Postmedia’s support for Conservatives leaves it out of step with the public
Sunday 1 November 2015
The most common prediction ahead of last month’s Canadian election was that the country’s many polling firms would again fail to predict the results. In the event, most of them accurately foresaw Justin Trudeau’s Liberals sweeping into power. Instead, it was the country’s daily newspapers that got it wrong, promoting the incumbent Conservatives while readers and voters turned en masse against the party. Social media pounced on the striking disconnect with increasing ferocity as editors in virtually every Canadian city and town published tortured endorsements of Stephen Harper’s government.
Yet the defeat was a particularly brutal blow for Canada’s dominant chain, Postmedia, which publishes more than half of the traditional daily newspapers in English-speaking Canada and all but a handful of those that matter. Postmedia achieved its market dominance in step with the rise of Harper’s Conservatives. Its support for Harper was widely seen as an expression of the company’s will rather than editorial judgment. One columnist at the Postmedia title the Edmonton Journal wrote on Twitter that owners rather than editors had decided which party to back.
The company’s chain-wide blitz supporting Harper culminated a few days before the election when virtually all Postmedia publications replaced their front pages with a pro-Conservative advertisement masquerading as an official notice from Elections Canada, the independent agency managing the vote.
“What was revealed here is that these papers have seriously lost touch with the readers they are supposedly representing, and it was noticed,” says media critic Jesse Brown, founder of the website Canadaland. “People were outraged. This was a shameful moment.”