On all levels, this is wrong.
The CEO of a major news media organization, like Paul Godfrey, who runs Postmedia Network Inc. which includes the National Post, should not be endorsing political leadership candidates or parties.
This is different, of course, from newspaper editorial boards endorsing one political party in an election campaign as that support is temporary and, often times, tepid or qualified. Godfrey’s move seems to communicate an overt and permanent affiliation with the Ontario PC Party that undermines the objectivity of his business.
Now when Postmedia reporters or Sun Media reporters cover the PC race, not to mention Ontario politics should Brown win his party’s leadership, they’ll have to wonder if Mr. Godfrey approves.
You can even sense the awkwardness in the lead sentence in the National Post’s “story” on their boss’s move today:
“Businessmen Paul Godfrey and Derek Burney announced their support Thursday for Patrick Brown in the race for leadership of the PC Party of Ontario Thursday.”
How about: “My boss here at the Post announced his support for Patrick Brown today….”
True, it’ll make those cynical about media even more cynical. Now we can even more officially write off Postmedia and Sun Media (which Postmedia recently bought) as the propaganda wing of the Conservative movement in Canada.
And yet it happens. And Patrick Brown, the MP for Barrie not good enough for federal cabinet since his election in 2006, accepts it. It was interesting coupling today’s announcement with stalwart Tory Derek Burney’s endorsement, perhaps done only to distract from the strangeness. This is yet another example of why Brown’s leadership bid continues to make me feel icky.
My friend and fellow blogger Nancy Leblanc succinctly raises various concerns with this, including the perceived conflict of interest in a media CEO endorsing a political candidate, and the importance of journalistic objectivity.
Leblanc also writes: “Further, Godfrey’s endorsement of Brown cannot help but be viewed without considering Godfrey’s recent history with the Wynne government. Recall that in the spring of 2013, he was removed from his position as Chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. That history informs his announcement today and bolsters a perception of an adversarial political context.”
Democracy in Ontario just took a big step backwards today.
Follow Matt Guerin on twitter: @mattfguerin