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A prerequisite for putting any democratic system in place

When Conrad Black purchased Pacific Press back in 1992 - 1993, many in Vancouver thought the media sky had fallen. As he had done with the Daily Telegraph in Great Britain when he purchased it some years previous, he immediately excised staff (quaintly called downsizing, as if this word could possibly serve to encapsulate the harm that is perpetrated on the lives of people who are thrown out of employment, their life's vocation).

Where Pacific Press (both The Vancouver Sun and The Province), in the early 90s, employed some 2700 people, by the time Black was through with his 'downsizing' purge, the total number of staff was below 400.

When Black sold the Southam chain of papers to CanWest Global, at the outset of the new millennium, a collective sigh of relief was breathed.

Ah, thought many, that mean old baddie Black is gone, and all will be well with the grand old Asper family in control. Such, of course, proved not to be the case.

Where Black had a genuine love for newspapers, the Asper family did not seem to understand at all, or have any regard for, the role the press plays in a free and democratic society. The Asper family had long adhered to a bottom line mentality. And, when the family assumed control of Pacific Press, theirs became an intrusive, disrespectful anti-free press mentality, one which saw editorial control centralized in Winnipeg, accompanied by an ongoing and unwelcome (at least by the staffs of their daily newspapers across Canada) interference in reporting on stories covering Israel.

Under the Aspers, the press in Canada has stopped being 'free', or as 'free' as it had been previous to their involvement. Capitalist, yes. Ever seeking to curry favour with the political and business elite, yes. Free, no.

The CanWest papers do not 'comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable', but just the opposite. And they do not, either, sanction insubordination within their ranks, or deviation from the dictates of the Asper family and their world view, and how that world view is realized within the editorial content of the newspapers under their control.

Thus many fine reporters and outstanding journalists, over the past couple of years, have come to leave the employ of CanWest Global. To land where?

Well, it would seem ... at The, a progressive, independent voice on the Web.

And thank God The Tyee is available to readers (at least those on the Web), alive, hopefully thriving and engaged in the 'good fight'. Without their voice available to the citizens of British Columbia, much of importance would go unreported.

In his column in the Globe and Mail last week, Paul Sullivan wrote as much.

Where to now? You tell me. From this corner of the Web, the future for newspapers in Canada looks pretty darn bleak.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at February 9, 2004 11:18 PM in Media


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