The sudden departure of Globe and Mail editor-in-chief Edward Greenspoon and his replacement by John Stackhouse is raising all kinds of questions about what’s going on at Canada’s most influential newspaper.
The change came in an abrupt statement carried online and in the newspaper:
“The Globe and Mail has appointed John Stackhouse as its new editor-in-chief, effective today.”
As is usually the case in corporate shake-ups, the departing Greenspoon was given short shrift in the announcement. Globe and Mail publisher Philip Crawley simply said: “I know you will join me in thanking Ed and wishing him well as he moves on to new challenges.”
That’s a pretty cavalier way to dismiss the contribution of the man who led The Globe’s successful move into media convergence, marrying the paper’s daily print edition with an impressive, value-added online presence.
The Globe is probably the most online-wise paper in North America, if not the world. It’s managed to use the web as a supplementary platform for the paper by offering reader interface and special features that can only be delivered online.
The latest example is Roy McGregor’s This Country column, which has taken on the form of a combination print column and online blog.
There are rumors that the blow-up came from Greenspoon’s resistance to further cuts in the paper’s editorial budget. I suspect the cleavage goes deeper.
Crawley’s announcement referred to the need for “new skills and different styles of leadership.” It went on to suggest that as the paper’s focus on the web grows, it’s going to have to start charging for access. Makes sense, but surely Greenspoon would not be in disagreement on that point.
While it’s sad to see Greenspoon go, we all wish Stackhouse a productive and successful tenure. He’s been a great foreign correspondent, business editor, and all-round editorial powerhouse.
Stackhouse is the author of two books I admire. Out of Poverty (Random House), is his account of the struggle at the local level to rise above bare existence in countries like India and Uganda.
Stackhouse turned his attention back to Canada in Timbit Nation: A Hitchhiker’s View of Canada (Vintage Canada). Part travelogue and part national pulse-taking, it was published in 2004 and in many ways, foretold the loss of jobs and incomes that Canadians are experiencing today.
By coincidence or not, Greenspoon’s departure is simply the latest of a depressing list of editorial leave-takings from North America’s top dailies. The Globe is at least the 17th major daily to make a change at the top in the past three years. The list includes the likes of USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
Greenspoon’s departure is more evidence of the crisis confronting the news media. At a time when readership is dwindling due to the Internet, advertising revenues have fallen off the cliff because of the recession.
The Globe’s been less affected that most. Its circulation has stood up, especially in comparison to its would-be competitor, The National Post.
Much of the improvement in The Globe in recent years can be laid at the doorstep of The Post. If Conrad Black ever made a positive contribution to Canadian journalism, it was in providing a competitor that forced The Globe to step up from its lethargic, holier-than-thou attitude of pre-Post days.
These are hard days for the media, television as well as print. Switching editors is not exactly like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Media watchers will be keen to see if Stackhouse is able to deliver on Crawley’s promise of “new skills and different styles of leadership.”
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