The (David) Pecker who once sat as chair of the conglomerate that fabricates the National Post newsletter made headlines as the trigger man in the Donald Trump catch-and-kill indictments this week.
Question is did a guilt-by-association shiver rattle the dragons at Postmedia Inc., the former Conrad Black-owned newspaper chain that dominates the country’s daily press?
Or does the tabloid dressed up as a broadsheet bask in its self-appointed role as a purveyor of nonsense talking points in the service of breaking Canada?
Makes one wonder how many interference plays the National Post has run for Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party and their Reform Party predecessors since its 1998 founding. And how many stories counter to the interests of those RW parties were caught and killed by Postmedia papers across the country?
Catch and kill was the sort of news hook that would normally stir a collection of dinosaur journalists named Robert Fife, Rex Murphy and Andrew Coyne to high dudgeon, if only there were a Liberal Party connection to the mess. The inimitable Sabrina Maddeaux would somehow deem it a metaphor for Trudeau’s Canada.
But a connect-the-dots exercise tying the corporate culture of Pecker’s Florida-based National Enquirer to the newsrooms of Postmedia of Bloor Street East in Toronto wasn’t exactly articulated by anyone in the media.
Ironic, in that no one at the Post is declaring journalism “broken.” Perhaps the Abacus Data of David Colletto will bestow on the populace a snapshot of the Canadian public’s opinion of the largest chain in the country.
A crime against journalism by a transborder organization creates a ripple effect. If nothing else, it explains the antics and exposes the shabby standards of the Postmedia chain.
It was also representative of a nasty confluence of sleazy journalism and outlandish Republican Party politics that had to rattle the news division of the 100% American-owned Postmedia, the Toronto-based company with the fourth-largest audience reach in the country, behind CBC, CTV and Global.
Pecker was chair of Postmedia till 2018. He was replaced after it was revealed he had cut an immunity deal with US prosecutors who allege the illegal use of campaign funds to stifle embarrassing news that had the potential to torpedo Manhattan Fats’ tragic campaign.
The former Postmedia chair ultimately paid $150,000 to a woman not only to buy her silence; the tabloid king offered up space to the victim to write two magazine cover features and a series of articles that would be published under her byline.
Catch and kill morphed into pay and publish.
Pecker manipulated the Enquirer’s “news” hole for Trump. But a supermarket tabloid is not equivalent to an MSM titan like Postmedia. When Pecker sat in the chair at the Postmedia Star Chamber, there were 120 titles vulnerable to a catch-and-kill, pay-and-publish editing scheme.
Pecker not only agreed to help as the “eyes and ears” for the campaign by looking out for negative stories about 45 and alerting lawyer Michael Cohen before the stories were published. The tabloid king, notorious for publishing the National Enquirer, also agreed to feature negative stories about The Donald’s competitors during the election, hyping anti-Hillary fictions tailored for gullible shoppers in the grocery checkout aisle.
It was brass-cheque journalism at its finest, a scheme to search out negative stories to ensure that the source did not publicize damaging allegations about the Trump campaign and thereby influence the 2016 Election That Changed the World.
Sadly, the fearless investigative reporters of the Post missed the chance to capture both a Canadian National Newspaper Award and a US Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the scheme.
More likely, they would have killed that news break anyway.
Payments issued on three occasions in the Trump-Pecker scheme appear to be predicate offences to a larger charge related to operation of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO), comprising the 500-plus companies in the sprawling and impervious Trump Organization.
The actions Stateside are reminiscent of the Post’s culture of attacking Liberals on this side of the border.
One payoff of $130,000 to an adult film actress crossed hands a mere 12 days before the presidential election that bequeathed the world the worst US president in history.
It means the former head honcho of Canada’s National Post was running interference for a Republican politician at the very time of his appointment to the Postmedia board.
One can picture the enthusiastic greeting Pecker received, member as he was of the Trump inner circle, as he was introduced to the Postmedia board.
The developments confer early proverb status for the meme coined by US political observer Rick Wilson: #ETTD – Everything Trump Touches Dies.
The developments also cast a yellow shadow on the operations at Postmedia’s network of 120 brands, including other newspaper titles like the Financial Post, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald and Sun, Vancouver Sun, Ottawa Citizen, London Free Press and Edmonton Journal.
Media has trust issues in a time of digital expansion. It needs radical transparency to rebuild it.
Instead, we get Rebel, Post Millennial and National Post, titles not deemed “journalism” by many.
Worse still, the chain with a mission to own Liberals hasn’t hesitated to take federal handouts from the Trudeau government.
In November’s 2019’s economic statement, the government announced three new tax measures costing $595 million over five years.
Postmedia was among the companies lobbying for assistance.
The federal government followed up in June 2021 with payroll subsidies and tax break incentives for digital news subscriptions. The government created an independent board to review applications by media organizations to designate those eligible for the tax credits as Qualified Canadian Journalism Organization (QCJO).
Perhaps the Canadian government should make this list of QCJOs and its process for qualification transparent, given many of these outlets receive significant payroll subsidies. A list of recipients is available on government websites, but not subsidy levels.
Additionally, Google and Facebook should reveal which Canadian media outlets receive funding from their platforms when their content is carried. (A preponderance of lede stories on Google and Bing favour RW talking points, indicates an informal assessment).
Postmedia Network Inc. is majority owned (66%) by Chatham Asset Management, a US private equity firm that also owns the US newspaper chain, McClatchy, (Kansas City Star, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, among others).
The remainder of shares are split between Leon Cooperman, an American billionaire investor and hedge fund manager and chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors (14%), a New York-based investment advisory firm, and Allianz, the German Insurance Company (19%).
Both have controversial histories with financial regulators.
In May of 2022, Allianz agreed to pay more than $6 billion and its U.S. asset management unit pleaded guilty to criminal securities fraud over the collapse of a group of investment funds early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chatham is led by Anthony Melchiorre, a Chicago-area native who manages over $4 billion in assets for clients through various funds, including some listed under a Cayman Islands address, reports the New York Times.
In 2016, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Cooperman and his firm Omega Advisors with insider trading based on material nonpublic information he learned in confidence from a corporate executive.
Chatham Asset Management acquired two-thirds of Postmedia by trading a portion of the money it was owed for the majority ownership stake.
It’s all of a piece, from a chain of broadsheet newspapers that act like tabloids.
Before the restructuring was completed, Postmedia owed approximately $648 million to its debt holders.
This, from the paper that routinely lectures about federal debt levels (when Liberals are in office).
The Canadian government ponied up millions to all qualifying media, calculated by size and reach of newsrooms.
This funding was made possible by the Bill C-97, announced in the 2019 federal budget that passed three income tax measures to provide support to Canadian journalism organizations producing original news content.
As of August 31, 2021, Postmedia has recovered compensation expense of $2.1 million and $6.9 million, respectively, related to the journalism tax credits (2020 – $500,000 and $4.5 million recovery, respectively).
“Based on our current staffing levels and no other forms of assistance being received we expect the per annum gross federal journalism tax credit to be between $8 million and $10 million and the Quebec journalism tax credit to be approximately $1 million,” was a Postmedia boast.
Its reported print circulation revenue was $171.8 million in 2021 and digital revenue was $102.9 million, per its annual report. In effect, the chain picked up a 3.6% boost to revenues.
Pecker joined the board of Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher with print, online and mobile titles including the National Post, in October of 2016, shortly before Trump’s shock victory over Hillary Clinton.
In June 2015, Trump announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Only two months later, in August 2015, the Defendant met with Pecker to hatch the catch-and-kill, pay-and-publish scheme.
Meet Robert. He is a former veteran news reporter/magazine editor incensed at how the North American media props up buffoons like Trump & Ford. Time to put "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" back into the newsroom's Mission Statement.