Sun Media’s New “Point Of View” Policy

Readers of The Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Winnipeg Sun and The London Free Press were in for a real surprise this past Tuesday.  Instead of seeing the latest Editorial in its opinion sections, there was an announcement by National Comment Editor, Paul Berton.  In a piece entitled “New look editorials a sign of the times”, Berton announced the end of an era.  There would be no more unsigned Editorials in any of the Sun Media papers, effective immediately.  Instead, there would be “Points Of View” which would be signed so that readers would know who was representing the newspaper’s position on any given day.  (To read the entire article, click here.)
John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog was not pleased with the change.  On Valentine’s Day, the day after Berton’s article was published, he posted an entry on the subject.  He offered a number of interesting, rhetorical questions.  Among them:
“…isn’t a signed editorial just another opinion piece best suited for the op-ed page or in columns found throughout the newspaper?”
“Will Toronto Sun editorials no longer speak on behalf of the newspaper at election time, or as a united voice on major issues in the community?”
“Will an individual editorial writer at the pro-Conservative Toronto Sun be allowed to endorse an NDP candidate running in a provincial or federal election?  Or will individual editorial writers be restricted to comment that reflects only the opinion of the newspaper’s owners?”
“Do the majority of Toronto Sun readers want editorials that focus on community events in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg etc.?”
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of unsigned editorials or editorials in general.  While I understand and respect John’s views on this (and there are others who wholeheartedly agree), The Toronto Sun Editorial Board has always driven me nuts.  They’ve twice endorsed for President a man who thinks there are 30 days in February.  Their comment on The Abu Ghraib scandal?  “…what’s done is done.”  They’ve yet to reconsider their misguided pro-war positions regarding Afghanistan and Iraq.  They criticized John Kerry’s “botched joke”, falsely noting that he was criticizing the American military in Iraq, when he was really trying to slam President Bush.  (Seriously, why would a veteran of The Vietnam War go out of his way to mock his fellow soldiers?)  They made a big deal out of the non-story that was Whitewater, even though there was never any evidence of wrongdoing.  (If my memory is good, The Clintons were exonerated no less than 5 times.)  And on and on and on.
To me, editorials represent groupthink.  I prefer individual opinions.  In the last 6 years, an Eric Margolis column has proved to be more prescient and credible than numerous Toronto Sun Editorials.
That being said, Quebecor’s decision to stop publishing unsigned Editorials and replace them with signed “Points Of View” is puzzling.  If all they wanted to do was establish a reversal of longstanding policy, why did they lose the “Editorial” description altogether?  Using the phrase “Point Of View” implies an individual opinion, not the position of the newspaper.  While I’ve never understood the idea of a small group of people representing the views of an entire publication that employs hundreds, at least when I see an unsigned editorial there is an awareness of unified opinion representative of a newspaper’s editorial board.  That has been lost forever, thanks to Quebecor’s sudden change of policy.
Furthermore, Quebecer appears to be disinterested in embracing local editorial content.  For instance, this February 17 Editorial – “It’s time to stamp out Canada Post”, written by Edmonton Sun Comment Page Editor, Mike Jenkinson – appeared in all The Sun papers and The London Free Press that same day.  While this hasn’t happened every day since the policy change, how long will it be before local editorial views become obsolete?  Or are we going to see a mix of national editorials that will appear in all the Sun Media dailies on some days and local editorials exclusive to specific markets on others?
One thing is for certain.  Fiercely loyal readers and Sun employees are slowly losing their local newspapers.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, February 18, 2007
2:38 p.m.
Published in: on February 18, 2007 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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