When the National Post marked its 20th birthday on Oct. 27, much was made about the many ways in which the newspaper’s emergence in 1998 fundamentally altered the media landscape in this country. Without a doubt, the Post injected a new kind of energy into Canadian media, offering a home to writers – and opinions – that might have had few options otherwise. That alone is worthy of celebration.
Many of the Post’s columnists, past and present, marked the anniversary with tender words about what the paper has meant to them. I was particularly struck by those of Rev. Raymond J. de Souza, who noted that “the Post came along at just the time when understanding the news required a better understanding of religion,” and, further, that the paper remains, to this day, “more determined” to cover religion than its domestic competitors.
It’s hard to disagree, especially when it comes to the Post’s coverage of Jewish issues, and specifically Israel. The CJN is Canada’s national Jewish newspaper, but the National Post is a close second. For two decades, it has presented a pro-Israel perspective, providing a countermeasure to the sort of stories you routinely find in the pages of prominent Canadian dailies. For many if not most Canadian Jews, this has been a welcome development – a godsend, even. When Israel is routinely condemned in the press, you can always count on the National Post to offer the other side, and to do so in convincing fashion. That’s the key: it isn’t just that the Post prints pro-Israel opinions where others don’t – it’s that those opinions are better reasoned, researched and argued.
On top of its pro-Israel tendencies, what has always drawn me to the Post is the quality of writing. I was lucky enough to play a small part in the making of the National Post for five-plus years, as a member of its comment section. It was a formative experience: watching the likes of Robert Fulford and the late, great George Jonas ply their craft was a dream come true, and it made me a better writer. The Post helped me be a better editor, too: from Jonathan Kay, who edited the comment section during my tenure, I learned the value of championing uncomfortable ideas, even disagreeable ones. The Post has always trusted its readers enough to challenge them, and to let them figure out for themselves where they stand.
I found out that I’d gotten a job at the National Post just a few days after starting an internship at another Toronto publication. When I told the staff there that I’d be leaving almost as soon as I’d arrived, one editor muttered something to the effect that I’d be back – since the Post was clearly doomed to fail at any given moment. Such dire predictions have dogged the paper and its devoted employees for virtually its entire existence, and certainly the Post, like many Canadian publications, continues to face significant financial challenges. But for all those people who’ve gleefully predicted its demise since the day it first published, the National Post is still alive and kicking. Here’s to another 20 years.