Sunday, 5 October 2008

Ottawa blues

The 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Sunday Sun came and went in September with little fanfare, a far cry from the hoopla for its launch in 1988.

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

Those were giddy expansion years under the Maclean Hunter umbrella and a few big guns from Toronto, including Hartley Steward, Rob Paynter, John Paton and Rick Van Sickle, were aboard for the Sept. 4, 1988 launch.

Perhaps the current management is waiting for Nov. 7, the 20th anniversary of the launching of the daily Ottawa Sun to pop some corks, much like the Toronto Sun did royally for its 20th in 1991 by renting the SkyDome.

Or not.

Reliable sources say the 2008 Ottawa Sun newsroom is not filled with happy campers and the recent exodus of two young talented photographers and a veteran assistant city editor reflect the disenchantment.

TSF asked recently why the Ottawa Sun is losing good people who are leaving by choice, not the result of pink slips. 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 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 past couple of years.

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

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

"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 . . ."

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.

What a depressing and sad picture of a sister tabloid that was once cause for joy and optimism.

We are here if management cares to respond.

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