You Must Be This Conservative To Ride: The Inside Story of Postmedia’s Right Turn

New CEO Andrew MacLeod has a plan to muffle moderate voices at Canada's largest newspaper company. It's created confusion and uncertainty in newsrooms across the country.

By Sean Craig
August 12, 2019

It was not out of the ordinary at Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain, for editors to have their knuckles rapped for failing to meet the political expectations of the company’s conservative management.

In 2015, after the federal election that brought Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to power, Andrew Potter, then editor-in-chief of the Ottawa Citizen, was called to the company’s head offices in Toronto.

There, Lou Clancy — then Postmedia’s senior vice president of content — told Potter that his paper was too “anti-conservative,” according to three sources. When Potter asked for specific examples of coverage that could be improved upon, Clancy could only cite a single editorial cartoon.

Nor was it out of the ordinary for management to use its papers to make election endorsements without the input of editors.

During the 2015 federal election, for example, the Citizen was ordered by Postmedia bosses to endorse the Conservative Party of Canada. This despite its reporting in the years before having led to three Conservatives being put on trial; two of them ultimately went to jail. Still, the paper argued, the party remained the best choice for Canadians. (A month after the election, the members of the Citizen’s editorial board resigned).

In the 2015 Alberta election, the Edmonton Journal — another of the chain’s metropolitan daily broadsheets — was ordered to endorse Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives, after the paper had unearthed a run of embarrassing stories for the ruling party, and in a campaign where it was universally held that the PCs had underperformed.

At Postmedia, this was all par for the course.

But October 2018 was different. October 2018 was the start of something unprecedented.

Several editors at the National Post — Postmedia’s flagship newspaper with an explicitly conservative political mandate, where I reported on media from 2016 to 2017 — were summoned to a meeting on the 12th floor of the company’s headquarters.