Thursday, June 9, 2011

(No.155) Media misses: Globe & Mail losing columnists

Across the top of the National Post's front page the other day was the announcement that Christie Blatchford was returning to the Post as a columnist. Blatchford, a longtime reporter and columnist for Toronto daily newspapers, has in recent years been a leading columnist/reporter for the Globe and Mail. Her first column for the Post will appear on Monday June 13.

She is a widely read columnist in part because she is the writer of the sort of opinions as well as a reporter of events (especially involving crimes and trials) that one often will not see anywhere else -- at least not expressed as frankly and straightforwardly. And she writes with real bite and without political correctness. The columnist of whom she most reminds me in her refreshing prose and style is Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.

Blatchford is the third longtime, popular columnist the Globe has either lost or let go recently. The other two wrote weekly columns: Rex Murphy now also at the National Post on Saturdays and Rick Salutin writing on Fridays for the Toronto Star.

Rick Salutin has been a favourite columnist of mine since Adam was a boy (see my comments about Salutin in "Graceless ingratitude & financial executives", column No.140, posted March 7, 2011). He was the only left of centre columnist at the Globe and often provided his readers with a different way of thinking about an issue. After its recent redesign, the one that made the Globe look more like USA Today, Salutin after many years writing his weekly column for the Globe apparently became a casualty of a new editorial 'vision'.

I remember as a child watching my parents read the Globe and Mail. They were lifelong subscribers. I have been a daily reader of the Globe since I began reading newspapers in my adolescence. For me the Globe is in its way like the CBC: while it makes my teeth ache on occasion with its pretensions to a culturally and politically superior correctness it is a habit I am unlikely to break. Nor do I wish to do so, all the more because its tones and hues can be balanced by reading other papers as well.

In recent years the Globe's greatest strength and appeal to thoughtful readers has been the quality and number of its regular columnists. The Globe is now minus three of the best.

Among those regulars who remain at the Globe are the insightful and/or entertaining Jeffrey Simpson, Eric Reguly, Margaret Wente and John Doyle. They are, like the three ex-Globe columnists who are now writing for other papers, writers whose work I invariably make a point of reading.

The Globe and Mail, even as Canada's self-styled national newspaper and one now finally and fully back in the affectionate ownership of the Thomson family, can ill afford to lose any more of its best columnists.

by Alastair Rickard