No heroic measures, please: It’s past time for the National Post to die

The National Pest: Time to fade to black, speaking of which, below, Tubby Black in happier times.

CanWest Global Communications Corp., teetering over the abyss itself, told an Ontario court today that if it wasn’t allowed immediately to shift the ownership of the money-hemorrhaging National Post to a subsidiary, the moribund right-wing vanity rag would have to die.

The details of the proposed deal are meaningless – merely a matter of moving the National Post bean under different corporate walnut shells speedily enough that even the lightning-quick Canadian business press can’t keep up. (This is an exercise unlikely to cause CanWest’s executives any wrist strain, sad to say.)

If shareholders suffer, that’s not our concern. It’s the market, stupid. Investors should have known better! Nor should anyone have urged the judge to do this or that. That would be contempt of court and, anyway, we could be confident the courts would judge the case on the law and the facts.

In the event, the judge today granted CanWest’s request.

If CanWest had possessed an ounce of sense, of course, they’d have allowed the 11-year-old propaganda sheet founded by Florida felon Conrad Black to die long ago. It’s way past its due date.

The National Post was created in 1998 to advance the far-right agenda of Mr. Black, who in fairness was not a felon at the time. Its raison d’etre, its sole purpose really, was to advance the Gospel According to Conrad, the now-long-discredited fairytale that the market is all, the market is perfect, the market is God, the market’s holy name be praised… (It’s still doing it, apparently, although Mr. Black’s views seem to have grown crankier with time served.)

What an irony, then, that the Post has been a colossal money loser from Day 1! The reason for this is pretty simple, of course. There’s no market for the sunny market nostrums of Tubby Black and his journalistic acolytes.

Mr. Black, I am sure, knew this. He is said to be an extremely intelligent man, if too clever by half. He must have recognized that ordinary Canadians had too much common sense to fall for his pifflesheet’s preposterous claims and questionable arithmetic. I suppose that’s part of why he disliked Canada and Canadians so much – at least until his U.S. role models turned on him and decided to pack him off to jail for his corporate misdeeds.

But he also knew that there was a market of sorts for this nonsense among the Canadian political classes, and so I am sure he viewed the money poured into the bottomless pit of the National Post as a worthy investment to advance his self-serving agenda.

Still, now that details are emerging thanks to CanWest’s court filing, it’s startling to learn just how bottomless the Post pit has been. It’s never made money. According to a story in the Globe and Mail this morning, the Post “has suffered an unbroken string of losses since its inception.”

Indeed, in just one year, 2001, the Globe reported, the Post lost $60 million! It owes $139 million to CanWest. And for this the brainiacs at CanWest paid Mr. Black $3.2 billion? One wonders what possessed them!

Don’t these so-called business people understand the concept of a “sunk cost”? If this had been a liberal newspaper, its owners would have shut it down and slunk away into the darkness years ago. On the other hand, had it been a liberal paper, it might not have been such an unmitigated disaster.

The tragedy of the Post, of course, is not that it has been a pathetic money-loser from the get-go, read by no one but the occupants of hotel rooms and weary people waiting in airports, who are handed their copies for free. Such losses are standard operating procedure for the wealthy right – propaganda costs big bucks, and if stupid investors can be persuaded to pay for it, so much the better.

The tragic bit is that combined with laws that encouraged the concentration of media ownership in Canada, the Post’s losses have dragged down valuable community daily newspapers like the Edmonton Journal.

Why do you think the still-profitable Journal, which historically has done an excellent job as paper of record for our community, has been shedding veteran journalists right and left to the detriment of local coverage? In significant part it’s because CanWest needs the dough to keep the wretched Post afloat. This same sad story has been repeated in communities across Canada.

The National Post is a cancer that has nearly killed the practice of good community journalism in Canada. Combined with the absence of laws restricting concentration of media ownership, the effect has been profoundly detrimental to freedom of expression. Indeed, were it not for the Internet, there would be barely any meaningful freedom of expression in this country.

Now, thanks to today’s court ruling, the National Post – appropriately lampooned in journalistic circles as the Pest – can continue to leech a while longer from CanWest’s remaining newspapers, which are pretty well all the major dailies in Western Canada.

So quit with the heroic measures, already! It’s time for CanWest, or someone, to put the National Post out of its misery – and ours! It would be a public service. It would also be a sound business decision.

2 Comments on "No heroic measures, please: It’s past time for the National Post to die"

  1. Anonymous says:

    David, I love your stuff but I'm shocked to see bad itses in it! ("It’s raison d’etre, it’s sole purpose").

    Please don't tell me you're another victim of THAT contagious virus!

  2. David J. Climenhaga says:

    You're right to be shocked. I'm shocked myself. I can't account for this. I'm excessively snotty about it when others do it. I always spell minuscule correctly. I know when to use who and when to use whom. I object to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary's definition of "civilian" on the grounds I'm right and it's wrong. Ernie Gowers provided my bedside reading. I'll say this: One thing I love about the Web is you can fix this stuff for the permanent record. Its been fixed… no, wait, it's been fixed. No…

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