Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Returning to roots

When the Toronto Sun Family blog was launched Dec. 6, 2006, the intention was to give moral support to employees at the flagship tabloid facing a questionable future under Quebecor.

We also wanted to tell the stories of Toronto Sun vets who launched a tabloid that defied the critics and was adopted by readers who would remain faithful for decades.

Almost three years later, many of those employees who had gathered at a Toronto Sun reunion in November of 2006 are now on the outside looking in and the Sun is a shell of its old self.

TSF went well beyond its initial mandate, with postings and comments on a wide range of topics involving matters across the Sun Media chain, including Osprey, picked up in 2007.

What is left to be said about Quebecor, PKP and the direction of Sun Media newspapers? Not much, really. The mood is that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. That is so depressing.

So come Dec. 6, the third anniversary of this blog, it will be back to our roots - the Toronto Sun. All things Toronto Sun - the Day Oners, the journalism giants who worked there, the many tales of gotcha tabloid journalism, the fascinating inside stories etc.

The blog will be an ongoing tribute to employees who were on the Toronto Sun payroll during the glory years, from day one, Nov. 1, 1971, into the 1990s.

We are going to be largely devoted to the glory years of the Toronto Sun, one of North America's unique newspaper success stories, but post-Quebecor news and comments relating to the Toronto Sun will also be welcomed.

All previous TSF postings not dealing with the Toronto Sun will be deleted.

All things Toronto Sun - then and now - after Dec. 6.

The Toronto Sun turns 40 on Nov. 1, 2011, if it survives under present management.

Time enough to share the memories of a newspaper that was once among the Top 100 favourite companies to work for in Canada.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

You said it

A comment posted anonymously today that sums up the Toronto Sun's readership dilemma quite neatly:

"The Sun lost its way many years ago as to what drives someone to actually stop and buy the paper. What sells, if you will. And the front page IS the selling point for single copy sales.

"A big part of the problem was the fact that senior editors that put out the paper every night were denied access to weekly circulation figures that used to be handed out to a select few. Quebecor put an end to this practice after the tail-spinning numbers became a not-so-secret shame.

"These exact figures often proved something that many in the building (shurly not editorial board types, publishers and former city hall/Queen's Park typists) refused to believe: POLITICS DOES NOT SELL NEWSPAPERS. It never has. It never will. Despite that fact, politics was often pushed hard by the types that had to face other executroids outside the walls of 333 King.

"Other than political sex/cash scandals and election night coverage, readers could not give a rat's about political machinations. Was Miller's announcement worth the front? Absolutely. Did it deserve 10 pages . . . maybe not so much. Did it sell any more papers on a comparative basis? I tend to doubt it.

"What the circulation sheet showed week in, week out, was what any good tab editor knew sold: Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Crime. Better yet, celebrity crime. Celebrity death. Politicians caught with their pants down or their hands out (sometimes both!). Beautiful women.

(One weather picture of a bikini-clad woman under a fountain jacked circulation by 30K one day and caught the eye of The Donald who we then set up with for a meeting and spun it into another great front).

"Even, oh my god, the SunShine Girl (that franchise now sadly relegated to the back page smaller than many of the celebrity head shots despite it being the Top 10 hits of every web chart for Sun Media.)

"These were the staples of The Sun and what reader's of The Sun always wanted. Water cooler stories. Hey Martha stories, as the late-great Lloyd Kemp used to call them.

"Just a few random thoughts . . ."

Thank you for your comments. The broadsheet boys in command today have, indeed, lost the Sun's successful tabloid formula touch.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

OT: Rock radio

Freddy Vette, born in the 1970s, is a student of 1950s and '60s rock & roll who was recently hired by CJBQ in Belleville to host an afternoon radio requests show.

When hired a few weeks ago, his 50s and 60s hits show was from 4 to 6 p.m. and his deejay style took us back to the days of Dave Mickie and the stable of CHUM deejays.

In a sea of talk show banality, Freddy Vette, who is also the leader of a travelling rock and roll band, is a refreshing breath of fresh air on AM radio.

CJBQ is so impressed by Vette's instant following it has boosted the show by an hour, making it 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting this Monday.

That is a radio station that listens to its listeners. Good on them. There are stations that play 50s and 60s hits, but Vette's deejay format is also nostalgic.

He is playing a lot of obscure hits the other rock radio programs aren't playing. If you can't pick up 800 on the AM dial, he's also online.

We caught his live and energetic Freddy Vette and The Flames rock & roll show at the Regent Theatre in Picton recently and it took us back to the 1950s.

Last week, the Toronto Sun had a story about CFRB reinventing itself with a name change, but much of the talk show format remains the same - hosts with terminal I-itis.

Other talk shows are experimenting with multiple hosts, which is irritating as hell.

Vette's new show and Danny Marks' blues show Saturday nights from 8 to midnight on 91.1, are two diamonds in the rough on radio.

CFRB. much like the Toronto Sun, are losing longtime fans through consumer neglect.

Mike Strobel's Moonlight Lady spreads in recent weeks are among the few spurts of Sun originality in recent years.

Devoting 10 pages of Friday's Sun to David Miller's announcement that he won't seek re-election as mayor more than a year from now shows how out of touch the "tabloid" is with its readers.

The broadsheet boys have squeezed most of the "tabloid" and the fun out of the Sun and the results were reflected in this week's NADbank readership figures.

The Toronto Sun chose to ignore the depressing NADbank figures in print.

Par for the course, these days.

The Sun needs to go after that loving feeling of the 1970s, as Freddy Vette has, with a passion, done for the music of the '50s and '60s.

Give readers some of that deja vu all over again.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Examiner -1

Rob McCormick, a 25-plus year vet at the Peterborough Examiner, has quit to "pursue other journalistic endeavors" and won't be replaced by Sun Media, says a TSF tipster.

The tipster writes:

"Today marks the last day for editor Rob McCormick at the Peterborough Examiner. He handed in his notice in order to pursue other journalistic endeavors.

"It's a sad day. A veteran of more than 25 years at the paper, he has held a number of positions over the years, including reporter, wire editor, city editor, life editor and writing coach. He is, by far, the best copy editor in the newsroom and he will be missed by writers and readers alike.

"Sadder still, management has decided he won't be replaced. His responsibilities have been shared among the remaining editors.

"Let's wish him good luck."

All the best, Rob.

Downing re Fisher

John Downing, former editor of the Toronto Sun and a Day Oner, remembers Doug Fisher:

Doug Fisher was such a giant, both in stature and as a political commentator, that all the eulogies after his death never quite caught all of him.

Peter Worthington came closest when he called him a "Renaissance man." And Editor Worthington certainly captured the essence of what Doug meant to the Sun when he was there on Day One.

He gave us instant credibility with the politicians at all levels, and if people don't think that's important, they weren't around for the municipal ad boycotts of the Sun when I ran a column the local clutch-and-grabbers didn't like.

(There was some fuss recently about him often being overlooked in the tallies of Day Oners. When I was his editor, I know from several dealings on his behalf with Doug Creighton that not only did Doug consider him one of the originals, he was treated that way financially and Creighton was more furious than I was when the pay office one year missed his Christmas bonus.)

Doug Fisher had an even temper most of the time, which I think came from the hard years of World War 2 listening to the "brazen throat of war," and also from his years in the bear pit of the Commons as an MP and deputy house leader. He was used to BS, but never shrank from fighting it.

He was a keen observer of all the writers and editors around him and loved assessing young reporters as to their future. We consulted him about hirings. He despaired over some Sun writers and some of the things we did, but was loyal and kept it hidden.

But he hated one of our columnists for his "malice and lies" and pleaded with me to keep him out of his way because he was worried what would happen in a confrontation. The writer was half Doug's age and in reasonable shape, so I observed I didn't think he would punch Doug.

"No," Doug said, "I'm afraid I would kill him."

Doug couldn't stand the honours of journalism. There was something phoney and arbitrary about them, he felt. So I submitted some of his insightful columns to the NNAs and he was a finalist. He never said anything to me, but he came to Toronto and went to the awards even though he hated the experience. His son Matthew told me that Doug didn't want to dishonour the Sun or its Editor by not appearing.

I didn't learn because I proposed Doug for the Canadian News Hall of Fame and he was accepted. He came to the dinner and was gracious, but once again I was told privately he didn't really want to do it.

Doug's files were famous. He had the best political files around and Liberal and Tory prime ministers told me they would like their officials to get their hands on them after Doug retired.

The Sun paid extra rent just to house Doug's rows of metal filing cabinets. But then he had to winnow them down, and then he retired away from them. Now, Google and the Internet can be used to dig out in a hurry background that only Doug two decades ago could produce instantly to buttress his columns.

Doug also was a sports historian of note, and at one point was chair of Hockey Canada. It was Hockey Canada, of course, who presided over the famous Canada-Soviet hockey series/brawl of 1972.

I hope Doug has written somewhere, and I missed them, the wonderful stories behind the series. I think it was Alan Eagleson who confessed to me that there were some hassles over hotel bills etc. and the big chartered plane wasn't allowed to leave Moscow until Doug volunteered his credit card.

Doug had his own TV show in Ottawa that ran for more than 25 years, a record, but was also often called on to do national commentary for the CBC. I grumbled to him that I knew the CBC disliked the Sun because of our raucous criticism (led by Worthington), but it would be nice if they stopped identifying him as a syndicated writer and said he was from the Toronto Sun. When the Ottawa producers kept refusing, Doug said he wouldn't do any more appearances until they did. It could have been a costly decision, but the CBC gave in. Which was a nice change from the endless barrage of talking heads from the Globe and Star.

When a columnist writes through five decades, there can be tensions over editing. (As I know.) And Doug's sentences on some occasions could ramble from convolutions to thickets of facts. After all, he knew so much about everything because he was such an omnivorous reader. He would devour a thick book in an evening. So column changes would be made, and most of the time he accepted them and used to publicly praise Associate Editor Glen Woodcock for his pruning.

But then Doug was an honest, gifted tireless worker at whatever chore he chose. If only we had dozens of such men in the House. Then it wouldn't be quite so common.

Thank you for your e-mail, John.

Memories of Doug Fisher can be e-mailed to TSF.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Re Eric Dowd

Veteran political columnist Eric Dowd says the Toronto Sun showed admirable restraint in its coverage of Sue-Ann Levy's byelection run in the provincial riding of St. Paul's.

The same can not be said for its coverage of Peter Worthington's federal attempts way back when all kinds of Sun columnists supported him in print, even the restaurant writer, says Dowd's Queen's Park piece in the Orangeville Citizen.

"This unbalanced support by a newspaper for one of its own may have turned off readers, because Worthington lost. (Incidentally, he deserves some praise, because in his eighties he still writes lucid columns almost daily and may be the oldest full-time writer for papers in Canada.)"

Dowd notes while pro-Levy comments were published in the Sun during her unsuccessful bid, the tabloid "gave equal space and praise to all candidates."

He says the Sun's conduct this time around "was a big step forward for journalism."

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Welland +1

The Welland Tribune has a new advertising director.

Daria Zmiyiwsky, previously an advertising manager at Sun Media's Winnipeg Sun, has 20 years experience in sales, management, customer service, advertising, marketing and community development, says the Tribune.

It is the first news on the plus side for the Tribune in a long while.

NADbank time

Updated 26/09/09 re Calgary Sun
It's NADbank time again, another glimpse at readership trends for newspapers across Canada and the spinning has begun.

Overall, a Financial Post story says print newspaper readership in Canada is "alive and kicking."

It will be a tough spin for the Toronto Sun, with insiders saying the numbers for the tabloid are not good. The Toronto Sun appears to be down 11.4% Monday to Friday; down 3.9% on Saturday and 2.7% on Sunday.

But the positive spins include:

Calgary Sun story:
We're Number 1 with readers under 50. With more than 433,000 readers each week, the Calgary Sun and its free daily 24 Hours cast a wider net with print readers 18-to-49 than our competition, according to the latest Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) readership survey.

Edmonton Sun story: Thank you, Edmonton! Due to your growing support, Edmonton Sun readership has grown more than any other major paper in the province, according to the Newspaper Audience DataBank (NADbank) survey.

Globe and Mail, A CNW Group press release: NADbank today released its interim Fall 08/Spring 09 readership data which shows The Globe and Mail growing significantly both in-print and online. Weekday newspaper readership is up 8 per cent year-over-year including 36 per cent growth in Vancouver alone. Saturday readership is holding steady. Online readership continues to soar with a readership increase of 21 per cent across the six markets.

Toronto Star, Iain Marlow, business editor: Canada's largest daily newspaper, has increased its dominance as the most-read newspaper and newspaper website in the Greater Toronto Area, despite difficult times for the North American newspaper industry as a whole. The Star's readership in the key "read yesterday" category was up by 4.8 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Metro Canada: The numbers are in, and we're still No. 1. According to the latest Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank) results released Wednesday, Metro Canada has reinforced its position as the most-read free daily in the country.

Editor and Publisher: By Mark Fitzgerald in Chicago: More than three-quarters of adults in Canada's biggest markets read a daily newspaper in any one week, according to the latest readership study from NADbank Inc. released Wednesday.

Calgary Herald:
Calgary Herald readership is bigger than ever before, according to the latest newspaper industry survey released today.

Early deadlines

The growing list of Sun Media newspaper press runs at Quebecor's printing plant in Toronto is causing havoc with deadlines, says a TSF tipster.

The tipster says with printing of the Brantford Expositor being moved to Toronto, it has bumped the Welland Tribune's copy deadline to 7:30 p.m., with final pages at 8:30 p.m.

"Worse," says the tipster, "Niagara Falls (Review) copy deadline is 6:30 p.m.."

Ah, for the good old days when managing editors had full control of deadlines and press runs, with replates for breaking news, sports and entertainment to keep their newspapers current for readers.

The Toronto plant's growing list of newspapers to print is a calamity in waiting, as was the printing of the Ottawa Sun in Mirabel, Que., before that decision was reversed.

Re Brockville Voice

The new independent Brockville Voice broadsheet weekly, with four former Sun Media employees among the ranks, marks its first month on the streets this Friday.

Jacqui Lysko, editor-in-chief, brings TSF up to date on the Aug. 21 launch of one of Canada's newest independent newspapers, which had an initial press run of 12,000.

Her e-mail reads:

"We launched on Aug. 21 and have had a huge response to the paper. Currently, there are three owner/partners, six sales reps, 11 distribution people and two co-op students.

"That is pretty incredible if you consider the original business, ButternutZe Publishing, had only two owners and one sales person when we began operation in November 2008.

"As for how many are ‘cast-offs’ from other papers: that would be four – so far. ButternutZe Publishing began when I started publishing a monthly magazine, Living in Brockville, with my business partner, Roz Phillips.

"When my husband, Mark, was laid off from the local Sun Media paper, The Recorder & Times, in December 2008 after 16 years as Production/IT manager, we began planning the paper.

"We had a ‘false start’ with a real estate weekly. We were up against the R & T and unfortunately we failed in our attempt to produce a weekly tabloid.

"We re-grouped and The Brockville Voice was launched. The Voice is a free community paper, all local content. We have most of the editorial submitted by community groups and residents of Brockville.

"Ad sales have been extremely surprising. We began as an eight-page paper and we are now at 12 pages. Most pages are colour. We receive comments from readers and advertisers – all good.

"All in all, we are growing in leaps and bounds. We are soon moving to a larger office space and adding two new employees by years end. (graphic designer and editor). We do have a web-site, but it is incomplete at this time.

"We hope by end of year two to increase our run to include a Monday or Wednesday edition.

"To anyone thinking of following our example, don’t be intimidated by the corporate-owned papers. Do your own thing and do it well.

"Thanks (TSF). I hope we can inspire someone else to take the big step."

Thank you for the update, Jacqui. All the best.

Monday, 21 September 2009

OT: He da man

This has absolutely nothing to do with Sun Media, except that summer has come to an end and you might be in need of a morning smile while working the keyboards:

Neate stuff

How's this tip of the hat for Neate Sager, an Ottawa Sun staffer who also blogs sports with a passion?

Found on the Los Angeles site:

"Neate Sager is a terrific Canadian sports blogger on Out of Left Field and The CIS Blog, along with being perhaps the most "How I Met Your Mother"-obsessed writer in the hockey blogosphere.

"He's also a sports staffer with the Ottawa Sun and a correspondent for Streaming Sports Network Canada."

The comments include a link to Neate's "Five Reasons Neate Sager Loves Hockey."

Kinda makes your day.

Friday, 18 September 2009

30 - Robert Shannon

Robert "Bob" Shannon, who got his start as a photojournalist at the Orillia Packet and Times and later worked at the Toronto Telegram, died Tuesday at Solders' Memorial Hospital in Orillia.

Bob, who was 73, spent a decade as a news photographer before moving on to public relations work for the Borough of North York, the Government of Canada's Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and Energy Mines and Resources.

He retired in 1995.

Bob and his wife, Betty, were planning for their 50th wedding anniversary on Oct. 17.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at the Sheba Shrine Centre, 142 John St.,in Barrie.

Former Telegram and Packet and Times employees who remember Bob can e-mail memories of him to TSF.

30 - Doug Fisher

Updated 19/09/09
Doug Fisher
, a Canadian parliamentary news institution since the 1960s, died this morning, a day before his 90th birthday.

When the Toronto Sun was launched in November of 1971, Doug Fisher was on the op-ed page reporting from Ottawa. He would write for the Sun for another 35 years before retiring at 86. (You can read his final column here.)

An online Toronto Sun story by Ian Robertson says two of his five sons - including Matthew, a former Sun columnist - carry on in his journalistic footsteps.

News reports say at Fisher's request, there will be no funeral or memorial service.

Doug Fisher became a household name to several generations of Canadians dating back to 1963. while still an MP.

Ian's story says: Paid only $10,000 a year as an MP, Fisher accepted an offer in 1963 to be a syndicated freelance columnist with the Toronto Telegram, forerunner of the Toronto Sun.

His syndicated columns were in newspapers across the country and he was a regular on television. His columns gave small town Thomson newspapers a lot of credibility, as they did at the feisty new Sun.

"Doug was one of the most important people we had when we started the Sun, because he gave us credibility," Sun founding editor Peter Worthington, still a columnist with the chain's anchor paper in Toronto, said today in Ian's story.

Other memories of Doug Fisher:

Peter Worthington column

John Geddes,

Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service

In Loving Memory,

Sandra Martin, Globe and Mail


Memories of Doug Fisher can be e-mailed to TSF

City hall calling

It is about 2:30 a.m. and we were expecting online comments from Sue-Ann Levy about her byelection loss on, but not a word.

Just brief mention of her in a story last updated at 10:45 p.m.

But then we couldn't find post-election reaction from Levy in any of the early morning stories about the provincial Liberal win in St. Paul's.

Also no word on when she will be back at the keyboards as a Toronto Sun city hall columnist.

Just when John Lorinc, author/journalist and previously a provider of municipal affairs copy at the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life etc., was settling in at city hall, with his own TorSun e-mail address.

We wonder what the game plan is now for city hall. Levy/Lorinc shared views of Miller & Co.?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Barrie press out?

Quebecor is shutting down another one of their smalltown printing presses, this time Georgian Web in Barrie, says a TSF tipster.

The tipster says Sun Media's Barrie-area newspapers will apparently be printed at Quebecor's Toronto plant after Georgian Web shuts down in 1 1/2 months.

"This shop was new in 2000 and doing regional printing 24 hours a day at one point," says the tipster. "They also had the most colour capacity of any single width press that Quebecor owned in Ontario.

"As far as I know, they are only printing a few papers now and down to one shift. Not sure how many press staff are left and if any of them were offered jobs (elsewhere).

"Another head scratcher . . . "

Buying and shutting down printing presses in smaller communities makes business sense for Quebecor. Independent print newspaper startups are less likely in communities without presses.

How many newspapers are going to be printed at Quebecor's Toronto plant?

Can you imagine the chaos of a major breakdown of the presses and delivery disruptions during winter storms and highway accidents?

The Brant News

Downsizing of Sun Media's Brantford Expositor has prompted people who ran the defunct Brant News newspaper in the 1970s and 1980s to publish again, says a TSF tipster.

The new independent will be called The Brant News - just as it was in the late 70s/early 80s before it folded," says the tipster. "It is associated with the old owners, Ricter Web Publishing and a new website called"

No launch date for the print edition and website that TSF has heard, but apparently some former Expositor newsroom employees are anxious to get back to community newspaper work.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

30 - Peter King

In the 1950s, when afternoon daily newspapers allowed young boys and girls to be their own bosses as after school carriers, the Toronto Star held subscription contests.

And once a year, the top subscription sales carriers from across the province would be transported to New York City early in January for the experience of their young lives.

First by train, then by plane. Sometimes, there were more than 100 winners. This blogger won six consecutive trips to New York and the memories linger.

Fast forward to the Corneil's auction barn in Little Britain up Lindsay way in the early 1990s and there stood the three amigos: Roy Bassett, Bob Waddell and Peter King, three former Toronto cops who took a liking to auctions.

They had stories to tell and when they discovered they had a former Sun reporter in their circle, the topic turned to newspaper carrier days. Peter, it turned out, was one of the Star's New York trip winners.

Peter, always the gentleman, said during his undercover narcotics days in Toronto, he busted a young man in the 1970s who later became a well-known Toronto newspaper columnist. The charge had to do with pot, but he would not name names, initially.

Later, when he did name names - Mark Bonokoski - it was over his kitchen table during a discussion about the possibility of someone writing a book about his eventful undercover years with Waddell as his partner.

We gave Peter's number and book idea to Mark and the cop and the former pot bust suspect renewed acquaintances in a much different light. Mark eventually wrote an honest column about his encounter with Pete the narc.

They were connected once again on a much higher plateau.

On Tuesday, Mark again wrote about Peter King. It was an affectionate obit for a man who loved his family, police work and fishing.

Pete, 67, a victim of cancer, died Saturday in a Lindsay hospital and the funeral was held yesterday.

"Family, friends gather for undercover drug cop who helped arrest more than 3,500" read the subhead for Mark's column.

In a twist of fate, one of those 3,500-plus suspects arrested was giving Pete King, a Toronto cop who left his mark, the fitting sendoff he deserved.

On a personal note, a few years ago, we photocopied some issues of Route Builder, the Star's in-house publication for carriers, which included coverage of our 1950s New York trips.

While reading the issues, Pete said it would be interesting to know what became of all of the Star carriers on those trips. A Star flashback feature, perhaps?

He fondly remembered Ruth Trumbull, with a glint in his eye, and wondered what became of the Star's top female subscription sales winner.

The paths we all take often cross down the road. A chance encounter at an auction reunited two former Star trip winners, plus a former narc and his young catch.

Thanks for the stories, Peter. The police stories. The auction stories. The fish stories.

And on behalf of our home poker game that you and Bob drove from Lindsay to Toronto to sample a few times, thanks for the addictive 2-4-6 game you introduced.

It remains a favourite 12 years later, although Ed, Duffy, Jack, Mike, Howard, Tony, Bruce and the other high rolling T.O. players have since upped it to 3-6-9.

Showbiz biz

A TSF reader reacting to TSF's Sunday Sun Showbiz/ENT duplication dismay writes:

"I agree that the flow and lack of pullouts can be annoying, but don't you remember how weekend papers work? For years, the 'Showcase' section (now ENT) was printed on Friday. Any 'live' entertainment stuff - late reviews, etc. - appeared on a page called 'Showbiz.'

"Having super-early deadlines for the Sunday entertainment supplement usually works - but the Toronto International Film Festival is on right now, so there is a ton of extra breaking entertainment news, and apparently it had to go somewhere other than ENT, which was filled with TV preview stuff and some earlier TIFF material.

"Adding pages called 'Showbiz' seems a logical - and hardly unprecedented - move."

Thank you for your comments, but are we missing something? ENT, formerly Showcase, is no longer a supplement.

What is illogical, now that ENT is no longer a pullout section, is having two names for the entertainment pages.

If you are saying early deadlines for ENT remained the same after losing pullout status, why have two names?

Showbiz, which says it all, is all you need. Or ENT, which in our books was a poor choice in 2007 after using Showcase so effectively for decades.

If there are egos and territorial disputes involved in the new Showbiz/ENT layout, rise above it all for the benefit of readers - and editors who take pride in producing a newspaper with style and flow.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sun runners

With Sue-Ann Levy in a political race, Torontoist writer Jamie Bradburn takes an extended look at three previous Toronto Sun candidates - Paul Rimstead, Lubor Zink and Peter Worthington.

Paul's 1972 run for Toronto mayor and Zink and Worthington's unsuccessful federal campaigns are profiled. One interesting flashback describes how Paul continued to write - and use - his column during his bid for mayor.

We'll know Thursday if Sue-Ann, on leave from her Sun column, will be back at work Monday writing about city hall politics.

Bradburn wites:

"When voters go to the ballot box in St. Paul’s on Thursday their choices will include the latest in a long line of Toronto Sun columnists who have attempted to parlay their print personas into elected office, usually for parties that have matched the paper’s right-wing tilt."

OttSun dry

Summer is almost over.

Guess that is why, as reported by a TSF tipster, Sun Media removed the water coolers from the Ottawa Sun yesterday. It could be they are being replaced by spiffy new coolers, or not.

With most of TSF's early tipsters now out of work or too damned fearful of losing their jobs to provide information, we're not sure how many Sun Media papers are cooler-free these days.

Employees at papers that have lost coolers do have bottled water and tap water to keep hydrated. But bottled water isn't free and tap water at some of the older buildings probably needs testing before deemed safe to drink.

The bean counters are just chipping away at any expense that might improve the bottom line. Could the silencing of air conditioning units and cooler winter heating temps be next?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sunday madness

Once upon a time when it had a circulation that peaked at 550,000, the Sunday Sun was king of the roost for news, sports, entertainment, columnists, television guide - and layout.

The Sunday Sun, now below 300,000, is still a good read on most fronts, but recent changes to the layout have turned it into a paper jungle.

What is with the Sunday Sun now having a Sun Showbiz section - and an ENT section? Dropping ENT from the pullout section list was puzzling enough.

The flow of yesterday's Sunday Sun was downright annoying for fans of its entertainment coverage. You start with Sun Showbiz, then flip to ENT, then flip to comics and classifieds before returning to Sun Showbiz.

As Liz Braun's column heading in Showbiz reads: Uh, that is not normal.

You said it.

BTW: Can someone explain the difference between "Showbiz" and "ENT" content?

Showbiz, ENT or Showcase as in the glory years, whatever. One name and a pullout section please, for the benefit of the fine stable of Sunday entertainment writers and their readers.

You have entertainment columnists and photographers providing quality content. Time to renew the focus on packaging.

Or is PKP intent on continuing to piss off Sunday Sun print readers with changes to the formula that made it great?

Do we hear 200,000 circulation?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Closures official

Ken Koyama, publisher of Sun Media's Welland Tribune, made the closures of two community weekly bureaus in Port Colborne and Pelham official in this news release:

Due to changing economic times, the offices of the InPort News and Pelham News will be permanently closing this month, according to publisher Ken Koyama.

The Tribune, which publishes the community weekly newspaper, will continue to print the InPort News and the Pelham News.

News and advertising staff will continue to serve the Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Pelham areas from The Tribune offices in Welland, at 228 East Main St.

“Port Colborne, Wainfleet and Pelham are important parts of our coverage area and we regret the factors which have led us to make the difficult decision to close our two bureau offices,” said Koyama.

“However, we remain committed to serving those communities from both a readership and advertising perspective. We will continue to provide top-notch daily and weekly coverage of happenings throughout our coverage area and will also be there for our advertisers."

The Pelham office will be closed at the end of the day on Friday, Sept. 18 while the Port Colborne office will be closed as of the end of the day on Friday, Sept. 25.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Need for greed

The need for greed . . .

Introducing Lotto Max, a $5-a-ticket 7/49 national numbers game, with $10 million minimum jackpots and $50 million maximum jackpots. Tickets go on sale Sept. 19, first draw, Sept. 25.

The odds of winning one of the Big Ones - 28.6 million to one.

Lotto Max is replacing Lotto Super 7, a dependable 15-year-old game launched in 1994.

In the 10 days remaining before Canadians are introduced to the new government run national lottery, it would be interesting to know why this need for greed?

Why are the interprovincial lottery corporations, including the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., jacking up ticket prices for the numbers games every few years?

Lotto 6/49, from $1 to $2 a few years ago; Super 7 from $2 to the new 7/49 game at $5.

And what's with $50 million jackpots? Ontario surveys in the 1980s and 1990s indicated players favoured more $1 million prizes, not megabucks jackpots.

"The game that Canadian lottery players have been asking for is on its way!" says the OLG promo.

Where are the surveys that show Canadians want to spend $5 on a game that is almost identical to Super 7 - three lines per ticket, $1 for encore, seven numbers out of 49 and the same astronomical 28.6 million-to-one odds of winning the jackpot?

And where is the trust that government lotteries are acting in the best interests of the players?

Especially in Ontario, which has been plagued by lotto scandals, from insiders claiming millions, to faulty instant win tickets, to executives squandering taxpayers' money, leading to the recent ousting of the entire OLG board of directors.

How much corruption do lottery players need before drawing the line and who knew government could screw up the biggest cash cow in town?

Give us the simplicity and relative honesty of illegal bookies.

We'll put our $5 into Timmy's sub combos, not Lotto Max.

So we won't win $50 million. Who needs it? As the late, great Ed Monteith used to say about wealth, "You can only wear one shirt at a time."

The lotteries preach "play within your means" but what they really mean is keep digging deeper into your pockets and purses, folks.

You want to do that happy dance, don'tcha?

Or will you decide to sit this one out?

As for instant win ticket prices, that is another story.

24 gets facelift

Just in time for t.o.night's unveiling, Sun Media's free 24 Hours hit the streets in the GTA this morning with a facelift.

A Marketwire press release says the facelift gives 24 "a more contemporary and vibrant look for the fall season."

"We have decided to revamp 24 Hours to continue to meet and exceed our readers," says Chris Brockbank, VP, marketing for Sun Media.

The press release says 24 has been completely redesigned for a more modern and sleeker look, with new fonts, lively new colours and a new front-page logo.

A new look for 24 and a new afternoon newspaper.

It is a positive - and competitive - day for print media.

t.o.night today

Today is the day to welcome t.o.night, Toronto's new free afternoon glossy newspaper and former Sun Media employees are represented at the paper.

A story says Jodi Isenberg, formerly with the Toronto Sun, is on board as editor-in-chief. She was at the Sun for 12 years.

The paper will be distributed downtown between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and early reviews of the newcomer from TSF readers would be appreciated.

We're not sure if t.o.night's web site will be mirroring content of the weekday free newspaper. It hasn't as of 3:14 p.m.

Break a leg, ladies and gents.

Any new print media product is a welcomed effort.

Short shorts

She's baaaaack. Linda Leatherdale, ousted from her longtime job as Money Editor in December, returns to the Toronto Sun this Friday and Sunday in a fall new homes and condos preview section. The Sun's Money section hasn't been the same without her.

Legendary Sun cartoonist Andy Donato is on the mend following a hip replacement operation. Andy, planning to be back on the golf course later this month, says he had the "new titanium, 500-pound coil spring job installed, guaranteed to give me a 300-yard drive."

John Paton has joined the Journal Register Co. board of directors. JRC is out of bankruptcy and is now a private U.S. media company. John, who is also chairman and CEO of impreMedia in New York, notes he started at the Toronto Sun as a copy boy a year after the Sun hired Bob Jelenic, who headed JRC before dying of cancer last December.

Confirm or deny: A TSF tipster says all newspaper buildings owned by Quebecor are for sale, with buildings to be leased back to Sun Media if negotiable. "It must make some sort of sense to the company to do that and may save them money, though I don't know how," says the tipster.

Congrats to John Hanley, a freelance photographer, for his latest Toronto Sun fire photo awards. John, 23, has found his photojournalism niche - while still in school - with dramatic fire photos and firefighters are applauding his work. Young, with an eye. Treat him well.

A redesigned front page for all Sun Media broadsheets suck the last of any originality out of the newspapers, says a TSF tipster. "There are boxes on the page where you have to fit everything," says the tipster. "The page will not allow any creativity at all."

Friday, 4 September 2009

Cold Cases

The Toronto Star's captivating four-part cold case series updating a few of the unsolved murders of Toronto women was an example of what could be done with a weekly print media Cold Case column.

It would take at least one dedicated reporter to work his or her way through cold case files, but readers - and police - would be tuned in faithfully throughout the year.

As the Star's Michele Henry noted in Part 1 of the cold case series, there are about 300 unsolved murders in the GTA since the 1960s. Ample numbers to generate Cold Case columns for several years.

Add cold case files from other jurisdictions across Ontario and you could make a career out of cold case reviews, as Max Haines made a career out of writing about famous crimes.

You need someone with a passion for crime writing and for detail. Another Haines, or another Jocko Thomas. It is a natural Sun series, but they don't have any bodies to spare for a dedicated weekly column.

The Star's cold case updates by Michele Henry and had our attention from the first profile on Sunday and kept us reading every line through Wednesday. That is reader appeal. We'd be interested in knowing if the Star's street and vendor sales improved during the series.

The Star and the Globe have the manpower and the space to do a weekly Cold Case column justice. And perhaps the cash to offer readers a reward should new information lead to an arrest.

Fans of America's Most Wanted have helped capture more than 1,000 fugitives and have met the challenges of numerous unsolved cold cases.

Ontario newspaper readers, given the opportunity, could put a dent in Ontario's unsolved cases.

Buckland at MSN

Jason Buckland, one of the numerous Black Tuesday Toronto Sun layoff casualties last December, has landed on his feet at the Toronto-based MSN Money blog.

The former Sun reporter is one of three co-authors of the financial blog and is profiled in a bio that reads:

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date.

After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with the financial pedigree of Warren Buffett – that is, if by “vast corporate wealth” you mean “familiarity with the overdraft charge” and by “investment legend” you mean “pyramid scheme target.”

He moved to Toronto from his hometown of London, Ont., in 2004.

This has been another TSF Where Are They Now? posting.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Peterborough safe?

Ed Arnold, managing editor of Sun Media's Peterborough Examiner, says changes, there have been a few, but people who say his paper is folding are drug prone.

He posted the following online:

Wow. Being in the news business for 38 years I have heard almost every rumour imaginable, but the latest one about The Examiner closing is a dandy obviously being spread by delirious people.

The next time someone tells you The Examiner is closing or none of its work is being done here ask them what drugs they are on. Then ask the person spreading this garbage for the names of their sources because someone should call the police to search for hallucinogenic drugs.

Maybe some information will help. We moved the printing to our company's plant in Islington in July. It is a modern facility that allows crisper, better printing and allows us to use colour photos and advertising on every page for the first time in The Examiner's history. It's not the first time we have been printed elsewhere; we were once printed in Belleville.

The printing plant does not lay out the pages, or write the headlines, or gather photos or edit any of the local news or sports. That is all done here as it has been done since 1847.

We have changed our look, even Pepsi does that occasionally, and we share news pages throughout the company's newspapers. Many of Peterborough's stories and photos now appear throughout Canada in newspapers owned by our company. We have their resources available and they have ours.

Some readers don't like our new format, others do. That's the nature of change.

We have reduced and cut some expenses and we have lost some valuable, hard-working employees.

Business people make business decisions to help the bottom line. That's what has happened here. In case these rumour mongers haven't noticed, the economy, while starting to pick up, hasn't been the greatest throughout the world, and change has become constant in most businesses.

The Examiner is not leaving town as others might hope.

We continue to give our readers more news about Peterborough and area than any media outlet, any organization, any company in the world, and we will continue to do this as well as making sure a diverse range of opinions are read for lively debate to continue in the local paper.

Another rumour is The Toronto Sun owns The Examiner. The Examiner is not owned by The Toronto Sun.

Quebecor Inc. owns this paper as well as The Toronto Sun,as well as newspapers in Ottawa, London, Belleville, Barrie, Brantford and dozens of other cities across Canada who all share their resources.

We may move from The Kingsway in the future because our present facility, without the press, may be too big for us, but it won't be out of Peterborough.

We are still your daily newspaper which also offers a website full of breaking local news, photographs, videos and advertising. And we still keep watch over government decisions and spending.

Our priority is, and will always be, local news.

This isn't about to change.

So the next time you hear someone saying The Examiner is closing, ask for their sources and then ask if they need medical attention for their drug use.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

And THAT rumour

A summer intern at a competing media conglomerate walks into a Toronto corner store and during a conversation the owner says:

The Toronto Sun is planning to fold into 24 Hours, which will be free, except for a weekend edition.

So a free Sun/24 weekdays and possibly a paid Sunday Sun on weekends?

With that scenario, Sun readers beyond the GTA would have to say farewell to the weekday Sun. They are not going to transport newspapers to the boonies to give them away.

As our source says, the Sun/24 Hours merging rumour has been rattling around for several years and wondered if TSF has heard anything new.

We haven't, but the rumour just won't die, despite PKP's assurances the Toronto Sun will not be merged with 24 and become a free newspaper.

It was probably just a coincidence the rumour, from another source, surfaced weeks after the Toronto Sun shrank in size and now mirrors 24.

A free Toronto Sun would be a bonus for readers, but it would no doubt cost them some of the popular Sun columnists and features they now enjoy daily.

The feeling of some TSF tipsters is profitable Quebecor Media is preparing to unleash another round of cutbacks this fall, including newspaper closures.

There is no peace of mind for Sun Media employees who have survived a decade of Quebecor cutbacks. We empathize with them, one and all.

And last December's Black Tuesday, when 600 jobs were cut across the Sun Media chain, has not yet marked its first anniversary.

Slipping & sliding 2

A TSF tipster says Sun Media's Welland Tribune is fading fast.

"Two more people were let go from the Tribune. One helped out in circulation and the press room.

"The other was a part-time (but worked almost more like a full time) person in reception/classified.

"The paper will be closing its two satellite offices in Port Colborne and Pelham in the very near future and moving the reporters from those two offices into a crowded (space-wise, not body-wise) newsroom.

"Receptionists from both offices are being moved to Welland as well when the offices close."

Slipping & sliding

A TSF tipster re Sun Media's Brantford Expositor:

"Brantford Expositor Update

"Like Rats Deserting a Sinking Ship . . .

"People are leaving The Expositor faster than anyone can throw farewell parties.

"A month ago, the advertising manager announced he had a great job at the local casino.

"Right after that guy's good-bye piss-up, the circulation manager packed up his desk with no notice and left for a local press operation that seems to be ready for major expansion.

"Two days after that, the assistant production manager, who is also the general IT guy, quit.

"Today, the advertorial copy-writer handed in her notice and we found out the advertising manager left the casino after one day and is now at the local independent press. Who will be next? Are they recruiting? How much do they pay? Sign us up.

"It's an obvious sign of competition coming and with our quality going down we're giving the competition an easy start."