Parker Donham, ‘Halifax lefties’ and the Chronicle Herald strike

And now it’s Day 365…

I hesitate to respond to Parker Donham’s curmudgeonly contrarian Facebook rant (see below), but since he’s included me in his attack on “Halifax lefties,” I can’t help myself.

Parker suggests “interventions” from the likes of me, former NDP cabinet minister Graham Steele and Halifax Examiner editor Tim Bousquet “may have encouraged” the union to prolong a strike by Chronicle Herald reporters and editors — a dispute that marks its one-year anniversary is today.

For starters, Parker gives us way too much credit for our influence. Conversely — and offensively — he gives the striking journalists far too little. Does he really think they didn’t understand the issues or the stakes when they voted over a year ago to put their careers and lives on the line?

Does Parker really think he invented the Internet as an issue ravaging journalism’s business model? He huffs: “They made no mention — none — of the Internet.”

He might want to read — since he apparently hasn’t — my recent lengthy feature about the Herald strike for Atlantic Business Magazine. Early in that story, there are several paragraphs highlighting the Internet as “the giant, fire-breathing, media-killing dragon in every ink-on-paper newspaper newsroom.”

But the reality is that, while the Internet has created a crisis for all publishers, not every owner has set out to destroy its workers’ union to deal with that crisis. Before and during the current dispute, the same union Parker accuses of strategic blunders at the Herald has reached contracts with other newspaper owners, including the Irvings, without strike or rancour.

Herald management, on the other hand, left its negotiating to a lawyer who boasts about helping companies operate union-free.

Finally Parker attacks us for calling the Herald “Nova Scotia’s paper of record.” That’s not a quality judgment. It’s simply the reality. For most of the past 70 years, the Herald has been the dominant news outlet in Nova Scotia. Although that’s changing, I’m happy to acknowledge, the Herald did, until recently, set the news agenda for the province, determining what got paid attention to and what didn’t. Most media outlets compared their own coverage, for better and for worse, to the Herald.

As for Parker’s suggestion that we celebrated the Herald as a “magnificent journalistic exercise,” I can only suggest he read what I’ve actually written — dating back to at least 1981 — about the Herald, its history and its strengths and weaknesses for national, regional and local publications.

***

Parker Donham’s Faceboook post of January 22, 2017, in which he begins by arguing that Graham Steele’s year-old post on the eve of the strike was somehow a factor in encouraging the union and its members to hold out longer than they should have: 

One perhaps small factor in the terrible length of this strike is the attitude entrenched in Graham Steele’s year old post, one of a series at the time by Halifax lefties such as Tim Bousquet and Steven Stephen Kimber. These posts referred to The Herald as if it had been a magnificent journalistic exercise, “Nova Scotia’s paper of record.” In reality, as they well know, the paper has a long record of mediocrity. They made no mention–none!–of the internet, and the devastation it has wrought on the economics of publishing newspapers, most especially on medium sized regional newspapers like the Herald. They portrayed the union and its members as totally in the right, the Herald’s owners as evil capitalists.

These interventions from the left may have encouraged the Union in its self-defeating strategic blunders during the early months of the strike: the long delay in producing an alternative inline paper, picketing advertisers instead of soliciting them for the local Xpress, publicly berating civic leaders like Mayor Savage instead of cultivating them as allies.

In short, you played to the peanut gallery with this self-righteous post, Graham, but the fantasy you spun did nothing to shorten the strike.

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Copyright 2017 Stephen Kimber, Website
  1. It’s sad but Parker, a friend, has developed something of an anti- union bias. Good response.

    Reply

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