We should buy a newspaper

The Toronto Star now looks like it will be sold to Nordstar for $60M, following a briefly competitive period when a second bid was made by brothers Matthew and Tyler Proud.

It’s unclear what impact this sale will have on the paper’s editorial content, though the buyers have made it clear that they intend on sticking to the so-called Atkinson Principles. Briefly, these are a commitment to the following.

  • A strong, united and independent Canada
  • Social justice
  • Individual and civil liberties
  • Community and civic engagement
  • The rights of working people
  • The necessary role of government

That aside, it’s hard to imagine that business-as-usual will prevail, or that it should.

Prior to this deal, I had publicly proposed that a syndicate of property owners and developers buy the Toronto Star.

I came to this idea from two premises.

First, journalists influence public policy, and often in a big way. The Toronto Star was a loud, driving force for OMB reform, which was ultimately enacted by the previous Provincial government via Bill 139. (Thankfully, it was also reversed by the current Provincial government via Bill 108.)

Second, over time, good public policy should be reflected in the aggregate land values of the jurisdiction in which it is enacted. Singapore has higher land values than Malaysia in no small part due to the fact that it is better governed, and therefore more attractive to labour and capital.

Property owners and developers might then have more to gain, as a whole, from good public policy than most stakeholders. They have more skin in the game.

I could imagine that a Toronto Star owned by property owners and developers would not be supportive of or even neutral to the very many examples of NIMBYism that pop up at a regular cadence in this city. It might even publish explicitly YIMBY content, and over time, shape public policy in a YIMBY direction.

That would be really great for the city.