No way out
My definition of a conflict of interest goes like this: If you have to think about it, you probably have a conflict. I hereby declare that I knowingly have a conflict but I’m going to write anyway about the proposed merger between Postmedia, a public company, and Nordstar Capital, run by Jordan Bitove.
Here are my two conflicts. I used to work at Postmedia. Indeed, I was among the first group of National Post journalists fired in 2001, a week after 9/11. Postmedia has fired hundreds more journalists in the last twenty-two years and never once made a profit, proving that fewer can never make more. My second conflict is that I know Bitove. We’re not close, but he has certainly made all the right noises about keeping a strong newsroom at the Toronto Star. In fact, he and his former partner came apart because of this issue.
My first fond hope is that the Competition Bureau will scotch this proposed new deal. So, since I’ve taken to talking Scottish, let me offer a response to my own wish, “A hae ma doots.” The Bureau doesn’t seem to have the strength to get up in the morning let alone do something useful. Postmedia owns thirty-seven newspapers. Nordstar has seven. No one would make a bet on all forty-four titles still being alive a year after any approved merger.
Ironically, the result will be newsworthy. Journalists who still have jobs will lay crepe on the graves while worrying about their own skin. Readers will mourn for a day or two and then go back to getting their news from Apple or some other online freebie. Meantime, I will be the first to admit that I am among the many who read far fewer newspapers and magazines than I used to. I have pretty much limited myself to the Globe and Mail (thank goodness for the deep pockets of the Thomson family) and the New York Times which says it has 9.7 million subscribers of its print and digital products. I no longer read Time, Newsweek or Maclean’s, another former employer. Whatever happens next, no good is going to come of this for journalists and readers alike.