The forced march of the National Post into the ranks of the mediocre picked up pace with news of the firing of Mark Steyn one of its star columnists.
The Post's new owners, Canwest, made their fortune running border stations in Canada. Essentially they took American hit television shows, stripped out the American commercials and sent them to a grateful, if dumb, public. The Aspers, or to be more exact, Izzy Asper made a ton of money at this.
Lord Black, founder of the National Post, decided several years ago to sell his Canadian newspaper empire. In the heady days of convergence, remember that, the Aspers could not wait to form the iron triangle of television, internet and newspapers. They paid over the odds for the Southam papers and had to take on the money losing National Post as well.
Now Izzy is a Liberal. A right wing Liberal whose demolition of a Trudeau era Finance Minister's first budget (The Benson Iceberg
) is a must read for anyone seriously concerned about how badly the Left Liberals have and are continuing to screw Canada's economy, but a Liberal none the less. Even his support for Likud in Israel does not temper his long time association with the Liberal Party.
Mark Steyn is many things but he is not an admirer of the Liberal Party,
As for our diseased Dominion, like the Chinese our leaders behaved true to form. When something bad happens in Canada, the priority is to demonstrate how nice we are. After September 11th, the Prime Minister visited a mosque. After SARS hit, the Prime Minister visited a Chinese restaurant. Insofar as one can tell, Chinese Canadians seem to be avoiding Chinese restaurants at a somewhat higher rate than Caucasians. But, while it may have been blindsided by the actual outbreak of disease, the Canadian system is superb at dealing with entirely mythical outbreaks of racism. I think we can take it as read that if a truck of goulash exploded on the 401 killing 120, the Prime Minister would be Hungarian folk dancing within 48 hours. Personally, I’d have been more impressed if he and Aline had had a candlelit dinner for two over a gurney in the emergency room of a Toronto hospital. That’s the issue ? not Canadian restaurants, but Canadian health care.
link mark steyn
Mark does not just criticize Canada's natural ruling party - he makes fun of them. In column after column Steyn has held Chretien, Graham and the excretable Ms. Copps up to public, personal ridicule. He gets his facts straight and then laughs at the pretences of the great and the good.
Worse, Mark has regularly skewered the reigning mythologies of multiculturalism and multinationalism which are the bedrock of the Liberal Party's hegemony over the ethnic voters of Toronto who ensure the Liberal Party's continued election. He has been known to question the wisdom of bi-lingualism, gun control and the happy, happy, nice, nice Canadian self image.
Even worse than that - Mark can be laugh out loud funny, truly insightful and truthful. Plus he can get work outside Canada.
Izzy made his bucks getting television licences in the world of regulated television. It was money made by avoiding controversy and, most importantly, never offending a Liberal government. After all, who was issuing those licences?
The very qualities which made Izzy such a brilliant television mogul are almost exactly the opposite of those qualities which make for a brilliant newspaper proprietor. Television is about "this season". It is about pumping the hits and ignoring the misses. It is about no viewer loyalty and no pre-requisites.
Newspapers are all about readership. Paid subscriptions.
Izzy's competition in the television business was restricted to the CBC and, sometimes, another Canadian network. His viewers had no choice: if they wanted to watch an American show that Canwest owned they had to watch a Canwest station.
The competition in the newspaper business is not for a single day's newstand purchase - it is for committed readers. Readers who buy the National Post daily and often exclusively. As I have written before, it cost a fortune to capture one subscriber but once you have him the last thing you want to do is lose him.
To keep subscribers newspapers have to have a point of view and the National Post did. It was not, however, a point of view the Liberals much liked. But in the key toronto market, the Liberals were already reading the Toronto Star so Black had to set out to capture a different psychographic. Which he did using intelligent, funny collumnists like Mark Steyn.
Firing Steyn, losing Frum, cutting back arts and books coverage, producing the most boring Saturday section in the country: each mistake loses readers. Lose enough and the Post folds.
Izzy Asper is too smart not to know this - so another explaination is needed.
On spec here's one: part of the Asper's deal with Black for the acquisition of the Post apparently was that they had to keep the paper going or pay a large penalty. There may, however, have been an out - namely if the circulation fell beneath a certain target number the penalty was waived.
If you want to shed circulation the fastest way possible firing Steyn is a mighty fine start.