The National Post is one of Canada’s two national newspapers. It is much younger and somewhat less successful than the Globe and Mail, though its readership is a loyal one. Its creation in 1998 meant that, for the first time, the Globe would have a competitor on a national scale. This led to the “newspaper wars” of the late 1990s.
The paper is frequently called the Post for short, yet since its creation depended on the existence of a smaller newspaper called the Financial Post, it will be referred to by its full name for the purpose of this writeup.
The National Post was officially created in 1998 when Canadian-born media baron Conrad Black retooled the Financial Post into a more “general interest” newspaper. Black’s reasoning was that the Canadian media involved too much “liberal” content, especially in terms of editorial content, and that a decidedly more conservative national newspaper would be an effective way to counter this.
Black had purchased the Financial Post from Sun Media in 1997. Its readership base was reasonably small, given that it only dealt with news and information of particular interest to the business community in certain areas of the country (particularly Toronto). After announcing his plans to create and publish the National Post, Black insisted that it would retain the popular business coverage of its predecessor.
The paper’s political alignment was a key issue for Black, and he made it clear that the National Post would include conservative editorials so that Canadians would have an alternative to what he labeled “far left” papers like the Globe and Mail. The Globe, to be fair, was never what could be accurately called a “far left” paper, as its viewpoint was usually fairly centrist, if not slightly right-of-centre. That said, it was not conservative enough for Black.
Initial response to the National Post was fairly excitatory. The Globe had been Canada’s only national newspaper for over 60 years and its historical tradition dated back to 1844. Though it produced local editions for smaller markets, it never really had any competitors in the same national vein. The National Post’s pre-launch advertising campaign also generated interest, as it took the “let’s not tell people what this is but bombard them with the product name” approach.
The paper’s political viewpoint was conservative from the start, and its editorials took aim at many of Black’s chief “rivals,” including then-prime minister Jean Chrétien. Stories began to surface about columnists, editors and reporters being mysteriously “let go” after questioning the paper’s editorial content. Its editorials were extremely critical of the governing Liberal Party of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and what its editorial board perceived as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic attitudes in journalism and across the country.
The National Post eventually became the “crown jewel” in Black’s growing Media Empire, and he eventually owned more than half of Canada’s English daily newspapers. He chose to sell most of his Canadian publications in 2001 after renouncing his Canadian citizenship in order to receive a British peerage. (When Chrétien was handed the opportunity to give Black a bit of a smack upside the head after a few years of frequent editorial criticisms, he took it, and announced that Black would not be able to accept a peerage while a Canadian citizen.) The loss of his citizenship meant he would no longer qualify for CANCON tax breaks, and so he sold everything, more or less, to Izzy Asper.
Asper was also a media tycoon in his own right, having started CanWest Global Communications and owning several television stations and some newspapers across Canada. The initial deal gave Asper a 50% share of the National Post, plus several of Hollinger (Black's company)’s other newspapers. Desperate to close the deal, Black eventually sold the remaining 50% to Asper – for $1.
Though Black and Asper shared generally somewhat similar views on one or two issues, particularly those surrounding Israel and the CBC, they were otherwise as politically different as night and day. Black’s distaste for the Chrétien Liberals was blatantly obvious; Asper was a close friend of Chrétien and had even been the leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba at some point. Asper quickly announced that while he’d put a stop to any attacks on the prime minister he felt were unfounded, he understood the importance of dissenting viewpoints and would continue the paper’s conservative tradition.
As promised, the National Post stopped printing scathing anti-Chrétien editorials and also toned down what had appeared to many as overt endorsement of Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance. Much of the editorial content focused on the CBC and how its coverage of Middle Eastern events was allegedly anti-Israel in nature. After their contracts with CanWest Global were terminated, some reporters claimed they had been fired for writing editorials that were critical of Chrétien. Asper died in 2003 and his sons assumed control of the company and its media outlets.
One of the most contentious aspects of CanWest’s ownership of the National Post and its other newspapers is its simultaneous ownership of television stations across the country. Canadians were then seeing the company’s media outlets advertise each other, and in some areas, the same company (and by extension, the same family) owned every major media outlet in a city.
The Aspers came under fire in 2002 for including a “CBC Watch” section in the National Post. It listed potentially offensive elements of the CBC’s coverage and encouraged readers to write in with suggestions and comments. David Asper unknowingly sparked an Adbusters campaign when, while being interviewed on a CBC current affairs show and after being told that the CBC doesn’t have a “CanWest Watch,” he said that they could have one if they really wanted to.
The National Post’s financial success declined after the CanWest purchase. There has even been speculation that the Asper's might not hang onto it for much longer, but these claims have not been properly supported. Jean Chrétien’s retirement (and the rise of Paul Martin) marked a sharp turn away from its policy of not blatantly attacking the Liberal Party. It is generally considered to be more in support of the Conservative Party of Canada now that Chrétien has retired from politics.
The National Post’s website (www.nationalpost.com) is part of CanWest’s Canada.com network, which links all of its major papers to each other. The National Post’s website has particularly drawn criticism because of its major shift towards subscriber-only content. Only some of the breaking news content is available to all readers; all columns and even most of the news and feature content requires a paid subscription.
One of the most original elements of the printed version of the paper’s layout involves a bar across the top that includes news “snippets” that might not necessarily merit entire articles. The paper’s design has been described as “sleek” and has won several industry awards. One element unique to the paper is its lack of serif typography in headlines; this sort of thing seems to go a long way in differentiating it from its competitors. It has also been decried as sensationalistic in this sense, and some people say they have trouble taking it seriously for this very reason.
Like the Globe and Mail, the National Post’s national content is common to the editions available across the country. There are local “sub-sections,” however, which contain content relevant to that particular geographical and demographical area.
The paper’s first motto was “The news: you have our word on it,” a reference to the printed medium in use and a sort of promise that the information within the paper would always be accurate and up-to-date. After CanWest Global’s purchase, the motto was changed to “Your Canada, Your Post” and later to “Regional Issues, National Interest,” an attempt to diffuse criticism that the paper only catered to large national affairs or to local news – in Toronto.
National Post – Canada.com network (http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/index.html) 9 May 2005
National Post – Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Post) 9 May 2005
I remember the newspaper wars.