It’s interesting that the presence of David Pecker on the board of Postmedia Network Inc. only became a topic of public debate after he left the largest publisher of daily and community newspapers in English Canada last week.
The fact the evocatively named CEO of American Media Inc. was known to be a crony of U.S. President Donald Trump with a reputation for actively suppressing news unhelpful to the Republican Administration in Washington certainly seemed to trouble no one at the financially challenged Canadian newspaper chain.
Nor did it seem to worry anyone at Postmedia that American Media is best known for its National Enquirer grocery store tabloid, which can charitably be described as a regular publisher of fake news, at least when the topic was Mr. Trump’s Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton.
When Mr. Pecker last appeared in the pages of this blog, barely two weeks ago, he had just been sideswiped by the chaos engulfing the Trump Presidency.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, had copped a plea to eight criminal counts, including working “in co-ordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” to violate U.S. campaign finance laws. And since the candidate in question was obviously Mr. Trump, and because his former campaign director had been found guilty the same day of eight counts by a jury, it was hardly a good day for the president.
It was also a lousy day for Mr. Pecker, seeing as court documents filed in Mr. Cohen’s case kept mentioning how the accused Trump lawyer had worked with Mr. Pecker “to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-president.” Some of these claims involved a certain Stormy Daniels.
“It will be interesting to observe how the failing Canadian newspaper corporation covers the fact one of its directors is now making news, instead of just suppressing it,” I wrote on Aug. 22.
Now we know. It was done with a terse press release six days later.
Postmedia’s short news release announcing Mr. Pecker’s sudden resignation from the boards of Postmedia Network and Postmedia Network Canada Corp. thanked him for his service and observed, “David noted that it is important for him to focus his efforts on ensuring that his businesses are best positioned for continued growth.” (During a temporary absence, perhaps?)
It was only then, and only after Charlie Angus, the long-time MP for Timmins-James Bay and former candidate to lead the federal NDP, published a sharply worded Tweet that the situation seems to have created any controversy in Canada. Mr. Angus asked: “How is Post Media going to survive now that its key advisor from the National Enquirer has gone down in disgrace?”
“Who is going to write the headlines and give the scripts to the journos?” his Tweet went on.
Several sensitive journos rose to the bait and attempted a riposte, actually generating some social media discussion of what should have been a serious issue long ago. A certain amount of mockery, some of it hilarious, followed.
“I resent your comments suggesting journalists working for this company take orders regarding content from the likes of Pecker,” wrote one Postmedia reporter.
As a former journalist for one of Postmedia’s predecessor companies, run by essentially the same people long before Mr. Pecker came aboard, I can attest to the accuracy of this protest. We got our orders to suppress news inconvenient to the government of Ralph Klein from functionaries located much lower on the journalistic food chain than a member of the board.
Still, the presence of Mr. Pecker on the eight- (now seven-) member board was a striking symbol of the state of affairs at Postmedia, publisher of the National Post and daily newspapers in Edmonton and Calgary, which despite its financial troubles seems to be hanging in with unexpected determination.
As for the condition of the Trump Presidency, I suspect Mr. Trump’s political health right now is much like that of Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, when the great Nicholas von Hoffman diagnosed that presidency as “a dead mouse on the kitchen floor that everyone was afraid to touch and throw in the garbage.”
Mr. von Hoffman was fired as a TV commentator for that crack, but its truth goes marching on.
Where’s Pecker headed, post-Postmedia?
And, for that matter, where’s post-Pecker Postmedia headed?
Now that Pecker has withdrawn, can the Postmedia Board find a firm replacement?
It could be hard.
I thought at one time independence and journalistic integrity were a big thing. Maybe it still is important, but having someone like Mr. Pecker on their board taints Postmedia somewhat. Perhaps in their defense they didn’t know all the details about the cozy relationship and the cash transactions between Mr. Pecker and Mr. Trump, but there sure were plenty of warning signs.
For instance, the National Enquirer regularly ran negative articles on the Clintons throughout the US election campaign, but mysteriously none about Trump and it is not like Mr. Trump lived the life of a saint. There was plenty of dirt there for those willing to print it and generally the National Enquirer was eager to do so about most other people, so why spare Trump. Mr. Pecker was also known to be friendly with Mr. Trump, it wasn’t a huge secret.
Now I suppose one could argue that the National Enquirer is not to be taken seriously anyways and I would agree with that. However, if that is the case what was he doing on the board of an organization that claims to be a serious newspaper chain in the first place?
This whole sad situation does nothing to dispel the impression that the National Post has also has an overly cozy relationship with right wing politicians and parties. I suppose it goes all the way back to its founding by Mr. Black and his long running feud with Liberal Prime Minister Chretien over making him choose between a prestigious British lordship and his Canadian citizenship. I noticed right after that the National Post seemed to develop a very energetic interest in potential scandal involving Mr. Chretien in the Shawinigan area, that other papers did not cover as much and never amounted to anything legally. Now, Mr. Black has been somewhat discredited – stripped of his lordship, but somehow he managed to regain his Canadian citizenship under a more friendly right wing subsequent Canadian government. He may no longer running the National Post, but his spirit certainly seems to linger on in the paper’s approach to political coverage.
Ok… I gotta tell you a story. It’s your story, and mine. The good news in this story is that the last chapter is blank! The bad news is that we all want to write history with blood! Yah, we’re sick pups! Here’s our redemption! https://youtu.be/93rSXA8aeG4
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