Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ed Stelmach Hires Scab

Paul Stanway editor and columnist with the Edmonton Sun and former Edmonton Sun reporter Tom Olson the political affairs columnist for the Calgary Herald are Premier Fast Eddie Stelmachs new media mouthpieces.

Several other Edmonton Sun legislative affairs reporters graduated to become media flacks under the Klein government too.

To their credit bloggers
Daveberta covers it, and Mark Wells exposes Tom Olson as a scab during the heated and controversial Calgary Herald Strike.

Something none of the other columnists in the MSM bother to mention. Water under the bridge and all that.

Except for the reporters who fought the good fight and lost to Conrad Black's union busting efforts in an anti union province. In the home of the neo-con movement in Canada, in the city which gave birth to that movement. This was a major strike in the history of the province and in the fight for workers rights in Alberta and journalists rights across Canada.

The same Conrad Black who is now facing criminal charges in the U.S. for embezzlement of Hollinger funds.

‘Hollinger went from being an expanding business to becoming a company whose sole preoccupation was generating current cash for the controlling shareholders, with no concern for building future enterprise value or wealth for all shareholders,’ the committee found. ‘Behind a constant stream of bombast regarding their accomplishments as self-described proprietors, Black and Radler (former publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times) made it their business to line their pockets at the expense of Hollinger almost every day, in almost every way they could devise.’

Black and his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, a former columnist for The Daily Telegraph, as well as the Radler family used Hollinger as a ‘piggy bank’ for personal expenses, the panel said. The company bought a Challenger aircraft for Radler for $11.6 million and leased a Gulfstream IV jet at $3 million to $4 million a year for the Blacks. Hollinger allowed the Blacks to ‘swap’ Park Avenue apartments with the company, which ‘rigged’ the transaction so the Blacks could obtain Hollinger’s apartment for $2.5 million below its market value, the report said.

The Herald strike cost Edmonton Journal columnist Linda Goyette her job, because she would not post her column in a scab paper, the Herald.

Catherine Ford says "delicate mental gymnastics" helped her decide to scab for the Herald from the comfort of home. I'm not sure what kind of gymnastics she's talking about for, despite having portrayed herself in her first post-strike column as the only brave journalist left in the free world, it takes no courage at all to cross a picket line via computer from the coziness of Mount Royal. Ford is entitled to her opinions but her refusal to back up her convictions, face the pickets and physically cross that line shows that she is thinking not for herself, but only of herself. By accusing other journalists of being little more than ciphers for the unions they belong to, Ford casts vile aspersions on her Southam colleagues working at other unionized papers in the chain - and on journalists at unionized papers everywhere. Do you want to see real conviction, Catherine? Linda Goyette gave up her Edmonton Journal column rather than have it published in Calgary's scab-run newspaper. That's courage.

As another example, Linda Goyette, an NNA winner, got the unionization bug at the Edmonton Journal about shortly after the Calgary Herald types did. The Journal had some management problems of its own. The unionization drive failed, but some of the Journal's problem issues were resolved.

As for the highly respected writer Goyette? As I understand the story, her job description changed somewhat after the union threat abated. Some of those rumours had her basically doing glorified file clerk work.

She eventually left the paper. Other ringleaders also drifted away.

It was a long an ugly strike and it sowed the seeds for the end of editorial independence in Canadas newspaper industry.

The combination of Black's editorial agenda, reportedly forced upon his papers, his heavy-handedness with which he is alleged to deal with employees, his purported obsession with the 'bottom line' over editorial content, his alleged intolerance of opposing viewpoints in a profession which is supposed to hold opposing ideas paramount, and his critics' perception of Black as possessing disregard for the fundamental concepts behind the 'free-press', give many cause for alarm.

With the birth of Blacks right wing booster rag for the Canadian Alliance; The National Post, Southam/Hollinger bled red ink. But it was all for a good cause.
The reconstruction of Canadian newspapers from being the voice of an urban liberal middle class to being the political arm of the new right.

The strike coincided with Conrad Black hiring former Alberta Report righwingnutbar Lorne Gunter to give balance to the supposedly liberal Edmonton Journal. As he would begin to populate not just the National Post but all his papers with Canadian Alliance stalwarts and former reporters from the Alberta Report as editorial board members and columnists.

Soon after leaving parliament, Harper and Tom Flanagan co-authored an opinion piece entitled "Our Benign Dictatorship", also commended Conrad Black's purchase of the Southam newspaper chain, arguing that his stewardship would provide for a "pluralistic" editorial view to counter the "monolithically liberal and feminist" approach of the previous management.

This was not the only strike to hit the chain after Black bought it out, and they eventually led to Hollinger selling the papers to CanWest a year later.

Canwest/Global proceeded to further concentrate media ownership in Canada and undermine editorial independence and fire editors and layoff workers at a record pace. Ironically Canwest/Global continues to bleed red ink with the National Post.

Problems at the Herald surfaced under former publisher Ken King, a local go-getter who ran the city's popular and efficient Winter Olympics in 1988. The Herald had managed for more than a century without a union when King was named publisher in 1996, following Hollinger's takeover of the Southam chain. King came along with a new idea: Fairness, Accuracy and Balance. Nothing wrong with that, until senior writers and editors realized the FAB dictum had an unspoken meaning. No more muckraking. No more jabs at friends of the publisher -- who was, it turned out, friends with everyone who counted. No more being mean to the provincial government. The Herald under King was to stop picking on Calgary's problems and pay more attention to events arranged by and for the leisure class.

What's Conrad angry about now?
What's Conrad angry about now?

Despite Mr. Black's insistence that the strike at the Calgary Herald is not affecting his profits, his stock continues to plummet, his readership is down and advertisers are looking elsewhere to place their ads.
Last Thursday, Andy Marshall, striker and President of CEP Local 115A met face-to-face with a finger-wagging Conrad Black. When asked about returning to the bargaining table Black said: "We're amputating gangrenous limbs. If they have the grace of conversion and want to function as employees instead of staging an NDP coup d'etat in the newsroom, they'll be welcome." He also suggested the dispute will end one of two ways: decertification or come back to work with no agreement on such basic clauses as seniority and wage grids! Andy Marshall said no thanks.

And why should we care that Tom Olson was a scab, or that media in Canada is concentrated in the hands of a few private interests? Because now that same right wing is in power in Ottawa, as well as in Alberta, and they dominate the mainstream media in Canada.




Media Bias



Ed Stelmach

Conrad Black

Paul Stanway

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