In 2011, Stephen Harper garnered the editorial support of 95% of Canada's newspapers. This time around, that number had dropped to 71%. A good portion of that 71% came from the Postmedia chain, whose chairman -- Paul Godfrey -- told his editors that he would brook no dissent from the chain's support of Harper. Michael Harris writes:
Godfrey committed what the late senator and Globe and Mail editor Richard Doyle said was the unpardonable sin of the industry: he held up the newspapers he runs and got a reflection of himself. And remember how this was done. On the weekend before the election, Godfrey disfigured the front pages of all his newspapers with a full-page attack ad in support of the Harper Conservatives.
From the Ottawa Citizen to the Vancouver Sun, the same fear-mongering ad advised readers that voting Liberal or NDP “will cost you.” Godfrey tried to impose the PM’s plan for re-election, the magic mantra of fear and forgetfulness, on the Postmedia audience. And just to be sure to catch the eyes of the dullards, that front-page wrap was bright yellow. A good choice of colour, given what Godfrey was up to.
The problem is that those who support the chain's editorial position are a distinct minority. And Godfrey's first job is to sell newspapers:
Godfrey’s forced march of Postmedia editors through the swamps of political partisanship could cost the chain dearly. The National Post is already floundering under a $650 million debtload, kept afloat by U.S. hedge funds that extract big interest returns on their “investment.” No one is happy about that and many others in this besieged industry are taking on water.
In the meantime, Godfrey is totally out of touch with the people who hold the chain’s fate in their hands — his dwindling band of subscribers. According to a new report from the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, Canada’s newspapers were, as the Huffington Post put it, “in the tank” for Harper for the past two elections.
Canada's newspapers are in trouble. That's because they have forgotten who their audience is.