Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Cooler

In the world of high stakes gambling, Quebecor would be tagged a cooler.

And speaking of coolers, Toronto Sun sources say all of the water coolers at 333 will soon be removed, leaving staff to drink tap water or their own bottled water.

Quebecor's penny-pinching is now a theatre of the absurd.

Mike B-G leaving

No matter how thin the Toronto Sun newsroom got in recent years, there was always Mike Burke-Gaffney, a company man to the hilt, working on the tabloid he loves.

Come March 31, no more.

Mike, managing editor and former Sunday Sun editor, is retiring at 59 after 29 years at the Sun and all who have known and loved this guy will miss his presence in the newsroom.

He is one of the pros who made the Sun newsroom a better place to make a living.

MBG has been many things to many people at the Sun. Mentor, gifted editor, friend, but in TSF's mind he never shone brighter than when he took the Sunday Sun circulation to new heights in 1992 during one of his several stints as Sunday Sun editor.

The Oct. 25, 1992, edition of the Sunday Sun had a record circulation of 544,473, thanks to Mike's leadership and the Toronto Blue Jays' first World Series win. The Sunday Sun was on top of the world in staff, content and reader support.

Eleven days later, Sun co-founder Doug Creighton was ousted and all that was the Sun in its first 21 years began to crumble.

Mike hung in there and the decent guy that he is, he must have had a heavy heart watching everything he and other Sun vets built take a slide.

At 59, this affable father of four is going golfing.

In a memo to staff yesterday, Lou Clancy, editor-in-chief said:

"It is with sadness, some trepidation, and with happiness for him that I announce the retirement of Mike Burke-Gaffney, effective March 31.

"Known affectionately across all departments as MBG, Mike has been a stalwart in this newsroom for 29 years. He's our institutional memory wrapped in all that is good about the Sun.

"Mike has served in just about every key editorial position, including Sunday editor (often) and managing editor.

"He arrived anonymously (ask him) and became known inside and outside editorial as the go-to guy, Mr. Fix-it, the one everyone could depend on. He has an earned reputation for trust and honesty.

"Mike always finds a nice way to say it, but he always gives you the straight goods. I will miss his guidance, friendship and presence. Please let him know how you feel and wish him luck with his golf game."

If you want to share your thoughts about Mike with TSF readers, e-mail your comments in the weeks before his retirement.

Friday, 27 February 2009

A guy named Joe

Joe Schlesinger, CBC Television's veteran foreign correspondent is this year's recipient of the Canadian Journalism Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.

He will be in good company when honoured at the CJF's 12 Annual Awards Gala in Toronto on June 9 for his "his long and distinguished journalistic career and contribution to broadcasting."

Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include the late Toronto Sun co-founder Doug Creighton, Sally Armstrong, Norman Webster, Knowlton Nash, Pierre Berton (posthumous), June Callwood, Doris Anderson, Trina McQueen, Mark Starowicz, Bernard Derome, Peter C. Newman, Peter Gzowski and Robert Fulford.

U.S. Highway

The 20-year ban on media coverage of American war dead being returned to U.S. soil has been lifted and we have to wonder if Ontario's much publicized Highway of Heroes influenced the Obama administration.

The change in Pentagon policy allows relatives of the dead to decide whether they want media coverage of flag-draped coffins being removed from transport planes at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Apparently, many relatives do and politicians and generals be damned.

(The Dover base's web site says: "Under the blanket restriction, the media has been barred from photographing the flag-draped caskets of about 3,850 U.S. service members killed in action since 2001.)

Out of sight, out of mind. There would be no Highway of Heroes for Canada's fallen if we had adopted that policy. Sun Media's Pete Fisher is a dedicated Highway of Heroes photographer. His special YouTube tribute has drawn more than 1,500 hits.

Canadians have honoured the 108 soldiers who have fallen in Afghanistan. We have seen their photographs and read stories about their lives. We have shared in the sadness of their flag-covered caskets being removed from transport planes in Trenton. And we have welcomed them home along the motorcade route to Toronto.

What it says to relatives of the fallen is you are not alone. Your loss is our loss.

Watch Pete's tribute and then watch CNN coverage of the decision to lift the ban in the U.S. and decide for yourselves if sharing the grief is more dignified and respectful than hiding the grief.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Home delivery 3

John Downing, a Day Oner and former Toronto Sun editor, updates us on his Sun newspaper deliveries:

"The free newspaper story is fascinating. I always got a free Sun delivered to the door, but I always paid the wholesaler the street price of the newspaper. Some of my colleagues stiffed their wholesalers.

"In my area, you could get the daily Sun delivered to your door right from the start. My sons and Don Hunt's sons got a bundle from the wholesaler dropped off at the house. When the Hunts moved, my sons continued.

It caused problems when people phoned the Sun and said they were going for holidays and didn't want the paper for a couple of weeks. The Sun would say there was a mistake because there was no home delivery.

When my sons finally stopped, they were honoured at a wholesaler party and were given Donato prints.

My sons found the delivery business very lucrative. Their customers also got them to clean eavestroughs, cut grass etc. and my sons figured they were earning over $40 an hour tax free. One son continued after he was married and had two university degrees.

So there was some value when kids delivered newspapers and not adults, but of course government screwed it all up with regulations."

Thank you for your e-mail, John.

Tax free paper routes were a bonanza for thousands of yutes. At one point in the 1950s, this blogster's three Toronto Star paper routes paid more than my father was making as a house painter.

Plus tips - especially from those generous Spadina, Walmer and St. George apartment dwellers during Christmas Eve collections.

Paper routes got us through high school without having to ask for an allowance.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Home delivery

Maryanna Lewyckyj, former Toronto Sun vet and bargaining team member, writes:

"When I was part of the bargaining team for the Toronto Sun collective agreement, one of the things on our 'wish list' at the start of negotiations was free home delivery for Sun editorial employees.

"At the time of bargaining (2003 to early 2004), I believe it wasn't available for delivery seven days a week, so we were only shooting for weekend delivery.

"When we had to winnow the wish list to items we were willing to strike for, the free papers fell off the table as the union was told it was the responsibility of editorial employees to read the paper every day and it was clear the company didn't wish to provide this perk.

"But here's the curious part. I learned from a staffer at the London Free Press that ABC rules allowed the paper to be counted as a 'sold' paper. That's because the cost of the paper showed up as a 'taxable benefit' item on employee T4s.

"At the time, the London Free Press had a rule that all employees were required to take the 'free' paper. Some employees disliked this because it triggered a tax liability. However, it served an important purpose for the employee: To prop up circulation figures."

Thank you for your e-mail, Maryanna. So Quebecor's edict will lower print circulation if employees decide not to buy their own papers.

Awards season

Television has its awards season, as do newspapers.

The Ontario Community Newspaper Association announced its 2008 Better Newspaper Awards winners on Tuesday, with smaller Sun Media newspapers getting a share of the honours.

All of the winners, who will be wined and dined at the 2009 OCNA Convention in Toronto on April 17, can be found here. The OCNA represents 280 community newspapers in Ontario.

Congrats to all.

Meanwhile, nominations for the 2008 Ontario Newspaper Association were announced Tuesday.

Darned if TSF could find a complete list online this ayem, but Sun Media's Sarnia Observer does have a story about the paper being nominated for eight awards.

ONA winners will be announced May 2 at a gala reception in Waterloo.

On another awards front, Toronto Sun columnist Mike Strobel has received an honourable 2009 Genesis Awards mention for his series on the Toronto Zoo euthanizing male baby reindeer.

Not too shabby, coming from the Humane Society of the United States. The awards will be presented in Beverly Hills on March 28.

Says Strobel in the Sun story: "Awards are always nice, but living, bouncing baby reindeer are better. I bet little Rudolph is proud of this, too."

Strobel loose in Beverly Hills? That should be good for a dozen Sun columns if he is attending the awards.

Congrats, Mike.

All kinds of awards, but no 2008 Dunlops to honour Sun Media talent.


Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Free delivery

In the 1950s, this blogster's Toronto Star paper route included a stop at a mansion on a hill in Toronto's Dupont and Davenport district.

Glen Edyth Drive/Place, a dead-end street, was a bugger to walk and impossible to ride up at any time of the year.

There were two deliveries on the small and secluded street lined with mansions, including the home of a Star VIP, a paying customer. Might have been the man himself, Beland Honderich.

Can't remember if he was a big tipper, but the isolated hilltop row of mansions and a Star VIP who paid for his daily paper always stuck with this paperboy.

While at the Toronto Sun for 19 years, there were no weekday deliveries and it never occurred to me to ask for free Sunday Sun delivery, probably because it came off the presses during my Saturday night shifts at 333.

So a TSF tipster's note that Sun Media was cancelling free home delivery for employees in favour of free online e-edition access was news to us.

Feedback to date suggests some Sun VIPs and most employees of the former Osprey Media newspapers were offered free home delivery - seven days a week.

A former Toronto Sun staffer sent us this enlightening e-mail:

"When I was a senior manager at the Toronto Sun, I received free delivery of the paper to my door every day. It was arranged by Marilyn Figueroa (the editor-in-chief's EA) through the circulation department.

"It was dropped off by the guy who filled the nearest Sun box. As far as I know, all senior managers were entitled to this perk.

"I know for sure other managers who lived in the city got the same deal. Pat Grier, John Kryk, Linda W. and Lorrie G. Not sure about those who lived outside of the city limits, like Gord Walsh.

"Just so's you know.

"By cutting that perk, I expect Quebecor saved, uh, nothing.


Thank you for your e-mail.

It is another little perk trimmed from flat-lining benefits of Sun Media employees.

Still, can't help but think of the Star VIP in his mansion on the hill paying a paperboy for Star deliveries to his door rather than making arrangements for free papers.

We applaud his ethics and his early lesson in how the other half lived.

All things Net

Sun Media employees who took advantage of free home delivery have been told that little bonus has been axed.

Instead, employees will be given free access to the e-edition of their newspaper.

"We got an e-mail yesterday," says a TSF tipster at one of the former Osprey Media newspapers. "Sun Media has axed free home delivered newspapers for employees. We will get free e-editions instead."

(Free home delivery for employees is news to TSF. Was that strictly an Osprey Media perk?)

Those new Sun Media e-editions need every visitor they can get, paid or on the house.

Quebecor's Internet tunnel vision suggests every Sun Media employee and every reader owns a computer, which isn't the case.

Monday, 23 February 2009

E-mail bag

Brian Smith of Richmond Hill writes:

"I was wondering if you were aware that the complete lineup of the comics in the Sunday Sun has been changed. For two weeks, I have received these new comics, which are so very unfunny, a definite lowering of the standards.

"I have emailed twice to ask why without response so far. Next time I call.

"Just wondering if you knew about this."

Yep, they've messed with the comics again - and that ain't funny.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Say what?

A few classic headlines making the rounds via e-mail.

A royal visit

Yo, Steve, you did Canada proud yesterday.

Oops, we momentarily slipped into the disrespectful speech mode of George W.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper, you did Canada proud yesterday during the first official visit of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama did not disappoint his Canadian fans. He went out of his way to recognize the large contingent of supporters on his arrival.

Guiding Harper into the light to wave to the chilled, but wildly enthusiastic, crowd was a classy, respectful gesture.

We'll forgive Obama for the brief slip at the opening of the press conference, when he started to say Iowa instead of Ottawa. The man does have a lot on his plate.

Obama and Harper were informative and articulate during the press conference.

Some YouTubers later wondered why Harper was sometimes speaking in French.

One AP clip on YouTube had "Ottowa" in its description.

And our erratic 680News kept interrupting the press conference and bowed out before it was over. (We later caught up to the full press conference on YouTube.)

But back to the positive side of the day.

The people person that Obama is, his spontaneous visit to Ottawa's Byward Market on his way to the airport, to the delight of hundreds of customers and workers, sealed the deal.

Obama, sworn in one month ago today, is our man, but sadly, not our leader.

What an uplifting sight, watching these two leaders in their 40s speaking positive thoughts about the future.

Such a refreshing change from eight years of whatshisname.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Woodstock blues

Pat Logan, publisher of the Woodstock Sentinel Review, was "let go" yesterday, loading up the boat for interim publisher Mike Walsh, a source says.

Walsh is already publisher of Sun Media's Simcoe Reformer, Tillsonburg News and Brantford Expositor.

The source says Kim Whitehead, the Sentinel-Review's ad manager, was lost on Black Tuesday, so management is slim.

Do you get the feeling another 3-for-1, or 4-for-1 newspaper - as in this week's 3-for-1 Northumberland Today - is in the works?

Slicing and dicing, slicing and dicing . . .

Farewell photos

Updated 20/02/09
A large gathering of Toronto Sun colleagues said their goodbyes to buyout recipients and layoff casualties last week. Here are a few photos to mark the departure of more key people from the shrinking tabloid:

(The photos were taken by Maryanna Lewyckyj, one of the many 2007 Toronto Sun casualties.)

(1) Buyout: Bob McConachie, whose passions in life are newspapers and pool, holds his front page sendoff.

(2) Buyout: Kaarina Leinala, with Bob and Mike Burke-Gaffney, the Sun's managing editor.

(3) Layoff: Calvin Reynolds, leaves with a smile and best wishes from Rob Lamberti, union rep.

(4) Layoff: Debbie Holloway, photographer, with Rob.

(5) Buyout: Sarah Green, reporter, with Rob.

(6) Layoff: Amy Chung, reporter, with Rob.

(7) Layoff: Jason Buckland, reporter, with Rob.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Today it's $1

Sun Media's new 3-in-1 Northumberland Today newspaper, launched yesterday at $1.25, was reduced to $1 today.

Negative feedback from readers of the former Port Hope Evening Guide, Cobourg Daily Star and Colborne Chronicle was immediate.

A couple of retailers said they also complained about $1.25.

Whatever, readers and retailers are content with $1.

Meanwhile, people in the boonies are paying $1.58, including tax, for the Sun weekdays, $1.75 for the Globe and $1.50 for the Star.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

New 3-in-1 paper

Updated 18/02/09
Three former Osprey Media community newspapers in Port Hope, Cobourg and Colborne, with histories dating back to the 1800s, have been merged into one newspaper.

No more Cobourg Daily Star, founded as a weekly in 1831; Port Hope Evening Guide, founded in 1878 and Colborne Chronicle, founded in 1959 from the ashes of the Colborne Express, 1866, and the Colborne Enterprise, 1886.

Sun Media's new three-in-one print and online newspaper is Northumberland Today.The print edition is $1.25, up a quarter from the $1 Cobourg and Port Hope readers were paying for their papers.

No word yet on how many, if any, jobs have been lost in the merging of the three newspapers, but longtime readers are lamenting the demise of hometown focus and titles. And the price of the new paper.

"They told us about the merger, but not about paying $1.25," one Cobourg reader said after picking up a copy of the first 16-page edition of Northumberland Today.

Pete Fisher kick-started the new paper with two stories and a crash photo on Page 1.

Meanwhile, a source at the Peterborough Examiner, another former Osprey paper, says all composing room workers at that daily were laid off today.

"Employees working in the composing dept. at the Peterborough Examiner were laid off today," says the source. "The work is being outsourced to the Barrie Examiner, which is a non-union environment."

Quebecor bought the Osprey chain in the summer of 2007. The slicing/dicing continues.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Re Rob Paynter

A lot of quality newspaper people have been purged from Sun Media in the past decade, including Rob Paynter.

But like many of the dedicated vets who have suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in, Rob didn't waste time moping. He got on with his life.

To know the Sun's Rob was to know an affable, talented editor. He was hired by the Toronto Sun in 1983, transferred to the new Ottawa Sun in 1988 as founding managing editor and in 1997 became editor-in-chief of the London Free Press.

The circulation and profits of the Free Press were on the rise and the paper would earn two National Newspaper Awards under his watch.

Definitely a keeper, but along came Quebecor in 1999 and in 2001, a pink slip for Rob after 18 loyal and productive years with Sun Media.

Rob quickly launched his own media company, MMI, and was called on to redesign about 20 Ontario newspapers, including quite a few Osprey Media titles, years before the 2007 takeover by Quebecor.

The veteran newsman also advised various MMI clients on marketing and communications.

A couple of months ago, the City of London hired him full time as manager of corporate communications and, says Rob, he's "loving every minute."

Rob's work ethics and positive attitude strongly resemble that of a cousin, Gord Paynter, a blind comic we met at a Doug Creighton office launch early in 1993 after his ouster from the Toronto Sun.

Gord, a diabetic, lost his eyesight in his early twenties, and has since become a stand-up comic and motivational speaker. Trust us, he is one funny guy.

As Paynters go, Rob and Gord have done the family name proud.

All the best in your new job, Rob. We're sure former colleagues from the good old days in Toronto, Ottawa and London also wish you well.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Re TTC subway

We rarely use the TTC subway system, but when we do it is back to the wall until the train comes to a full stop.

Our question is why do subway trains have to roar into stations and screech to a halt? Why not slow them to a crawl as they enter a station?

If it is strictly time versus safety, go for safety. Slower incoming trains could save lives.

Sweatshop 2

A TSF reader e-mailed this Edmonton Sun sports page:

"More ammo for your point that everyone's overworked . . .

As in NHL hockey legend Steve Yzerman.

The 2009 Sun Media spot-a-typo hunt continues.

Sun & Globe

Two teens being pushed onto subway tracks Friday afternoon became personal for the Globe and Mail's editor-in-chief when he learned one of the boys was his son.

Read Rob Lamberti's Sunday Sun story about the crime news that landed on Ed Greenspon's doorstep and sent him rushing to the hospital bedside of his son, Jacob, 14.

It's not often that news chiefs at the competition are interviewed for a breaking news story, but Rob got the story from Greenspon in a detailed, face-to-face interview.

A unique scenario, with full respect being paid to Greenspon and his newspaper, the Sun going with a capital "T" in The Globe and Mail.

Greenspon also showed class in being free with his time and comments during print and broadcast media interviews.

How many times has Greenspon been told by readers "If it were your child. . ." during conversations about crimes in the city?

Well, it was his child Friday and we have a feeling the Globe will be close to this national story for weeks to come.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Kudos Bob Elliott

Kudos to Bob Elliott, the Toronto Sun's veteran baseball writer, for his "fond farewell" to Sheila Chidley in Friday's column.

Sheila and five other newsroom vets who took buyouts left the building this week. They were bid a fond adieu by numerous friends and colleagues at a party Wednesday night.

In his column, Elliott writes: "And finally, if you see us standing outside the Rogers Centre a lot this summer or notice Lance Hornby or Steve Buffery unable to get into the Air Canada Centre next season not to worry.

"It's just because THE real boss of our sports department and the department's crack secretary, Sheila Chidley, has left the building. Sheila looked after press credentials, expense accounts and about a million other things on a daily basis baby-sitting the department for 28 years."

As for the five other buyouts with decades of service and the Black Tuesday layoffs who left the building this week, not a word about any of them in the Sun this week.

We can always hope for a Sunday Sun sendoff for Lew Fournier (two paras in a Joe Warmington column to date), Bob McConachie, Kaarina Leinala, Sarah Green and Melinda Kryk et al.

But we've given up on management, expecting some sort of recognition for years and decades of dedicated service to the tabloid.

Typos etc

Disclosure: TSF makes errors. Typos, sometimes factual.

But we're not a major daily newspaper with tens of thousands of readers expecting reporters and editors to at least attempt to get it right.

The Toronto Sun hasn't had a dedicated rewrite desk since 1994 and it laid off its proofreaders on Black Tuesday.

Bob McConachie, a Sun vet and respected newsman, was scheduled to revive the rewrite desk, but he opted for a buyout.

So what do you get without a rewrite desk and proofreaders, and a skeleton staff shell-shocked by years of newsroom cutbacks?

You get typos and other glaring errors, as in today's Sun:

Page 3: Residents of the neighborhood where the plane crash were . . .

Page 4: When the list of names from Continental flight 3407 were released . . .

Page 5: Also killed were two members of Chuck Mangione's band: saxophonist Gerry Niewood and guitarist Gerry Niewood.

We stopped taking notes at Page 5.

The Toronto Sun newsroom no longer has the manpower to get the job done properly. As one TSF reader put it, if we weren't talking a major daily newspaper, you could mistake it for a sweat shop.

There was a time when astute Sun readers would circle errors or call the switchboard to advise the newsroom to try harder - and we listened.

Perhaps the Sun should have an error jar, with every error in print requiring management to put $10 in the jar for charity, say Variety Village.

Speaking of errors, have you noticed the increase in Sun advertising corrections in recent weeks?

With all of the Black Tuesday layoffs and layoffs and buyouts since Dec. 16 gone, the quality of journalism and the final product at 333 will no doubt reach new lows.

TSF doubts the Toronto Sun's print edition as we know it, on its present, destructive course, will be around for its 40th anniversary in 2011.

And who would have thought that during the giddy glory years when newspaper people ruled the roost and the future of the Little Paper That Grew was rosy?

Re Andy Donato

If you are experiencing Andy Donato editorial cartoon withdrawal, you are not alone.

Donato and his bird have been relegated to Sundays only while he vacations in the sunny south this winter.

In previous years, Donato was happy to provide cartoons daily while on vacation, but for reasons the not-so-wise men in management haven't explained, he has been benched weekdays this year.

Donato, an award winning Day Oner, probably doesn't mind having more time to golf and to paint his much-in-demand landscapes.

But WTF, Donato on Sundays only during January, February and March sucks big time for Sun readers. It's the same old more for less b.s. from 333.

Donato, who marked his 40th year of editorial cartoons last year, is one of the few remaining major players at the Toronto Sun.

Benching him weekdays is baffling, but then we are talking about current management working in the shadow of PKP making decisions that make no sense to employees and readers.

Hurry back, Andy. Nobody does it better.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Chicago jazz

In the old days, leaving the Toronto Sun wasn't always permanent. Some newsroom staffers left and returned several times over the years. Not so much these days.

The house got emptier this week with Sun colleagues bidding farewell to buyout recipients and Black Tuesday layoff casualties whose eight week notices expire Monday.

Job losses are nothing to laugh at and the same goes for the revamped Sun comics page. Cost cutting to the extreme - squeezing the last life out of the funnies page, leaving readers with the largest collection of humorless comic strips in North America.

Outraged readers are having their say and Mike Strobel got in his licks in Wednesday's column.

We gave up on Sun comics when the daffy comics editor booted Frank and Ernest.

There's no joy left in Hooterville and we're not talking about the downsized, boxed-in SUNshine Girls.

We're more enthused about two Chicago Sun-Times exports to the Toronto Star: Michael Cooke, 56, as editor, and John Cruickshank, recently appointed publisher.

When the going gets tough, the Star and Globe and Mail always dig in and strive to meet the challenges of the day.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dave Chidley blog

Dave Chidley, one of Sun Media's talented photographers lost to layoffs, has launched a new blog to showcase his talents.

Dave Chidley Photography: News & More will include access to the National Newspaper Award winner's portfolio and archives.

TSF has added his new blog to our growing Family Bloggers list, which is open to any current or former staffer with a blog.

Dave is forever indebted to Conrad Black for flipping the finger at media during his Chicago trial. It won Dave a 2007 NNA.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Arnold & Dunlops

Arnold Agnew, one of the architects of the annual Dunlop Awards launched in 1984, comments on cancellation of the 2008 awards and their apparent demise.

"Joan Sutton Straus asked me to (comment) about the Dunlops. That leaves it wide open, but I am happy to oblige.

"I did not know the awards had been cancelled, which is a great shame. It was, I think, a good morale/team builder (especially after Christie Blatchford left and stopped winning all the time) and helped, modestly, to bring the scattered pieces of the group together. And I won't get into the problems of hands-on ownership from out of town.

"Anyway, Doug Creighton asked me in the early 1980s (I had launched into a precarious consulting career at the time) to give him a plan for an internal, i.e. Sun group, annual awards program. There was a feeling at the Sun that they were being overlooked/ignored/lookeddownupon by the establishment papers who dominated the National Newspaper Awards.

"Certainly, there was some suspicion among those who ran those papers about a London-style tabloid stirring things up - and having fun doing it. Never mind the fact that many of them were among the experts who predicted the Sun wouldn't last a year.

"I had been on the cartooning judging panel for the NNA and didn't share that feeling, but then we were not very important and I never sat in on any final judging sessions.

"I consulted with senior editorial people in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton - that was the extent of the Sun empire then - and submitted a proposal, based in part on the NNA because we were doing basically the same thing.

"I presented it to the board, or at least some of them. Eddie Goodman and Dorrie Dunlop were there, I know. We worked out the logistics, recruited some judges and we were in business.

"Trudy Egan was the person who did most of the work and kept the thing on track. There were some great judges, including Joan, Doug MacFarlane, John Grant, Ed Monteith, Hartley Steward and was it Herb Solway's wife, who used to work for the Financial Post?

"Regrettably, in a fit of age (that's age), moving into an apartment and a desire to rid myself of a lot of stuff, including 50 years of books and other paper, I don't have all my files.

"The Dunlops were a great success in my view and will be missed. We can't blame Quebecor for it all. The world is not as newspaper friendly as it used to be in - should I say it? - the good old days.

"Let me know if I can be of any more help. I am sure Trudy, and others, have a better memory for names than I do."

Thank you for your e-mail, Arnold.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Buyout: Al Parker

The Toronto Sun will be losing its Nosey Parker as of March 1, sources tell TSF.

Alan Parker, the Sun vet who has written the Nosey Parker blog since last fall, is the seventh known senior newsroom staffer to take a buyout since January.

The others are Lew Fournier, Bob McConachie, Kaarina Leinala, Sheila Chidley, Sarah Green and Melinda Kryk. Apparently, that's it for now for approved buyouts.

Meanwhile, one source says the ever popular Lew Fournier will be joining his fellow buyout recipients next Wednesday night for farewell toasts at The Jason George, 100 Front St. East, 7:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Ten bucks each will help cover the cost of the sendoffs for Sun staffers, who represent more than 130 years of Sun experience.

Meanwhile, Al Parker, a 1973 Centennial College journalism grad, has been around the Sun since the 1980s, editing copy on the rim, news editor (1985-1991), assistant managing editor (1991 to 2002) and deputy managing editor since 2002, writing the occasional features and then his diversified blog.

One of Al's more ironic blog postings was coverage of the Dec. 11 Toronto Sun/24 Hours Christmas Party, with lots of photos of smiling employees. Five days later, Black Tuesday, some of those smiling party goers were among 600 Sun Media employees laid off.

We're sure some of the Toronto Sun layoff casualties will be among those wishing the buyout recipients all the best Wednesday night. Toronto Sun Family members have always been supportive of each other.

We never thought the number of Sun newsroom vets would be counted in the dozens, but with the exodus of those laid off and the buyout recipients in the next three weeks, we are sadly getting there.

In fact, there are so few people left from the Sun's glory years that the days of TSF farewell postings are numbered. Once everyone who helped make the tabloid a success is gone, we won't have any emotional ties to the tabloid. It will become just another newspaper, stripped of all its unique and feisty style, content and heart.

That will no doubt satisfy a couple of "anonymous" TSF readers who say they are ticked with this blog for writing about the glory years and the people who made it all possible. Well, sorry, we prefer positive and productive over negative and destructive any day of the week.

And to those same TSF readers, if you want to take cheap shots at the blog, provide your names and we'll consider using your comments.

Meanwhile, the Kingston Whig-Standard turned 175 yesterday. The Toronto Sun is a mere 37 and, while profitable, has a questionable future as a competitive daily newspaper.

Indians? Nyet

Toronto theatre critics encountered negative feedback recently in reviewing Melanie J. Murray's play, A Very Polite Genocide.

The Toronto Star used "Indian" in its review. The Sun and Globe used "aboriginal."

What is respectful and politically correct today?

Grassroots News offers a helping hand with this "very complex issue" in a new blog posting and their bottom line is:

"Presently, the most acceptable word to describe the original inhabitants of the Americas is 'First Nations.' The term gets around the pitfalls associated with Indian, aboriginal, native, indigenous and so on, and we just have to be careful not to lump the Metis nation in with it."

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Whig is 175

Happy 175th birthday Kingston Whig-Standard.

The elusive first edition of the British Whig, owned by Dr. Edward John Barke, rolled off the press on Feb. 7, 1834.

The future of the print edition rests with Sun Media, now that it owns the Osprey Media chain of dailies.

Today's Whig story says attempts to locate a copy of the first British Whig edition have been unsuccessful, but a carefully preserved second edition can be found in the W. J. Jordan Special Collections Library at Queen's University.

The Whig is appealing to newspaper collectors to contact the newspaper if they have, or know of, a Vol. 1, No. 1 edition.

A collector quoted in Ann Lukits' Whig story says Vol. 1, No. 1 from 1834 could be worth about $1,000.

Freelance '09

TSF recently asked Ian Harvey, a former Toronto Sun vet, for an update on the life and times of a freelancer during the downturn of newspapers and other media sources.

"You asked for it . . . you got it," Ian says in an e-mail, directing us to his blog for a replay of his post-Sun freelance years. His heading: Brother, can you spare an assignment?

Says Ian, freelancing since 2004: "So, for those recently downsized in the ever downward spiral who wonder what freelancing is like, here’s a quick review and a look at what I’m going through, with some advice if you’re seriously considering getting into those games."

Freelancers have had their peaks and valleys and Ian's replay puts the past year for freelancing deep in a valley for him and others.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Joan & Dunlops

Joan Sutton Straus, the Day One Toronto Sun Lifestyle editor and former Dunlop Awards judge, laments the cancellation of the 2008 awards and their apparent demise.

"Doug Creighton was very proud of the Sun, and very proud of the people responsible for its success. He believed the Sun staff was being overlooked by the judges of the National Newspaper Awards. No, not overlooked - snubbed. He was angry about that, and so created the Dunlop Awards.

"(There may have been others involved in its creation. I don't mean to overlook them, but I was living in New York at the time and my only contact was with Doug, who asked me to be a judge, and then Trudy, who sent me all the entries. Batch after batch of papers would be delivered to our New York apartment.)

"The awards were named after Edward Dunlop, the chairman of the Sun board at the time. Handsome, elegant, erudite, a World War 2 hero, Dunlop was blind, but his very beautiful wife, Dorie, read him the paper every day. Edward had highly developed senses - he could recognize you by your step, the air you moved, and he always knew what you had written that day.

"I was very pleased to be asked to be a judge as I was suffering from a little bit of loneliness for the closeness of life with my Sun friends. Plus, what a crew of judges we had; Arnold Agnew, who had been editor in chief of the Telegram, JDM.

"Like Doug, I had always been proud of the Sun and I knew there were very good journalists at the paper. But it is one thing to read the paper every day and recognize that this was a good column, that was a good piece of investigative reporting, there was a stunning photograph - and quite another to sit down for days on end and read the body of work that was being turned out over a year.

"It was an impressive eye opener: what a depth of talent there was, in every department. We took the judging very seriously and it was difficult. Once in a while something leaped out to be a sure winner - the Norm Betts photo of Princess Diana welcoming her children to the yacht Britannia comes to mind, but most of the time the competition was fierce and the judges debated, first on the phone and then in person for hours and hours. Towards the end of the final judging session, held in the Sun offices, Trudy would be pacing outside, waiting for our decisions.

"Several times, I was asked to represent the judges and speak at the awards dinner. Now, I'm a pretty good public speaker and audiences don't bother me, but it is a daunting task indeed, to get up in front of your peers and explain why some won and others didn't. The truth was there truly were no losers. And it was very clear that the staff took the awards as seriously as the judges did. Having excellence recognized mattered.

"I can't begin to tell you how saddened I am by the decision to end these awards. I have watched attempts to dismantle the spirit of the Sun, beginning with the firing of Creighton, and more recently, the ending of careers without any recognition of contributions made, or concern for the heart of a newspaper.

"I am very glad that Doug isn't around to see it. It would break his heart."

Thank you for your comments, Joan.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Drawing Obama

Thomas “Tab” Boldt
, Sun Media's recently departed freelance cartoonist, is making the blog circles south of the border for drawing President Barack Obama with blue lips.

The Moderate Voice, in a lengthy guest posting today by Daryl Cagle, says Boldt is not alone among Canadian cartoonists to show Obama with blue lips.

Says Cagle:

"Some cartoonists have drawn attention for giving Obama blue lips. Canadian cartoonist Patrick Corrigan of the Toronto Star had an Obama cartoon killed by his editor because of “racist” blue lips. Thomas “Tab” Boldt of the Calgary Sun and Cam Cardow of the Ottawa Citizen have also been rendering Obama with blue lips.

"Corrigan tells me that everyone in Canada, in the winter, has blue lips. "Readers of my blog explained to me that blue lips are racist and pointed out an old racist expression “blue gums,” which was a new one for me. Corrigan tells me he’ll be switching to purple lips, Cam will be giving up on the blue lips and Tab was laid off. That may mean the end of blue lips for Obama."

The Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists says "the chattering classes of cartoondom have been raising the issue in cyberspace over this odd phenomena."

And the Mother Jones blog has three of the controversial Canadian cartoons as Honorable Mentions: International Division for the "Worst Obama Editorial Cartoons" and notes "as drawn by three confused Canadian cartoonists."

Sun cartoonist vet Andy Donato isn't confused or involved in the controversy. He has Obama's image down to a T.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Brioux & Dunlops

Former Toronto Sun TV writer Bill Brioux echoes the sentiments of numerous Sun Media employees who have attended Dunlop Awards ceremonies:

"I had the great good fortune to attend three Dunlops, three years in a row. It was a wonderful honour, and just a rush to be in the same room with other journalists from across Canada who were also being recognized for good work.

"I always appreciated the opportunity to get up and thank the talented editors and layout people who, just as part of their jobs, made me look good. It was a kind of professional camaraderie I have never experienced anywhere else.

"It would seem that, more than ever, Quebecor would want to engender that spirit and build up that esteem. I hope they reconsider this move. It is one of the most cost-efficient investments they could ever make.

"The last Dunlops I was at, I stopped sort of telling this joke: I hoped the smaller Sun Media papers competing for the “under 50,000 circulation” awards wouldn’t be too upset next year when the Toronto Sun slid into that category.

"It seemed funny at the time."

Thanks for your posted comment, Bill.

There is a brass-framed 1988 Honorable Mention Dunlop hanging on the wall to the right of this blogger's computer that has not lost its shine in 20 years.

Co-shared by reporter John Schmied, the award is signed by Arnold Agnew, J. Douglas MacFarlane and Joan Sutton Straus.

The banquet was memorable for its camaraderie and its black tie touch of class.

The Dunlops have been an annual tradition since 1984. They are a small price to pay for keeping the competitive spirit of reporters, photographers and editors afloat in these dire times.

WBZ & LeVeille

Power to the people isn't a cliche anymore for fired all-night Boston talk show host Steve LeVeille.

Thousands of E-mails to WBZ, numerous petitions and Internet sites set up after the popular talk show host was dropped last month have prompted the radio station to reverse its decision.

LeVeille has returned to his old midnight to 5 a.m. slot, much to the delight of faithful listeners throughout the northeast U.S. and parts of Canada.

Now that is supporting your favourite pink-slipped media people.

Kudos to WBZ for listening to the protests. We are confident that, much like Sun Media, they underestimated Steve's popularity when making cuts.

Steve's fans no doubt voiced their dissatisfaction with WBZ by tuning out. Sun readers who are losing favourites are turning off.

How would Sun readers might have reacted if they were immediately told their favourites were being laid off or forced into retirement with buyouts?

Would they have petitioned for the return of Linda Leatherdale, Scott Morrison, Jane Stevenson, Bill Brioux, Valerie Gibson, John Downing and others?

That won't happen with Sun Media's veil of silence, but we're pleased the power of the people has Steve, his unique gathering of regular callers and unique banter returning to WBZ.

Sports surge

Is it just us, or has Toronto Sun sports coverage been hogging more of the shrinking news slots in recent weeks?

Front pages, news columnists writing about sports, special sports reports and features up front in the news section etc.

The upfront sports trend became apparent weeks ago with a series on minor hockey in the GTA taking up pages and pages of news turf.

It was sporty - and not that pretty - on the front Tuesday with the NHL In Crisis and Pan Am Games throws. Definitely not one of your Sun front keepers, eh Les?

We suspect it all has to do with the eventual purging of news in favour of a sports and entertainment tab.

Sun readers are noticing the heavier emphasis on sports. They are writing letters.

And the Toronto Sports Media blog says Tuesday's front page NHL Crisis come-on just didn't live up to expectations.

Stu Hackel at the New York Times also mentions the Toronto Sun's front page.

The Sun has always favoured solid sports coverage and rightly so, but you would think the occasional sports front and a dedicated 16-page sports pullout section would be adequate.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Dunf is back

Gary Dunford is blogging again from the wilds at Dunf In Space.

He's talking dogs, the wind and other dunfisms that Toronto Sun readers used to crave daily on Page 6 during the glory days of the tabloid.

Gary cleaned out his Sun office in the summer of 2005 after 32 years and more than 7,000 columns.

One of the first postings on his blog was his final column in the Toronto Sun, which is the most visited link on TSF.

In fact, TSF readers e-mailed to ask if Dunf was okay as he had not posted since August of 2007. There were sporadic Dunf sightings and reports that all was good with Mr. Page 6.

Gary's new photo on his blog is a picture of a news vet who seems quite content to be away from the confines of the shrinking Sun newsroom.

Welcome back to blogdom, Gary.

PW: lost at sea

Peter Worthington dispatches his first report from the huge new Celebrity Solstice sailing the Caribbean.

His attentive National Citizens Coalition audience listened to Peter talk politics instead of watching the Super Bowl, Bruce Springsteen and those $3 million commercials Sunday night.

Man, that is speaker appeal.

Dunlops axed

Sun Media's popular annual in-house Dunlop Awards for 2008 have been cancelled, sources told TSF last night.

Chances are the first cancellation of the Dunlops since they were established in 1984 to honour Edward A. Dunlop, first president of the Toronto Sun Publishing Corp., means they are toast.

Sources say Sun Media's vice-president of editorial announced the cancellation Monday, advising department heads:

"After much consideration, it has been decided it is best that the Dunlop Awards program for Sun Media be suspended for this year in view of sacrifices and cuts we have had to make in all aspects of our business."

Yeah, right. Bean counters must have caught wind of expenses being incurred in honouring the best of the best in the Sun Media chain.

Why give the survivors of 10 years of Sun newsroom guttings any cause for celebration and morale boosting? Besides, it's only news, so why strive for excellence?

As the Edward Dunlop Award of Excellence brochures read:

"These Awards commemorate Edward's high ideals by annually recognizing the outstanding journalistic achievements of editorial staff members within the Sun organization."

The Dunlops were the pride of the late Doug Creighton, the Toronto Sun's co-founder and founding publisher. Former judges included Doug MacFarlane, Joan Sutton Straus and Hugh Wesley. Awards nights were memorable and bonding.

Can Quebecor sink any lower in squeezing the life out of every Sun Media newsroom?

If PKP's intent is to erase all ties to the glory days, when newspaper people ran Sun Media, he is just about there in numbers and morale.

Just a few more Sun vets to be shown the door and viola, his cookie cutter papers will be produced by low-paid fresh faces right out of college who won't have a clue about the Suns pre-1999. None of that "glory days" tabloid talk.

Personally, we'd say screw Quebecor and organize an employee-sponsored 2008 Dunlop Awards to keep the Dunlop spirit alive and to get some joy and satisfaction out of jobs well done.

Set up a website, confine Dunlop submissions to the four original Suns - Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton - and have an online awards presentation this summer.

You could have site visitors vote on entries, or continue with a panel of volunteer judges.

Or have Sun staffers lost all enthusiasm for the job and any awards in the wake of 600 layoffs on Black Tuesday and more layoffs and buyouts since December?

Sun Media lost its enthusiasm for promoting Dunlop winners in recent years, leaving each newspaper to announce their winners, with no overall summary.

If employees do quietly let the Dunlops for 2008 pass, the torch lit with enthusiasm in 1984 will be permanently extinguished.

No doubt about it.

Saying goodbye

Memo to Toronto Sun management:

If you need guidance on how to say thanks and farewell to veteran staffers, watch how CTV is saying adios to weatherman Dave Devall.

First, view Monday night's retirement announcement and the flashbacks to Dave's early years at CFTO in the 1960s, which will be followed by 60 days of 76 trombones before he goes fishing April 3.

Then set up a message site so Sun readers and colleagues can say thanks for the memories, as CTV has done at

That is appreciation - and class, not slumdog silence.

Monday, 2 February 2009

2 ENT thanks

Two quick thanks to the Sunday Sun people who package ENT.

(1) John Kryk's full page tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, killed in their prime in a Feb. 3, 1959, Iowa plane crash. It was, indeed, The Day the Music Died for us teens caught up in the early years of rock 'n' roll.

As John writes: "Such a travesty, such a waste."

Weeks earlier, this blogster was watching Buddy, Ritchie and J.P. perform at Alan Freed's Christmas Jubilee rock and roll extravaganza at the Paramount Theatre in New York City.

Seventeen top rock stars of the day for $4.50 general seating. From such a high to such a low.

They weren't the last rock stars to die prematurely, but their deaths remain the most traumatic. It was, for teens of the era, another lesson in the fickleness of life. The sudden death of actor James Dean in a car crash on Sept. 30, 1955, was the first.

The Des Moines Register remembers Feb. 3, 1959, in this video:

Another ENT thanks:

(2) The new Sunday Sun TV grid, for all of us who were left out in the cold after the Sun banished the TV guide for all but home delivery subscribers.

It needs a little polishing, but after going without the TV guide for months in the boondocks, it helps fill the Sunday TV grid void.

Do you think you could work it so Bill Harris and his television page could be opposite the Sunday TV grid?

Just asking.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Calvin Reynolds

Calvin Reynolds is a Toronto Sun veteran who reluctantly begins his final week at the tabloid he loves on Monday.

Sources say barring a much deserved, but unlikely, last-minute reprieve from the Black Tuesday pink slip he received in December, Calvin will gone as of Feb. 10.

When you talk Toronto Sun Family, you're talking the Calvin Reynolds of the tabloid. Loyal to the hilt, a company man to the nth degree. Friendly, considerate, sincere in his feelings for colleagues.

All of the qualities you want in an employee, but it doesn't mean a hill of beans to PKP. And PKP doesn't mean a hill of beans to the majority of disheartened Sun vets these days.

The front door of the Toronto Sun has seen hundreds of saddened employees make their final exit since Quebecor bought Sun Media a decade ago. Good people with much more to give.

Calvin, a behind-the-scenes photo desk staffer and creator of the popular Brain Drain with Professor Calvin quiz in the Sunday Sun, has much more to give.

"Very typical of PK," a colleague tells TSF. "They are stripping away part of the glue and mortar (in letting Calvin exit.)"

Newspapers need people like Calvin. People who care and give a damn about people and the product.

The character of Calvin has shone brightly numerous times throughout the years, but it shone most for TSF in March of 2007.

Scott Stevenson, Calvin's longtime friend and Sun colleague laid off the previous November, was turning 50 and Calvin e-mailed to give TSF members the opportunity to wish Scott the best.

When there are farewell parties for layoff casualties, Calvin is among the organizers.

When Sheila Chidley, a longtime sports department sweetheart, took a buyout recently, Calvin used her photo in his Brain Drain quiz, his way of saying farewell.

With management's dismal track record in letting Sun vets go without a word of thanks in print, we're not too optimistic about a tribute for Calvin next week.

He deserves mention in the tabloid he has loved, as do other Sun contributors who will be bidding farewell to 333 in the next couple of weeks thanks to Black Tuesday and buyouts.

The gutting of 333 is all but complete. Six floors of enthusiastic, loyal employees from the glory years have been lobotomized. The presses have been silenced, as have the voices of the newsroom.

There are a few remaining columnists with the balls to write tributes for departing vets, but today's fearful editors tend to spike rather than stand up for their colleagues and friends.

Calvin, all the best in your next adventure.

cc Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post et al

Ted & Parnaby

Ted Woloshyn devoted an entire Saturday Sun column to Tayler Parnaby's forced exit from CFRB.

No doubt Ted wrote from the heart, but what a slap in the face for numerous Toronto Sun vets who have been laid off, fired or have taken buyouts without a word of thanks in print.

Where were the full columns and the "thanks" for John Downing, a Day Oner and former editor, or business vet Linda Leatherdale, or Lifestyle's Valerie Gibson, or the recent buyout vets? (One paragraph and a photo for Lew Fournier doesn't cut it.)

Or how about a story or tribute column for Garf Webb, a Toronto Sun production legend who died Jan. 23 at age 61 after giving the best years of his life to the rising tabloid?

The difference between pre-Quebecor Sun and today's Sun is heart and a sincere appreciation of contributions made by longtime loyal employees.

Today's senior Toronto Sun editors, who have been on the job long enough to know better, are being disrespectful to departing Sun news vets with their deafening silence.

As for being outspoken journalists and communicators, they are failing the grade big time.