Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Travel limits 2

Ian Harvey, a former Toronto Sun vet now freelancing, recalls our 1970s limits that were ignored when the story demanded travel by the troops:

"Well, it is kinda back to the future, when the Sun first started - and even when I joined Jan 1, 1979 - travel was tight, the phone was king.

"We even had a standing order for reporters who traveled on junkets, for the paper or even on vacation, to bring back phone books for the library from the city or country they were visiting.

"That way, we could use them on stories without having to go through directory assistance, which eventually also started charging for numbers.

"Then we got the long distance billing thing in which we had to go through an operator every time we made a long distance call. Frustrating, when you're chasing a big one by phone.

"Pinching back was how the Sun started. It was on a shoestring. But it wasn't by choice, it was by necessity. They just didn't have the money.

"Even then, when big stories hit somehow the money was found and we sent people . . . the top people . . . because travel was a perq.

"And you know what? It carved out the Sun's rep as a paper that would go the distance to get the stories that mattered first hand.

"Not a bad business model.

"As John Paton is quoted in the Globe this morning celebrating his award by E&P as Publisher of the Year: "If you commit bad journalism, you're not going to be around very long."

"Money or no money, there is no one size fits all rule . . . if the story is big enough to matter, it's big enough to cover . . . cost be damned. And you can't cover a big story without a photog and a reporter at ground zero.

". . . Not going for the story, or not going for other stories because they're too far, costs too much.

"If the story matters to the readers, it matters to the bean counters because no readers means no ads. No ads means even the bean counters lose their jobs."

Thanks for your input, Ian.

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