Saturday, 13 October 2007

Black armband time

Toronto Sun layout editors have taken great pride in packaging eye-catching front pages since Day One in '71.

But they must be in the black armband mood after viewing obtrusive front page car ads on two consecutive Fridays.

And what a difference a day makes.

From the brilliance of a post-election Andy Donato cartoon on the front page Thursday, to yet another wide blue Hyundai question ad - "Do I look fat in this? - covering half of Friday's front page.

The Sun's front page, the pride of reporters, photographers, graphics staff and layout editors for almost four decades, is being sold out by Quebecor for advertising revenue.

It is a vital selling point of the Sun being tampered with by bean counters.

As a reporter, it was always a thrill to have work chosen for the line story. Competitive photographers would always gloat when his or her photo was chosen.

After the presses at 333 King Street East rolled and the first copies arrived in the newsroom, the end results of a hard day's night was often a tabloid front page suitable for framing.

The front page makeup masters - including Les Pyette, Peter Brewster, Mike Burke-Gaffney - often beamed like proud poppas while viewing their front pages.

But these obtrusive and annoying car ads, being labelled by some as tabloid "abortions," prevent all involved from packaging the traditional Sun front pages.

Quebecor gets the extra bucks, dedicated newsroom staffers and readers who still care, once again get the shaft.

Can Quebecor's new multi-million printing plant not duplicate the wrap-around front page ads being printed at the Post and the Star? They are more tolerable. You remove the ads and the full front pages are there to read.

Well, actually, word from insiders is the new state of the art Quebecor printing plant in Toronto, with its new pressroom workers, is having a difficult time accommodating the demands of Sun press runs and the 333 King presses have apparently been used as backup.

Our guess is all of the papers last week with off-colour photos and faded text were courtesy of the new presses.

Transitional problems do occur - the National Post is advising readers problems at its new printing plant might delay deliveries - but sources say Quebecor's plant woes are "extremely serious problems."

Transferring all of the dedicated and loyal veteran Toronto Sun pressroom employees to the new plant, instead of pink slipping them, would have been a smoother ride.

So, week to week, there are signs of hope for the Sun - old faces, solid newspaper people, returning to the roost, the arrival of Michael Sifton and the Osprey influence etc. - followed by decisions that leave us incredulous.

An ideal scenario: Quebecor gets out of the newspaper business and concentrates on wireless systems and printing those millions and millions of telephone directories.

Leave newspapers to newspaper people.

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