Interview with
Martin Cauchon - Claude Gagnon

Company
Groupe Capitales Médias
Year
2016

A new life for the regional press .

When he was Federal Minister of Justice, Martin Cauchon spurred the evolution of the traditional definition of marriage. Now that he owns half a dozen newspapers, he is dedicated to transforming another fixed business model: regional print media. How will Groupe Capitales Médias’s shareholder and his trusted CEO, Claude Gagnon, succeed? Enjoy this condensed summary of our conversation with this successful pair.

Q. Martin, your shift as a media owner was shocking to many. How do you explain this professional transformation?

A. Martin I’m not a traditional businessman. My primary mission is a public mission. When I sat down with Mr. Desmarais to discuss the purchase of his regional newspapers Le Soleil, Le Nouvelliste, Le Droit, La Tribune, Le Quotidien, and La Voix de l’Est, I told him that these publications needed an owner who knows the regions.

They were in dire need of an owner who is recognized in these regions; somebody with a true passion for these regions! Needless to say, I was interested in this opportunity! However, I knew that it would be difficult to make it without Claude because I’m not a manager. Claude is. We are complementary to one another, and that’s why we form such a great team. We never step on each other’s toes.

Q. Running a newspaper is quite an adventure in itself. You manage six regional papers! What drives you?

A. Martin As I mentioned earlier, for me, it’s all about public service. Information plays a fundamental role in these regions and in every other region at that. Our newspapers serve as actors and witnesses to community, economy, politics, culture, social life, and so on. The fact that we can share this information in a way that preserves proximity and quality is a testament to our healthy democracy. I feel like it’s my duty to protect this outlet. Day in and day out, I am inspired by this mission.

Claude Media is a democratic pillar. Although it supports the quality of life we have here, democracy is not a given. It’s our job to ensure that these democratic pillars don’t erode or fall over. We can't afford to see newspapers disappear, they are primarily the ones who collect and process the information that serves for important public debates.

Q. Speaking of disappearance, you chose not to abandon the traditional print newspaper format, but to turn your papers into multiplatform media. Can you explain this strategy.

A. Martin When I became the owner of the six newspapers in 2015, they were somewhat lagging behind. They had a Web presence but they were still prin­ted on paper. We needed new platforms, and we needed them fast! The model we chose to adopt was a multiplatform approach as we felt it reflected our readers and their needs. We wanted to allow each demographic segment to pick a platform of their choice.

Claude Content must travel and adapt to different platforms to please different readers. We knew that simply transposing our print model to a digital platform would be a mistake, and we didn’t want to go down that route. We wanted to bridge the gap between the print edition and the digital version of our papers. That’s where the Mirego team came in. They helped us connect the paper world, in which we were still in, with the new digital world.

Q. In the end, what do you hope your readers will gain from this business model transition?

A. Claude Undoubtedly, the greatest benefit will be access to reliable and trustworthy information! Nowadays, with the Internet, anyone and everyone can write and publish online. We witnessed this during the last American elections. “Fake News” was spreading left and right via social media, and perhaps only 20% of it was true, while the other 80% of it was false information! This makes for an unhealthy, even toxic situation. Moreover, certain media outlets tend to share opinion pieces and news commentaries as opposed to reporting the facts as is.

Given that a significant portion of the population is unable to detect the subtle difference between opinion and fact means that this biased reporting technique problematically influences its audience, which is socially harmful. In short, we need information that is verified, processed, and collated adequately. It’s essential to maintaining our societal equilibrium. For us, truthful information and fact-checking are non-negotiable!

Martin He’s pretty good when he talks about democracy! We should find him a riding!

Two Hard-working Men on a Journey

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When he was still working in politics, Martin Cauchon described himself as an alley cat. However, during the interview, he ascribed feline traits to the Mirego team due to their extreme agility. Given that Martin Cauchon and Claude Gagnon’s professional experiences were numerous, I guess we could say that they had nine, very interesting, lives. Here’s an archival glimpse into their past.

1978
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While some start their career at the bottom of the ladder, Claude Gagnon begins his career as Sales Manager in the plastic industry.

1983
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Claude lands his first media-related job and becomes the Marketing Director of the weekly Progrès-Dimanche newspaper and the Le Quotidien du Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean newspaper.

1988
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At age 26, lawyer Martin Cauchon goes head-to-head with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the Charlevoix riding. He is utterly defeated but positions himself within his party.

1991
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While attending the University of Exeter in the UK, Martin fulfills his dream of joining a rowing team! He also earns a Master’s Degree in International Business Law.

1993
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Martin is elected as a Member of Parliament for Outremont, and becomes a central figure of Canada’s Liberal Party as president of its Quebec wing.

1994
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After successfully exploring the securities field and working as a business management consultant, Claude Gagnon returns to Saguenay’s press industry. His duties include being President of Le Progrès as well as Editor of  Le Quotidien and Progrès-Dimanche.

1996
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At the age of 33, Martin Cauchon is appointed Secretary of State for Quebec’s Economic Development. He is later promoted to Minister of National Revenue, then Minister of Justice, where he tabled the same-sex marriage bill.

2001
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Claude Gagnon receives a call from the editor of La Presse informing him that he wants him to take over their printing group’s presidency. Of course, he accepts!

2002
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An umpteenth new challenge for Claude, who arrives in Ottawa as President and Publisher of the Le Droit daily newspaper. Unknowingly, a few years later, he will play the same role for the Le Soleil newspaper.

2004
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Martin practices law, again. “I visited several offices and focused on International Law consulting,” he specifies.

2015
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Martin Cauchon catches the news industry off guard when he acquires Gesca’s six regional newspapers. He founded Groupe Capitales Médias and was joined by an experienced CEO, Claude Gagnon.