I also dislike the National Post, but Postmedia’s latest cut is still bad news

Editorial | by Stephen Whitworth

Lots going on lately: from terrorist attacks and tower fires in London to presidential investigations and hate crimes in America to terrifying, plane-grounding heat waves in Arizona, the daily papers are full of news.

Not so much on Mondays, maybe.

On June 19, the money-losing National Post — flagship of the money-losing Postmedia news chain — announced it will stop publishing Mondays, starting in July.

The move is both shocking and completely unsurprising.

It’s shocking because Mondays have been on the newspaper schedule for more than a century and it’s hard to imagine anything different. But it’s also completely predictable given media concentration — which for decades has sacrificed staff, and therefore quality, for profits. Then there’s the rise of the Internet, which destroys print advertising and subscription revenues.

This development might inspire conflicted feelings. On the one hand, like a lot of Prairie Dog readers, I’ve railed against Postmedia’s appalling conservative bias. A newspaper that consistently endorses politicians who muzzle scientists, fight transparency in government, cut spending on social programs and pander to racists and religious extremists is, in its very timbers, not on the side of civilization.

That said, like all Postmedia papers the National Post has good, hard-working reporters covering important news well. Losing a day of their print coverage — and please don’t tell me this won’t impact their online content, because it obviously will — is not good for the country.

So what now? Well, first off, it’s safe to bet money that local Postmedia papers like the Leader-Post and StarPhoenix will reduce their publication days soon — I guess this year, but no later than 2018 (mark my words!).

The bigger problem is the media chain’s inevitable bankruptcy, which has staggering implications for local politics coverage.

Since media concentration got rolling 25 or so years ago, Canada’s daily newspapers have slashed thousands of jobs from newsrooms. Those cuts meant fewer local stories being covered; you can bet they also acted as a warning to talented people considering careers in journalism. Who could doubt that a lot of good, would-be reporters dropped their media dreams for safer careers in public relations?

None of this is good for maintaining an informed public — and it’s hard to have an informed public when there’s no print media digging up information.

(Side note: it can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything, but thank goodness for the publicly funded CBC. Without it we’d be totally screwed. Well, maybe not Andrew Scheer.)

The National Post’s  cut is the just the latest depressing development in Canada’s slow, sad march away from a healthy media — a sector that, as others have said, is as essential to democracy as oxygen is to a person.

There’s a lot to be done to turn this around. A time is coming when the ordinary citizens and civil society organizations that rely on the reporting of media outlets will probably have to pick up some of the financial slack.

Alternately, we can resign ourselves to a post-fact, post-accountability era.

I think we’ve got an idea how well that would work. ❧

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