Friday, 26 January 2007

Missing bylines

Numerous bylines and photo credits were missing from Friday's Toronto Sun in a Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild protest over the latest job losses.

Bylines, and some photo credits, were absent throughout the paper, in news, sports and entertainment, replaced with "Toronto Sun Staff" and "Sun Photo."

Saturday update: Stan Behal, senior photographer and the newsroom's union membership secretary, says:

"It was a demonstration of support for our colleagues, whose last days working for the Sun were the end of this week, and a unanimous show of disaffection for a company who would slash content providers with little apparent concern for the quality of the product and then, in an apparent end-run around the contract, hire people for non-unionized national editorial positions.

"It is not a tone I think productive for future bargaining. Also, as a show of support for those leaving on Thursday, to almost a man and woman, reporters, photographers, and columnists wore black as a further demonstration of their support . . . "

Problem is, there were no words in the paper to explain the protest and SONG didn't explain the withdrawal of bylines and photo credits in a press release. (Not that we could find.)

How were readers to know Sun reporters and photographers were making a statement about Quebecor's cutbacks and layoffs? Maybe SONG left it to the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and National Post to pick up on the protest, which would be noticeable to anyone in the media.

More disturbing to the Toronto Sun Family was the absence in Friday's Sun of parting words about the dozen laid off staffers who made their exit this week.

Except for Bill Brioux's cryptic "Stand By Me" comments in his final column, there wasn't a peep from anyone in the paper about the layoff victims.

Not a word about the departures of Day Oner Sherry Johnston after 35 years and 22-year vet Maryanna Lewyckyj. Not a "thank you," not a "we'll miss you," not a "good luck" in print.

Toronto Sun columnists, male and female, used to have the balls - and the freedom - to comment on negative happenings at the Sun.

When Sun legend Hartley Steward quietly retired last year, without fanfare or a mention of his departure, it took veteran columnist Mark Bonokoski to right that wrong. Mark devoted an entire column to Hartley's contribution to the Sun over three decades.

Mark did it because he remembers the day when that was what the Sun was all about - caring and sharing. Where are the other columnists when it comes to speaking for colleagues they have worked with since the 1970's and 1980's?

Has the newsroom neutering by Quebecor completely silenced compassion and free speech?

Knowing former staffer Christie Blatchford, we have no doubt she would have devoted a column to parting colleagues, with a few choice words about Quebecor's methods.

Where is Christie's style of bravado among today's Sun columnists and commentators? MIA.

If an unexplained byline protest is the closest Sun staffers can get to expressing their feelings, freedom of speech at Sun Media is dead.

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