Senior editorial heads roll at Edmonton Journal and more may drop soon

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PHOTOS: The Edmonton Journal’s headquarters in downtown Edmonton, one of the Postmedia assets that still retains some value. Below: Departing Journal editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand and managing editor Stephanie Coombs.

There’s already blood on the floor at the Edmonton Journal (metaphorically speaking) and there may be more by the end of the day.

Other media are reporting at this hour that Journal Editor-in-Chief Margo Goodhand and Managing Editor Stephanie Coombs have been dismissed, and that former editor-in-chief Lucinda Chodan is back in the newsroom to help with the transition, whatever that means in the current circumstances.

Margo-May_2011“Effective immediately, the Edmonton Journal’s Editor Margo Goodhand and Managing Editor Stephanie Coombs have left the organization,” said Gerry Nott, a Postmedia Network Canada Corp. functionary in a note reported a few minutes ago by the Globe and Mail.

Needless to say, it is highly unusual for the two top news executives at any major newspaper to be canned in the same day. Nobody’s sayin’ nuthin’ about the reason, but it’s patently obvious it has something to do with Postmedia’s efforts to stay afloat by cutting core journalistic jobs and, in all likelihood, amalgamating its two daily newspapers in each of Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.

The most likely explanation this morning’s news is that Ms. Goodhand and Ms. Coombs, both respected journalists, pushed back against Postmedia head office’s planned depredations. In this day and age, you may be able to fight city hall, but you can’t win against far-away corporate bosses.

It is unclear at this moment if it will be the wretched and propagandistic Suns bought by Postmedia last year or the still-marginally-better former Southam-Hollinger-Canwest dailies acquired by the Toronto-based company for far too much money in 2010 that go over the side, or if the company will gin up some kind of dreadful combined name like the Sun-Citizen, the Sun-Herald and the Sun-Journal to justify the mergers.

pmx0mn_bPerhaps we’ll know about the next purge victims by the end of the day, or maybe we’ll have to wait a little longer. Whatever, with Postmedia deeply in debt and its real advertising revenue in freefall, amalgamation is coming and Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton will all be one-newspaper towns soon. It lost $263.4 million last year.

At that time of the Sun acquisitions last April, Postmedia promised that both Postmedia and Sun newspapers would continue to operate independently of one another in markets where they competed directly before the acquisition. That was then and this is now, however.

Postmedia’s largest shareholder is Golden Tree Asset Management, a U.S. hedge fund of the sort often referred to as a “vulture capital” firm.

Other less distinguished heads are expected to roll throughout this afternoon at the still respectable Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, according to the Globe’s report. No word on what’s going to happen at the Suns, which already operate on skeleton crews.

Media circles have been abuzz with the opinion something was going to happen this week since word leaked yesterday that Postmedia Chairman and CEO Paul Godfrey, the recipient of a substantial recent bonus for his handling of the Sun takeover, had asked for a meeting with Ottawa’s mayor to discuss … something. (One newspaper town, anyone?)

A rumour buzzing around this morning said he’d made the same request of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, although if the Globe is to be believed, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson hasn’t received the same courtesy.

“I speak to mayors all the time,” Mr. Godfrey told the national newspaper’s reporter. “So why should I bother telling you what I’m speaking to the mayor about?” Indeed. None of our business.

Just to give readers something to chew on while they contemplate what’s likely next at Postmedia, here’s a line from the company’s first-quarter report, published on Jan. 13: “Excluding the impact of the Sun Acquisition, revenue for the quarter was $147.4 million, a decrease of $22.2 million (13.1%) relative to the same period in the prior year. The revenue decline, which excludes the impact of the Sun Acquisition, was primarily due to decreases in print advertising revenue of $16.4 million (17.6%), print circulation revenue of $3.2 million (6.7%) and digital revenue of $1.4 million (5.7%).

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