Monday, 17 December 2007

Wallace dep ed

James Wallace, cherry-picked from Osprey Media after Quebecor purchased the newspaper chain in August, has been appointed deputy editor of the Toronto Sun, says a pending press release.

Wallace, who spent 10 years at the Sun before moving on in 1999, will have "specific responsibilities for the Sunday and Monday papers and special projects."

Lou Clancy, editor-in-chief, says Wallace "will be responsible for developing unique content to differentiate the Sun even more distinctly in the strongly competitive Toronto market."

One goal for Wallace, says Clancy, is to "develop a strategy to take the flagship Sunday paper to a dominant number one position."

That will be a difficult, but not impossible goal, considering Sunday Sun sales in the early 1990s peaked at 550,000 with the Jays' first World Series win, while sales are now below 350,000.

The most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures pegged Sunday Sun sales at 347,653, while the Sunday Star's ABC numbers were 410,566. That is 60,000-plus readers the Sunday Sun needs to gain for "We're No. 1" bragging rights.

Where did 200,000 members of the faithful flock go in the post Doug Creighton years? Okay, 150,000 to be fair because that 550,00 milestone in 1992 was Jays inspired.

The Sunday Sun is still a good read for local news, sports, entertainment, op-ed pieces, auto talk, travel, computer games and tech talk, but is has a lot of its edge.

The television guide is lethargic compared to the Gord Stimmell years; Max Haines is greatly missed; lottery and casino gamblers are largely being ignored; quirky, offbeat features have all but vanished etc.

How to bounce back, pick up 60,000 or so readers to top the Sunday Star? A few suggestions from this former staffer and a 32-year reader of the Sunday Sun:

1 - Beef up the television guide, or merge it with ENT, creating a meatier section comparable to the Globe's entertaining Friday film/TV section. We haven't seen the Edmonton Sun's new ENT section with the TV guide, but it has to be more appealing than a bare bones guide with token TV news and features.

2 - Sunday Sun readers have been deprived of a weekly crime column since the prolific Max Haines retired. We have been flogging this Sunday Sun idea for a couple of years: Have a dedicated crime reporter work his or her way across Ontario updating the province's most baffling cold cases. Invite all police forces to profile their most challenging unsolved crimes. Post rewards. It is a crime feature that would work across the Sun Media chain.

(Take Mark Bonokoski's annual revisit of an unsolved 1979 hit-and-run death in his column Sunday, add 51 other thorough and well-written cold case updates throughout the year and it's a no brainer for weekly reader appeal, public service and a boost in police relations.)

3 - The Sunday Sun needs a weekly gambling column to keep readers up to date on government and charity lotteries, casinos etc. We don't say this as the writer of the Luck of the Draw column that ended in 1994 with my exit, but as a gambler and a Sun reader. Billions are being spent on gambling and except for major lottery winners and the occasional OLG scandal, little space is devoted to gambling and all that comes with it, including casino shows and events.

4 - Provide more offbeat stories. Al Parker's Loch Ness feature a few months ago stands out as one of the few, word-for-word offbeat gems of the year. Where have all the Sasquatches, ghosts and UFOs gone? There was a time when readers never knew what to expect in their Sunday Sun. That edge has dissipated.

The Sunday Sun, if it wants to shine as it did in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, needs to provide content not found hourly on radio, television and the Internet. Dazzle readers with uniqueness - content found only in the Sunday Sun.

We're hoping Wallace, a political hound since the 1980s when lured from the Brandon Sun (no affiliation) to the Toronto Sun, doesn't think a heavier concentration of political columns and features are the answer. Not as a means of attracting 60,000 more readers.

Wallace covered a lot of bases at the Sun - city hall reporter, columnist, investigative reporter and Queen's Park reporter - before making his exit in 1999 after Quebecor bought Sun Media.

Two years with the National Post, two years with the Ontario solicitor-general's ministry as a senior communications adviser and four years as Osprey's Queen's Park columnist.

Then back to Quebecor and 333 King Street East. Full circle.

Who says you can't go home again?

We don't know if any feathers in the chain of command will be ruffled by Wallace's appointment, but the reporter once known as Jamie, is all smiles.

"It's great to be home at the Sun because it is an important paper in the city," he says in the press release.

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