So now that we have some idea of who is interested in buying Canwest’s newspapers which one of the bidders should we, the employees, be cheering for?
According to news reports “about” six companies or consortiums have submitted expressions of interest in the first stage of the sale process as outlined in the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings. A committee of secured creditors is supposed to decide by next week which bidders, if any, move onto the second stage of the process.
One consortium is said to involve Gail and Leonard Asper. Paul Godfrey, current head of the National Post apparently has the financial backing of Onex and the Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCO), which manages public sector pension funds. Two other companies familiar to Local 2000 members, Glacier Media and Black Press are also said to have made expressions of interest. Details about other interested parties have not yet been revealed.
According to the Financial Post the initial bids are mostly less than the $950 million “floor” that the banks, led by Bank of Nova Scotia, said they wanted.
But, “everyone is convinced that the creditors will take cash in a bid that’s less than the stalking horse bid,” a source close to the sale told the Financial Post. “It’s a matter of time and the question is when.”
While the number of interested bidders is good news for those of us employed by Canwest’s 11 dailies and 35 weeklies — showing that at least some investors think the newspaper industry has a future — we must be careful what we wish for.
Our self-interest is to have a new owner who is committed to the long-term health of the newspapers we work for. And this means investing in quality journalism, which in the long run will be what determines the viability of the entire industry. Citizens, institutions, companies, political parties and especially democracy all require “the news” that we provide better than any other sector of the media.
Sure, it takes more than reporters and editors to produce a paper — at Local 2000 we represent sales people, press operators, mailers, accountants, clerical staff, janitors and others — but we want a new owner who understands quality journalism is our core product. We want a new owner who understands that you get what you pay for in journalism. Gathering the news requires people to spend time talking, reading, interviewing and connecting dots before even beginning to produce a story. Of course, this comes at a price. But the price will be much higher — throwing away your investment — if your plan is to continue chopping costs.
Our newspapers are at a crossroads. We can head in a direction that makes us irrelevant or we can focus on what we know makes us essential — gathering the news — and thrive in the age of changing technology.
I’m cheering for the bidder or bidders who get this.