Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Re Wayne Janes

Brian Gorman, a TSF reader with a Sun Media history, responds to the comments of Wayne Janes:

"Hi. Brian Gorman here.

"I'm a onetime Sun guy (happily in Edmonton and not so happily in Ottawa) who has been reading TSF since a friend pointed it out to me a year ago. Usually, I just read it and keep my opinions to myself, but the recent exchange between call-me-silly guy and Wayne Janes got to me.

"I'm working on a PhD in communication at Carleton, after completing an MJ there in '04. (I did my thesis on Quebecor.) Consequently I have spent the past 10 years reading everything I can get my hands on about the so-called newspaper crisis - which, by the way, predates the Internet by at least 30 years. Declining circulation has been a concern since the 1960s, and most newspaper companies started to treat it as a serious problem in the '80s.

"I also work for the Tribune Co., and lost a month's pay to the Chapter 11 proceedings, which gives me personal reasons for keeping an eye on the destructive children who are currently running media companies on both sides of the border.

"So it was with more than passing interest that I read Wayne Janes' response to the call-me-silly guy. I just wanted to say that I think Mr. Janes wrote one of the rare lucid appraisals of the situation that I've seen recently.

"It was SO refreshing to hear from someone whose sense of history extends more than five minutes into the past.

"As Mr. Janes says, no communications technology has been rendered obsolete by a new one. Radio was supposed to kill the newspaper. TV was supposed to kill radio and movies . . . and newspapers. Movies were supposed to kill theatre. Now, the Internet is supposedly killing newspapers - even though it has extended the reach of most of them and tripled or quadrupled their readership. The Kindle and Electronic Book may kill paper, but it will make books more affordable.

"One thing I'd like to add: newspapers aren't in such terrible trouble. The media conglomerates are, because of huge debt they've run up acquiring properties for which they had no coherent strategy.

"While its parent company, Tribune, was going into bankruptcy protection earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times was projecting a $100 million profit for 2008 - down from $200-plus million in 2007, but still a return that GM and Chrysler, or most airline executives would sell their souls for.

"In fact, even in what is being called the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the profit margin of the average publicly owned U.S. paper is around 11 percent. Again, something most executives would kill for.

"Their parent companies are another story.

"The Tribune Co. is carrying a debt load of $13 billion - nine times cash flow - and is looking to sell the Cubs, the Tribune Tower and Tribune Media Services.

"The Times Co. is rumoured to be shopping the Boston Globe and its share of the Red Sox, and is considering taking a mortgage on its mid-town offices.

"McClatchy's debt load is 6.3 times cash flow.

"The last time I looked, Canwest stock was worth about 60 cents, down from the $20 or so it was commanding before the company bought out the Southam chain, from Conrad Black, who is in jail.

"And the audience for newspapers is NOT small. Results of a Pew Research Centre study released this week showed that, in the United States, newspapers actually gained a bit with the under 30s in the past year, going from 23 to 28 percent of those surveyed who said print was their first source of news.

"In a population of 330 million, that would give you a potential audience of 92.4 million readers. Imagine what that might be if newspapers stopped cutting back on staff and closing bureaus, and started funding investigative work. If there were actually something interesting and occasionally surprising to read in the dailies, the audience would almost certainly grow.

"The problem with newspapers is that they are for the most part run by people with the myopic vision and dearth of imagination of the call-me-silly-guy and not by people with ideas and solutions, like Mr. Janes.

"I think his concept of a focused paper is interesting, and I plan to steal it (and credit the source) for the paper I'm writing now. Other solutions have been proposed, such as publishing a tabloid on weekdays and a big, fat, good-read broadsheet on the weekend. Or going to less frequent print product supplemented by online services.

"One thing that would be interesting would be to study campus newspapers and find out why they're still going, and why university students stop reading papers when they graduate.

"Another thing we might do is to remember that young people regarded the 'mainstream media' (yes, they were using that term) with much the same disdain in the 1960s and '70s, when the underground newspaper - born of an earlier technological innovation, the offset press - was the nose-thumbing, scrappy alternative de jour. And most of those young people - us - graduated to reading dailies (though not without a heightened awareness of their shortcomings).

"We also should stop looking down our noses at community newspapers, which are thriving by giving small communities a place where they can talk to themselves - and, at their best, are models of service to democracy.

"Ask the people of Russell Township, near Ottawa, who wouldn't have known their councillors were about to vote the mayor a 70 percent pay increase if the editor of the little local rag hadn't dragged herself out of bed at dawn to cover an early-morning council meeting, and followed up with a series of news stories and editorials explaining why this amounted to highway robbery.

"(The mayor backed down because of the stink the paper kicked up.) No Internet site could have done the job the Russell Villager did, and many metro dailies are too uderstaffed or timid to take on city hall.

"There are two things of which I'm convinced: in the same way radio invented Top 40 and All-Talk in response to TV, newspapers are going to have to do things that CAN'T be done on the Internet - and that doesn't mean more fat, red-faced, middle-aged men interviewing their keyboards and vomiting up their opinions, and it doesn't mean stuffing your papers with graphics, fact-boxes and the facts ma'am just the facts. The Internet is full of that.

"It means more and better storytelling. More rounded, nuanced and penetrating reporting. Writers with the ability - and time - to make us see the world in a different light. Editors with the taste and imagination to help those writers grow to greatness, and the guts and power to stand up for, and to, their readers. Owners and publishers with brains enough to keep their busy little fingers off buttons and levers they don't understand.

"It means that you stop blaming the audience for their boredom with you and focus on delivering a literary-cultural-political experience for the few with imagination and wit enough to enjoy it.

"And stop worrying about the people who don't read; they aren't going to start just because you want them to. AND stop assuming that "elite" means "rich"; blue-collar readers have always been among the most loyal newspaper readers, and you don't win points with them by being anti-labor and slavishly pro-management.

"(Tabloid guys are going to hate this, but they shouldn't because some of the best writers - guys like Breslin and Royko - wrote for tabloids, and from a blue-collar perspective.)

"Fact-gatherers, blowhards, ideologues and technocrats need not apply.

"And it means journalism schools are going to have to spend less time teaching Computer Assisted Reporting and spend more time on style and content, and finding and grooming the students with the potential to be the next Joan Didion, Jimmy Breslin or Gay Talese. (Note that I list only writers who are also extraordinarily good reporters.)

"The second thing I'm sure about is the current crop of media managers - sons of rich men, real estate moguls, editors who serve accountants rather than their writers, and successful proofreaders who have never been in the field - haven't got the courage or the imagination to run a shoe shop, let alone revive an ailing industry. And that the collapse of the chains is an impending and joyous occasion.

"With chain collapse will come divestiture and, if we're lucky, a return to locally owned dailies.

"As industry observer Eric Alterman wrote in The Nation last summer:

"The dearth of decent ideas designed to save newspapers - or reinvent them for the digital age in ways that preserve their crucial democratic functions - is curious and depressing. It's curious because some of the smartest, most ambitious and most civic-minded people in America are deeply engaged with the problem.

It is depressing because the only ones with the self-confidence to undertake radical measures appear to be completely off their respective rockers . . .

The more one listens to the men and women at the top of the industry, the more it becomes obvious that the survival of the newspaper - the primary information-gathering and knowledge-disseminating instrument of American democracy - is going to have to come from somewhere else.

Sure, the blogosphere makes some invaluable contributions and a few foundations are rising to the challenge of funding investigative journalism. Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian recently suggested to me that universities might attach a small fee to their students' tuition - like an activities fee - to pay for the newspaper subscription of their choice.

This would improve the newspapers' bottom line, give their advertisers access to a coveted demographic and, if successful, would inculcate in the students the habit of newspaper reading as they approach maturity as voting citizens.

It's a great idea, and unlike most of what one hears at these conferences, it is on scale with the problem. Unfortunately, young people do not appear to want to pick up a newspaper, even for free. They often leave them lying around, even at journalism schools, where they are distributed gratis.

I don't have a better idea, except to repeat, again, the following: the loss of daily newspapers is a significant threat to the future of our democracy. It is far too important to be left in the hands of a bunch of clueless media moguls and their 'chief innovation officers.' "

Meanwhile, says Brian Gorman: "BTW, 'Quebecor rhetoric' was an entirely appropriate way to describe their comments."

Thank you for your e-mail Brian. All the best in 2009.

'08 not great

As years go, 2008 wasn't great.

To rub it in, a leap year day was thrown in to twist the knife.

Plus an extra second.

Be gone, already.

The bad news: Iraq, record snow and rain, a tanking economy, the Four Stooges of Canadian politics, bailing out the Big Three after burying their heads in the sand for several decades, gas hikes that spoiled the enjoyment of summer motoring, plunging property values, talentless bimbos getting too much media exposure.

Which brings us to the few slices of good news.

At the top of the list, Barack Obama becoming U.S. president-elect in November. His inauguration on Jan. 20 can't come too soon.

Second to the elation of Obama's win was the guarantee that George W. and his inept, warmongering cronies will soon be moving on to relative obscurity.

Imagine a U.S. president who is youthful, fit, intelligent, a happily married family man, an eloquent speaker, is willing to speak to America's enemies, wants to right the wrongs of his predecessor to regain the faith and respect of allies, is anxious to close down torture camps, move the U.S. out of economic chaos etc.

Other good vibes?

More priceless prose from the Sun, Globe and Star and various blogsters throughout the year. They kept us informed and amused, 10% during online visits and 90% from the good old fashioned print way.

Another year of Andy Donato editorial cartoons. Will someone please publish another book of his brilliant cartoons? Mike Strobel can do no wrong. Mark Bonokoski has to be in for awards for his 15-part Red Road series. Peter W? Consistent as ever.

Special thanks to Joe Warmington and Jim Slotek for giving Sun readers more for their money throughout the year - and for having the balls to use their name when speaking their mind via TSF. Same goes for Wayne Janes and Rob Lamberti.

Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous have been hogging the feedback at TSF this year, so it is refreshing when someone speaks their mind and okays their name being used. No big deal during the Doug Creighton years, but a rarity in these Quebecor years.

Television was a blend of generosity (entertaining dramatic series have never been more plentiful) and annoying (promising new series on too short a leash were cancelled).

Kudos to TV's John Walsh, Ty Pennington and crew, the exiting Air Farce gang, GMA, 60 Minutes, Fifth Estate, Jon Stewart, David Letterman and others.

On the radio front, 680News provided another year of updates on the road, although we turned the volume down whenever the news involved George W., Iraq, Israel/Palestine battles etc.

Same old, same old. Minimize the negative and anxiety is minimized.

Meanwhile, talk radio reached a new low this year. Too many argumentative, divisive loudmouths putting down callers, interrupting their comments etc. Plus numerous gabbers with severe cases of "I-itis."

Toronto sports?

The Blue Jays fizzled, but hey, they will have a new prez next season and Cito is back, so this former fan will be back on the bandwagon come spring.

The Maple Leafs didn't win the Stanley Cup. (Insert your favourite punch line)

Argos? Next year.

Raptors? If only . . .


The Dark Knight stands alone for best dollar value at the movies. Iron Man, a close second. Too many lame comedies and uninspired sequels amd remakes.

Print media?

The Globe and Mail wins the 2008 Consistency Award hands down, both in print and online.

The Toronto Sun?

With Michael Sifton, former Osprey Media chief, at the helm for most of the year, Sun Media was regaining some jobs lost prior to his arrival.

The Toronto Sun and its sister tabloids were still hurting from nine previous years of cutbacks, but there were signs of optimism coming from the newsrooms.

Black Friday, in early November, saw PKP turf Michael and take personal control of Sun Media and Canoe.

Six weeks later, Black Tuesday saw PKP downsize Sun Media by 600 jobs, more than 40 of them throughout the building at the ever-shrinking Toronto Sun.

We remain stunned by the exit of business editor Linda Leatherdale, a tireless and loyal veteran writer who was a reader favourite in these tough economic times. (Linda, keep in touch and e-mail us if you want to vent.)

Other negative news during the year included the deaths of at least nine Toronto Sun Family members. From Sherri Wood, in her prime, to George Gross and Mrs. K, two Day Oners who left their mark on the tabloid.

And beyond the GTA, the Sunday Sun dropped the TV magazine, but upped the price. Less for more, the Quebecor way.

Regrets, we've had a few but not as many as people who voted for George W. four years ago.

As 2008 winds down, we'd have to say this was not our finest year, as Toronto Sun Family members, citizens of Ontario and Canada and the world.


Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Print forever

Wayne Janes, a senior Toronto Sun staffer, responds to a comment sent to TSF following our "Call us silly" posting:

"I want to respond to the anonymous writer who took issue with your 'Quebecor rhetoric' comment re: Paul Berton's take on the LFP dumping its Sunday issue.

"The only part of the phrase that was wrong was 'Quebecor' - or, rather, not wrong but misleading. The rhetoric comes from hundreds, thousands of sources and all Quebecor does is follow lock-step.

"Newsprint media is NOT dead, but it is changing and in some cases radically. Anyone who believes newspapers are dead is just plain shortsighted. Other than the town crier or smoke signals, there hasn't been a single mass communication medium that has died because of newer technology. Books (paper between hard covers) are still top sellers 400 years after the invention of the printing press - despite radio, and TV, and the movies, and computers and e-books.

"Radio will kill books and newspapers. The movies will kill radio. TV will kill the movies. The Internet will kill everything. Newspapers are dead, blah-de-blah-blah-blah. All these things were said, are being said, every day.

It's not only boring, it's wrong.

"Imagine 9/11 without newspapers. Imagine a future 9/11 without newspapers. TV and the Internet can convey the immediate shock of such an event, but we need the space and the distance, the words and the pictures, that newspapers can provide to help us absorb and understand, if we can, that kind of horror. No website can, nor will ever be able to, do that.

"People will always want a paper they can read in a coffee shop, on the streetcar, in the bathroom. They want crossword puzzles and comics and quizzes and someone who is as confused as they are but can try to explain their world to them. They will always want something they can hold in their hands. There's an intimacy to reading a newspaper that you can't get from a computer screen and this intimacy will become more important, not less, as time goes on.

"The response of radio to the new medium of TV was to stop trying to be all things to all people and go after niche markets. TV is doing the same. When you've got 500 channels to choose from, the Food Network doesn't seem so silly. The Toronto Sun would do exceedingly well as a sports and entertainment newspaper, with detailed and in-depth coverage of both - as long as it poured the proper resources into it.

"Newspapers are trying to transfer their 'newspaper' to the Internet whole hog - it doesn't work. Nobody wants to read a newspaper on a computer screen, not even 14-year-olds, who seem to be calling the shots.

"The Internet is a different medium, as different as TV is from radio, and will have its own purposes. Meanwhile, newspapers will always be with us, albeit with their own different purpose.

Wayne Janes"

Thank you for your e-mail, Wayne.

One more time: "There's an intimacy to reading a newspaper that you can't get from a computer screen and this intimacy will become more important, not less, as time goes on."

Exactly, but what you need for print media to survive are focus, commitment and adequate resources to get the job done daily.

The Gardens

Our favourite Sunday Sun read was Bill Lankhof's update on the foggy future of Maple Leaf Gardens, a nostalgic, historic treasure privately owned by Weston Foods.

Bill's two-page spread turned the mood to optimistic pessimism, with the potential for preserving the last of the original six hockey palaces still possible, but not probable.

Not much has changed since Jan. 30, 2007, when CFTO took viewers on a tour of the empty Gardens, littered with debris and the occasional dead rodent.

But as long as the Gardens still stands, there is hope.

In the 1980s, the owners of the building housing the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in New York announced it would be converted into office space.

Tickets for a final Radio City stage show spectacular went on sale and this blogger, a fan of the massive theatre since the 1950s when top Toronto Star subscription sales carriers were treated to movie/stage show visits, was there to say goodbye.

Within days of the "final" show, a rescue plan was announced and Radio City was spared. Can you imagine the Big Apple today without Radio City? We can't.

As for the Gardens, we saw Elvis there in '57, the Beatles and the Stones in the '60s, thanks to Stan Obodiac, several hockey games, the circus etc. So many memories.

The future of the Gardens has been cloaked in confusion since the Maple Leafs moved out 10 years ago. Bill's spread not only brought us up to date, it sparked a glimmer of hope.

Yes, it is a privately owned prime piece of real estate, but with the downturn in the economy, perhaps Weston might be tempted to offer it for sale.

The Gardens, much like Radio City, could again be a magnet for thousands of visitors to downtown Toronto, but it would take a bold new plan by community leaders to get it done.

Bill's story has rekindled hope, however slim, of seeing the Gardens rise again.

Once it's gone, it's gone.

Monday, 29 December 2008

At 30 in '08

The Canadian Press has compiled a list of notable Canadians who died in 2008 and George Gross, founding sports editor of the Toronto Sun, is on that list.

The Baron was one of at least nine Toronto Sun Family members who died this year and all contributed to making the Sun a brighter place over the years.

TSF's list:


George Rennie, a pre-press tech whiz for 12 years, died Jan. 19 from cancer at his Oakville home. He was 56. George, born in Scotland, was an Edmonton Sun Day Oner on April 2, 1978, and transferred to Toronto in 1995.

Ted Welch, a Sun City Hall and Queen's Park bureau pioneer, died Jan. 20 of liver cancer in Victoria, B.C. He was 61. Ted, who loved his wife, politics and poker, left the Sun in the early 1990s and moved west with his wife, Marj.


Art Holland, the Toronto Sun's Day One office manager, died March 8. He was 94. Fellow Day Oners say Art was a vital behind-the-scenes organizer who got things done in the move from the defunct Tely to the newborn Sun in 1971 and for years to come.

George Gross, founding sports editor of the Toronto Sun, died March 21 of a heart attack at his Etobicoke home. He was 85. George was still on the job researching his next column when he died on Good Friday, a Sun trooper to the end.

Sherri Wood, a vibrant summer intern who wowed Toronto Sun colleagues and readers as an entertainment writer, died March 24 of brain cancer. She was 28. Her death on Easter Monday led to Sherri Woodstock, a musical celebration of her life.


Nick Ibscher, a desk copy editor and headline writer extraordinaire, died from lung cancer in Winnipeg, where he worked at the Calgary Herald. He was 53. Nick loved baseball and his work and shared both with Sun colleagues.

Kathy Morrison, former Sun staffer and wife of veteran sports writer Scott Morrison, died Sept. 21 at her home. She was 45. During her Sun office years, her infectious smile contributed daily to the positive work environment.


Bob Jelenic, an accountant and general manager during the expansion years, died Dec. 3 of cancer in Pennsylvania. He was 58. Bob, with the Sun for 12 years, spent 20 years with Journal Register Corp. in the U.S., retiring in 2007 as chairman and CEO.

Margaret Kmiciewicz, the Day One switchboard chief when the Sun was launched in 1971, died Dec. 13 at Providence Centre. She was 87. Mrs. K to many, the Day Oner was a treasured switchboard chief, an asset to reporters.

Our apologies if we have missed any Toronto Sun Family members who died in 2008. We will add names and bios if information is provided. E-mail TSF

Canoe leaking?

An e-mail from a former Sun staffer who wonders about the rush to the Internet:

"Hey TSF,

I thought you'd enjoy this: A tragic story handled as ineptly as possible - the logical result of PKP's belief you can drive readers online, yet not provide any resources (read: experienced editors/writers) for that online platform.

Take a look at this screen capture for 8 feared dead in avalanche.

I don't know what's worse:

1. The kicker: Victims buried under snow. Gee, that's so unusual in an avalanche.

2. The first bullet: Some snowmbilers (sic) dead. Vague, with added typo!

3. A picture of a lovely green meadow with towering mountains, with just a trace of snow in the background. Um, if you're going to use a file shot, maybe one from winter would be advisable.

As a former Sun staffer who was constantly told we're cutting staff in newsrooms to populate the website, only to see the website understaffed by the cheapest staff possible, front pages like this seem like poetic justice. Obviously, you do get what you pay for.


Saturday, 27 December 2008

Call us silly

An anonymous TSF reader posted a comment today suggesting we were "silly" to call Paul Berton's comments about the state of print media "Quebecor rhetoric."

We said:

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief, writes about the new (London Free Press) Saturday edition in his column today and the loss of the Sunday paper, with the usual Quebecor rhetoric on the state of print media.

The TSF reader said:

"I think it's silly to dismiss Berton's comments as 'Quebecor rhetoric.' Printed newspapers are dying. It may hurt to admit that for old-timers like us, but that doesn't make it any less true. I know fewer and fewer people under 45 who insist on starting their day with a print newspaper, the way we oldsters like to do.

"I think it is deluded for those of us in the business to tell ourselves that this trend will reverse itself if we just build a better product. If the market doesn't want your product, it doesn't matter how good it is. That's capitalism, for good or for ill.

"I don't have a solution. I just think we need to be realistic."

Thank you for your comment, but the problem with the Sun product is it isn't as good as it was, thanks to a decade of demoralizing, destructive gutting by Quebecor, centralization and a relentless pursuit of Internet numbers at the expense of print readers.

Just about everything that made the Toronto Sun a unique, North American media success story has been chewed up and spit out along with hundreds of loyal, dedicated employees.

The cost of messing with success and ripping the heart out of the Toronto Sun: tens of thousands of loyal readers.

To say the death of print media is inevitable because people under 45 aren't buying papers is an insult to seniors and the record number of baby boomers who were raised on print and are not prepared to abandon their daily news habits.

Look at the Globe and Mail. We do daily. It has not sacrificed the quality of its print edition while perfecting its Internet platform. That is taking pride in what you do and how you do it, for the benefit of all readers, young and old.

While print tabloids in other major cities in the U.S. and Europe are down but far from out, the Toronto Sun and its sister tabloids are inching ever closer to the brink.


Here's our Top 10 list of ways a phenomenally successful tabloid - and its sister tabloids - can self destruct within a decade:

1 - Not long after the Sun Media purchase agreement is inked, begin gutting the tabloids with layoffs, firings and other cutbacks

2 - Abandon the successful tabloid formula, with its emphasis on local news, photos, independent editorials, offbeat features, diverse columns etc. in favour of centralized, broadsheet content

3 - Slowly eliminate the unique bond between the Suns and their longtime, loyal readers by tuning them out of the goings on at their favourite tabloid and axing annual reader surveys

4 - Lay off and fire some more employees, including veteran reporters and columnists who do not get a "thanks" in print, nor the opportunity to say goodbye to readers

5 - Abandon any pretense of caring about the quality of print media journalism, while feverishly flogging online Sun Media sites on page after page ad nauseam

6 - Raise the price of the tabloid and, in Ontario, don't round off the total as most newspapers do, tack on the tax so annoyed readers and retailers waste time with extra pennies.

7 - Lay off and fire some more employees and curb more benefits, turning once bustling newsrooms into depressing and demoralizing work environments

8 - As a Christmas gift, go big time: Wish them Noel 2008 days after axing 600 jobs throughout the Sun Media chain, and don't tell readers the names of favourite reporters and columnists who have been axed

9 - Now that the newsrooms have been gutted, introduce three-way duties - reporting, still photography and video - for remaining staffers, increasing their work load to the detriment of focus

10 - Tell readers of your demoralized and anemic newspapers that the downturn of North American print media readership is to blame for all your woes, not the dismantling of everything that made the Little Paper That Grew so successful and the talk of the town

It would be silly not to believe the Internet is to blame for all of the Sun's woes, right? Not really.

There is no doubt the Toronto Sun, if owned by the same newspaper people who launched it in 1971 in a converted factory and took it into the 1990s with banners flying high, would be confronting the downturn in print media readership.

Innovative and dedicated as they were, and unique as the Toronto Sun was in the community, they would be better equipped to keep the Sun competitive, in print and online.

They would also have a fiercely loyal staff and faithful readers on their side.

The Toronto Sun was named one of the Top 100 places to work in the 1980s and for good reason. It was. Newspaper people ran the place and it was the place to work.

When the founders of USA Today arrived in Toronto to consult with Toronto Sun executives before the national paper was launched in 1982, it wasn't idle chatter.

The success of the Toronto Sun in its first decade was the talk of North America and USA Today founders wanted inside information on layout and content. The Sun execs were obliging.

USA Today's print edition and web site are classic examples of what can be accomplished with clarity of mind, with print readership in 2008 holding firm and a web site to be envied.

Sadly, after a 10-year slide, the same can't be said for the Suns.

Silly as we may be, we're not comfortable saying the woes of the Toronto Sun and its sister newspapers rest fully on the North American downtown of print media.

If numbers are spiralling out of control - we haven't had access to Toronto Sun circulation stats for months - we are more inclined to blame the loss of much of its staff, its focus, its heart, loyalty of staff and readers, and the tunnel vision rush to the Internet.

To be realistic, as the anonymous reader suggests, 2009 is going to be a gloomy year for the remaining Toronto Sun employees. With about 80 newsroom staffers, down from more than 200 in 1999, the fat lady can be heard warming up on a nearby stage.

But there are enough high profile favourites still working out of 333 - Donato, Peter W., Bonokoski, Strobel, Mandel, Warmington, Braun, Kirkland, Slotek, Filey, Margolis, Woodcock, the sports crew etc. - to warrant buying the Sun daily.

They are the remaining links to a Toronto Sun we all once called a home away from home.

We wish them, and all Sun staffers, well in the coming year.

LFP Sundayless

London Free Press readers will wake up tomorrow without a Sunday paper for the first time since it was launched more than a decade ago.

And they will judge for themselves whether today's expanded Saturday edition will compensate for the loss of their Sunday paper.

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief, writes about the new Saturday edition in his column today and the loss of the Sunday paper, with the usual Quebecor rhetoric on the state of print media.

Friday, 26 December 2008

OT: 30 - Eartha

Eartha Kitt, a sexy lady who spoke her mind and entertained around the world, gone at 81.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Chatham voice

The Chatham Daily News has an Editorial/Opinion piece today advising readers how last week's layoffs at the newspaper will affect its content.

Written by Bruce Corcoran, managing editor, it mentions a loss of two people in the newsroom, but not by name and there are no "thanks" to the departing employees, but it does advise readers of changes to be made.

It reads:

"These difficult economic times have affected most everyone lately, including those of us here at The Chatham Daily News.

"You may have noticed smaller papers than at this time last year, due in no small part to a great deal less advertising, from local and national advertisers. It's a sign of the times as the auto companies aren't advertising as often as they did in the past, while merchants are cutting costs and not placing ads in the paper as much.

"It's a similar story across the country. As a result, Sun Media laid off about 600 people last week, including a number here. Among the local cuts, The Chatham Daily News lost two people in our editorial department. We were running pretty lean as it was, and now we will be forced to make changes in how we cover Chatham-Kent.

"We will continue to try to cover as many events as possible, but there will most certainly be happenings that we just won't be able to attend.

"As well, several of our community features will soon no longer appear in our paper, beginning in January. Included are the weekly Flashbacks feature and Religious Roundup. We urge churches to utilize, the community side of The Daily News website, to continue to promote upcoming church events and weekly gathering information.

"Due to the smaller news holes in the paper, and staff cutbacks, our caring and sharing photographs, of organizations and individuals donating to various charities, will be affected as well. We will no longer be publishing in our newspaper any cheque pass pictures for totals less than $10,000. In fact, we will no longer take such photos, but do encourage organizations to take their own pictures of such cheque passes between $1,000 and $9,999 and e-mail them to us at We will post them in the photograph portion of the URChatham-Kent.caside of our website.

"We will continue to photograph cheque passes of $10,000 and above, and publish them in our paper.

"Other mainstay features such as community calendar will remain. We ask that whenever possible, for people to please e-mail their material to us, again at

"Through all this, please bear in mind The Chatham Daily News remains your best source for local news in Chatham-Kent. In fact, we're getting the news to you sooner, with our website at, we are posting news as it happens. There is no faster way of getting your news.

"We are also putting material up on the Internet that you just can't get in the newspaper. The Daily News is posting video on a daily basis, from human interest to hard-hitting news."

The piece includes Corcoran's e-mail.

The Chatham Daily News, one of the Osprey Media newspapers picked up by Sun Media in 2007, gave this blogger his first reporting job in 1963 when it was a Thomson newspaper.

While the Toronto Sun had its Windsor Mafia, with a steady flow of Windsor Star reporters and editors being hired, the Globe and Mail had its Chatham Mafia.

The late Bob Turnbull, one of the Globe's Chatham Mafia, guided me and others to Chatham to earn their dues as cub reporters and we are forever indebted to the former city editor.

Those 16-hour days for $27.50 a week and all of the service club lunches and dinners you could handle while learning the ropes were invaluable.

Sadly, a new generation of print journalism hopefuls across Canada are losing the opportunity to work at community papers like the Daily News due to skeletal newsrooms.

Belleville voice

Another Sun Media voice has been heard from following last week's layoffs, this time Chris Malette, city editor of the Belleville Intelligencer, speaks his mind.

No names of departing eight employees, but his Chris Malette 'At Large' column says, in part:

"Sorry to curdle your egg nog so close to Christmas, but it's a Titanic struggle to paint a cheery holiday smile on an otherwise glum parade of news this past week.

"First and foremost, we here at The Intell and at some of our sister papers in the Sun Media Quinte Newspaper Group - The Community Press, Trentonian, The County Weekly News and Shopper's Market - have felt the blow of the economy shifting into low gear.

"We lost some very good people this week, we will miss them and wish them whatever comfort we can at this time of year as they cope with such a devastating blow. You're in our hearts, all of you.

"But, after 175 years of bringing the news to Belleville and Quinte, we will commit to continue to keep you informed, amused, agitated enough to take pen in hand and abreast of the goings on in your communities, as always.

"Still, it hurts to bid farewell to some very talented and committed people, but as hard as that is, all the signs point to more hurt for the province, country and continent in the coming months. Pretty hard to keep a brave face in light of those grim predictions, eh?

"You, like many of us, are just so damned tired of hearing the endless parade of woe on the TV news, on our news wires and in our own communities. But, we have committed to bring it to you, unvarnished and tough as it may be to digest - it's what we do.

"Tough as it may be for many armchair media pundits to imagine, we don't dictate the news agenda. (In that vein, a lump of coal for you sneering types out there who jeer what you call "mainstream media" for our perceived communist, soul-wrecking bent. Feh, as our Jewish friends would say, and may you get cold porridge on Christmas morning.)

"Which brings me to the issue du jour - the auto industry. Bail or no bail . . ."

That's all it takes. A word to readers about the layoffs, a word of encouragement to those who were laid off. That is communicating.

The North Bay Nugget did it. Joe Warmington at the Toronto Sun attempted to do it, but his column was spiked, leaving Toronto Sun coverage of the story at two paragraphs.

If any other Sun Media editorial writers or columnists at newspapers touched by the 600 layoffs have commented in print or online about the aftermath of the announcement, please provide a link.

30 - Joe Bergeron

Peter Worthington has used his Toronto Sun column to campaign on behalf of many worthy causes since the 1970s and the work of Joe and Pat Bergeron at their Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Picton has been one of them.

Today, he writes about the death of Joe Bergeron, a man he says was a hero to people who care about animals and a champion of any animal in distress.

"Abandoned animals, and those who care about animals, lost a great friend last weekend."

And Toronto Sun readers lost someone they have been cheering for since Peter began writing about the threatened animal sanctuary more than five years ago.

Sun readers contributed more than $35,000 in responding to Peter's appeals to help save the sanctuary, run by Joe and Pat for 20 years.

Sun readers are a generous lot when it comes to appeals from columnists. Talk to Joe Warmington and Mike Strobel about recent reader response to publicized causes.

Readers might not have met Joe, but they will surely feel his loss through Peter's column.

"On a personal level, I've never known anyone more dedicated and realistic than Joe Bergeron, whose whole being was devoted to others," Peter writes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry? Not really

The Toronto Sun newsroom is not the merriest of places as Christmas 2008 approaches and it will only get worse in 2009 as the last of the layoffs take effect.

"After the layoffs are finished, there will be about 80 people left in editorial, down from about 200 when Quebecor took over in 1999," says Brad Honywill, president of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild.

Depressing numbers for a major Toronto daily newspaper that was never top-heavy with staff at the best of times.

(Speaking of numbers, is there a Deep Throat out there who can provide TSF with the number of employees working out of 333 when Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999 and the number of employees throughout the building today? We have heard 700 to 800 in 1999.)

More depressing than the numbers is working in the newsroom with colleagues who have been laid off, but will be on the job until their layoffs become effective in the new year.

"Under the contract, members must be given eight weeks notice of a layoff," says Brad. "The employer can opt to pay these people cash, in lieu of notice, if they want them to leave immediately."

Otherwise, laid off union members continue to work for another eight weeks.

How can you continue working for an employer who has told you your talents are dispensable?

"Having gone through a layoff, I know it can be a tortuous process working through the notice period," says Brad. "But it does give you time to prepare a resume, get your finances in order and search for another job."

It has been one brutal week, but we wish you all a Merry Christmas:

The hundreds of people who have been forced out of their dream jobs at the Toronto Sun in the past decade;

The dozens who are about to say goodbye;

The remaining staffers who are doing what journalists are born to do - the best job possible.

And Michael Sifton, the former Osprey Media chief who provided more optimism for Sun employees in one short year than enjoyed under Quebecor since 1999.

Money is toast

Update: Rewrite . . . Money returned Wednesday. It is a tidy tabloid business page for readers wanting a quick biz fix, but the local personal touch is gone now that Linda Leatherdale has departed.

The Money page in the Toronto Sun print edition has been MIA for two consecutive days.

It appears the tabloid has pulled the plug now that veteran business editor Linda Leatherdale has left the building.

There goes another Sun reader draw - passionate crusades led by business editors to protest gas prices, credit card hikes, taxes and assorted other causes since the 1970s.

Those high profile Sun reader campaigns helped Garth Turner get to Ottawa and made Linda Leatherdale a household name.

It is less for more for Sun readers as Quebecor continues to whittle away all of the layers that made the Sun what is was - a unique, feisty tabloid with a keen interest in reader participation and feedback.

Nothing but wire copy on's Money pages this week.

Len re Peter W.

Len Fortune, the Toronto Sun's former longtime graphics master, responds to TSF's call for honourary Senator status for Peter Worthington:

"Toronto's Riverdale riding missed the boat in the '80s when it twice had the opportunity of electing Peter to the Hill.

"Peter's no nonsense, take no prisoners approach was, and is, still needed in Ottawa, but the NDP's Lynn MacDonald held on to the riding in two hard-fought elections. Peter returned to writing after the last defeat - not that he ever left.

"It was a loss for all Canadians. Peter - I have no doubt - would have been an outstanding parliamentarian and definitely Cabinet material.

"An honourary Senator nod would be a nice gesture, but I have a feeling Peter has some thoughts on the worthiness of the Senate."

Thank you for the e-mail, Len.

Joan Sutton e-mail

Speaking of speaking your mind . . .

An e-mail from Joan Sutton Straus, Toronto Sun Day Oner and founding Lifestyle editor, re Sun Media spiking columns:

"Spiking columns didn't begin with Quebecor, it began with the firing of Doug Creighton (in November 1992).

"The last column I wrote for the Sun was about Doug's firing. In it, I suggested it was time to stop referring to the board of directors as the board of directors and give them names - which I did.

"And, as is typical when a firing is an unpopular move, there were all kinds of rumors floating to justify that firing - that Doug drank too many martinis, that he was extravagant, etc. I wrote that if those were the true reasons for letting Doug go, then the board of directors should fire themselves as it had never bothered them before. They were known to drink martinis with him and had certainly enjoyed his generosity at seminars and in other situations.

"That column was spiked.

"Needless to say, I discussed this with various people, including Godfrey, to no avail. That was when I left the Sun for the last time.

"It was the only column of mine ever pulled at the Sun.

"(For the record, a column I wrote critical of Pierre Trudeau was pulled at the Star, but after various discussions they ran it intact the next day.) "

Thank you your e-mail Joan.

Thinking media?

Update on Think media . . .

It is alive and well at a new web site address. Our thanks to a reader of Think media who e-mailed the latest five-page online posting, dated Dec. 18.

Archives previously available on the other site are not available, so we don't know if the latest posting is the first since Nov. 17, just after PKP personally took control of Sun media.

Think media had been posted every two weeks for a year.

Think media sounds like something Michael Sifton, an experienced newspaper executive, would have introduced to keep employees informed about staff appointments and media innovations.

Sifton, former Osprey Media chief, was appointed Sun Media chief before Think media was introduced on Nov. 26, 2007. On the job, he was a calming influence for Sun employees shell shocked by eight years of cutbacks.

The day Sifton was turfed has been called Black Friday by disillusioned Sun staffers. Six weeks later, Black Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the old Think media site always included a "feedback" feature, but it is send only, not send and read. A Quebecor preference, no doubt.

Allowing readers and employees to see what is being said about Sun Media isn't one of Quebecor's priorities. To be truthful, we don't think Quebecor gives a damn.

Remember Allison Downie, the Toronto Sun's short-lived first readership editor, hired in 2005 by veteran newsman Jim Jennings? Quietly let go a year later without an explanation.

Glenn Garnett gave shop talk a try last year with an Inside the Sun blog while he was editor-in-chief, but when he moved on the blog closed up shop.

Letters to the editor are heavily monitored and the one-liners below the letters have become more confrontational than amusing in recent years.

Readers are being left in the dark when their favourite columnists and reporters suddenly fade to black.

The Toronto Sun, once reader friendly, is now dissing the people who dug for coin daily to make it a huge success. The Little Paper That Grew grew on their loyalty as readers.

Those same readers are no longer on the pedestal Doug, Peter and Don and the rest of the Day Oners built for them in 1971 and kept them on into the 1990s.

During the glory years, the attitude of the Sun was literally mi casa, su casa.

Quebecor, on the other hand, has been slapping readers in the face with cutbacks in employees, content and two-way communication.

Mum's the word, even if Quebecor Media, owner of Canada's largest newspaper chain, is in the communications business.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Is Money dead?

Has the Toronto Sun's Money section in the print edition been yanked? It wasn't in today's Sun, days after business editor Linda Leatherdale left the building.

Most Toronto Sun readers looking forward to today's Monday morning Money read and Linda's column - as read on previous recent Mondays, Dec. 1, Dec. 8, Dec. 15 - were no doubt puzzled.

Puzzled because the Sun hasn't said a word in print about Linda being among the 600 Sun Media employees named when the axe fell last Tuesday.

That sucks big time - for Linda, her faithful readers, her ever-expanding business and government contacts and Sun columnists who obviously aren't being allowed to bid her adieu.

Joe Warmington tried to salute Linda for her tireless years at the Sun, but his column was spiked. That column was unspiked for TSF and you can read it here.

As we said earlier, Linda WAS the Money section and quietly letting her go when the economy is North America's top news story almost daily is beyond belief.

(The online Money section was nothing but CP and AP copy today.)

The sweep-it-under-the-carpet handling of Linda's exit and all of the other employees named on Black Tuesday diminishes the credibility of the Toronto Sun.

Is it RIP for Money?

Stay tuned.

Sen. Peter W.

He is not on the list of 18 new Senators appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, but the least the Tories should do is name Peter Worthington an honourary Senator.

Peter, a veteran Telegram/Sun journalist and longtime political columnist, has done more to promote provincial and federal Conservatives and their viewpoints than most sitting Senators.

That hasn't always been easy, considering the track records of some of the premiers and prime ministers along the way, but he has been a true blue Tory throughout.

Toronto Police Chief William McCormack made Doug Creighton an honourary police chief at his 64th birthday party in 1992, a few weeks after he was ousted from the Sun.

That official gesture was for Doug's support of the men in blue since his days as a Toronto Telegram police reporter in the 1940s.

Peter, who co-founded the Toronto Sun along with Doug and Don Hunt, deserves to be recognized in the same fashion for his unwavering dedication to the party of his choice.

Senator Worthington.

It's overdue.

Two para puzzle

The Toronto Sun, on life support when it comes to employee numbers a decade after Quebecor bought Sun Media, appears to be content with summing up Black Tuesday in two paragraphs.

We were thinking there might be some words for the 49 Toronto Sun casualties in the Sunday Sun, for the benefit of those who lost their jobs and readers, but not a word.

These are sad times at 333 and across the Sun Media chain.

If we wished the Toronto Sun anything for 2009 it would be its sale to newspaper people who still give a damn about journalism.

That won't happen as long as the Toronto Sun is profitable, a cash cow with Quebecor forever clinging to its teat.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Re John Schenk

The online teaser for a Gare Joyce story in the January issue of Reader's Digest reads:

"His job as a police reporter prepared John Schenk for a higher calling: humanitarian aid worker. But before he could save others, he had to save himself."

Hmm, said former Toronto Sun photographer Bill Sandford, a subscriber to the Reader's Digest print edition, that would be our former police desk reporter from 1977 to 1981.

They don't give stories away on Reader' so we'll have to buy a copy to read more about a former colleague who left the Sun to travel the world with World Vision, occasionally feeding exclusive stories to the Sun.

"It's a good read, showing how one can find meaning in life, using what your former occupation has taught you," Bill says of the story in the print edition, titled The Mission.

The RD story uses John's old Toronto Sun press card for art and it is surprising how many of us still have and treasure our outdated laminated press cards.

John has been with World Vision for more than 20 years, so there is some catching up to do.

This former cop desker paired with John on a police story in 1977 involving an interview with a surly relative of a crime suspect and just as well. He got nasty, but big John faced him down.

You can read more about John on TSF's Hired in the 70s posting.

The Red Road

The Red Road travelled by Canada's aboriginals has been a mighty hard road, as veteran Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski details in his 15-part series. It concludes today in the Sunday Sun.

And, as his extensive research into primarily the lives of urban aboriginals has shown, the process of eradicating Canada's national disgrace has been a process delayed.

Mark's series, the most extensive coverage of aboriginal issues we have seen in Toronto's print media, should be left intact online indefinitely for all to read.

Sun coverage of aboriginal issues by Mark Bonokoski and Queen's Park columnist Christina Blizzard can only help turn that mighty hard road into a path more comfortably travelled.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Old photo pros

Leave it to the reliable old pros at shrinking Sun photo desks to continue providing provocative front page photos worthy of the original tabloid formula.

Pete Fisher out Cobourg way showed us his skills with Thursday's front page shot of a Port Hope firefighter carrying an injured baby away from an accident that killed the mother.

And Michael Peake, one of the stalwarts of the Toronto Sun since 1975, did it again today with his haunting front page photo of a homeless man sitting in the snow in downtown Toronto.

Human drama captured by professional photographers.

The professional skills of more than a dozen photographers at Sun Media newspapers have been lost in this week's layoffs, including award winners with decades of experience.

(TSF learned today the North Bay Nugget's two remaining photographers were among six employees cut at the paper this week.)

Perhaps PKP thinks he can trim photo desks to a bare minimum and rely on citizen journalists to fill his papers with donated photos and his online e-editions with donated videos. Free is free.

But when it comes to photojournalism, citizen journalists are no match for experienced, knowledgeable pros who instinctively know when they have "the" shot framed in their lenses.

Toronto Sun front pages from Day One in 1971 have played a huge role in the success of the tabloid. Mess with the quality of the photography and you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Guys like Mike and Pete do the job in all kinds of weather for the love of competitive news photography. Front pages make their day. It's a job-well-done feeling and rightly so.

PKP doesn't get that sense of pride news pros have in their work and not being a newspaperman at heart, he probably never will.

A dozen or so photographers cut from Sun Media's payroll represent gains for his bottom line, not the loss of unique skills, years of experience and competitive spirit.

We'd also say the loss of loyalty, but that is a rare commodity at the tabloids after 10 years of Quebecor slicing and dicing.

Joe & the Soo

Joe Worthington, a veteran Toronto Sun columnist and former Sault Star reporter, says thanks to two mentors at the Star who were among the casualties this week:

"Just spoke to my Sault connection and heard of the Sault Star cuts, which included two senior editors and a reporter.

"I worked as a reporter there from 1987 to '91 and although I don't know the reporter who was caught in the downsizing, I certainly do know the two editors - Tom Mills and Richard Plaunt.

"First, I mention Tom Mills, who worked there some 25 years and who I worked for directly. Cool under fire, smart, skilled and always amiable, Tom is one of those editors who loves to beat the competition - be it local radio and TV or, more specifically, anything national and Toronto.

"He is also one of those editors you could have a 45 minute conversation with on a story - the whole time trying to make it better. A real pro. Best of luck in future endeavours Tom.

"As for Richard Plaunt, my nickname for him was NewsDog, this guy worked for the Sault Star for more than 40 years and is as real a news deal as you will ever find.

"A fascinating character who can tell you the name of every president of almost every country, he knows the world and he loves reporters. But his special gift was writing - and his understanding that there are all sorts of styles.

"But story telling, he used to tell me, will never go out of style.

"He's also an interesting man - married to Judy for all of that time and they have 14 children. I was out to their home many times. I always thought it would make a great movie long before Steve Martin did it in Cheaper By the Dozen.

"Richard has white hair like Martin and with all of those kids running around, you can imagine why. But he is as calm and caring a newspaper editor as you will ever find. I suspect he'll start writing that book now. The one about the 14 kids who didn't give him the time to do it before.

"Both men, as well as many people at my Sault Star, were instrumental in my career and I am glad to have this blog as an outlet to tell how much I appreciated them, their talents and their time.

"Merry Christmas to Richard, Tom and their families. And Merry Christmas to all of my friends in Sault Ste. Marie."

Get a grip

The economy is in the crapper, layoffs are rampant, house prices are tumbling, RRSPs are tanking along with the stock market, fixed income seniors face an uncertain future and the Big Three automakers have their hands out for billions in bailout funds.

And there, on Page 35 of Thursday's Toronto Sun, is a car dealership ad for a 2009 Dodge Viper V01 10 Special Edition at a "Holiday Gift Price" of $91,371.

Well ho, ho ho. Is it just us, or does that highlight one of the major flaws of the North American car market?

We'd level the Big Three and put all of the workers on assembly lines producing nothing but economical, energy-efficient vehicles that are comfortable, safe and do the speed limit.

The ZENN, perhaps, suggests a TSF reader?

Friday, 19 December 2008

PKP Xmas video

Quebecor's PKP posted a Christmas greetings video today.

"Noel 2008?"

Pardon us while we reach for our size 10 shoes.

As a TSF readers says, "He has the nerve to send this out today after the news he delivered a few days ago. Merry Christmas indeed."

Unspiked column

An insider at the Toronto Sun, not columnist Joe Warmington, sent TSF this spiked column. In pre-Quebecor days, it would have been published because that's the way we were.

The column:

"Sometimes even the professionals drop the ball!

It’s pretty difficult to disagree with the comment on a blog by a retired Toronto Sun staffer, who keeps current and former Sun employees up and all news internal.

In a state of shock, and having not slept in two nights in light of the massive job cuts at Sun Media this week, until I read the blog I did not realize this paper had not covered this news with such a small brief.

On Page 50 of the Wednesday paper, under the headline Sun Media Axes hundreds of jobs, it read “Canada’s biggest newspaper publisher, Sun Media, is cutting 600 jobs in Western Canada, Ontario and Quebec as it restructures in the face of harsh economic conditions. The chain, owned by Montreal-based media giant Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B), said yesterday the cuts will trim about 10% of its workforce and most will fall by the end of the year.”

The flash on our Money page is accurate. But it was not enough since it did not say the Toronto Sun has been affected by this. It was - and in a very big way.

"What is the value of journalism when it has come to journalists being terrified to speak their minds in fear of Quebecor’s fist?” said the blog. “Shame on all of the columnists, editors and managers who so fear the wrath of Quebecor that they remain mute at a time when public good- byes are demanded . . . They are journalists who fear being fired for speaking their minds.”

It’s fair criticism of columnists, but speaking for myself I can say no one has told me I could not write on this event and I am not in fear of doing it now. I would cover this down the street and I will cover something happening inside my own office. I assumed the story was being handled by a reporter or by our Money Editor Linda Leatherdale - but it turns out she, and many of them, were on this layoff list.

I also understand in light some hundreds of people caught in this, 27 people inside the Toronto Sun newsroom directly, our editor in tears, our publisher devastated, it easy to see how this one could be bobbled. It’s a story no one around here wanted to acknowledge - let alone write. Still, if we are going to cover news outside our building, we certainly should do so when it happens inside - especially when our competitors are.

If I am, in the future, to write about another company I disagree with, or criticize another politician, I have show that I do have autonomy and face no censorship.

We cover tough stories here. I remember in 1999 writing a story about Honest Ed Mirvish laying off 40 restaurant staff, on Dec. 23, just weeks after handing out Christmas turkeys. It was not an easy story to write about such a generous icon. But Honest Ed firing people at Christmas was news. Same applies here.

"I also feel particularly responsible since I was covering, and participating in, our St. James Town Christmas toy drive at the very time all of this was coming down. I guarantee you, had I not been on that positive Sun story, I would have written something earlier on this negative Sun story.

I don’t like what happened with the job cuts, but it’s not my place, or expertise, to comment on the business side of this newspaper, or its parent, on how they handle managing a company during a global recession.

We understand our managers inside the 333 King St. E. building did not want this and we also realize newspapers everywhere face this financial crisis.

But I will say, my sense is we as a group are committed to doing what we have to do, creatively, with all of our ability and with all of our energy, to ensure this paper grows and prospers. And we will loyally and vigorously do our part toward that end.

We love our Sun. And we love our co-workers, management and union - all interesting characters and independent souls who speak their mind and strive for the best.

There is a list of people on a layoff notice, but at this time it’s an internal document since because of a collective agreement between the company and CEP Local 87-M there are bumping rights.

This means, some of the people on the list may bump into other positions based on seniority. There has also been volunteer severance packages offered, which means more people on that list may be in fact staying. It’s going to take some time to sort out.

I know most of the people on the list, some are close friends, and the rest I have great respect for. There are talented young journalists on it and valued, smart and experienced veterans. There are writers, photographers, proof readers, researchers, editorial assistants and editors. All top notch.

We still hold out hope that all or many will get to stay as the process of buyouts and bumping continues.

There is one name I have confirmed will be departing the Sun - effective immediately and it is a big fish. As mentioned above, longtime and legendary Sun Money Editor Linda Leatherdale, who is not in the bargaining unit, is leaving us in what she tells me is a part of the downsizing.

It’s an enormous loss since she is not only one of the country’s best business writers, she is as much a part of the Sun tradition as any employee ever has been. I don’t know if she has a Toronto Sun tattoo, but she very well may.

“It’s my 55th birthday,” she told me laughing late Tuesday. “It’s not a happy birthday but I have been thinking for a couple of months that it might be time.”

For more than 20 years, she has starred here and I know people in the struggling financial world were stunned with this news. Since we did cover the layoffs last month of CTV celebrities Tim Weber, Jacintha Wesselingh and Kate Wheeler, we definitely can’t ignore such a major player moving on from here. The blog is right about that.

On a personal note, there is not a finer person than Leatherdale - a tireless fighter for the average taxpayer. I admire her so much. I sure hope she writes her own farewell column and, perhaps, returns to our pages when the business world she covers so well improves.

In this newspaper business, and at the Sun where lots of us have left and come back, you never say never.

As for other news that happens here, I promise to be vocal in my pushing to make sure our readers are informed."

Layoff forum

Updated 08/01/09
A forum for words of comfort and support for the most recent layoff casualties, either individuals by name or collectively. Or comments in general.

Blog comment from Gerry Nicholls re Linda Leatherdale

Blog comments re loss of Linda Leatherdale, Scott Morrison

From Linda Fox, a comment posted by the former TorSun vet

"In all the years since I left the Sun (2001), I have never been moved to make a comment on this site . . . until now. Pierre-Karl should be hoisted on his own petard.

"Of all the times of the year to do this. I feel a great deal for Linda Leatherdale, whom I have known for years, and although I didn't know Derek Tse well, I knew of him at the Star when I was there on contract. Pity he went back to a lost cause and that, sadly, is what the Sun is.

"Back in 2001, Pierre-Karl concentrated on getting rid of all the old hacks, such as myself and anyone else who dare to reach the age of 50. Now it seems anyone is fair game as a lot of the names om this sad list are nowhere near that age.

"I don't know why they just don't put the Sun out of its misery instead of this death by a thousand cuts. Shameful and shameless. The Grinch has nothing on Quebecor.

"Linda (thankfully retired from the ruthless world of publishing)"

Dennis Earl, outspoken as ever, has been commenting on the layoffs and the aftermath on his The Writings of Dennis Earl Blog.

Numerous posts on re Black Tuesday

Comments on the forum include: "We escaped any cuts at our little weekly, but a couple up the road in the chain lost some editorial staff. I have to think there would have been revolts here if they cut anyone from us, as we're running at full capacity as it is, and have been growing steadily over the past couple of years. One of the little notes we got in our pep talk: 2009 Christmas bonus, already canceled. Yay!"

Toronto Sun pink slip practically destroyed reporter

"I just wanted to add to the voices of those who had once worked for Sun Media only to find themselves jobless after a round of layoffs.

"I'll keep the details to myself, but suffice it to say that I was practically destroyed after getting my pink slip a few years back.

"After working diligently in tiny rural newsrooms, then in smaller city dailies, finally getting hired as a reporter at the Toronto Sun was a dream come true. I'd learned that those 15-hour days, Christmas shifts and coming in on my weekends was worth it.

"I moved to Toronto, eager to pick up my happy life and start somewhere new.

"Then came one round of layoffs. Then another. That's when I was cut.

"It's a hard thing, working for something for nearly a decade only to have it snatched from you by some penny pincher.

"I didn't realize how much going to work at 333 King Street East every day mattered to me. I knew I'd been devastated by the loss, but it was more than just a job. Being a reporter was my identity. You don't simply punch a clock doing this. I was always seeking out story ideas, calling in tips to the newsroom, working overtime.

"I felt betrayed, having had put my faith in this industry to be as loyal to my hard work as I'd been to their organization.

"I don't know if I'll ever go back to being a reporter. My former colleagues are now writing press releases, working in other industries. I've bounced through a couple jobs, but never fell in love the way I had with the feeling of a satisfying day's work as a journalist - getting that witness, an exclusive, a front page.

"To those who've been laid off: good luck. There's a tough road ahead."

From a Toronto Sun writer who has been there:

"Reading what went down at the paper last week was downright heartbreaking! And when I discovered that I know quite a few of the people who were let go, I was even more saddened. I find it incredulous that a major daily in such a big city does not have any full time music writers!

"I know how the people who were laid off feel because I was laid off in December ’01. You feel lost, sad, angry, but you try and keep your spirits up and hustle to find a gig.

"I can relate to the person who said he/she was quitting journalism after being laid off. A year ago, I decided to switch careers because I see print going the way of the music industry.

"I wish all the people who lost their jobs the best of luck landing on their feet. I am sure that they will."

A Craig's List posting gives TorSun the 2008 Scrooge of the Year Award:

By Mike: "The Toronto Sun at Xmas Time has dumped Linda Leatherdale. This is so insane. At a time when tough times are coming and she can help give good advice to survive these times, they remove her? The Toronto Sun wins the Scrooge of 2008 award and I will never buy their paper again without Linda in it. She is my sunshine girl."

Re comment about laid off Sun Media employees should launch online paper:

"It looks like a whack of good talent got their arses kicked to the curb. Why don't you all get together and start your own online newspaper. Be tough at first, but it could be done."

Re comment about the St. Catharines Standard layoffs:

"Reportedly, editorial cuts were supposed to be seven at the St. Catharines Standard, but one part-time copy editor had just given notice two weeks earlier, and a part-time reporter had left the newspaper within the previous year, saving two positions. It didn't seem to matter how many hours were worked by these people, it was just about the body count."

Re a comment about the timing of the 600 layoffs:

"Most of my former colleagues who were laid off must still work to the end of the year. I suspect PKP needs the layoffs to kick in on Dec. 31 to suit his books, and the two weeks notice means no pay in lieu of notice.

"Sorry, you're laid off, but can you come in and work Christmas Day?"

Re a comment about Sun Media and its Quebec newspapers:

"Le Journal de Quebec was on strike for 16 months, and Quebecor was just last week found guilty of violating that province's labour laws during the strike. I think PKP knows not to mess with that paper right now.

"Le Journal de Montreal might go on strike in the new year. I bet PKP is rubbing his hands with glee thinking of all the salary expense he will save during a strike."

Paul Chivers' update re North Bay Nugget's six layoffs:

"I was chief photographer with almost 28 years service and my last compatriot was Denis Dubois (over 15 years). That's the end of a once-proud 4.5 person (photo) department.

"As to local photos, that will increase the load on the already over-taxed three-way reporters, along with (I'm speculating here) increased reliance on 'community journalism' and freelancers."

Paul says also gone are Mark Sandford, the page editor; Vic Levesque, a 48-year maintenance person just a few months shy of retirement; Tammy Brunet, a long-serving ad department worker and single mother, and Frank Gurini, the manager in the ad department, who announced his departure earlier this year.

A posted comment re Maryanna Lewyckyj's review of third-quarter profits:

"I thank Maryanna for looking these figures up and sharing them. As a Sun Media worker, I think she hits the nail on the head when it comes to the frustrations being felt at this time.

"There seems to be a clear message from the upper echelon that the time has come for all employees to buy into their 'new world' ideas and, in some ways, say goodbye to print media.

"Yet, as she proves, newspapers still carry their weight quite nicely. For those with print in the heart, the next few years are going be painful, for sure."

From John Iaboni, former Toronto Sun sports writer:

"I can't believe what's happening to our Sun and its chain. Only wish I had the financial resources and financial pull to take it over and make it a fun place like it used to be."

An NPAC clarification from Derek Ruttan, London Free Press photographer:

"I'm not dead . . . yet. As Dave Chidley mentioned, I received a last minute reprieve from the gallows when Ken Wightman took a buy-out. Ken will now and forever be known as "The Governor."

"Thanks to everyone who e-mailed and called. It means a lot to hear from friends at times like this. My deepest condolences to the other 599, especially the photo staffers. A lot talent and years of service tossed away.

"Management keeps telling me that their decision was not personal and they are happy that I'm not leaving. How do you kick a guy in the gut and then have the gall to tell him that it's not personal?"

A posted comment from Dave:

"I wish the best of luck to all the fellow Sun Media people who were victims of Black Tuesday."

One of the layoff casualties:

"Fuck Sun Media for ruining my dream, my life, my passion. I'm quitting journalism because of this man (PKP) and these people he employs."

Sean McCann, former veteran Toronto/Calgary Sun staffer:

"Maybe the brilliant "NO! NO! NO!" headline would have been more appropriate for Black Tuesday."

John Cosway, former Toronto Sun vet:

"While all of the layoffs were heartbreaking, it saddens me to see Linda Leatherdale, the Toronto Sun business editor, exit the building after a couple of decades of unwavering loyalty and hard work without an exit column or published thanks for a job well done.

"It is just wrong, as it was wrong for many other vets to leave without farewells and a word of thanks in print.

"You are a gem, Linda. CP business stories will never replace the amazing rapport you had with readers in fighting the good fight, be it gas prices, bank charges, credit card interest rates.

"Freedom 55, the hard way. Hang in there, Linda. There is life after the Sun."

A Peterborough Examiner staffer writes:

"I work at the Examiner and am so disheartened to see good friends and co-workers lose their jobs.

"In a time where Sun Media is pushing for more web-based product, we lose two editors who are very tech/web savvy, while several longtime editors nearing retirement remain (guess Sun Media didn't want to fork out severance packages). Many of us are still scratching our heads on the decisions.

"James (Neeley) and Laura (Mueller) are two very strong, dedicated reporters and it's a loss to the newsroom and our readers. I hope they get back on their feet soon.

"As well, there is talk the Examiner is going to be cutting back on the number of pages early in the new year, meaning less space for local content.

"This week, our newsroom has been in a zombie-like state . . . morale is at a low and I expect it will be like that for some time."

From a 2007 Toronto Sun layoff casualty:

"Hi guys, I was one of the cuts back in 2007, going into my 20th year. I was originally hired in the 80s and knew then I could retire here, it was such a special place. Well sadly, that was not to be.

"I knew back in 1999 when they (Quebecor) bought us, this was not going to be good. Some of us wish the Star would have bought us . . . at least then, you had a chance.

"Well, as most of us would tell you newbies to the layoff world, you will get on your feet again . . . that’s a guarantee. It will hurt like an angry bitch for a long time, because we think of the “good ‘ol days” at the Sun, when we would have worked for free and LOVED going into the word factory.

"Go over to Crook’s or Betty’s for a drink . . . throughout the day. Hell, we even had a bottle or two at our desks!

"Keep your memories because we must carry on . . . like a loved one who has passed on, we remember all the good times.

"I still go out of my way to drive by and have a look at the old place and the mural that is so much the character of the Sun. I will always miss that place.

"Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all."

Name withheld on request.

E-mail your words for layoff victims to Layoff Forum.