In a deal announced Monday, Postmedia says it is buying 175 English-language Sun Media publications. Meaning, for example, that the people who own the Edmonton Journal will be the same people who own the Edmonton Sun—and that pattern will extend over a huge number of Canadian cities. Daily local print news in Canada will typically now have one owner.
One company buying another out is not usually a big deal—Lay’s and Ruffles chips are both owned by Pepsico. Both brands have slightly different consumers and, ultimately, chips don’t matter in the scheme of things. But Canadian cities’ daily Postmedia publications have different audiences than their Sun Media counterparts, and journalism does matter.
The diversity of voices we have could get smaller. One daily being bought out by the other is the first step on a slippery slope that could lead to content sharing and moments of editorial unity. When we’re talking about news media as an entity that reports, comments on and contextualizes things that affect all of us, diversity is important. Postmedia knows that people like a range of news coverage, but with the ongoing crisis in newspaper revenues, there are very big, very obvious cost-saving “efficiencies” to be made in multiple cities if you happen to own both papers. Could it get to the point of consolidating both into one office? And then would there really be much point in sending two separate teams out to cover everything?
The deal still requires regulatory approval and there are many ways that Postmedia could go forward with its new properties. Unfortunately, not many of them are actually good for Canada’s media landscape.