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With Margaret Atwood farce, National Post explodes in its own face

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Here's the Canadaland expose of this unprofessional, clownish farce.

In brief, a noted Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, submitted a piece to the National Post, a satirical piece about the role of hair in the current election campaign. A couple of minor changes were suggested, and agreed to.

The article appeared, after nine days. Then it was yanked. Then it reappeared, in redacted form. The author had not been consulted.*

Various National Post people issued statements. "The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed...Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers," said Senior Vice-President Gerry Nott.

The National Post's Editor-in-Chief, Anne Marie Owens, said: "The decision was made to pull the column to sort out various fact checking and fit issues. Once that was sorted, we reposted the column and published it in the paper. These kinds of internal debates occur in newsrooms all the time -- they just don't usually involve a world famous author."

There are all kinds of wrong here, and I'm not referring to the statements, which appear to be covering up the truth -- namely, that management intervened directly to force changes, over the heads of the editorial staff, including Andrew Coyne, who signed off on the original.

The Post hadn't completed the fact-checking of a minor satirical piece in nine days? Seriously? And, when all was said and done, what, precisely, was non-factual about the redacted portions of the column?

Then this overripe plum: Atwood's column wasn't "aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers."

Good grief.

A disclosure: I have had more than two dozen articles published by the National Post, never with a delay of anything like nine days. Suggestions for changes have always been made quickly, and in the spirit of negotiation: I would agree to some, disagree with others, and where there was disagreement, my original wording appeared. On occasion, my editor asked if he could do some minor tinkering: because he's good at his job, I went along.

Put succinctly, my material is usually not aligned with the values of the National Post and (judging from the comment threads) its readers.

I have had the occasional column rejected. I have never had a column pulled.

Had the Post just run Atwood's article as it was, it would have been read, chuckled over by some, excoriated in the comments section by others, and in a day or two no one would have remembered. Something about hair. Political leaders.

Instead, with all the aplomb of Larry, Curly and Moe, the powers that be over at the Post have made themselves the story. It's a story even sillier, in its cack-handed ineptitude, than Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief David Walmsley's re-writing of a pro-Wynne editorial to endorse Tim Hudak for premier of Ontario. Remember that?

I wonder if Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey had any hand in this farce: the person who had no problem with a grotesquely racist "yellow peril"-type cartoon appearing in the Toronto Sun last Fall, finding it perfectly acceptable.

If so, at least he's being consistent. This vicious caricature -- again judging from the majority of comments in that neck of the woods -- was certainly consonant with the values of Toronto Sun readers.

I'm not particularly surprised that the Conservative/conservative party line can be enforced with TASS-like ruthlessness and efficiency by corporate media overlords. It's what we on the left have been saying for years, pointing, for example, to the overwhelming editorial support for Harper during the last election.

It's just the stunning incompetence in the instant case, the egregious carelessness of it all, as though the overlords in question don't even have to pretend any more. Perhaps they don't.

 
* Here's the original uncut version. I had mistakenly thought that Jon Kay's republication at The Walrus reproduced the original, but some content had been redacted. Here's the current Post version.

 

Image: Twitter/@MargaretAtwood

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