Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Mark Lever Buys Every Paper in Atlantic Canada

You know the problems unionized workers have been having with the Chronicle Herald? The strike that’s now well into its second year?

Mark Lever

Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin buys TC Media’s Atlantic Canadian newspapers. JK! It’s Mark Lever.

Well, pretty much every paper in Atlantic Canada is going to be singing those Mark Lever blues now that the Herald owner has dug some spare change out of the office couch and bought all of Transcontinental Media’s properties in this region. That means 28 — count ’em — “brands and web-related properties,” including the Cape Breton Post.

Which makes Lever the latest in a long line of Canadian media barons, following a trail blazed by the likes of Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Thomson of Fleet and Lord Black of Crossharbour (two of whom actually owned the Post at different times in its history).

Lord Mark of Bust-Union may not even be the worst of the lot. The bar is set pretty high — Lord Thomson of Fleet, for example, once said:

I buy newspapers to make money to buy more newspapers to make more money. As for editorial content, that’s the stuff you separate the ads with.

And as for Lord Black of Crossharbour, well, you know.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the Cape Breton Post hasn’t been a locally owned newspaper since the Duchemin family sold it to Lord Thomson in the 1960s. Most of us today have no idea what it’s like to live in a town with a locally owned daily (let alone a locally owned daily competing with a locally owned weekly, as was the case in Sydney for the first years of the Cape Breton Highlander.)

Concentration of ownership is a problem that’s plagued Canadian newspapers for decades. It’s been the subject of three federal inquiries — the Davey Report, led by  Keith Davey in 1960; the Kent Commission, led by Tom Kent (of Devco fame) in 1980; and the Senate Report of 2006.

The new problem plaguing newspapers — the loss of advertising revenue to Google and Facebook — has just made a bad situation worse.

The newspaper business is at a crossroads. The old model is broken and the new model has yet to fully emerge (although some of us are doing our best to usher it along). Lever’s decision to embrace the old model just as it’s collapsing seems really misguided. I think it’s going to be a hot mess and I fear for the 650 TC Media employees now on the receiving end of “employee offers” from the company Lever and his wife, Sarah Dennis, have formed to oversee their 35 media outlets (the seven, including the Herald, they already owned plus the 28 new ones).

They’ve called that company “SaltWire” (presumably because “MindSea” was unavailable, having been used for an earlier Lever venture, a mobile app developer with, according to its LinkedIn profile, “11-50” employees). Here’s how SaltWire introduced itself:

Combining the essential element of Salt, which represents the sea that surrounds us, and Wire, a tool that connects and binds, SaltWire publications are your essential sources for the news and stories about the places we call home.

Salt is not an “element.” It is an ionic compound of the elements sodium and chlorine. That’s the kind of detail reporters like to get right. And in English, we don’t capitalize common nouns — that’s a German thing. So  not “Salt” and “Wire” but “salt” and “wire.” And while I’m editing this sad little pile of words, I must also question the use of “salt” to represent “water.” Looking at salt doesn’t make me think of the sea, it makes me think of french fries. And are you implying you have us surrounded? That’s uncomfortable.

Get me rewrite.

(By the way, if you think reading it is bad, try watching it.)



Never be denied

I always read the “Getting to know…” feature in the Saturday Cape Breton Post where Cape Bretoners answer a sort of modified Proust quiz about themselves. I read it because I’m truly curious about people (like, approaching Nosey Parker levels of curiosity) and because I love the occasional out-of-the-box responses they give to questions about their favorite books, movies, music, food, etc.

Last Saturday’s profile provided a real gem of a response. To the question, “What is your favorite motto or saying?” (a question that usually elicits responses like, “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today,” or “Get ‘er done,” or “Honesty is the best policy”), the respondent, who was not, I will say this right now, Napoleon Bonaparte, replied:

If something stands between you and your success, move it. Never be denied.

I, for one, will not be standing between that local physiotherapist and his success.


And that’s all for this week — enjoy the long weekend.



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