, like the weather, the comics, special features and advertising of things we’re interested in. Whether or not that’s worth the price they ask is highly questionable.

What we do know is that their reliability for fair, independent news coverage is worth two times the square root of sweet Fanny Adams.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

27 thoughts on “Rafe: Canada’s biggest newspaper chain sold its soul to oil and gas

  1. As long as any type of media is forced to follow the agenda of the owner/owners of that particular media you will be inundated with lies and/or half truths that benefit them and their ilk.

  2. Ottmar – are you serious? Why should I have to go abroad for Canadian news? And what about BC news? How much of that is reported in the NYT? The main point is that British Columbians aren’t in fact going to rely upon the NYT and will be stuck with papers about as evenhanded as Pravda was under Stalin and as the man said, “the wheel may be crooked, but it’s the only wheel in town”.

    No free country can survive without a free press and when your newspapers have a deal to support the Oil Industry you sure as hell don’t have one. Think! man think!

  3. So your all complaining about the lack of “canadian” in canadian news. If in tormented doubt, I always rely on the NYT. Their limited canadian coverage is well written, balanced, fair, non-biased and readable. What more could a reader wish for?

    1. The good news is that this problem of a manipulative system of news, basically political and business news, is now being pointedly confronted by at least a few independent news interests, for example the CCS, both here and previously, and The Intercept and one of its founding journalists, Glenn Greenwald, on many occasions.

      A week or so ago, Greenwald absolutely shredded The New York Times, yet again, this time for its coverage of the bombing of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afganistan.

      Beyond the obvious interest of the corporate community in continuing and furthering an oligarchy system under cover of a faux democratic system, there also lies the impact of the incessant cutbacks in costs as corporate interests go about creating value out of thin air with these leveraged buyouts. Its simply the result of time pressures and it works like this.

      If a news room is required to produce the same output with 20% less workforce, they cannot parse the sources of their news as they did previously. Thus, when confronted with two press releases, one from a ‘kitchen table’ advocacy group on about some issue or outrage, and a press release from an ‘established’ source about some issue, they have to make a decision. Do they have the time to do the digging, and also some rewriting of the press release of the unknown source to get an article complete? Or is there only time available to go with the press release from the ‘established’ source where all that’s required is to make a phone call to confirm and perhaps rewrite a line or two in the press release or add an additional quote from the call and, -job done-, article complete. If so, the issue or outrage that deserves the light of day remains in the dark and the ‘established’ source gets the coverage of their issue out there pretty much from an unquestioning oracle.

      Thus, to this extent, a bias is developed, ….and it certainly does not serve the public interest.

  4. Post Media is in the business of putting itself out of business. They, under Paul Godfrey, just don’t get it. Newspaper readers like me want the widest possible diversity of opinion. But in The National Post alone, except for Andrew Coyne, agreement among pundits and editorial writers is all but unanimous. The letters-to-the-editor all seem to come from hurtin’ Albertans like Ian G. Foulds of Sprce Grove or the repetitive boiler plate of Madelain Wannop Ross Salter (whom I suspect has been cloned) of Stoney Creek, On. Alleged writer (though no jury would ever convict her of the charge) Christie Blatchford thinks crude is a substitute for quality and Barbara Kay is, I believe, Margaret Wente moonlighting under a pseudonym. Just my theory, you understand. I had trial subscription to the post, home delivered. While I wasn’t impressed, I probably would have renewed if I’d been contacted by their circulation department. But I wasn’t. I never heard a word and I made no effort to contact them. I simply assume they don’t want my business. They don’t even seem to want their own business.

  5. If Postmedia had being serving the interests of ordinary people, they wouldn’t be broke. Selling its soul to big business won’t save them either.

  6. Go to any Postmedia Newspaper…..I use The Windsor Star…..and “search” The Fraser Institute. What you will find is an average of one article per day.

  7. Just need to look 1 province see how differently the MSM in Alberta are treating the new NDP Govt compared to the past PCAA regime.

    FWIW, the Postmedia endorsements of Jim Prentice failed miserably there as well and there is a sense of mistrust with the media now.

  8. Great writing Rafe. “Once a newspaper is committed to a controversial view, it’s like a clock that strikes 13 – it can never be trusted again.” love that quote, going to share it. Up here in Rupert it’s all LNG all the time. David Black, who rules “Black Press” (what an appropriate name, don’t you think?) is the guy touting a “green” oil refinery on the North Coast. There is nothing more he would like to see than oil tanker traffic through Dixon Entrance. That’s our local newspaper “The Northern View”. Not my view of the North.

  9. Another insightful column from Rafe that you won’t see in the mainstream media. We Canadians need to wake up to the control in all sectors of our society by multi-national corporations. I’m all for business but not when our democracy is at risk because of it. Small papers, radio and tv stations and the few national outlets we have should not be in the hands of a few large corporations. Thank you to Rafe and Commonsense Canadian for bringing this to our attention.

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