By Frank Moher
By Frank Moher
Two otherwise unremarkable entries in The National Post and The Globe and Mail this week are instructive in the most salient difference between the two papers — and it isn’t that one is right-wing and the other is even more right-wing.
Both articles are about the opening of the musical play Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. The Post covers the story by running production diaries by both the star of the show, OYR co-founder and stalwart Denise Clarke, and Dave Bidini, frontman for Toronto indie-music icons The Rheostatics, on whose book, The Five Hole Stories, the show is based. The Globe covers it with a profile of Bidini.
In other words, to the Post the story is Clarke and Bidini. To the Globe, the story is the luminary from Toronto who sheds his light on the prairie dwellers. (Full, muddled disclosure here.)
I don’t want to make too much of this. Bidini is a perfectly reasonable focus for such a piece. Maybe that’s who the writer, Saskatchewan freelancer Patricia Robertson, had the best access to, or maybe she just decided Bidini gave good interview.
But it is typical of the way the two papers cover the country. The Globe has, in recent years, reverted to its pre-William Thorsellian habit of viewing everything as though from the top of the CN Tower, creating a Canadian equivalent of that famous New Yorker cover in which you got yer Manhattan in the foreground and then, squished on the west side of the Hudson River, yer everything-else. The Post, on the other hand — shadow of its former self though it may be — still is more likely to put artists in Calgary or Halifax on a par with those in Toronto, or to have a sense of what stories matter on the ground in Edmonton or Vancouver (literally, in the case of the damage done to Stanley Park by wind storms in mid-December: the Post ran a 900-word story almost immediately; the Globe mentioned the destruction as part of a 500 word story on January 1st).
Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that the Post now picks up stories out of CanWest’s local papers. But however it happens, it happens.
I wonder if the editors at the Globe ever ponder how this plays out in those various cities. Last time I worked in Calgary for a few weeks, I played a little mental game each morning as I passed the cluster of newsboxes outside my hotel; based strictly on their front pages, which paper were Calgarians most likely to buy that day, the Post or the Globe? Nine times out of 10, there wasn’t much question. The Post looked like it actually had a clue about the city it was being hawked in; the Globe still resembled something that had arrived mysteriously in the night, like a crop circle.
The newspaper wars are long over and the Post has quietly and conclusively lost. Neither paper much trumpeted their circulation figures when the Audit Bureau of Circulation numbers came out last Fall, as both had lost readership over the previous 12 months (as had most of the papers in North America, besieged as they are by the Web). But where the Globe was down 1%, the Post was down a brutal 10%. So it may be that my daily one-man focus group on the streets of Calgary wasn’t all that reliable. Still, cauterizing its wounds, the Post can at least claim to be a more national national newspaper than Canada’s National Newspaper (for all the good that’ll do them). As for the Globe, pretty soon it’ll read more or less exactly as it did back in the 1970s. Then it’ll just be a case of getting Justin Trudeau elected Prime Minister and, why, everything will be back to normal.
Post-scriptum: I write for the Post occasionally. I promise to come up with something to savage them over. Then perhaps I won’t write for the Post occasionally anymore.