Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Into the Sun 2

If Edward John Smith, captain of the Titanic had access to a blog as his ship was sinking, would he have chatted about the breakfast menu and the weather forecast for the next day?

Or would he have taken the time to talk about the perils of charting a course through an Atlantic containing hazardous icebergs?

That thought came to mind while reading Glenn Garnett's first Inside the Sun blog entries Monday night. Sun promotion. Puff stuff.

We expected more of the same from the new editor-in-chief tonight, but Glenn rose to the challenge (well, partially) in reacting to negative publicity about the tabloid.

OK, we thought, here we go.

Take a read of his second posting. We will wait for your return . . .

As you noticed, most of Glenn's posting is a reaction to Friday's Toronto Star column by Antonia Zerbisias, although he doesn't mention her name.

If you missed her column, this is how it began: "You may not notice it as you go by, but the smell of death is on many street corners in the GTA. It comes out of all those red boxes offering the Toronto Sun."

Antonia's ammunition for the column included: massive cutbacks and layoffs that have left the tabloid with a bare bones newsroom; a trimming of staff throughout 333 King Street East; the sudden resignations of key executives; the firings of TV critic Bill Brioux, Lifestyle writer Valerie Gibson, Readership Editor Alison Downie etc. etc.

Antonio was also armed with comments from Sun employees she interviewed, anonymous because they are terrified of losing their jobs.

Glenn would have made an excellent NHL goalie because throughout his second blog, he deflects all of the barbs and tosses them back at Antonia and the Star, suggesting they look at conditions in their own house.

It is a good, old-fashioned mud slinging competition, folks, but when the mud settles, Glenn really hasn't dealt with any of the visible, ongoing problems at the Sun.

Says Glenn:
"What about that NADbank report which came out a couple weeks ago, showing we had the fastest growing weekday readership? The dandy ABC circulation report last fall?"

Says we:
What about the 2007 Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) Sun readership data released last Thursday? The embarrassing figures the Sun has decided not to publish.

Says Glenn:
"For as long as there's been a Toronto Sun, naysayers have been presaging our doom. It began with Charles Templeton and Pierre Berton way back in 1971 - they gave us six months to live. Over 35 years later, the skeptics are back, and all through the winter we've read magazine and newspaper accounts of a Sun in its death throes, a once-great tabloid circling the drain."

Says we:
The naysayers were mute from about 1975 through the 1990s when the tabloid kicked butt and made a bundle. They resurfaced after Quebecor entered the picture in 1999 and launched a series of cutbacks and layoffs that continue eight years later.

As for naysayers in 1971 and naysayers in 2007, apples and oranges, Glenn.

In 1971, there were 62 former Tely newspaper people with a dream and the determination to succeed. When they did succeed, thanks to a readership that felt connected to the tabloid, they didn't lose sight of their newspaper roots. Management shared the paper's good fortunes with employees. The paper visibly had a heart and a loyal staff.

In 2007, that profitable dream tabloid - once ranked among the Top 100 Canadian best companies to work for - is being dismantled by a conglomerate intent on who knows what. It is a conglomerate with more bean counters than newspaper people, more pink slips than heart-felt thank yous and handshakes; more disillusioned employees than dedicated, loyal staff. In a nutshell, it is more negative than positive at the Sun circa 2007.

Sun profits and declining staff numbers speak volumes for the priorities of the "new" Sun. It is clearly more take than give and employees fear if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is an oncoming train.

Deal with Sun issues, Glenn.

Why do you have a newsroom with fewer employees than a shopping mall supermarket?

Why are key people resigning or being forced to resign?

Why have two of last year's "five best reasons to read the Sun" been fired?

Why are people jumping ship week after week?

Why have most of the company benefits been axed when the Sun is still profitable?

Put it all into focus for us as a good newspaperman should.

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