Here was the scene on the north lawn of Queen's Park where, facing the legislature, the endorsement was rolled out:
.@brownbarrie announces Postmedia boss Paul Godfrey and PC titan Derek Burney are supporting him. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/5JYJIRMouz
— Robert Benzie (@robertbenzie) April 2, 2015
Godfrey is President and CEO of one of Canada's largest media operations. Indeed, this announcement occurs on the heels of the federal Competition Bureau having given the green light to Postmedia Network's acquisition of 175 Sun Media newspapers. There is a public democratic interest that the Competition Bureau took into consideration when granting public approval over this expansion and the recency of that decision and his company's expanded media footprint in Canada might give some executives cause for extra caution and care when considering such a political endorsement.
Further, Godfrey's endorsement of Brown cannot help but be viewed without considering Godfrey's recent history with the Wynne government. Recall that in the spring of 2013, he was removed from his position as Chair of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. That history informs his announcement today and bolsters a perception of an adversarial political context.
A President and CEO of a company is the chief spokesperson for that entity. A President and CEO doesn't simply "run the business part of the newspapers," as Mr. Godfrey stated today, but speaks on behalf of the organization. Herein lies the perceived conflict of interest in a media CEO endorsing a political candidate, and the importance of journalistic objectivity. A CEO speaks on behalf of, represents and embodies that corporation's public and private dealings with its many stakeholders. It is quite difficult to unpack the chief executive's persona from that of the corporate entity due to their position and the scope of their authority. This is why, as Postmedia Network's Business Code of Conduct, provides - "Postmedia Personnel may participate in the political process as private citizens." - there is a signalling implicit in Mr. Godfrey's endorsement to his company's journalists, customers and shareholders. In short, Mr. Godfrey is not speaking as a private citizen. CEOs rarely do.