By Еvan Osentоn
The Calgary Herald strike is over, which means it’s business mostly-as-usual at Mr. Black’s "esteemed organ." I say "mostly" because the majority of striking journalists accepted severance packages and moved on. If any of the concerns raised by interested onlookers and the union during the strike about the quality of replacement workers’ writing, editing, and layout are valid, expect a much worse Herald than we would have seen, say, a year ago. But, in fairness, no business could lose that much staff in under a year and expect to come out no worse for wear.
Call me a pawn of what Black called an "NDP coup d’etat," but I can’t say I’m salivating at a return to the way things were before the strike. The Herald was seen by some as a stooge, a sort-of limp-wristed cabana boy for Calgary’s big-business sector, an eager mouthpiece for Calgary’s right-wing community, and a bastion of poor or questionable decision-making at the managerial level. Strikers complained of "drive-by" editing, the so-called "Friend of King" stories, indiscriminate firings–name your unethical practice, the Herald was reported to do it.
To anyone who supported the strike, its resolution provides no satisfaction. Not only did the union lose, it lost big-time. Few strikers are returning, unfamiliar faces replacing them. And although the Herald lost some readers, many will come back in time for lack of a local alternative.
Herein lies a possible solution to those who are upset at the strike’s resolution.
Calgary needs a third daily newspaper. Not everyone in Calgary is a "beef-oil-and-guns" conservative. Many are more objective–more than the Herald might have you believe. Teachers, nurses, doctors, tradesmen, postal workers, academics, visible minorities, the gay community–to name only a few–are people the Herald tends to ignore in its coverage (or even disparage) in favour of wealthier, advertising-buying, right-wing corporate Calgary. The Herald will tell you they reflect their community, and that Calgary is conservative. Well, the majority certainly is, but not everyone. Besides, since when did newspapers in democratic societies start speaking for the majority only?
Surely, there’s someone in Calgary with enough money to bankroll a new daily, one that will not be unabashedly left, but will strive for that elusive centre (you know, objectivity). The timing couldn’t be better. Many people are upset about the depths to which they say the Herald has sunk in the last couple of years. Many groups claim they are not receiving fair coverage by the paper that is supposed to reflect their community, and there’s anywhere from 40-60 ex-Herald workers who may or may not be interested in a fresh start in a profession they once loved.
I’m not saying it would work right away. Starting a new newspaper from scratch is an expensive and difficult undertaking, and Calgary is not the most welcoming environment for new ideas. However, given time, even some people who are content with the current media in Calgary might grow to appreciate truly objective news.
Calgary likes to think of itself as a world-class city. Can it really say this about itself if it continues to support an unrepresentative monopoly of public opinion? A third daily paper may be a novel concept, but one whose time probably has come.