Calgary Herald owner's bid for Sun newspapers concerns journalism professor

A Calgary journalism professor says Canadians should be very concerned about Postmedia’s bid to buy Quebecor's Sun Media English newspapers.

Deal means the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun would have the same owner

The Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun could soon have one owner. (CBC)

A Calgary journalism professor says Canadians should be very concerned about Postmedia’s bid to buy Quebecor's Sun Media English newspapers.

Quebecor has agreed to sell all 175 English-language newspapers it owns under the Sun Media banner to Postmedia, the owner of the National Post and others, for $316 million. In Calgary, the deal means the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun would have the same owner.

Sean Holman, who teaches as an assistant professor at Mount Royal University, says the lack of competition that would result if the deal is approved is a concern for news consumers.

“I think all Canadians should be very troubled by this potential sale,” he said.

“The role of the media in society is to hold accountable to power. That’s what we should be doing. And what this sale could mean is that there will be less of an ability to do that — for a variety of different reasons — in the future. That’s what’s at stake here.”

Postmedia president Paul Godfrey said earlier Monday morning the company has no plans to close any parts of the media chain. But Holman says similar promises made during other media takeovers have not been kept.

Low price tag indicates problem

As well, the low price tag for the sale is concerning, says Holman.

“This kind of price tag for these kind of properties does not speak very well of the current state of the media industry, of the newspaper industry in this country.”

Calgary Herald sports columnist George Johnson said the announcement was unexpected but that staff are keeping their fingers crossed things go smoothly.

“It’s like getting traded. It’s like [Jarome] Iginla winding up in Colorado,” he said. “We go to work, we do our 850 words and we do them as best we can. We get on with it and hope that everything works out.”

The deal still has to be approved by the Competition Bureau, which will the deal with an eye to any potential problems that could arise from media ownership concentration.

Newspaper reader Joan Teghtmeyer says she's concerned one owner will mean less coverage and variety in Calgary.

"They will just economize on staff and there will be more people afraid of losing their jobs if they don't say the right thing," she said. 

Postmedia says it foresees between $6 million and $8 million worth of cost savings annually from the two newspaper chains being able to streamline some operations. 

"In order to survive and compete against the largest foreign-based digital businesses, we must be strong enough to fight and win,"Postmedia president Paul Godfrey said in a note to staff after the deal was announced before stock markets opened Monday morning.

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