Monday, February 1, 2016
Torstar: Toronto Star Owners on Their High Horse
While David Olive’s column in Saturday’s Toronto Star describes Postmedia Network Canada Corp. as a “malignancy” — and states the “good news” is the “Postmedia abomination” is “not long for this world” — it did not mention any of the tough love measures by TorStar, which also owns the Toronto Star.
Instead what appeared was nasty screed about Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey — the latest in a series of high horse personal attacks from the Star.
Of course, it’s all just sour grapes, poor sportsmanship and incredibly self-serving. But the creepy cancer metaphor is as ugly as the spin and omissions.
Olive wrote that Postmedia financing through New York’s Golden Tree Asset Management is “a thinly disguised foreign takeover” and that “Postmedia is controlled by quick-buck hedge funds in the U.S.”
He writes Godfrey’s contention that Golden Tree stepped up to ensure the survival of a Canadian newspaper chain when no others did is a “lie.” That came just days after TorStar Chairman John Honderich also accused Godfrey of “trifling with the truth about the newspaper industry.”
Honderich argues the Toronto Star bid $800-million for bankrupt CanWest newspapers but what he or Olive didn’t mention is debt holder ScotiaBank made it clear no bid lower than an amount ranging between $900 million and $1 billion would be considered.
Godfrey’s group came in at $1.1-billion, the only one above the threshold.
Honderich may be disappointed at losing because of an inferior bid that did not meet the competition standard but it’s disgusting to call the guy who beat you a liar. The Star boss comes across as a sore loser but the hypocrisy does not end there.
While the Star beats the drum of abhorrence that any U.S. money be used to help finance the struggling Canadian newspaper industry, Olive and Honderich have not reminded readers their own company sold the 100% Canadian-owned Harlequin Publishing in 2014 to Rupert Murdoch’s American News Corp. for $455-million. Those American quick bucks seemed to be OK in that case.
Then there’s Olive writing Postmedia has “another round of layoffs this month” without mentioning that the Toronto Star recently laid off 13 people from its digital team and that the company also announced the closure of its printing plant — a move costing about 300 jobs.
However my favourite from the high tower is Olive’s contention that “Godfrey has been channelling William Randolph Hearst, ordering all Postmedia publications to endorse the Harper government’s bid for re-election in October.”
It seems TorStar’s decision to close papers and plants, as well as the Toronto Star’s decision to support Liberal Justin Trudeau for prime minister, is perfectly acceptable.
Sanctimonious is the word that fits better.
But I have my own bias. I not only led — with the late great Toronto Sun day-oner Bob MacDonald — the successful “Save Our Sun” campaign against the Toronto Star’s hostile takeover bid in 1999. I also helped facilitate early conversations that brought Godfrey and his Postmedia people and Pierre Karl Péladeau’s Quebecor people together.
So yes, I know what team I am on. That said, I draw the line at calling people names and wishing their demise.
Most in the newspaper business don’t take glee in anyone’s tough times but work hard for a healthier day. For me there’s no more important rivalry than the newspaper war we have here in Toronto.
So, keep going Godfrey, Golden Tree or anyone else who keeps Canadian journalists and advertising people employed.
I respect the Star but I take offense at any campaign that sullies the reputation of Godfrey — a great Torontonian and Canadian — while falsely gloating about his operation being a cancer that must soon die.
Some in war fight fair and some stoop to levels below. Others are not intimidated by bullies who are on crusades.
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