Why Rafe Mair is cancelling his Sun, Province subscriptions


On Thursday, July 4, Mr. Gordon Fisher, publisher of the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province, printed a full page letter to subscribers, telling us that the cost of the papers will increase on August 1, then gave us the economic reasons for his decisions. He wants us to stay subscribers and pledges rather vague changes that will take place.

Mr. Fisher, we will be cancelling subscriptions in September and think you should know the reasons.

Mr. Fisher – If I don’t want a critical look at fish farms; if I don’t want a critical look at highways tearing up farmland; if I don’t want sharp investigations into the private river power policy that has driven BC Hydro to the brink of bankruptcy; if I don’t want an evaluation of what is called “fracking”; if I don’t want a sharp-eyed evaluation of pipelines; and if I don’t want a careful and questioning evaluation of tanker traffic, then I don’t need to pay you for not getting these things when I can sit in front of my turned-off computer and not get the same non-coverage for free.

I understand your money problems but I would like you to tell us why all of the matters I’ve just raised have not had one line written about them by Mike Smyth and Vaughn Palmer, two excellent writers.

I just want you to be fair, sir, and evaluate what excellent work these and others did on the NDP during their decade and why they have given the Liberals a free ride since 2001.

On the face of it, if these writers were to be “muckrakers”, in the best sense of that word, you would surely increase your readership substantially. Moreover, it would not cost you a dime. But that’s not the reality, is it Mr Fisher?

The truth is that these writers and others have been muzzled, because otherwise you would lose huge sums from advertisers.

Look at another related subject. The day was when op-ed pieces were parcelled fairly between proponents of a scheme and this opposed. Your editorial sheet is run by a Fellow of the Fraser Institute, Fazil Mihlar, and while that shouldn’t deprive him of his position, surely it places a heavy burden on you to make sure he gives fair play. The fact is that private power producers, pipeline and tanker people seem to get an op-ed piece whenever they so wish.

To level that playing field costs you nothing – unless it’s advertiser support.

Wayne Moriarty, editor of the Province called me after I had made observations similar to those above and he asked, plaintively, “Rafe, you don’t think I tell my writers what not to write do you?”

My response was, “You don’t have to, Wayne”.

I have pretty good personal experience in this department having been fired three times in my radio career and by countless papers and magazines. Please don’t take this as whining – I’m proud that I stuck to my guns and I acknowledge firstly that the media bosses have a right to use whomever they please and, secondly, sometimes I may have been fired for incompetence.

I don’t yearn for the impossible – Alan Fotheringham, Jack Webster, Jack Wasserman and Pat Burns are gone. Yet what they did wasn’t rocket science but sound journalistic skepticism – a commitment to holding the feet of all in authority’s feet to the fire.

You won’t permit this sort of criticism, although Vaughn Palmer especially did much to expose NDP errors such as the “fast ferries” and looked with a jaundiced eye at all propositions put forward by those in authority. One might, I think, fairly infer that you dare not make things difficult for a “business-oriented government.”

You feel obliged to cater to the wishes of advertisers and spike your own guns and expect us to help you stay afloat.

Count us out.


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.

10 thoughts on “Why Rafe Mair is cancelling his Sun, Province subscriptions

  1. Thank you Rafe, you started off our New Year on the right foot. I reluctantly take the Van Sun
    every Saturday but like you I think it is time to quit that too.
    All the points you made in your artical echo mine totally. Particularly the issue of the Op Ed
    page which should carry a by line for the Fraser Institute ever since F.M. pend or vetted it’s content. There bias pieces on pipelines, oil transportation and fracking policy is pathetic.
    Keep up the good work in 2014

  2. Friday, 12 July 2013 09:56 posted by Thomas Folkestone

    They should simply rename the Vancouver Sun “The Fraser Institute Daily”. Sums it up nicely.

    I stopped reading years ago. When Patricia Graham was hired she responded to my complaint that all they do is reprint wire copy and that they do little local reporting and no investigative journalism, saying that I should give her a year. A year later I wrote to tell her I’d picked up the paper and it was the same, if not worse. I got no reply. That’s when I stopped even sending in letters to the editor (some of which they even published), because the Vancouver Sun is more like the Vancouver Stun, just out of touch and irrelevant.

    Friday, 12 July 2013 09:34 posted by Damien Gillis

    Jerome, Rafe had more than 3 times as many listeners as his successor now enjoys. Does that mean CKNW found someone “better”? Or does the public’s interest in commentary on public affairs have no bearing for you? How do you define “better” here – better for management’s blood pressure? And no, they didn’t simply let his contract expire. Why don’t you practice what you preach and “stick to the facts”? http://thecanadian.org/item/2179-rafe-mair-on-mainstream-media-a-decade-after-leaving-cknw

    Thursday, 11 July 2013 08:49 posted by rainclouds

    Thanks for articulating what many of us feel and see when perusing the local print media, complete lack of journalistic freedom.

    Used to read Sun/ Province DAILY but now do not buy ever, complete waste of time.

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 22:59 posted by John Weir

    If you are only going to print what the 1% finds acceptable, you just make newspapers that don’t appeal to any part of the other 99%. Simple market equation…

    But other than compassion for the employees as the papers spiral down, does anyone really care about these papers any more?

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 19:05 posted by Norm Farrell

    @ Jerome Collins

    Dictionaries deine journalism as writing and reporting for print and electronic broadcast, for the public media. Therefore, if Rafe writes only to his Aunt Sally, he might not be a journalist. If he writes about public issues, to be read by tens or hundreds of thousands, he is a journalist, no matter how any small minded contrarian wishes to redefine our language.

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 17:32 posted by Jerome Collins

    Rafe, you can’t possibly describe yourself as one of B.C.’s “pre-eminent journalists.” You aren’t even a journalist. You’re an opinion guy who moved from politics to commentary, so the sorry lot down at The Sun and Province have one up on your there! Your boast is 30 years of politically correctness and I doubt you were ever fired for your softball views. Search your memory banks. Didn’t your employers simply grow tired of your wind-baggery and inability to take criticism? When someone better came along (and didn’t want as much money), didn’t they simply decline to renew your radio contract? Journalists stick to the facts. You might try it some time.

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 16:52 posted by Mike

    Makes one wonder what is possible if newspapers refused to sacrifice the truth for money …

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 07:20 posted by Zweisystem

    The Vancouver Sun and to a lesser extent, the Vancouver Province have been ardent supporters of the SkyTrain mini-metro and the Canada line mini-metro (the Canada line is not SkyTrain, but a heavy rail metro, built as a light metro and in the end has less capacity than a modern streetcar) and have deliberately mislead the public on modern light rail.

    Despite that SkyTrain is considered obsolete by transit planners around the world, both dailies still pretend that it is “world class” technology and “cutting edge” public transit. What is even more laughable and/or sad is that the sun and Province have absolutely refused to admit that no one builds with SkyTrain and almost everyone builds with light rail.

    Since 1980, the Sun and Province have thwarted honest debate about transit with one sided reporting and editorials, supporting Skytrain.

    This makes me wonder; “if the Sun and Province has fibbed about Skytrain and LRT, what else has the Sun and Province fibbed about”.

    “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche

    Tuesday, 09 July 2013 05:50 posted by David Chesney

    It is obvious why they have stacks of papers for free at Skytrain and Canada Line stations. They have to be able to say they distributed X amount of papers. I have not seen a paperboy in my neighbourhood in White Rock in years. Does anyone else besides you Rafe still get the papers delivered? You make many fine points. Independent media is alive and well, you just have to look a little harder

    Dave Chesney
    White Rock Sun

    Monday, 08 July 2013 22:56 posted by B.K. Anderson

    What passes for opinion pieces in the Sun are nothing more than press releases and advertisements from companies which are printed without any rebuttals. There is no investigative journalism going on in this province by the newspapers or local TV. But that goes the same for the Globe and Mail, too.
    And gov’t bodies like B.C. Hydro should not be buying advertising in newspapers with our tax dollars. They are a monopoly and should have no authority over freedom of expression. Alas, that is not the case with every issue that Rafe Mair mentioned above.

    Monday, 08 July 2013 22:12 posted by John K

    Wow – I’m astonished – we have 2 daily newspapers here in BC? Who’d have thought it? If I want the government’s opinion on issues, I’ll listen to CC trying to fumble here way through her 5 minute grasping analysis.

    If I want NEWS, I’m certainly not going to find it in the Province or the Sun. In the 4 years since Catalyst closed their Elk Falls mill, I’ve read the Province twice. While still employed, I thought the province couldn’t possibly get worse. Those 2 editions I bought in the last 4 years – proved to me how wrong I was.

    Monday, 08 July 2013 22:00 posted by Bc mom

    Totally agree with your comments Rafe. I have loved reading newspapers my entire life. I moved to BC 2 years ago after retirement and I struggle with the one sided news in The Sun and The Province, it’s just disgusting. My husband loved to go for morning coffee and bring home the newspapers to have a leisurely read, but not anymore. We read headlines online and can’t bring ourselves to subscribe to the muck presented supporting the Liberal scam artists.

    Monday, 08 July 2013 19:32 posted by Evil Eye

    Fishwrap – that is all the province and sun are, fishwrap.

    Monday, 08 July 2013 18:02 posted by Colin Stark

    Exc article BUT what took you so long Rafe ? Since they fired Suzuki 30 years ago they have been Capitalist toadies and since Mr Shaw and his $100 million pension took over they have just been milking the pig, if you do not mind mixed metaphors

    Monday, 08 July 2013 14:56 posted by Damien Gillis

    Note: Fazil Mihlar informed me today that he is leaving the Sun as of Friday. Harvey Enchin will be the acting editor for the editorial page and op-ed page.

    Monday, 08 July 2013 12:42 posted by Susananne

    Totally AGREE!!! Both papers are awful. The laughable talk about bc hydro now by Vaughn Palmer and others as if this is brand new”news” , while it was kept hushed up during the election, is the same thing that happened last time, ( with IPPs brought up only AFTER the election.) i cancelled my subscription to the globe and mail the day they ran a full page editorial in May telling us to vote liberal! no subtlety there! and I would like to soon cancel Vancouver Sun, we only get it because my husband enjoys a morning paper, but he agrees with all of the above. Our newspers are terrible!

    Monday, 08 July 2013 11:45 posted by Daniel Gawthrop

    Rafe’s comments on the Sun’s Op-Ed practices are well-informed. This won’t change anything, but I am told by reliable sources that Fazil Mihlar has taken the buyout.

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