Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Lew & Balloon Boy

The Toronto Sun's initial decision to bury the Balloon Boy story last Friday was "moronic," says Lew Fournier, a highly-respected former copy desk vet and headline writer extraordinaire.

Fournier, responding to a comment that the Sun was correct in burying the story, writes:

"The first poster is stupid beyond belief. This is the kind of dimwit who would dismiss Clifford Irving's hoax because he really didn't write a book about Howard Hughes.

"It's this kind of provincial thinking that has sent Sun circulation dipping over the horizon.

"Sure the story was fake, but not the millions of eyes, both American and Canadian, that were glued to the unfolding drama, real or not.

"The Denver airport was closed; millions of dollars were spent on policing; every parent on the continent held his or her breath as the story played out.

"And played out it did.

"The story had legs - good and bad - and the decision to bury it was nothing short of moronic.

"Lew (what in hell are you guys smoking?) Fournier

"By the way, how are the Leafs doing?"

Thank you for your signed comment, Lew.

Lew was part of the 333 newsroom team that oozed tabloid competence for several decades - with front page pizzazz, clever headlines and a nose for tabloid news.

The departure of Lew, along with other vets taking buyouts last spring, siphoned much of the Sun's remaining tab talent.

The Balloon Boy miscue was the most recent of several slow starts for the Sun. Two other notables: the abduction of eight-year-old Victoria "Tori" Stafford in Woodstock in April, and Jaycee Dugard being found alive in California in August - 18 years after her abduction.

There are tabloid stories and there are broadsheet stories. The Sun worked its magic daily for decades by hiring people who knew the difference.

With today's crew, there is no consistency. It is hit and miss.

The departures of Fournier and his desk colleagues, the recent departure of Mike Burke-Gaffney as managing editor, and the upcoming departure of Lou Clancy as editor-in-chief, are clearly felt in the newsroom.


  1. Not trying to pile on here, but I just went back and read that justification for burying the story pretty much everyone in the Western world was talking about. I have to think that excuse was posted by someone with a vested interest in defending the Sun and its editorial decisions .... but, as someone else noted: If you ignore the story that everyone is talking about, then you do so at your peril. I truly hope that the newsroom types who made the initial call now realize their error, and just suck it up and soldier on. Everyone makes mistakes. But if they are still sitting back, smug and content, comfortable with their decision to go with a ho-hum Leafs story that added nothing to the conversation while virtually every other media outlet went the other way, then this is going to happen again. And again. And .....

  2. Then again, some people never learn. Some people still don't realize their mistake. Some people turn out a front page like we saw today and think producing a Toronto Public Health pamphlet is a good idea. Somebody over there is intent on bringing down the entire operation with their complete lack of news judgment.