Sun Media policy undermines
local editorial independence
OTTAWA, April 11 /CNW/ - The Canadian Association of Journalists has deep concerns over the loss of local content, and thus local voices, after a recent Sun Media Corp. move dictating that its newspapers run national editorials and mandatory chain-wide opinion columns.
As a result, the CAJ believes that Sun Media newspapers have lost local autonomy because they're expected to run opinions dictated by a corporate policy.
Since the policy was implemented last month, Sun Media papers are required to run national editorials most days of the week.
The introduction of national columnists has been accompanied by a cutback of locally produced columns in Sun newspapers. Sun daily newspapers include the London Free Press and Suns in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa.
"We as an association understand the need for newspapers to become more efficient," says CAJ president Paul Schneidereit. "But this goes beyond that.
"This is a significant loss of newspaper independence and a loss of local voices that are key to informing the public in individual markets.
"We urge Sun Media management - controlled by Quebecor Inc. - to rethink this move and to allow the total editorial independence of local newspapers in the chain."
Sun Media officials say the moves are being made for competitive reasons, but deny that quality or their papers' local viewpoints are seriously suffering.
"For any journalist looking at it from the outside who's concerned about quality - that has to be my first concern too," says Glenn Garnett, executive editor in chief for Sun Media's English urban newspapers. "Sun papers still have a very strong local voice."
But the CAJ says the move to nationalization has seen a flood of newsroom employees leaving Sun Media or being bought out. In many cases their jobs have not been filled at the local level.
"Ultimately, this is a disservice to Canadian daily newspaper readers, some of whom have already questioned why there is a visible reduction in local editorials, features and editorial cartoonists," Schneidereit says.
The Canadian Association of Journalists is a national, non-profit, professional organization with more than 1,500 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary roles are public interest advocacy work and providing high-quality professional development for journalists.