Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Press runs

Toronto Sun editors can't be comfortable with the pending loss of control of the tabloid's press runs after more than 30 years.

Not if they are going to be assigned an inflexible time slot at the new Quebecor printing plant, wedged between Bell telephone directories and other non-newspaper printing jobs.

(Sources say the Ottawa Sun has an earlier deadline and an "inflexible" one hour slot at Quebecor's new plant two hours away in Mirabel, Quebec, for the printing of 50,000 papers.)

Toronto Sun editors have had full control of press runs from the day the Webb presses first rumbled into service at 333 King Street East in the summer of 1975, much to the delight of founders Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt.

Editors have decided when the presses would roll and when they would be stopped for replates. That freedom gave appreciative Sun readers the latest possible news.

And those first papers off the presses were being read in the Sun newsroom within minutes.

The freedom to extend deadlines and to stop the presses at a moment's notice is critical for Toronto's competitive morning newspapers.

This blogger's favourite "stop the presses" story has to do with Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space in 1961.

The Globe and Mail had been put to bed, the presses were rolling and the editors were heading into the night when a teletype machine bulletin bell began to ring.

Late-night copy boy Sam Briggs read the bulletin, ran to a window that overlooked the parking lot and shouted at departing editors, who scrambled back to their desks for a replate. It was the story of the year, the morning Globe got it first and Sam got a bonus.

The Toronto Sun has had its share of deadline delays and replates to accommodate late-breaking stories, sports scores, election results, corrections etc.

So this summer's move to a new printing plant raises a few questions.

Will Sun editors lose full control of press runs?

Will there be an earlier deadline, affecting late-night news and sports coverage?

Will employees at the new plant have the same professional work ethic as the longtime, loyal Sun pressroom workers?

Stay tuned.

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