Sunday, December 4, 2011

Public interest journalism in BC?

December 1, Glacier Media Inc. completed the acquisition of Postmedia Network Inc.’s community newspapers in British Columbia and the Times Colonist.
The Lower Mainland Publishing Group media assets include:
  • North Shore News,
  • Vancouver Courier,
  • Burnaby Now,
  • New Westminster Record/Royal City Record,
  • Richmond News
  • Delta Optimist
  • Surrey Now
  • Coquitlam Now
  • Maple Ridge Times,
  • Langley Advance,
  • Abbotsford Mission Times, and 
  • Chilliwack Times.
The Vancouver Island Newspaper Group media properties include:
  • Nanaimo Daily News,
  • Alberni Valley Times,
  • Harbour City Star,
  • Cowichan Valley Citizen,
  • Oceanside Star,
  • Pennyworth,
  • Westerly News, and 
  • Campbell River Courier Islander/Campbell River Courier North Islander.
This may be a significant step that restores a bit of competition to British Columbia's commercial press. However, expectation that non-partisan journalism might flourish is premature. A search of Elections BC discloses significant contributions to the BC Liberal Party by Glacier Media associates:¹
  • Madison Venture Corporation $60,000
  • Madison Pacific Properties Inc. $100,000
  • Glacier Media Inc. $100,000
A publisher cannot be a material financial supporter of one particular political party and be a trusted news and information provider. Nevertheless, I've seen hopeful hints that newspapers in Glacier's portfolio will be allowed a role other than flatterer of the ruling parties. Last August in No effective way of managing private power thieves, I noted that Powell River Peak Publisher Joyce Carlson and Editor Laura Walz provided one of the clearest media statements found anywhere about risks of independent power production. The Peak is a Glacier property.

Here is another example of a clear minded statement favouring the public interest, from a North Shore News editorial published today, December 4:
"...According to emails unearthed by Canadian Press, the prime minister's office has been pressuring appalled civil servants to remove the words "Government of Canada" from their documents and replace them with "Harper Government."

This is an astonishing, totally unnecessary exercise in arrogance. To equate our federal government with one man is the stuff of absolute monarchies, not a modern democracy. What's more, the prime minister's spokesman consistently lied that the rebranding was taking place.

On Friday, we learned that Defence Minister Peter MacKay really did summon a military search-and-rescue helicopter away from its duties last year to give him a ride home from his vacation - at roughly $32,000 per hour. Apparently the $47,000 of your money MacKay spent on transportation in 2010 wasn't enough. MacKay also shamelessly lied about the purpose of the flight, claiming it was a SAR demonstration, something that military officers flatly deny.

The years of irresistible majority government to come will be a test of the Conservatives' discipline and integrity. But for a party that once claimed to be the antidote to years of entrenched Liberal entitlement, it sure hasn't taken long for the Tories to get comfortable using your property as their own."
The Times Colonist has some of BC's best journalists and if they are allowed to pursue stories boldly without being restricted by the owners' political aims, it will easily surpass the Vancouver Sun as the province's newspaper of record. We've seen indications that, unlike Postmedia, Glacier aspires to gain journalistic respectability. We can only hope.

¹ Corporations are not required to name principal officers so other associates of Glacier Media may also be contributors but not easily located through searches. Elections BC could easily make its database more meaningful with improved search capabilities and by requiring all corporations to identify principal officers and controlling shareholders.
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  1. This is pure conjecture but could it be media contracts and contingent of contributions right back to political parties? Just asking.


  2. Smart conjecture,IMO. Not just newspapers either. Radio and TV are frequent beneficiaries of government advertising. I had the same thought the other day listening to a BC government radio ad about nothing important. I thought at the time, if they are squeezing every agency for money and every department for spending cuts, why isn't institutional advertising eliminated. No one can say it is vital to public administration.

    However, as I used to tell my children, "People are more likely to do you a favour if you've done one for them first."

  3. Harper's tough on crime, doesn't apply to him nor his ministers. They are permitted to thieve our tax dollars, at their will. That's exactly what they do.

    The media are merely propaganda machines for, the Canadian government. Bad press, no government ads.

    This was Gordon Campbell's favorite vendetta. Not only were the media threatened...Anyone opposing him, lost their jobs. He was so vindictive, his sanity was doubted.



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