Monday, 8 June 2009

Tori & Michele

The Toronto Sun got off to a slow start in the abduction of eight-year-old Victoria "Tori" Stafford in April and the coverage that followed was erratic at best.

In a nutshell, Sun Media economics got in the way of adequately covering a national story.

Sun Media owns the Woodstock Sentinel-Review, the London Free Press and the Toronto Sun, so you would think coverage would have been superior on all fronts.

But it wasn't, not in print.

The woefully understaffed Sentinel-Review relied on the London Free Press.

The Toronto Sun relied on the Sentinel-Review, London Free Press and the Canadian Press, rather than send its own reporters and columnists to Woodstock.

Yes, the Sun dispatched columnist Joe Warmington to the scene a couple of times, but only on day trips. There were days when the Sun used only CP copy. Bizarre.

So Michele Mandel's Sunday Sun column detailing Saturday's emotional memorial service for Tori makes us wonder why she was not assigned to the Woodstock story in April.

She is an award-winning columnist and an empathetic mother. Sun readers would have been better served had she been there often, as were the Globe's Christie Blatchford and CTV's Austin Delaney, instead of watching the story unfold on TV.

But that would have created an expense account and the profitable Toronto Sun prefers the line of least resistance - and least expenses - in covering the news these days.

Sun columnists excel as wordsmiths in dramas of the heart. Seeing them sit on the sidelines for major out-of-town stories because of budget restraints is disheartening.


  1. Come now the price of gas is going up...we can't have reporters charging mileage, how ridiculous. Sit in our offices (or homes as is the case in Sarnia) and just work off the phone and be proud you're saving the company $20 in gas while helping the environment.

  2. Randy Richmond London Free Press8 June 2009 at 14:29

    At the risk of sounding arrogant, I think the London Free Press, and Woodstock Sentinel Review did a great job on this story.
    The Sun may not have carried our work every day, but that is hardly because it was not worthy.
    Here are just a few of our exclusives: the only interview with the mother of Tori Stafford the day after the arrests; the story of her struggles with addiction; an interview with the mother's best friend — rumoured to be the abductor — and stories that questioned how police focused on other women in Woodstock even while they had the accused in custody.
    We also did profiles and other features while covering the daily news conferences.
    "Erratic" coverage? Hardly.
    It would have been great to see the Sun writers there and it was good to see Joe and Michele on the story. We would have welcomed the help.
    But please don't leave the impression only Toronto Sun writers can do a good job on the big stories.

  3. Randy, the TSF posting refers to the erratic Toronto Sun coverage, not the quality of work by staff in Woodstock and London, which would be worthy of Dunlops if Dunlops were still being awarded.

    Budget restraints kept Toronto Sun columnists from prolonged stays in Woodstock and for a tabloid, the absence of a committed personal touch by a Mandel, Bonokoski, Warmington or Strobel was poor news judgment and a lack of respect for Sun readers.

    To use Canadian Press stories in print over the valued efforts of sister papers in Woodstock and London, for whatever reason, was baffling.

    The pending murder trials should be a Woodstock-London-Toronto team effort worthy of Canada's largest newspaper chain.

  4. "Bizarre"? "Baffling"? The LFP is a broadsheet, and its stories are written for its length. Woodstock's copy, itself erratic, was written for local readers. The Sun ran their copy on major breaks in the story. Have you ever USED the Sun Media Bulletin Board?! With staffing constraints being what they are, CP's concise and clean copy works in a pinch. It's pretty easy to judge when you're sitting on the outside of 333 King, without a clear view of what happens in the newsroom. On days when there are only three people putting out the Sun news section, and only two partial pages available to cover non-local Canadian news, CP worked. We're all doing the best we can, so how about saving the criticism of our work.

  5. "With staffing restraints being what they are, CP's concise and clean copy works in a pinch."

    We rest our case. Sun Media newspapers are so understaffed they are relying on a news service PKP wants to dump next year.

    What will you do without CP?

    "We're all doing the best we can, so how about saving criticism of our work."

    We are not critical of your personal efforts, just the work environment created by relentless Quebecor cutbacks. It is preventing Sun Media newsroom employees from working at their full potential.

  6. They'll keep CP at the Sun papers and then take CP stuff and resend it on the PDF pages as they're already doing with sports statistics and claiming it as their own.

  7. Slightly off topic here, but I couldn't resist the line "Have you ever USED the Sun Media Bulletin Board?!"
    Yes, yes I have and it's a joke. The search system is brutal, many papers don't follow the filing system, cutlines are non-existent with many photos, photos aren't always filed as JPEGs and don't even get me going on the time-out feature. You log in and get booted from the system right away some days.
    No wonder papers use CP....oh wait, that's not allowed under the new every paper look the same system.
    And things will only get worse if Quebecor does end up owning the Canadiens. I wonder if the players will have to but their own water? Or if the team would have to travel by bus??

  8. On the cost-cutting front. It appears that staff has been directed to photocopy both sides of each sheet of paper.

  9. On the cost-cutting front: It's rumoured that staff has been directed to photocopy both sides of each sheet of paper.

  10. Here's what I don't get. Once most papers drop CP, can Sun Media still create those PDFs with CP/AP copy on them and allow them to run in other papers as they are currently doing? Or will they try to rewrite stuff and play it off as their own?

    So yes, what happens when we no longer have CP? Sun Media does not have any papers out east and are out of some key markets in central and eastern Canada. What if something major happens, where are they going to get the copy?

    I dread this time next year...that's if I even still have a job.