Sunday, 31 August 2008

OttSun photogs -2

What seemed like a positive sign from the Ottawa Sun the other day - a Help Wanted ad for a photographer - turns out to be the aftermath of more staff abandoning ship.

Reliable sources say Blair Gable, an award-winning young photographer, quit the job recently and fellow-photog Darren Calabrese followed him out the door.

Word is the Help Wanted ad posted online and elsewhere is to fill both vacancies, not just one.

One TSF tipster says "considering both are young (in their mid-late twenties) and have not secured jobs elsewhere, it is an odd and very perplexing situation."

You said it.

Sun Media just can't hold on to its promising and award-winning young photographers. They are moving on to other jobs after winning key awards.

Why is that? Are they losing interest with this new focus on multi-media tasking?

So what's the story, Blair and Darren?

SNL & reality

Maybe it's mad cow, but we're having a very difficult time keeping John McCain's Saturday Night Live skits separate from his ongoing campaign for president.

It got fuzzier when the aging, 72-year-old Republican war vet with a medical history named an unknown, gun-toting, anti-abortionist mother of five currently under police investigation in Alaska as his running mate.

John and Sarah should keep SNL in material through election day, but the reality is if American voters elect another Republican president after eight disastrous years with George W. at the helm, tighten your belts and dig those trenches a little deeper.

And should McCain die while in office . . .

We shudder.

Republicans in '08: Simply resistible.

As Dennis Kucinich said in his kick-ass speech: Wake up America.

What say Sun Media's Eric Margolis, our favourite political analyst?

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Luc Lavoie exits

Luc Lavoie, Quebecor's media mouthpiece for several years, is moving on after eight years with PKP and company, says an eMedia World press release.

Lavoie, executive vice president of corporate affairs, was a consultant for a year before hired by Quebecor in December of 2000, says eMedia World

The approachable Quebecor spokesman earned his pay in fielding calls from media in the past few turbulent years. No reason is given for his departure, but Lavoie says it is amicable.

"I am pleased to announce that Luc will continue cooperating with Quebecor on an ad hoc basis, both as an advisor and, true to his first calling as a journalist, as a commentator on current affairs," Pierre Karl Peladeau says in the press release.

Friday, 29 August 2008

TorSun website

The Toronto Sun will unveil a revamped website Sept. 8 and we're wondering if the new direction will be closer to a true Internet newspaper.

The Toronto Sun hasn't fully captured the essence of the Internet - news when it happens and instant reader communication with staff.

Here's our Top 10 suggestions for

1 - More news as it happens, not at 4 a.m. after the print edition hits the streets, and include the time of an update to show how current the information is online. Plus, add a clock.

2 - Make it easier for visitors to find the e-mail addresses of every reporter, columnist and photographer for beefs, bouquets or news tips.

3 - Use more photos with online stories. Our pet peeve: online stories about missing or most wanted people and there are no photos. Amateur night.

4 - Provide web links to outside sources mentioned in stories, columns and features that would benefit readers. Use sparingly, with the interests of readers in mind.

5 - Call us territorial, but when we go looking for Sun Media blogs to read, we want to know the location of the bloggers - before we click on their site.

6 - As a courtesy to older readers who never adapted to metric, add Fahrenheit to the Current Conditions weather info. It takes up so little space and would be appreciated.

7 - On the About Us page, you might want to drop the outdated 2005 circulation figures and provide e-mail links for all of the Toronto Sun and Sun Media execs listed.

8 - Add dollar exchange and metric converters to the Money section. It is surprising how many TSF readers have used a link to a metric converter mentioned months ago.

9 - When Toronto Sun staffers win awards, include links to their winning news stories, columns or photos. They've done you proud, so flaunt their prize-winning efforts.

10 - On the home page, provide links to the news, sports, entertainment, financial and comment editors for easy access. Don't force visitors to spend time searching for e-mail addresses.

In a nutshell, if Sun Media wants to promote the transition to online newspapers it should utilize all benefits of the Internet.

On a scale of one to 10, today is at 5, where the Globe and Mail and Star (it has revamped its online front page) are 8s. and the National Post a 7.

The Sun's Sept. 8 update will have to be a showstopper to boost its online appeal.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tom Braid replay

Most Canadian photojournalists sail through life without a whiff of personal danger, taking safe shots of cheque presentations, community events etc.

The rare exceptions include Tom Braid, the Edmonton Sun's photo editor, who looked down the barrel of an AK-47 in tense Somalia 16 years ago while on a Sun assignment with reporter Paul Bucci.

Edmonton Sun reporter Michelle Thompson replays Tom's harrowing experience in a story today that certainly captures the reality of his ordeal.

"I took a picture, spun around to take another picture and I had a gun on my face," Tom told Michelle. "An AK-47.

"I thought I was dead," he said. "I don't know why he didn't pull the trigger."

Tom and Paul were arrested at gunpoint and released hours later thanks to negotiations by the Red Cross.

A fascinating read.

When it comes to danger pay, Tom and Paul earned it, as did Peter Worthington while covering wars during his foreign correspondent years.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Dem speeches

If you miss any of the speeches at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week, full audio replays are available at

Six speeches from Day One were posted by WNYC last night.

It is a free service.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Woody & Tim bash

Former colleagues of Darren "Woody" McGee and Tim Fryer, two newsroom vets booted by Sun Media in May, have been wondering if there was ever going to be a farewell bash.

Well, put on your party boots folks, Woody and Tim will be raising glasses and remembering the Sun years this Wednesday night at The Blue Moon Pub - 725 Queen Street East at Broadview, 416-463-8868 - anytime after 8 p.m.

Sources say Tim's new job at the Toronto Star (we knew this talented veteran editor wouldn't be idle for long) and Woody's new found life of leisure and soccer coaching delayed the organizing of a party.

The "why" of their axing in May after decades of dedication to the tabloid has yet to be explored. It made absolutely no sense to most current and former colleagues.

The Blue Moon Pub gathering of Sun Family members from recent years and distant past should provide some answers - along with a lot of good vibes from two highly respected newsmen.

So that's:

The Blue Moon Pub, Wednesday after 8 for Woody and Tim;

Betty's Restaurant, Thursday after 6 for Joe Duffy.

We will soon be counting the men and women who helped make the Toronto Sun a winner and are still employed there in a matter of seconds.

Joe Duffy exits

Updated 08/29/08
Joe Duffy
turns in his Toronto Sun security card on Thursday in saying goodbye to a tabloid he has called a home away from home for more than 30 years.

The unsung hero of the imaging department will be surrounded by well-wishers Thursday after 6 p.m. at the nearby Betty's Restaurant, the Toronto Sun's unofficial press club.

Betty's - 240 King Street East, 416-368-1300 - has seen its share of Sun farewells in the past decade and when the goodbyes are for dedicated vets like Joe Duffy, well, the Sun shines a little less brighter.

Their numbers are fewer in 2008, but in the glory years of the tabloid Joe was among a core of Sun staffers who were always upbeat, positive and professional.

Len Fortune, another photo and imaging vet who made his exit from the Sun in March 2007, says in an e-mail to TSF:

"Just in case you or your faithful readers don't know, Joe Duffy - Hollywood Joe - is pulling the pin after more than three decades at the Toronto Sun.

"Joe, who started off in the pressroom, joined me in 1978 or '79 in the colour lab - now the imaging department. He's had an incredible career at the Sun, as a worker and as a morale booster for the paper.

"Nobody during the Sun's 37 years of existence has done more to put fun and excitement into the paper. Parties, baseball games, whatever. Joe worked hard and made sure that most of us played hard.

"His loss can't be measured in its entirety on a ledger sheet. Joe is one of a kind and the last of a rare breed."

Thanks Len.

Les Pyette, who was city editor of the Toronto Sun in the 1970s and CEO in the 2000s, says:

"Sorry to see Joe go. He was one of my Sun favorites, always willing to go that extra mile for the paper and if you needed a favor, Joe was always smiling and happy to help.

"Cheers to Joe."

Former Sun photographer Bill Sandford says Joe and his cohorts "were a good crew back in the day. Joe and I saw each other last at a ski day at Devils Glen near Collingwood a few years back

"Any idea what our favourite blonde guy is going to be doing, or is he just going to retire on his Sun pension?"

Jillian Goddard, Joe's significant other in the Toronto Sun library, tells TSF:

"No definite plans at this point . . . he is definitely taking time off in the fall to relax and hopefully enjoy nice weather. I'm sure he will be at the cottage for a good part of September and October. "

Care to share your best wishes for Joe? Send us an e-mail.

Price hikes

How much is too much for a Toronto newspaper transported beyond the GTA for the benefit of readers who haven't given up on print media?

The Toronto Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun are all still available in communities well beyond the GTA - for a price.

Out here in the boondocks, the National Post is the bargain basement newspaper at $1 weekdays and $2 on Saturday. That is $7 a week, or $364 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Sun is next at $1.05 Monday through Saturday and $2.10 on Sunday, or $8.40 a week. That is $436.80 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Globe and Mail hiked its weekday price to $1.25 a few months ago and to $2.75 on Saturday. That is $9 a week, or $468 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Toronto Star will lead the pack as of Sept. 1 when it begins charging $1.50 Sunday through Friday and $3 on Saturday. That is $12 a week, or $624 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

Newspaper readers beyond the GTA who have an insatiable appetite for the content of all four Toronto newspapers would have to spend almost $1,900 a year to get their daily fix.

Holy Daily Planet, that is a big screen TV.

So what is the thinking of the Toronto execs when it comes to providing newspapers beyond the GTA? The Star attributes its Sept. 1 price hikes to "significantly higher costs of fuel and newsprint."

"Everyone is looking at the cost of delivery," a veteran Canadian newspaper executive tells TSF. "I believe it is only a matter of time before papers will either reduce their circulation by eliminating areas where the cost exceeds the cover price, or increase the cover price to match the costs.

"Any number of papers in North America have done this already," he says. "Look at the (almost) National Post. They've been pulling out of high cost areas for years. Major metros in the U.S. have been doing the same. Canwest has quietly been increasing the home delivery rates outside their core markets to reflect the rising costs of fuel and labour."

Newspapers for the print generation are still the best bargain in any town, but count on more selective purchases by people forced to rethink their spending habits.

We used to say the Sunday Sun was the best buy at any price, but not after they abruptly dropped the television guide and messed with the successful Sunday tab format.

Our best buys now are the $1.25 Friday Globe and Mail, with its excellent movie and TV package and the $1.05 Friday Sun for its weekend entertainment and sports pages.

We're having second thoughts about a $3 Saturday Star, as we did when the weighty New York Times weekend edition reached $8.

But we don't take the efforts of the Toronto dailies to provide out-of-towners with daily papers to read and enjoy for granted. It is a daily ritual that would be greatly missed.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Barfoot book

A few quotes from a Canadian Press story about author Joan Barfoot and her new book, Exit Lines, revived memories of Joan and the Eclipse Building circa 1975.

The Toronto Sun didn't have a Saturday edition in 1975, so the second-floor newsroom was a quiet place to type if you were anxious to work on a story idea.

With a new boss to impress, Les Pyette, this newcomer thought he would spend part of his first Friday off to work on a feature and score some points.

Joan Barfoot was the only other person in the newsroom that January evening and she was annoyed that someone was invading her solitude.

She said something to the effect that nobody was supposed to be there Friday nights.

It sounded more like a proclamation for the benefit of the new kid on the block.

Not to be bullied, took my coat off, sat down and worked on a feature for about an hour.

Never bothered to ask Joan what she was working on that night. Who knows, it might have been the first of her 11 novels.

But this Toronto-born reporter, just hired by the talk-of-the-town tabloid, knew he wasn't going to accept that a newsroom was off limits at any time of day.

Three decades later, some of the quotes in the CP story sound like Joan of old.

The heading reads: "Author Joan Barfoot expects to be 'cranky, demanding' in old age"

Joan, 62, says of her own old age:

"I'm going to be so cranky and so demanding, probably without the grace I would like to have," she says from her home in London, Ont.

Of baby boomers: ""We're so used to being in control of as much as we possibly can be."

You said it, Joan, but you have to learn how to share a newsroom with a rookie on a Friday night in winter.

Seriously, good luck with Exit Lines. TSF will add it to the growing list of books authored by prolific current and former Toronto Sun Family members.

You can check out Joan's web site at and order Exit Lines at

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Doug in focus

There was something about TSF's photo of Doug Creighton, added several months after this blog was launched, that caught the eye of a faithful reader.

"One thing I have noticed each time I open your page is the picture of Doug Creighton," the loyal reader said in an e-mail yesterday. "It looks like it was copied on a severe angle from another photo. It makes him look a little skewed."

It was an accurate observation: The photo was taken on an angle to avoid camera flash flare from our favourite photo of Doug.

The e-mail would have been enough to have us try again, but this considerate TSF fan took readership to another level.

"I have used a few Photoshop tricks to try and return it/him to his original dimensions. He was, after all, larger than life."

Thanks to the reader, who asked to remain anonymous, our photo of the Toronto Sun's much loved founding publisher is no longer skewed.

Much appreciated.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

30 - Elvis

The front page Toronto Sun headline 31 years ago today read: The King Dies.

Elvis Presley, a legend in his own time, had died at age 42 and for a generation of staffers at the Toronto Sun, it was much too soon.

The Toronto Sun was just shy of its sixth anniversary, but the feisty tabloid, with its Page 3 SUNshine Girls, columnist Paul Rimstead, cartoonist Andy Donato etc., was making waves.

Les Pyette, the city editor, was also an avid Elvis fan, so what went on in the Sun newsroom on Aug. 16, 1977, was both business and personal.

And the result was a memorable front page that has become a lasting Toronto Sun collectible.

TSF reached Les for a replay of the mood in the newsroom the day Elvis died and the team work that produced the fitting tribute to The King:

"I was city editor, just 32 years old. The news of Elvis dying hit like a ton of bricks. There were no real story meetings in those days, but I remember going into the managing editor's office - Ed Monteith, a great nuts-and-bolt newsman in his day - and urged Ed that Elvis should be the story of the day. He disagreed.

I went to the back shop and discussed the story with Kathy Brooks, the entertainment editor, and enlisted her help to convince Ed that it should be the line story. Ed trusted her judgment and said some mention would be on the front page.

I grabbed an album cover from home and asked the great Andy Donato to colour it. Andy, in his genius, four-flexed it and bingo! We had something that resembled a color picture of Elvis on the front. (All of the Sun front pages back then were in black and white.)

As the day wore on and radio - CFRB - and other stations, starting playing tributes to Elvis, it was then that Ed finally agreed to the death of Elvis being the line and with some urging from Donato, Brooks, myself and others, Ed wrote The King Dies.

Of course, it sold a ton of newspapers. It was the early days of the Toronto Sun and playing that story on the front in such a dramatic fashion blew away the Globe and Star and became a forerunner to many front pages in the years to come; best sales were a big headline and one huge picture.

For me, it was a personal triumph when word from our circulation department confirmed a sell-out. It was a great confidence booster.

And today, as I sit retired after 43 years in newspapers - 29 with the Sun chain - the only front page that hangs framed in my London home is that one . . . The King Dies.


Thanks for the replay, Les.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Quote of '08

From the lips of George W.:

"With its actions in recent days Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

We are speechless.

Speaking of credibility and bullying, George . . .

Michael Den Tandt sums up George's hypocrisy in his op-ed piece in today's Toronto Sun.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Citizens 2

Scott Rogers, an avid amateur Toronto photographer with his own portfolio web site, woke up to a winner and a front page Toronto Sun photo.

"FOLKS!! My picture is the cover of the Toronto Sun today! Woooo! A dream come true," Scott writes in a Scott From Canada blog posting.

In the posting, Scott describes how he was awakened by the first explosion, grabbed his camera and snapped away. Later, he posted photos on Flickr and YouTube seeking buyers.

Before he knew it, the Toronto Sun was asking him for exclusive rights to his photos, a deal he accepted.

But Scott, somewhat frustrated, added this to his posting:

"Fucking hell. This has turned into a bit of a nightmare! I submitted a few of my pics to CNN, and cp24 like I always do in case one MIGHT get used somewhere. These deals are always non-exclusive deals so no problem.

"Not this time! I've now been asked by the Toronto Sun, the National Post and I just got a call from CNN as well! I was talked into doing an exclusive deal with the Toronto Sun so now I have to say no to everyone else. Which is kinda tough after Ive already uploaded the pics to CNN . . . But I told the guy and he said he'd put a note on it so hopefully they just wont use mine and find someone elses. I don't wanna get sued out of all this! No one has ever wanted my pics before so this is quite the learning experience."

Exactly - a learning experience.

We don't know what Scott was paid, but in our day a freelance front page colour photo in the Toronto Sun meant at least a $300 cheque. An exclusive fed to Sun Media newspapers across Canada should be worth at least a thousand.

What would Scott have raked in if he offered his photos to the highest bidder, flogged his photos to all interested media or restricted the Sun to the Canadian rights?

Scott Rogers got his front page in the Sun, an ego-boosting exclusive he might never experience again in his lifetime.

From the wording in his posting, it is clear he now knows when you have "the" shot, milk it for what it's worth.

Citizen ripoffs

What was paid for the exclusive amateur video footage of the Toronto propane explosion yesterday that chillingly looked like a fiery atomic mushroom cloud?

In this day of citizen journalists, 50 bucks, if that.

It was worth much more than $50, but dwindling ethics in the media and an uniformed public are providing print and broadcast media with bargain basement photos and video footage.

And that is inexcusable.

Freelance reporters and photographers have had a difficult time being paid a fare wage in a very competitive market, so much so that many have joined the Canadian Freelance Union.

Then along comes Joe Citizen gleefully giving away newsworthy photographs and video footage for nothing, or next to nothing, not knowing the true value of what they are holding.

Perhaps it is ego that motivates most citizen journalists - seeing their photographs in newspapers or video footage on TV, the Internet and YouTube. Yep, it's quite a buzz.

But they should be made aware of the potential value of exclusive photos and footage.

Before uploading photographs and video for free, they should be told freelancers are paid $150 and up for routine news and much more for one-of-kind exclusives.

Some exclusive photos and video can be worth thousands and even millions if it involves Hollywood stars and/or their newborn babies.

But it is not always Hollywood. The Toronto Sun reportedly paid $10,000 for wedding photos of sex killers Karla and Paul in the 1990s.

With citizen journalists lining up today to submit photographs and video footage for free, or for peanuts, media bean counters are beaming from ear to ear. It is a cheap way of filling the product.

Citizen journalists need to be educated and properly compensated by media conglomerates that are making money at their expense.

How many citizen journalists know enough to say they are providing photos and footage for one time use only? Few, no doubt. All control of future use is being abandoned by many.

They should also know when to hold 'em for appropriate payment for exclusive shots and even seek higher bids with the assistance of a broker.

And they should be given full credit when their photographs and video footage are used.

To pay them $50, if anything, and use their photos and footage without a credit is shameful and unethical.

Sadly, citizen journalists are not being educated and print and broadcast media won't be speaking up on their behalf, not when they are reaping the benefits of their ignorance.

To the anonymous person who captured that spectacular propane explosion, we hope you got more than a handshake.

Much more.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Mike's op-ed

That op-ed piece by Mike Burke-Gaffney in Friday's Toronto Sun was a rare treat.

Mike is one of those unsung heroes at the Sun who shines daily, but is seldom front row centre when it comes to reader recognition.

The veteran Sun staffer, managing editor since February of 2007, has done it all since he moved over from the Catholic Register in 1980 to join former Register buddy Bob Vezina in the Sun newsroom.

Mike has been news editor, assistant managing editor, Sunday editor, associate managing editor and also an Ontario Press Council professional member.

In his early years, the Winnipeg-born media vet was a Public Works Canada information officer, spent time at the Inverell Times in Australia and Canadian NATO forces in West Germany.

All of that, plus an op-ed piece, and the tireless father of four won't turn 60 until next year.

We Googled "Mike Burke-Gaffney" tonight. Only 18 results showed up and one was Mike's op-ed piece from Friday. That count is hardly reflective of his contribution to Canadian media since the 70s.

As Sunday Sun editor, Mike took the Sunday paper to peaks that will never be reached again. He was at the helm in the early 1990s when the Sunday Sun zoomed passed the 500,000 circulation mark. What a milestone it was for Mike, the paper and its readers.

You can't take that away from modest Mike, a dedicated newsman who is highly respected by colleagues.

Another Mike, Mike Strobel, was in newsroom management when he decided to switch to column writing and what a huge bonus that has been for Sun readers.

Hopefully, we'll see more of Mike Burke-Gaffney in print.