Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Brantford -3

Three union editors at Sun Media's Brantford Expositor were notified today they will be laid off as of May 1, says a TSF source.

The editors were told their work would be moved to the non-union Woodstock Sentinel Review, which will be "set up as a regional pagination centre," the tipster said.

"Maybe desk work from Simcoe (also union) and London Free Press (union) will move there, too, if not now, eventually."

John Chambers, the Expositor's new managing editor, will be in charge of hiring for the Woodstock centre.

"It's not clear if those laid off can apply, what the rate of pay would be, or if they would get to keep their severance if they take jobs there (but that's unlikely, I'm told)."

The Expositor lost eight employees on Black Tuesday in December.

Another tipster told TSF Northumberland Today (formerly Cobourg Daily Star, Port Hope Evening Guide and Colborne Chronicle) laid off a long-time editor and two ad reps Thursday morning.

Bodies here, bodies there.

What we need is a TSF tipster who can provide us with a full description of Sun Media's master plan.

When the dust settles, what will the Sun Media landscape look like to employees and readers?

Family broadcasts

Sun Media has spawned authors and a growing number of radio and television commentators. Dozens of TSF authors can be found here.

This is a new list for former and current Sun Media staffers appearing regularly on radio and television shows. To add to the list, e-mail TSF.

Mark Bonokoski:
Moose FM, 7:30 a.m. Friday, 9:45 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Outdoor Journal Radio, Saturday at 8:05 a.m. on The Fan 590

Bill Brioux:
Monday at 8:05 a.m. on WIMA 1150 Talk Radio with Mike Miller
Wednesday at 4:40 on CHML Talk Radio 900 with Scott Thompson

Mike Filey's Toronto:
Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on 740AM.

Valerie Gibson
Dear Valerie, live call-in show Tuesdays at 2 p.m. on Rogers TV.

Joe Warmington/Rob Granatstein
Canoe Live panel talk Fridays at 5:30 p.m. on SUN TV.

Glen Woodcock
The Big Band Show, Jazz FM 91.1. Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Farewell MBG

Mike Burke-Gaffney leaves the building today after 29 years and the Toronto Sun just won't be the same without him.

Current and former colleagues have taken time to wish Mike the best in retirement and here's hoping editors will give him a 76 trombone farewell salute in print and online. The outgoing managing editor deserves nothing less.

Mike has been the affable go-to guy in the newsroom since 1980. As Sunday Sun editor, he took the Sunday paper to heights never seen before or since - a record 550,000-plus in October of 1992.

We wouldn't be surprised if Mike, after some well-deserved golfing and extended family time, surfaces at another publication. At 59, he has much more to contribute.

But for now, a huge thanks to Mike from this blogster for all of those voluntary Saturday night shifts, working on the Sunday papers on the cop desk and later on the rewrite desk.

With Mike at the helm, it was the perfect newsroom environment and the successful Sunday product reflected his management skills.

When you talk Toronto Sun Family, Mike was our Father Knows Best.

Sources say Mike's retirement bash is being arranged for some time in April. Stay tuned.

India calling?

A couple of recent TSF postings suggest outsourcing Sun Media newspaper preparation to India is more than a one-liner penny pinching joke.

The latest comment sounds informed:

"I'm told that there are currently trials being run in at least one Sun daily where all page comp and desk duties are being farmed out to a firm in India.

"While the trial is running 'in the background' so to speak for now, insiders tell me it is progressing well and will be rolled out in the future, thus the look-alike papers we are beginning to see resembling the London Free Press.

"It's a template being developed to carve even deeper into the very heart of newsroom employees."

Quebecor's vision for Canada's largest newspaper chain is to farm out jobs to India?

Confirm or deny, Sun Media.

Confirm or deny.

Friday, 27 March 2009

2008 CCAB stats

The Toronto Sun's first Canadian Circulation Audit Bureau report released this week provides Monday through Sunday distribution averages for all of 2008.

Sun Media dropped out of Audit Bureau of Circulations lasy year, so there are no year to year comparisons for this first CCAB report.

CCAB figures do show Sun Media's 2008 campaign to regain No. 1 status over the Sunday Star gained momentum during the year, but collapsed in December.

Now that the major dailies have spun this week's NADbank readership results for 2008 (how many people read a single copy), the following are 2008 distribution averages.

The Toronto Sun's average daily circulation for the 12 month period ending December 2008:

Monday: 181,916; Tuesday: 184,470; Wednesday: 185,460; Thursday: 187,663; Friday: 182,856; Saturday: 157,220; Sunday: 319,499.

A breakdown of those average daily circulation figures:

Home delivery:
Monday: 49,003; Tuesday: 48,847; Wednesday: 48,804; Thursday: 48,879 ; Friday: 50,623; Saturday: 61,830; Sunday: 163,479.

Single copy:
Monday: 105,599; Tuesday: 107,723; Wednesday: 108,595; Thursday: 110,551; Friday: 103,890; Saturday: 71,622; Sunday: 83,419.

Third party or free:
(a) Home Delivery: Monday: 153; Tuesday: 151; Wednesday: 151; Thursday: 186; Friday: 546; Saturday: 149; Sunday: 38,468.

(b) Single Copy: Monday: 23,672; Tuesday: 24,036; Wednesday: 24,230; Thursday: 24,232; Friday: 24,140; Saturday: 23,492; Sunday: 34,006.

(c) Educational: Monday: 3,489; Tuesday: 3,713; Wednesday: 3,680; Thursday: 3,815; Friday: 3,657; Saturday: 127; Sunday. 127.

Also telling are the average monthly circulation totals, with only the Friday edition ending the year ahead of January, no doubt thanks to the Entertainment department's beefed up Friday features and movie and DVD reviews.

But December's Sunday Sun total nosedived.

We'll condense the 2008 average monthly circulation totals to how the year began and how it ended. Totals include individual paid and third party or free:

Monday: January: 187,419; December: 167,321 - down 20,098
Tuesday: January: 176,384; December: 165,771 - down 10,613
Wednesday: January: 183,989; December: 163,177 - down 20,812
Thursday: January: 186,285; December: 175,076 - down 11,209
Friday: January: 181,614; December: 186,561 - up 4,947
Saturday: January: 153,756; December: 143,415 - down 10,341
Sunday: January: 312,767; December: 252,382 - down 60,385

Those Sunday Sun figures are staggering, coming in a year that Sun Media announced it would fight to restore the Sunday paper to No. 1 status.

Sunday's monthly averages did hang in there for most of the year, peaking in September at 360,218, which was an impressive increase over January.

The monthly average for November was 345,663, but December was no Christmas gift, plunging to 252,382, with a single copy total of 218,239 (January: 256,900) and third party or free at 34,143 (January: 55,867).

Sunday Sun averaging for the year - 319,499.

To put the Sunday Sun numbers into perspective, they peaked at 550,00-plus in the fall of 1992 when Michael Burke-Gaffney was Sunday Sun editor. He exits Tuesday, retiring as managing editor.

We wonder if dropping the Sunday television guide in September 2008 in papers beyond the GTA and hiking the price played a part in the dismal finish.

The Friday Sun came out a winner and most other days suffered some losses in a down year, but the Sunday Sun's magic clearly has faded.

Readers have lost that lovin' feeling and the Sunday Sun hasn't found a way to get them back.

CBC re weeklies

CBC News.ca has caught up to Quebecor's closing of small Alberta weeklies.

A Montreal-based media conglomerate has stopped printing two small Alberta newspapers, and the office of another paper has been closed, says today's story.

TSF reported the closing of the Jasper Booster and the Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner and the transfer of the Nanton News weekly to High River in the past couple of weeks.

Tipsters say the publisher of another Alberta weekly was pink slipped this week and there are rumblings of more layoffs and closures.

The CBC wraps up today's story with: No one from Quebecor was available to speak to CBC News about the decisions.

Now that is surprising.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Amazing space

For the generations who grew up reading comics and watching the adventures of Buck Rogers et al, live broadcasts from the International Space Station continue to amaze.

This is the 29-minute visit Barack Obama hosted this week with children and members of Congress asking questions of the 10 station and shuttle crew members.

2009 BNC list

While browsing through the lengthy list of 2009 Better Newspapers Competition winners, we spotted the Jasper Booster, one of the Alberta weeklies Sun Media closed this month.

There are other Sun Media community newspapers recognized in the Canadian Community Newspaper Association competition, including Karen Best at the Dunnville Chronicle.

The Chronicle says her entry, Caleb's Miracle, recounted the story of five-year-old Caleb Verlint who was rescued after the car he and his mother were riding in plunged into the feeder canal.

Once again, Sun Media newspapers recognized by the CCNA are left to promote their own wins instead of a chain-wide recap news release.

The awards will be presented May 21 in Montreal.

Sun & NPAC

When the News Photographers Association of Canada announced their 2008 photo award nominations this week, we noted the absence of Dave Abel and his dramatic bank bandit takedown photo that has earned him an NNA nomination.

The NPAC awards are open to members only and, as it turns out, Dave is not a member.

A TSF reader sent the following comment and it speaks volumes for the sad state of affairs at Sun Media newspapers.

It reads:

"(Dave) Abel is not a member. But just to point out that the Toronto Sun used to pay membership fees for all its photographers, and also used to co-sponsor another photo competition. All that was cut a few years ago.

"By comparison, all photographers at the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, National Post, Reuters, and CP are members, as are their photo editors; many Canwest photographers and at least one photo editor are members; many photographers from small daily papers are members; most post-secondary school photojournalism students in Canada are members; many freelancers are members; many Metroland photographers and photo editor(s) are members.

"Sun Media would be totally invisible if it weren't for less than a handful of Sun photo folks who pay their own way. What does that say for staff morale and Quebecor's support of their work?"

It doesn't say much.

TSF has been told Quebecor is cutting ties with all journalism awards, refusing to cover the cost of memberships and the cost of attending awards galas.

You can join on your own and while Sun Media will be delighted to write about any noms, you are on your own for any expenses incurred in claiming the awards.

We are awaiting word from the NNA nominees whether Sun Media will be footing the bill to attend the awards banquet in Montreal on May 22.

A couple of anonymous tipsters have said nominees will have to pay their own way.

That is wrong for so many reasons.

Rocky spunk

When the Rocky Mountain News folded in February, numerous newsroom employees huddled in the spirit of 62 jobless Toronto Telegram employees and came up with INDenver Times.

The new real time online newspaper is staffed by dozens of former Rocky Mountain News employees and their goal is to attract 50,000 $5-a-month subscribers by April 23 - the 150th anniversary of the defunct News - with a full launch on May 4.

In November 1971, 62 Toronto Telegram employees launched the Toronto Sun two days after the Tely folded and the rest is history. INDenver Times pioneers have more than a month to introduce their online newspaper.

Reporters, columnists, cartoonists, editors, sports writers, bankrolled by three local founders, began providing copy for the site last week. They are focused on filling the gap left with the demise of the Rocky Mountain News.

INDenver Times is unique. While access to introductory news, sports and other features is free, only subscribers will have access after May 4. No free reads, which is what some media watchers are recommending to improve the bottom line.

That's spunk - and, Lou, we love spunk.

Best of luck to INDenver Times. If online news wasn't such a slow starter financially, we'd recommend all of the great Sun Media talent lost to layoffs launch a paid web site, with contributors across the country.

NADbank TorSun

The Toronto Sun's 2008 NADbank spin: The Sun shines in readership survey

Readership of your favourite daily newspaper has risen dramatically in the last year, a new survey shows. Figures released by NADbank (Newspaper Audience Databank) showed weekday readership of the Toronto Sun rose 11.9% over the last year.

The independent survey for the newspaper industry showed Saturday Sun readership up by 2.6%, with that of the Sunday Sun down 3.8%.

For all of the NADbank stats for 2008, click here.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Print rules

Updated re Winnipeg, Calgary (No 2008 Sun Media spin found)
Print newspapers remain kings of the roost in Canada as 2008 NADbank readership figures released today clearly show. Stats that must be sobering for conglomerates abandoning print media for the Internet.

Coverage we have found online today:

Calgary Herald: Herald reports major readership growth in key demographics

Calgary Herald print and online readership grew by more than seven per cent year-over-year, solidifying the organization’s position as the city's leading media source.

Winnipeg Free Press: Free Press combined readership No. 1

The Winnipeg Free Press had the highest combined readership of any major city in Canada in 2008, according to new industry figures released today.

Editor & Publisher: Canada's Newspaper Readership High, But Not on the Web

NEW YORK Almost 75% of Canadian adults read a print edition of a newspaper each week, according to the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank). However, online readership is still very small. Only 4% of adults read newspapers online exclusively. Less than 20% of adults read a newspaper online during the week, a 13% increase over 2007.

Globe and Mail: Globe and Mail Has Largest Combined Print & Online Readership of Any Newspaper

TORONTO, March 25 /CNW/ - The 2008 newspaper readership data released today by NADbank shows The Globe and Mail has the largest combined print and online readership of any newspaper in Canada; a weekly average of 2.93 million, up 4 per cent from last year.

Toronto Star: 2008 NADbank results show Canada's most-read newspaper maintains unrivalled lead over Toronto competitors

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 25, 2009) - The Toronto Star increased its total newspaper and online readership in 2008 in the Greater Toronto Area and maintained its strong lead over all Toronto newspapers in the number of readers on a daily and weekly basis, according to the latest newspaper readership study released today by the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank).

Also see Toronto Star story

Party time

Calvin Reynolds and Debbie Holloway, two of the recent Toronto Sun layoff casualties, will be holding court tonight at the Six Steps Restaurant and Lounge, 53-55 Colborne St.

Former colleagues say drop on by between 5 p.m. and midnight for the lounge gathering in the King and Church district.

It is the official farewell party for Calvin and Debbie.

If you can't be there, well wishes can be e-mailed to info@sixstepsrestaurant.com.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

1 Sun NPAC nom

An Edmonton Sun photographer has earned two nominations in NPAC's third annual National Pictures of the Year awards competition.

Jason Franson, the lone Sun Media nominee among the 125 finalists, is one of four nominees for the Photojournalist of the Year award, sponsored by the Canadian Press. He is also one of four nominees for the Sports Feature award for a boxing photo.

We're not sure how this works but Benoit Gariepy earned a Spot News nomination for a sky diving fatality photo that appeared in MediaMatin, the free strike/lockout paper published during the extended Le Journal de Quebec dispute.

Today's press release says more than 1,963 images and 72 multimedia projects from across Canada were entered.

Congrats to Jason Franson. You can preview his other 2008 work on the sportsshooter.com web site.

Did the Toronto Sun's Dave Abel enter? His dramatic 2008 bank heist takedown, nominated for a 2008 NNA, is noticeably missing from the NPAC finalists. With Quebecor directives telling newspapers to drop out of awards competitions, you never know.

Click here for the complete list of News Photographers Association of Canada nominations.

Winners will be announced April 25 at NPAC's gala in Toronto's CN Tower.

Sherri remembered

Two In Memoriams and Bill Brioux's Sherri Woodstock - One Year Later posting today mark the first anniversary of Sherri Wood's death from brain caner at 28.

The Toronto Sun In Memoriams from family and friends and Bill's posting for his former Toronto Sun entertainment colleague urge all who knew her to hold on to her light.

Says Bill:

"Sherri lost her brave fight against cancer one year ago today. She missed a tough, tough year in the newspaper business, but one put in perspective by her untimely death. Celebrate her life by wearing a funny hat, kooky socks or T-shirts or drinking decaffeinated tea. Even better, make an extra effort to brighten someone else's day. Keep her spirit alive by spreading some of that always warm and welcome Sherri Wood sunshine, we all need it more than ever."

Russia calling

If you curse every time a Bell technical assistance voice comes in loud and clear from India, you are not alone.

Aggravating as it is, it appears Sun Media has been taking notes on outsourcing.

A TSF reader who writes:

"FYI: Just the other day we had some technical issues (and still have) with our digital edition. Ghost email addresses and telephone numbers appearing on some pages.

"After some queries, we received an email from (no kidding) ND XML Moscow Quality Control. A representative from Newspaperdirect named Galya said that they are looking into the problem.

"So, we are getting close to India."

How do you spell Englinton in Russian?

To our right on the office wall is a black and white photo of the Globe and Mail rim circa 1962 , snapped by Bob Chow. The self-sufficient hub of a major daily newspaper with a sole focus - gathering, editing and packaging the news.

Sun Media, with drastic newsroom layoffs, outsourcing, the rush to the Internet and cookie cutter centralization, has shifted all things that make a newspaper a newspaper 90 degrees. The focus today is on profits, not journalism or the finished product.

As Steve Anderson over at the Campaign for Democratic Media blog writes:

"Quebecor, one of the country's largest media conglomerates, recently locked out workers of its most profitable newspaper, the Journal de Montréal. The Journal's union estimates Quebecor drew in $50 million in profits from the Journal de Montréal in 2008.

"Why, we might ask, lock out workers in a profitable business? While Quebecor may be profitable, in Canada's uncompetitive traditional media market, it can be MORE profitable if it breaks, or at least weakens, worker compensation and benefits.

"When a media company is focused on achieving utmost profitability, it may be inclined to continually push for more and more output by fewer and fewer journalists, thereby creating a downward spiral for journalism.

"The problem with journalism in Canada isn't so much the economic slow down or new media, these just exacerbate a trend that was already underway. The real culprit is the propensity of big media to treat news operations as just another business."

The newsroom in the Globe and Mail photo on the wall says it all about focus.

A pox on Fox

Outrage over the shamefully ignorant 3 a.m. banter about Canada's military on a Fox News program is summed up perfectly by a CBC viewer at the end of this report:

"A pox on Fox."

And some people actually campaigned to have Fox News, a divisive and disrespectful three-ring circus, licensed for Canadian viewing in 2004.

It is time for the CRTC to pull the plug on this negative crap being aired at 3 a.m. or any time of day. The Fox News rants mentality is expendable and spare us the freedom of speech argument.

This is not what Barack Obama has in mind for strengthening relations with his government's No. 1 trading partner.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Barrie ad 2

The complete Barrie Examiner ad, also posted on jobboom.com:

"National Page Co-ordinator: Sun Media Corporate Editorial is seeking a National Page Co-ordinator to oversee the building of pages for the chain's community daily newspapers.

Reporting to Sun Media's national content manager, this editor will select the appropriate stories and build comprehensive schedules for the chain's national broadsheet news, entertainment, sports and other shared pages.

Managing a staff of layout editors, this person will also design, edit stories and rewrite headlines. Some Photoshop skills to colour correct photos may also be required. Experience working at a daily newspaper would be an asset.

This position involves working afternoons and evenings, as well as some weekends. Location will be in Barrie, Ontario. Applicants should be prepared to start their first shift on April 4, 2009.

Qualifications include: A journalism degree or diploma; Strong editing skills; A strong knowledge of InDesign CS, InCopy and Photoshop

Interested applicants should send their resumes by Friday, March 27, 2009, to the attention of: Angela Zito Supervisor, Human Resources Sun Media Corporation 333 King Street East Toronto, Ontario M5A 3X5

E-mail: careers@sunmedia.ca Please quote reference number Tor-09-017 in the subject line."

As a TSF reader notes, the broadsheet community newspapers wording in the ad (which was not included in the e-mail from our Barrie tipster) suggests editing positions at the five Sun tabloids in Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton might not be affected.

We don't know how many broadsheets and how many newsroom editing jobs will be affected. Ontario alone is top heavy with former Osprey broadsheets. Plus former Bowes newspapers in Ontario and other provinces.

The Barrie centre's workload will become known when the newsroom layoffs are totalled.

What the Barrie centre news does tell us is there is going to be a great deal of centralized sameness in Sun Media newspapers across the country.

Barrie editor ad

The Barrie Examiner has a Help Wanted ad today for an editor who will oversee a staff of layout editors and report to Sun Media's national content editor, says a TSF reader.

The ad, says the tipster, sounds like a position required to provide content to Sun Media newspapers other than the Examiner, as mentioned in a March 13 TSF posting.

"Toronto Sun Family has mentioned that the layout of all the Sun papers might be done in Barrie," says the tipster. "The Examiner has an ad today that is advertising for an editor for just such a project."

The ad reads, in part: "The winning candidate will report to the Sun Media national content editor, and will oversee a staff of layout editors. They will be responsible for design, story editing and headlines. Photoshop skills would be an asset for colour correcting picture content. Experience at a daily newspaper would be an asset."

Says the tipster: "It's not exactly outsourcing to India, but the position is in Barrie."

Other TSF readers have said Wednesday, April 1, is going to be another bad news day at Sun Media. Could it be Black Wednesday for editors in the chain? Stay tuned.

Tech stuff

This newswiretoday.com press release sheds light on the tech side of Sun Media's "centres of excellence" operations.

It's above our heads but the intro reads: NX helps Software Consulting Services deliver media and publishing applications worldwide.

"Newspaper customers of SCS across the world use NX to remotely and reliably access software they need to aid them with the design and layout of their papers," the release says.

"Sun Media Group of Ontario, Canada and The Derrick of Oil City, PA are only a couple of the many SCS customers using NoMachine NX."

Can we read outsourcing to India into that description?

Is there a techie out there who can explain how this works?

Alberta weeklies

Mansoor Ladha, former owner of two Alberta weeklies that were merged by Sun Media in December and closed this month, laments the loss of his "babies" in the Edmonton Journal today.

The Calgary Herald devoted a full story to Ladha, who sold his Morinville and Redwater weeklies to Sun Media in 2004.

Ladha was owner/publisher of the Morinville and Redwater weeklies for 25 years. They were merged into the Morinville-Redwater Town and Country Examiner in December and the Examiner was closed March 11.

The Journal also says George Brown, president of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association, returned home from vacation last week to learn he had been laid off as editor and publisher of Sun Media's Devon Dispatch and Beaumont News.

PKP & pucks

News reports today say the Montreal Canadiens could be for sale and Quebecor is one of the possible buyers.

To which a former Sun Media vet replies:

"So the Montreal Canadiens could be up for sale with Quebecor cited as a possible bidder.

"That should be interesting.

"If they apply the same formula they used for newspapers it will mean higher ticket prices, cuts to payroll, and firing stars and replacing them with minor leaguers. Maybe the players would even have to bring their own Gatorade.

"The newspapers have been playing short-handed for years, thanks to penalties imposed by Quebecor brass."

QMI & Sun Media

Quebecor's new national news agency and how it will operate is coming into focus, thanks to a recent memo sent to TSF by a tipster.

QMI Agency (Quebec Media, Inc. Agency) will handle all text and photographs generated from Quebec sources. Sun Media credits will be used for all shared text and photographs from outside Quebec.

Read the following memo from a Quebecor exec and judge for yourselves whether PKP's vision of a national news service is on track.

Just to clarify the relationship between QMI and Sun Media for now, here are a few details:

- QMI has a separate website similar to the Sun Media Bulletin Board where they post French-language content and photos. This material is available for all to use. That material, for the large part, is included on the QMI sked which is posted for all on the Sun Media bulletin board daily.

- Sun Media's editorial coordinators monitor the QMI portal for useful images and the sked for interesting articles. Any Sun Media paper may request material from the QMI sked for translation to English.

- All material imported from the QMI site to the Sun Media site will be posted under Sun Media text and photos with one exception: The slug Sun Media is replaced with QMI Agency.

Please feel free to contact Sun Media's editorial coordinators if you have any questions or concerns about any of this."

Two points from this armchair critic.

Translations from French to English for publication in English newspapers? We have read Quebecor content translated to English and it can be erratic.

Why a mix of Sun Media, QMI Agency and, as read yesterday, Agencie QMI, when all of the news sources are Quebec Media properties?

And what's with Quebec content being branded separately from the rest of the chain?

It makes it clear the Sun Media Family is not standing under one big umbrella.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Layoff names

Received this e-mail yesterday and before you read it, consider that of the dozens and dozens of Sun Media employees named here as layoff casualties, only two have requested their names be removed.

The e-mail reads:

"Hi. Thanks for keeping a running log of all the changes (sadly all of them bad). The people still doing the work appreciate it. But we aren't sure that it's fair to list names of people losing jobs, at least without their permission.

"Sure it's nice for those reading to get updates, but it's bad enough for the victims that they're unemployed, a pretty traumatic, personal thing. Plus despite it not being their fault, we've noticed some people who have felt pretty ashamed at losing their jobs.

"Better that they should be allowed to tell people close to them the story in person than have it broadcasted to a bunch of people they don't know. Just a thought from some regular readers. Hope you'll consider it. Thanks again."

Thank you for your e-mail. We certainly don't want to add to the trauma of Sun Media's hatchets, but we have to say layoff casualties who are named generally receive much needed moral support and appreciate the immediate best wishes.

Quebecor would prefer to see all layoff casualties remain anonymous, as in Black Tuesday's 600, with no names and faces, no mention of length of dedicated, loyal service, or popularity with readers. No humanity in the process of reducing staff to increase profits, please.

Twenty to 30 years service? Buh bye. Be gone.

There is no shame in being laid off, but to be shown the door without any thanks for a job well done is a shame. We have said "shame on Quebecor" and the newsroom henchmen too many times over the years for not recognizing laid off vets in print. No respect.

That is not the entrenched code of ethics that existed at the flagship Toronto Sun and sister Suns in the pre-Quebecor years.

Toronto Sun Family
readers who remember when Sun Media had heart have said thanks for devoting space for collective sendoffs and putting names and faces to the numbers.

But back to the e-mail. Layoff casualties who are named in TSF only need to ask for anonymity and we will delete their names.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Turbulent 09

Anonymous tips arriving at TSF indicate there is much more turbulence scheduled for Sun Media newspapers this year.

From one of the former Osprey newspapers losing its entire sports department, to an entire payroll office at another newspaper scheduled to be pink slipped next week.

Belleville's Mix 97 is reporting today sources say the Belleville Intelligencer's distribution centre on Hanna Court will see up to 30 jobs cut.

Other e-mails tell of layoffs here and there across the chain, recently and pending.

While TSF is not a blog of record, any and all Sun Media changes, including names of the casualties, will be noted here when confirmed.

Re Cancrime blog

Rob Tripp, a Kingston Whig-Standard crime writer and blogger, reminds us of Max Haines in his prime.

Rob's Cancrime blog, launched in September, is all things criminal, from mass murderers to the smoke police busting violators.

The intro reads: "Cancrime is Rob Tripp's blog and a repository of documents – parole records, investigation reports, confidential memos.

"I'm a pack-rat investigative reporter with 20 years experience writing about crime and justice and an urge to share. Cancrime's breeding ground is Kingston, Ontario, Canada's prison capital, home to seven federal penitentiaries and the Kingston Whig-Standard, Canada's oldest daily newspaper, where I'm the crime writer."

Rob's blog includes fascinating crime content - official documents and prison stats - that should be featured in mainstream print media.

We've added his blog to our growing Family bloggers links list.

Canwest NNAs +

Sun Media could gain from reading Canwest's coverage of its 14 National Newspaper Awards nominations.

Canwest's story in the Montreal Gazette and other papers includes all of the chain's nominations, not just the local paper.

If Sun Media has an overall report on its seven nominations across the chain, we can't find it. It is more of the same old, same old, with each newspaper posting its own noms.

Sun Media picked up an impressive seven nominations - six individuals and a team project - at six newspapers. There should be a collective banner being waved.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Abel's NNAble

Updated 20/03/09 re more links to NNA stories
From the day Dave Abel's dramatic "gotcha" bank bandit takedown photo appeared on the front page of the Toronto Sun on Feb. 27, 2008, it had award nominee written all over it.

Cancellation of Sun Media's 2008 Dunlop Awards was a big setback for the talented photographer, but today his amazing police action photo is a National Newspaper Awards nominee.

Abel, a News Photography category finalist, joins fellow Sun Media nominees from the London Free Press, Barrie Examiner, Brantford Expositor, North Bay Nugget and Simcoe Reformer.

The Sun photographer had the perfect vantage point for his shot of plainclothes police tackling the 16-year-old bandit outside a CIBC branch.

CP's NNA nominations rundown: The Globe and Mail (13), Toronto Star (10), Montreal La Presse (8), Ottawa Citizen (4), Calgary Herald (4), Hamilton Spectator (4), Canadian Press (3), London Free Press (2), Montreal Gazette (2) Winnipeg Free Press (2) and one each for the Barrie Examiner, Brantford Expositor, Edmonton Journal, Lethbridge Herald, North Bay Nugget, Prince George Citizen, Reuters, New Brunswick (Saint John) Telegraph-Journal, Simcoe Reformer, Toronto Sun, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist, Waterloo Region Record and Windsor Star.

Other Sun Media nominees:

Jane Sims, London Free Press - Justice reporter's selection of her work last year, which ranged from trial coverage of heinous crimes to remarkable turnaround stories in court.

Local Reporting:
Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer - For a series of articles that examined the controversial sale of a Port Dover house that belonged to a former Norfolk OPP constable.

The North Bay Nugget Team - For coverage of the E. coli outbreak in October 2008.

Sports Photography:
J.T. McVeigh
, Barrie Examiner - For his shot of a high school football player tackling an opponent and 'testing' the elasticity of his undergear.

Derek Ruttan, London Free Press - For his shot of a wide-eyed high school football player staring at the ball he fumbled as it slipped away during a championship game.

Phil Tank, Brantford Expositor city editor - For three 2008 editorials on Barack Obama, the Bejing Olympics and local council rules.

Congratulations to all and here's hoping Sun Media will foot the bill to send you all to Montreal for the May 22 National Newspaper Awards gala.

There are 66 finalists from 24 news agencies nominated in 22 categories, chosen from 1,385 entries. Winners receive $1,000 cash and a certificate. Runners-up this year receive a merit citation.

The complete list of nominees.

Sun apology

The Toronto Sun's embarrassing front page "eats" street map packaged in London, Ontario, prompted this brief correction in today's paper:

We have egg on our face over yesterday's front page about new "street eats" in the city. Our graphic contained numerous errors, including misspelling Eglinton Ave. We apologize to our readers and cartographers everywhere."

Can we suggest out-of-towners working on future Toronto projects be sent Toronto street guides?

George & Sherri

Easter weekend 2008 was traumatic for Toronto Sun employees and readers with the deaths of George Gross, 85, on March 21, and Sherri Wood, 28, on March 24.

In the next few days, they will be marking the first anniversaries of life without the tabloid's founding sports editor and the effervescent, young entertainment writer.

Their deaths, George from a heart attack in his home, and Sherri from brain cancer, left a void in the newsroom at 333 and in the hearts of faithful readers.

Gone, but not forgotten.

York University's Rexall Centre Sports & Entertainment Complex honoured George with a George Gross Media Center in a renaming ceremony last summer.

The Baron, a sports icon, was also honoured with the naming of a new Canadian soccer trophy - the George Gross Memorial Trophy.

We're still waiting for the George Gross Memorial Arena.

Family and friends did Sherri proud by organizing Sherri Woodstock, a successful fundraising music fest last October.

NNA noms today

The National Newspaper Awards, Canada's premium print media Oscars, are expected to be announced today between 1 and 2 p.m.

For nominees, their efforts chosen from 1,385 entries in 22 categories, it will be a brighter day and a much needed boost.

We're hoping for some recognition of entries submitted by Sun Media's beleaguered employees in the 2008 NNA nominations.

Not to wave the bloodied Sun Media banner, but to showcase the professionalism of survivors of 10 years of Quebecor carnage.

Sun Media has axed the 2008 Dunlop Awards, but it can't diminish the need to succeed in newsrooms across the country.

Good luck to all nominees. Winners will be announced May 22 in Montreal.

Check out the 2007 NNA winners.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Bush league map

A TSF reader wonders if Toronto Sun graphics have been outsourced after looking at today's front page street map.

"Check out the front page of today's Toronto Sun (March 18)," the reader writes.

"Eglinton Ave. is misspelled (twice); A street named Bat (is that the new nickname for Bathurst?); Ave. St. (should be Avenue Rd.) and Keele Ave. (should be Keele St.)

"Have they outsourced the front page?"

It sure looks like it.

Where were the meticulous T.O. editors, or was the map produced at one of those Sun Media "centres of excellence" located well beyond GTA borders?

(A TSF tipster says the map was created in London, Ontario, and PDFed. Or should that be Lundon, Ontario?)

As for the Toronto Sun, big city daily, bush league attentiveness to detail.

2-in-one publishing

Weekly newspaper readers in Nanton, Alberta, are losing local access to the Nanton News office.

Sun Media has announced it is closing the News office, but not the newspaper. It will be packaged and printed by staff at the High River Times.

"The News will now be produced from the offices of the High River Times," says today's online editorial. "Despite the closure of the local office the News will continue to operate as a separate publication with its own distinct identity."

The editorial says: "Our new editor will be out and about getting to know the people of the community over the coming weeks.

"We will continue to have an editor whose work is focused on covering the goings-on in Nanton and the surrounding area, bringing you the news you care about from the town you call home.

"And we will continue to have a local sales representative servicing the advertising needs of our local businesses."

The number of jobs lost with the April 6 closing of the Nanton office isn't mentioned. The paper, serving Nanton for more than a century, is a former Bowes weekly.

Nanton's population is about 2,100, High River about 11,000.

Residents of Nanton will soon learn if local news, sports and community events coverage will be affected by the change of address.

Sun Media recently merged papers in Port Hope, Cobourg and Colborne into a single Northumberland Today paper.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Dukes up 2

Feedback to the previous Dukes Up posting includes this comment from a TSF reader:

"While what Mr. Romeijn says is mostly true, there should be a clarification made by someone who has and is still working at a Sun Media community weekly.

"And that clarification is - the vast majority of weeklies are now staffed by relatively cheap editorial staff who are either fresh out of journalism school or someone that has decided to take life a bit slower toward the end of their career.

"There are still a few of us veterans out there that love their job, focus on the community and are likely 'lifers' at the weekly news gig.

"The problem comes when upper management mandates to paper what their ad rates should be - regardless of what the market will really bear - and sit back as revenue goes down the tubes, thereby limiting editorial space (like my paper is presently experiencing).

"That means local stories get chopped to small pieces so you can get a few photos in with the little bit of sports coverage and the other tidbits people like to see.

"Imagine what is occurring at the Sun's daily operations with layoffs and how devastating that has been to local coverage. Now imagine what it's like when what should be a three-person operation is slashed to a single person - that's problem number two at the weeklies.

"Combine those things and of course you'll see revenue plummet like the stock market has. In the effort to save money, Sun Media is killing the local newspaper because where there is competition for the ad dollar the local paper doesn't have a hope since they aren't able to respond to a competitor's challenge on ad rates.

"Mr. Romeijn, you are not the only one who wishes Sun Media would put up a fight. You can bet at least some of the employees at your competition would love to do it, but without the head office stamp, you'll soon be the only game in town - re: Jasper and Morinville."

Dukes up

Wim Romeijn, publisher of Alberta's Vermilion Voice, says locally owned newspapers "are doing just fine" but could use some competition from papers owned by detached conglomerates.

He writes:

"Many of Sun Media's papers in smaller towns are failing for the simple reason that these papers (weeklies) have lost contact with the communities they operate in. Editors are moved about from one paper to the next, as are reporters.

"A local paper owned by some faraway big corporation is a contradiction in terms. Local papers still have a great future, being much less affected by the onslaught of the Internet than their counterparts in the big cities.

"Here in Alberta, Sun Media's small town papers are hurting badly. However, most locally owned and operated newspapers are doing just fine.

"The paper I publish competes against a Sun Media-owned outlet and though these folks seem to consider us simplistic hicks, we beat them on both editorial content and ad volume every single week.

"I do wish they'd put up more of a fight."

Thank you for your e-mail, Wim.

We long for the days of privately owned community newspapers.

Printless in Seattle

If you have access to a print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today, grab a copy because it is last post for the city's oldest business.

The 146-year-old Hearst newspaper is going the online-only route after today, leaving 117,600 weekday P-I readers paperless and about 145 P-I employees jobless.

The P-I is the largest newspaper in the U.S. to go online only. The demise of the print edition turns Seattle into a one-newspaper town - the Seattle Times.

"Tonight we'll be putting the paper to bed for the last time," Roger Oglesby, editor and publisher, told a silent P-I newsroom Monday morning. "But the bloodline will live on."

Attempts in the past two months to find a buyer for the struggling daily failed, leading to the closure. Click here for P-I front pages over the past century or so.

It is a sad day when any newspaper folds, there, here, anywhere. On Feb. 27, it was the Rocky Mountain News signing off completely after 150 years, leaving Denver a one-newspaper town with the Post.

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

One-newspaper towns tend to breed media complacency. Newsrooms and journalists lose their edge without that daily passion focused on scooping the competition.

Toronto remains one of the few unique print media havens in North America, with four daily newspapers. Let's keep it that way by buying ads and buying newspapers.

Use 'em, or lose 'em, in Toronto and in communities across the country, because once they are gone, they are gone.

And like they say, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Auction love-in

Stocks are up, temperatures are up and the spirits of a down-and-out Winnipeg family are up following an auction love-in, as the Winnipeg Sun's Laurie Mustard reports today.

A must read for people looking for the feel-good column item of the week. We would have devoted a full column to the storage locker auction Thursday night, but the item is still inspiring.

The auctioneer involved is a popular guy. Today's Winnipeg Free Press has a story about him selling his first stripper's pole Saturday night.

Laurie's auction tale wins the bidding hands down.

A good question

With small Sun Media weeklies being closed, a TSF reader poses a question no doubt being asked throughout the shrinking chain:

"Every day in this company we are told the Internet is the future, and now some 'newspapers' are no longer viable so they are being shut down. So why hasn't the company shown any initiative to do something futuristic?

"Rather than abandon a newspaper and a community, why not convert it to online only? I mean really, somewhere out there among the gravy train of Quebecor papers, there has to be really good test markets, with tons of young eager web savvy journalists and some seasoned vets too already on the payroll, who would be excited to try this model instead of what appears to be a massive closing spree and layoffs.

"Every time another paper is shut, we'll continue to ask this question: Could an online version, with at least some jobs saved (how many people does it take to run a website?), remain alive to serve the community?"

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Weekend reads

From the Globe and Mail, the pride of print media advocates in these trying times:

Is democracy written in disappearing ink?, by Sinclair Stewart and Grant Robertson

From pitbullmedia.ca blogger Ian Harvey, tireless freelancer and former Toronto Sun vet:

Print media going, going, gone? Where's our bailout?

Saying goodbye

Employees of the weekly Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner said their goodbyes in the final print edition of the Alberta paper this week, but the farewells were not posted online.

The paper was one of two closed by Quebecor, with rumours of more to follow. The published goodbyes were sent to TSF to share with Sun Media colleagues and newspaper readers.

Simon Druker, editor, front page story:

"Stop the presses, literally.

"With the Canadian economy continuing to swoon, media chains across the country are continuing to cut back on operations. In somewhat of a surprise move, Sun Media announced last week that the Morinville Redwater Town and Country Examiner will cease to operate immediately.

"The current March 11 edition of the Examiner will be the final issue of the long-running publication.

"The parent company of numerous weekly publications throughout Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, Sun Media blamed the cutback on "increasing economic challenges in the newspaper industry, shrinking advertising revenues and rising costs."

"After evaluating the Examiner's operations, it was determined that 'the continuation of the publication is no longer viable,' according to a press release.

"Morinville and Redwater represent very historic and dynamic communities, but the reality is, the economic model in today's challenging environment no longer made business sense," said Craig Martin, Executive Vice-President Operations Western Canada.

"It is our aim to continue to serve readers and advertisers in the area through our other area publications such as Fort Saskatchewan, and we are confident we can do this. We would like to thank our loyal advertisers, readers, and employees for their years of continuous support," said Martin.

"The move ends a whirlwind couple of months for the publication.

"The Examiner was born in November with the merging of the Morinville Mirror and Redwater Tribune. The goal was to offer improved continuity to readers while offering the same blanket coverage.

"Early December saw the launch of a new interactive website, while future tech-savvy initiatives were in the works, including a Facebook page and a Twitter account. However, the publication fell victim to the same economic pitfalls being encountered by the rest of North America.

"The economy has hit media publications as hard, if not harder than any during these times. The Tribune Company, which owns the storied Chicago Tribune among other publications, filed for bankruptcy this past December, while Warner Bros. has already cut 800 jobs.

"The Mirror was founded in the late 1970's as an independent publication, predominantly serving the Town of Morinville. It continued to grow over it's 20 plus years, eventually being acquired by Sun Media in 2005 along with its sister publication, the Tribune. Today, the Examiner serves the communities of Redwater, Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal, Morinville as well as smaller hamlets throughout Sturgeon County, reaching a circulation of approximately 14,000 with an estimated readership of approximately 30,000."

Simon Druker, editor, editorial notice:

"It saddens me to write this, as I'm sure it saddens our readers to know that we will no longer be bringing the news to their doorsteps. While none of us here were expecting the closure, perhaps we should have taken a bigger hint from the economy surrounding us.

"My biggest regret is the unfinished business, knowing that we will no longer be able to tell the many stories of our community. I know for a fact that countless stories exist out there. Hockey playoffs continue, graduations inch ever closer and yes, crimes continue to get committed.

"It's all part of the way the world works. News will continue to happen regardless of anything else, and we will no longer be able to bring it to our valued readers. We took pride in being your newspaper. We told your stories, while at the same time keeping you abreast of the latest happenings in and around your community.

"I can say with all honesty that we would not have done a thing differently. Sometimes circumstances dictate that certain decisions are out of our hands and unfortunately this is one of those cases.

"In the end, I take comfort knowing that I can say we did our jobs fairly, to the best of our ability and always with our readers in mind.

"This would be where I would normally say 'thank you' and ask for your continued support and readership. Instead, I will close by simply saying thank you to everyone who came into contact with us over the years. It has been a privilege serving you."

Jan Buterman, freelance writer:

"For this week's column, I was in the midst of writing a snappy little piece about various people who died on the Ides of any given month, such as Julius Caesar's famous death at the hands of members of his senate.

"Caesar's assassination came after being proclaimed dictator in perpetuity and reforming ancient Rome's government through centralization. The fact that the deadline for the Capital Region Board to present its agreements to the Province falls on the same day is merely an interesting coincidence.

"Before I could insert a final use of the word 'egregious', I learned that the Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner, formerly the papers known as the Morinville Mirror and the Redwater Tribune, has ceased to be.

"It's expired and gone to meet its maker. It's a stiff, bereft of life; its metabolic processes are are now history. It's shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeping choir invisible. This is an ex-paper! For the older crowd, substitute the above riff on Monty Python with the closing song from Wayne & Shuster. (Frank Shuster, for the record, passed away on the Ides of January).

"The powers that be (for the younger crowd, substitute that with TPTB) made the announcement, leaving the entire staff so shocked they asked the freelancer to take care of the obituary.

"Please don't take my tone as disrespectful; I too am deeply grieved by this decision. Community journalism is crucially important to sustainable communities. The irony that a paper serving a community among the oldest in the province being flatlined in the same week that the top-down imposed and groupthink-implemented regional planning board has for its deadline isn't lost on me, nor is it lost on those who served your community through this paper.

"Community journalists bring you more than the flashy picture or the juicy scandal. In cases where the community is located on the doorstop of a large centre with large daily papers - such as the counties of Sturgeon and Thorhild - the sexy news tends to be grabbed up by those large dailies, the story coming to a climax and then plateauing within hours or a couple of days.

"The news cycle of a weekly paper is different: even when we scoop the news itself, by the time we hit the press, we must contain significantly more substance than flash to have any meaning for our readers.

"Community journalists have a calling to participate in the public sphere in a way that those working on a daily deadline don't and can't. While county citizens likely recognize the reporters from the dailies and the television feeds, how many of those reporters recognize you, average-person-on-the-street citizen. In rural Canada, the community journalist doesn't just need to get to know you, he or she wants to get to know you.

"Unfortunately, into this Utopian sphere, the realities of a market-based economy intrude, and in the case of Thorhild County earlier this year and Sturgeon County this week, these realities intrude with a vengeance. TPTB take a dim view of newspapers that don't generate revenue for the simple reason that they have a payroll to meet.

"According to Wikipedia, Sturgeon County is 2,109 square kilometres with a population of 18,864. Thorhild County is 1,998 square kilometres with a population of 3,042. Together, the counties total just over 4,000 square kilometres and have a population just shy of 22,000 people, served by only two editorial staff.

"From my admittedly biased perspective as a person who works throughout both counties - sometimes as a teacher and sometimes as a journalist - I can assure you there are enough stories to keep double that number busy.

"Sure, sometimes they're stories about the local 4-H and the latest rescue of a missing dog; not a big deal in the chronicle of world events, but they're your chronicle, your events.

"People who don't live in your community decided there is insufficient revenue reasons to continue providing a newspaper in your community. No conspiracy, just simple economics. The truth is out there; however, we won't be able to cover it.

"Good night, and good luck."