Toronto Star hires a right winger, Michael Cooke, as editor
The Toronto Star has always had a reputation as a liberal newspaper, which dates back to when legendary journalist Joe Atkinson became editor in 1899.
This came after what was known as the Evening Star was bought by supporters of Liberal prime minister Wilfred Laurier.
The liberal tradition continued in later years under publisher Beland Honderich and, for a while, under editor Peter C. Newman, then an ardent Canadian nationalist.
Today, the paper publishes left-wing columnists such as Thomas Walkom and Linda McQuaig, setting the Toronto Star apart from the Canwest chain and its parade of right-wing commentators.
I wonder if that could change under the direction of the incoming editor, Michael Cooke, who used to work for Conrad Black while he owned the Southam chain.
Chicago Tribune media writer Phil Rosenthal reported on his blog yesterday that Cooke has resigned from the Chicago Sun-Times to rejoin his former colleague John Cruickshank, who is publisher of the Toronto Star.
Former Hollinger Inc. chief operating officer David Radler, who was recently released from jail, lured Cruickshank from the Globe and Mail to become the Vancouver Sun’s editor in the mid-1990s.
Radler, a former business partner of Conrad Black, also appointed Cooke as editor of the Province in the 1990s.
In the 1990s, the Province, a Vancouver tabloid, took an abrupt turn to the right under Cooke’s leadership.
The paper dumped its left-wing voices and populated the editorial page with a bunch of right wingers. Cooke also gave prominent coverage to the Fraser Institute's right-wing "research" reports.
I remember writing a story during those years about how editors had allegedly launched a protest after Cooke deleted references to SFU communications professor Bob Hackett from a news story.
At the time, Cooke denied this occurred. He couldn't deny, however, that he had several clashes with the union that represented newsroom employees during his tenure.
Later when Cooke put his Deep Cove house on the market, Vancouver Sun real estate reporter Wyng Chow wrote an amusing little item about an executive house for sale on a dead-end street.
Chow didn’t identify Cooke as the owner, but that didn’t stop the Vancouver Sun from suspending him for two days over the incident. As he walked out of the newsroom, he received a standing ovation from his colleagues in what one described as a scene reminiscent of the movie Norma Rae.
In 2000, Radler took Cruickshank and Cooke to the Chicago Sun-Times, which became immersed in a major circulation scandal that tarnished Radler’s reputation.
Radler later pleaded guilty to defrauding shareholders and was sentenced to 29 months in prison. Cruickshank became the publisher and continued working alongside Cooke.
Now, they will be back together again at the Toronto Star. If history provides any lessons, then the staff had better start brushing up on the research of right-wing think tanks like the Fraser Institute. Because these two guys have a history of wanting it to appear in their newspapers.