Lucinda Chodan, newly appointed Edmonton Journal editor-in-chief

This just in, people. …Just remember where you heard it first.

Back on October 5, 2010, we reported in these e-pages that with the “Sunification” of the Edmonton Journal and other Postmedia Network Inc. “properties” continuing apace through the shedding of experienced journalists and managers, Edmonton Sun alumna Lucinda Chodan was about to be named editor-in-chief of the venerable Journal.

Around the time of this report, approximately 40 experienced Journal employees had just gone over the side one way or another, mostly through “buyouts” and similar early retirement deals. Anyone who understands the newspaper business gets it that this kind of wholesale staff cutting hurts the quality of the journalistic product, but usually improves the bottom line in the short term.

While this was going on, Chodan occupied a similar top editorial position at Postmedia’s Victoria Times-Colonist, a Giant of Canadian Journalism ™ that has dealt with the downturn in conventional newspaper advertising by ceasing to publish on Mondays!

At the time, she did not return your blogger’s calls to her office at the Daily Hyphen seeking confirmation of his highly speculative story. However, in Tuesday morning’s edition of the Journal we finally read that, indeed, Chodan has been named the Journal‘s top editor.

Her appointment makes sense given the business predilections of Paul Godfrey, once the publisher of the Toronto Sun and now the Great Helmsman of the delightfully named Postmedia Network. After all, Chodan began her career as an entertainment reporter at Sun Media‘s Oil City tabloid.

The Sunification process, of course, has been afflicting the former Southam Newspapers — once the mainstay of serious Canadian journalism from one end of the country to the other — for many years as they have been passed through the hands of a series of owners, from Hollinger to Canwest to Postmedia.

Most of these owners seem to have been mainly interested in the propagandistic potential of the perpetually unprofitable National Post, founded in 1998 by millionaire right-wing drivelist Conrad Black as part of his successful strategy to move the climate of ideas discussed by the chattering classes in Canada far to the right.

For his part, Black never seemed much interested in the potential of the other Southam papers except as a source of news tidbits to fill the pages of the National Pest and cash to keep the moribund Toronto daily afloat.

After Black — who by that time was also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour — left the newspaper business to pursue other opportunities in government service, subsequent owners seemed even less engaged by the potential of the once-excellent regional dailies except as cash cows to prop up the Pest.

During this period, they drew heavily on the managerial ability of former Sun journalists and managers to run local newsrooms on a shoestring without much regard to the quality of the contents.

Naturally, this trend worries many of Postmedia’s remaining Edmonton employees because, notwithstanding the declining advertising market that is slowly sinking all mass-circulation metropolitan dailies, for the time being at least the Journal remains a better gig than the Edmonton Sun, which seems likely to be the model for the Journal‘s future.

Edmonton’s Sun paper is now edited out of Calgary, a city that is in fact some distance to the south of Edmonton and is not Alberta’s capital city, though neither of these facts may have penetrated the skulls of the management team that runs Sun Media from somewhere in Central Canada.

As previously noted, the Journal may soon face a competitive challenge of a different sort if a persistent rumour is true the Sun plans to pull the plug on its faltering “24 Hours” self-cannibalizing commuter paper and begin giving away the Sun itself as attention shifts in Sun Media’s management suite from newspapers altogether except as a source of digitized drivel to shove into the video maw of the company’s Fox News North enterprise, officially known as Sun TV.

Back at the Journal, gloomy reports still persist that the newspaper’s valuable east-side printing operation may be on the block, raising the spectre of the Journal not just suspending Monday publication, but that during the rest of the week as well, in a precarious all-Internet future like that being tried by Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer.

Meanwhile, according to the Journal story yesterday morning announcing Chodan’s appointment, the thrills were almost keeping pace with those delivered by the roller coaster at Galaxyland in West Edmonton Mall.

At any rate, Chodan told her new staff that she’s thrilled to be returning to Edmonton. The Journal‘s publisher said he was equally thrilled by the prospect of Chodan at the Journal‘s tiller. And, of course, your blogger is thrilled to be able to confirm the accuracy of his scoop.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...