It seems a little late to be writing about the closure of the Sun News network. It was back in February – Friday the 13th of all dates actually – and it now seems very far away. It’s always the way with a major news event I suppose. Initially there is surprise but mingled with the shock is a sense of liberation and newness; then a firestorm of e-mails and comments and journalists requesting responses and opinions, almost all of which I declined; then the quiet and the emptiness and beyond the odd, late note from someone, a feeling that it never existed in the first place. Goodness, I make it all sound far more dramatic than it was and even like a death. But in some ways it was a death.
We all knew it was likely and some of us had even predicted the actual day. But beyond and beneath all of that dark confidence was a hope that someone would ride in at the last moment and save the day. Alas, the ride didn’t take place. At 5 a.m. the Sun set and I was in the strange position of being on one of my regular Newstalk 1010 radio panels just a few hours later. From there I walked to the Sun building, signed my severance package letter, took down a large poster of my pretty face that adorned the reception area, said a few goodbyes, and waited for my wife to pick me up in the car and drive us home.
So, what next and what have we lost? On a personal level I have various columns and radio and television spots, speeches and another book recently commissioned from my publisher, Random House. But I have hosted a nightly television show for 17 years and the change is, well, rather startling. I am also 56-years-old and it has obliged me to rethink a few things – from a faith perspective, all for the better. I was also, it must be said, not a perfect fit at Sun. My views have reformed in the past couple of years and I was never, anyway, a committed conservative and not an Ezra Levant or a Brian Lilley.
But for the pro-life movement the end of Sun was a major blow. The above-mentioned Brian Lilley, for example, is a stalwart opponent of abortion and euthanasia and a major champion of the traditional family. He has been bold and articulate in defending his Catholic faith and the moral teachings of his church. Ezra Levant may not be a Christian but he has been tireless in speaking out for Christians in Canada who feel marginalized from the public square. While both men will continue to write and broadcast, they will not be able to do so on the Sun News Network.
I introduced a weekly segment called Moral Maze on my show and it ran for several years; we ended it just a couple of weeks before the network closed because it was becoming a little repetitive. Each week pro-life activists, invariably from Campaign Life Coalition, would come on the programme to discuss moral issues. We gave airtime in particular to some younger, newer pro-lifers and as with my former show on CTS I was proud of enabling and encouraging different and Christian voices in media.
I also interviewed dozens of people from Canada, the United States, and Britain who worked within the pro-life movement and had tales to tell. I exposed stories of unfairness, hypocrisy, cruelty, and disregard for the unborn, the handicapped, and the elderly. There is hardly a leading pro-lifer in North America who didn’t, in fact, come on The Arena and each time they were treated with the utmost respect. I also tried hard to make sure that the better, more intelligent, less strident and severe members of the pro-life community were seen – it’s incredible how often mainstream media doesn’t even try to achieve this.
This doesn’t, of course, mean that media and television in particular is now closed to pro-life leaders and activists but it does, I think, mean it will now be much harder and more challenging. My advice it to reject hysteria and extremism, not be seduced by other agendas that are more about hard right conservatism that genuine care for life and the living and to see the human and the person behind every critic or opponent.
Television is changing and media in general is being re-structured and even re-born. The pro-life movement in Canada is younger and more effective than in many years and the decline of one television station is not going to change any of that. Drink a toast to Sun, and drink one to yourselves as well.
Michael Coren’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.