The Hollowing of the Calgary Herald

In the latest episode of the Sprawlcast, Jeremy Klazus explored the run of the Calgary Herald, from its peak in the 1980s to its now nadir, which may best be marked by the January sale of its former building to U-Haul. Some of this story — much of it, in fact — is similar to the sagas of newspapers across the country; some of it is more specific to our city. The Calgary metro area has about one-and-a-half million people in it, and its goings-on are covered by two versions of the same newspaper, neither of which has a fixed newsroom.

It is a well-reported episode — also available as a text transcript — and I recommend checking it out. I wanted to highlight this section:

KLASZUS: The Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun would now be owned by the same company. For anyone familiar with the news industry, all kinds of alarm bells went off. You don’t want the same owner for both daily newspapers in a city. But [joint owner] Postmedia’s CEO at the time, Paul Godfrey, argued that because of the internet, newspapers were no longer competing with each other, but with American tech companies.

PAUL GODFREY: We need this scale and of course time to be able to compete with a giant foreign owned digital only companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter.

This is a common explanation, but a change in the advertising marketplace makes it true only on the revenue side. News gathering and reporting is not so different — more accessible and with more possible places to publish, for sure, but the process is still similar. That is an important distinction in light of accusations that Google’s advertising network has become an illegal monopoly.