All through the Canadian newspaper business’s long, doomed struggle against the inevitable, the word on industry executives’ lips has been “runway.” As in, “we’re just trying to give ourselves a little more runway.” After each layoff, each sale or merger or shuttering of a century-old franchise, it was the same: we just need a little more runway.
The image this is supposed to convey is of an airplane hurtling down the tarmac, struggling to take off. There’s nothing wrong with the plane, you understand. Give it enough room to pick up speed, and it will surely make it off the ground. The only question is whether it has enough runway.
Well now it’s 2018, and the end of the runway is fast approaching, with no sign of liftoff. The industry is, increasingly, putting aside any pretense that it can avert the horrific crash for which it is headed. What was once a fringe idea, something no respectable newspaper would dream of indulging, is instead becoming the new mantra: the government must bail us out.
Indeed, the Trudeau government seemingly having failed to respond to their demands with the proper enthusiasm, the publishers have become increasingly shameless in advancing their self-interested cause — not just in the usual luncheon speeches or lobbying sessions, but more and more in the pages of their own papers.
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Leading the way has been John Honderich, chairman of Torstar, which publishes the Toronto Star. In a Jan. 26 op-ed, published not only in the Star but in a number of other Torstar-owned papers, Honderich expressed his dismay at the government’s “studied indifference” in the face of what he called the “crisis of quality journalism.” He singled out for particular scorn Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.
This week the Star was back, this time with a lengthy news piece out of its Ottawa bureau. This time it quoted not only Honderich, but Bob Cox, publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press and chairman of News Media Canada, the publishers’ trade association, together with a representative of Unifor, the union that represents many newspaper employees. Nowhere in its nearly 1,300 words would you find …read more