Paul Godfrey, the septuagenarian, cosmetically-enhanced ruler of the Postmedia empire has been out all week, trying to rationalize the rationalization of its newspaper chain’s finances, and his chainsaw-through-the-newsrooms announcement this week that left as many as 150 hacks looking for work.
But the mastermind behind Postmedia’s latest convulsion to deal with its $670-million dollar debt works outside the public view.
Gordon Fisher, no spring chicken either, has built a career on arguing for consolidation of newsrooms.
He’s the president of the National Post, but mainly he’s Godfrey’s brain in running newspapers.
Fisher’s story track is compelling: once a John Candyesque gas station operator in Fort Macleod, AB, he whittled down his weight almost as much as he has trimmed newsrooms over the years, with stops in Ottawa, Vancouver, Kingston and Toronto.
“Why are five of our guys in the press box at the Grey Cup,” he wailed almost four decades ago.
Now he gets to invoke his mantra as newsrooms are blended in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and Calgary. And everyone in the country will get precisely the same sports section, to boot.
Here’s the problem, journalistically: Fewer notepads on the ground mean fewer stories.
You can fill your newspapers and websites (platforms, in Postspeak) with words, but more reporters find more things out.
Throughout his time, Fisher has never been interested in breaking stories or comforting the afflicted. Instead, his focus has been on peaceful relations with the establishment and convincing car dealers to advertise.
As Frank reported last month, killing off the Sun papers was an option. This does it by killing off their newsrooms. All the layoffs in Ottawa, for example, were Sun reporters, who lacked the benefit of a CBA enjoyed by their new Petfinder colleagues.
The dangling noose of Postmedia’s $670-million debt is the driving force. Godfrey insists all papers are revenue-positive, but creditors need their money, and he needs to feed the beast.
Side note: Edmonton, aka Redmonton, in some circles, had its editorial leadership guillotined. Journal editor Margo Goodhand and her managing editor Stephanie Coombs and Edmonton Sun managing editor Donna Harker were all sacked.
Speculation has it that girls are too pink for Godfrey, but the papers’ over-enthusiasm for Rachel Notley’s new government is much more likely the reason that the only management dismissals in the round of firings came there.
Relax, boys are back in charge.