Sunday, 28 September 2008

Ottawa blues

The Ottawa Sun turned 20 on Sept. 4, but there is little joy in Hooterville, insiders tell TSF.

When the Toronto Sun marked its 20th year in 1991, the Sun gang booked the SkyDome for a party to end all parties.

Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington et al also celebrated when the Ottawa Sun was launched in 1988, but they were the glory days Quebecor would prefer us all to forget.

John Paton was editor-in-chief and Peter W. was editor when the Ottawa Herald was morphed into the Ottawa Sun in 1988 and all was well.

"This is the happiest, most ambitious start-up we've ever had," Creighton said on the day the first 136-page Ottawa Sun rolled off the presses, all 40,000 copies.

TSF asked recently why the Ottawa Sun is losing good people who are leaving by choice, not the result of pink slips. Two photographers and an assistant city editor in the past month or so.

Well, we got an earful.

"So, you ask, what's happening at the Ottawa Sun with the latest of a long string of departures being two extremely talented young photographers leaving recently — with no full-time jobs to go to — and an assistant city editor leaving within the last two weeks?" a reliable source writes.

"It's because, like many of them before them, they just can't stand it anymore," says the source. "Apart from many layoffs in the past several years, plus the most recent departures of rich talent and valuable experience, at least two dozen very good staffers have also left on their own accord in the part couple of years."

"And that’s from a small newsroom. And they are all much happier in their new lives.?

The remaining staff are "bitter, angry, cynical, demotivated and demoralized."

The source says the Ottawa Sun newsroom has become "a highly dysfunctional and toxic environment."

"What does it say about an organization when the best people continue to leave because they are not valued or respected, they literally can’t stand it anymore and, worse yet, the organization lets them leave or encourages them to leave because they know they can get cheaper, more obedient, more grateful replacements?

"It’s a ‘50s-style management mentality hardly becoming of a corporation that claims to be enlightened and progressive.

"It is such a tragedy that so many skills, talent, knowledge and experience are lost to the Sun forever . . . Just about everyone there is looking to leave, which is never a good sign."

The source says Sun Media boss Michael Sifton "needs to know that the exodus will continue and experience and talent will continue to bleed out of that newsroom as long as the toxic, negative, dysfunctional environment" remains.

Sifton talks to management but "doesn't talk to the grunts when he visits," says the source.

What a depressing and sad picture of a sister tabloid that was cause for joy when launched on Sept. 4, 1988 when Doug Creighton was at the helm.

What a 20th anniversary year scenerio for a major daily.

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