Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Stand By Us

Two different TSF topics this week - the music video Stand By Me and John Paton's comments in reply to a TSF posting - comfortably merged in our thoughts.

Said John:

"I often wonder what Doug Creighton would do. For sure, he would have taken a much more humane approach to the staff, but it is not clear to me if there would be one more employee at Sun Media than there is now if JDC was still in charge."

Much more humanely, indeed.

To Doug, the Sun was family and he would have stood by each and every one of us, avoiding layoffs if he could. If layoffs became unavoidable, he would do it with sincere remorse and, as was his nature, he would go out of his way to comfort the casualties with words or in letters.

Doug, who died in 2004, would stand by us as we stood by him when he was ousted in a power struggle in 1992. He would not be abandoning the formula he and 61 other former Toronto Telegram employees introduced in November of 1971 that turned the upstart tabloid into a North America print media success story.

Doug would not endorse gutting Sun Media newspapers in favour of regional "centres of excellence" staffed by fresh-out-of-college beginners at the cost of hundreds of jobs in all departments and solely designed to improve the bottom line.

He would probably question the need for any cutbacks at the Toronto Sun when it is profitable.

Doug's passionately loyal employees would certainly stand by him in leaner times, knowing he stood by them through the good times, sharing the profits, providing excellent benefits, sabbaticals after 10 years service, inviting open dialogue and being proud of their personal achievements.

Doug would be encouraging participation in local, provincial and national media awards to allow competitors to feel good about their professionalism and their work. When he felt the NNAs were biased against the Sun, he established the Dunlop Awards to keep employees motivated.

Doug, as a veteran newsman, would not allow newsrooms to become the anemic sweatshops they are today because of endless cutbacks. He would have ventured into the Internet, but not at the expense of print journalism.

In a nutshell, Doug would have stood by his employees. They would not be reduced to mere numbers in a ledger, their lives and careers destroyed at the cold stroke of a pen.

Sun Media would be much different in this economic downturn if run by Doug and other true blue newspaper people. The newspapers would be focused on local news, with adequate staff and the full needs of readers and advertisers in mind. They would be trying harder, with innovations to meet these changing times, not bleeding the papers of all that was right with them pre-Quebecor.

And, we would note, PKP's vision of a centralized media empire came long before this current recession began in 2007. It came years before the current decline in advertising.

What has been happening at newspapers across the chain since Quebecor bought it in 1999 has much more to do with cost-cutting centralization and improving the bottom line than economic necessity. It has eaten up all of the loyalty and dedication spawned in the early years.

Ditto for much of the former Osprey Media chain, purchased in 2007. The Toronto Sun, the flagship tabloid, is a mere pup compared to some of the Osprey papers that are being downsized almost weekly.

The Kingston Whig-Standard turned 175 this year, dammit. It surely has seen previous downturns without being eviscerated.

But the bottom line is Sun Media is PKP's football. He can kick it around until it is flat and useless and there is nothing anyone in the once proud newspaper chain can do or say to change it, although we'd like to hear much more outrage from employees on record and union reps.

People keeping this blog alive can only highlight the ongoing carnage and recall the days when the ship was helmed by people like Doug. People who, to the bottom of their hearts, were newspaper people who cared about the product and the people packaging it.

As for centralization, someone in the Belleville area said it all. He buys the Sun, Belleville Intelligencer and Kingston Whig-Standard, but is enjoying the papers less because a lot of the content now appears in all three newspapers.

It is detached, cookie cutter newspapering, with more to come.

We'll always have Doug and the glory years in our hearts. It is just a damn shame so much of what was right at 333 and the Sun's siblings has been dimmed.

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