Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ryerson J-805 @ 30

Mark Bonokoski, a print media vet, says the Ryerson course he has taught for four years will soon be spiked.

"It is called Journalism 805," Mark writes in his Toronto Sun column.

"By the end of this semester, after full-time faculty member April Lindgren gives it the last rites, it will no longer exist."

Mark writes about the technological influences affecting print media and the downsizing of his beloved tabloid.

"The number of empty desks in the newsroom far outnumber those that are now occupied, all due to the various convergences and re-positionings that led to the layoffs and buyouts that fall into the seemingly benign category of downsizing.

"But downsizing hurts. It hurts to see someone being forced to pack up his or her desk because their 'position' is no longer deemed necessary, or because seniority falls two months shy of union security.

"It hurts even more when you know them personally, and hurts worse when you know their personal struggles as fellow human beings and not simply as payroll numbers or items on a spread sheet.

"But that’s the name of the game today."

A recommended read.

A little more optimistic is an op-ed piece by John Cruickshank, publisher of the Toronto Star.

In it, he says "it's not the end of our business. It's just the end of our business as usual."

We'd like to see some circulation figures for Toronto's four paid dailies during the first two weeks of the earthquake coverage in Haiti.

If sales were flat, then there is a need to be concerned about the future of print journalism.

But if sales spiked, it means print is not on life support and good old-fashioned, on-the-ground journalism is what readers want for their money.

We're cheering for the survival of print in some form after the Internet dust settles, preferably smaller, independent newspapers out from under the weight of conglomerate mismanagement.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

New Intell blogs

Two Belleville Intelligencer staffers have launched new blogs.

Dave Vachon, the paper's multi-media editor, launched his blog a couple of weeks ago. His intro reads:

"My blog will focus on my topics of interest: techonology (yes, I'm a geek), sports, music, entertainment, news, etc.

"I am also a reporter. If you want a story covered feel free to send me an e-mail. (The only caveat is I don't cover beats covered by other Intelligencer reporters - the last thing I want is W. Brice McVicar stomping on me for doing something city hall-related."

It is a mixed bag.

Among his early postings are links to Lucas Oleniuk's impressive photo coverage of Haiti for the Toronto Star and a North Bay Nugget photo of Stephen Harper toilet paper.

Meanwhile, the second new blog, by sportswriter Paul Svoboda, is strictly sports.

All kinds of sports.

His first 15 posts include hockey, football and basketball.

The new Sun Media bloggers have been added to TSF's growing list of Family Bloggers.

WinSun Speaks

The Winnipeg Sun now has online audio updates advising readers what to look for in the next day's edition.

"Assistant Managing Editor Doug Lunney gives you Saturday's news, entertainment and sports lineups in the Winnipeg Sun," says the Friday recording.

Google searches failed to find recordings for Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton so it appears to be a first for Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Sun columnist Laurie Mustard has been recording Sun Speaks clips, with brief commercials, since December 2008.

We're not sure when Sun Speaks previews were added, but thumbs up for content previews and the personal touch by newsroom staff.

The Toronto Sun could easily follow with Sun Speaks audio replays of Mark Bonokoski's Moose FM commentaries.

Friday, 29 January 2010

News changes

The St. Catharines Standard is losing Steve Gallagher to the Brantford Expositor, says a TSF tipster.

The tipster says, Gallagher, a former Editor of the Year in St. Catharines, is leaving to become the new city editor at the Expositor.

All the best.

Speaking of changes, Darren "Woody" McGee has gone for the cycle in landing a job at the Globe and Mail.

The former Toronto Sun ace editor was lost to the Star in the spring of 2008. He moved to the National Post a few months ago and is now heading for the Globe.

As Toronto newspapers go these days, the Globe is the place to be.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

New city editor

Congrats to Jonathan Kingstone, the Toronto Sun's new city editor.

Move up from assistant city editor, Jonathan replaces Kevin Hann, who was recently appointed deputy editor.

Both Kevin and Jonathan paid their dues as general reporters at 333 and it is comforting to watch homegrown journalists moving up the ranks.

With Kevin being added to the Comment section masthead as deputy editor, the editorial side is now top heavy with newsroom pros.

That's Hann alongside James Wallace, interim editor-in-chief; Rob Granatstein, editorial page editor, and Lorrie Goldstein, senior associate editor.

Four out of five ain't bad.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Quebecor printing

From king of the hill in international printing circles to a negative, financial page obit.

That's the story of the former Quebecor World as described yesterday by Roberto Rocha of the Canwest News Service.

"What was once the No. 1 printer in the world will become a piece of what was once No. 3 as World Color Press - formerly Quebecor World - merges with rival Quad/Graphics Inc.," he writes.

"This merger marks the epilogue in the tempestuous history of Quebecor World, a Montreal company that dominated the world of printing, withered into bankruptcy and re-emerged with a different name last July."

With Quebecor World now history, that leaves PKP - and us - with Quebecor Inc., Quebecor Media, QMI Agency, Sun Media and Osprey Media in the cluttered visible brands loop.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

SONG & Brad +2

Brad Honywill has been acclaimed for another two-year term as president of CEP Local 87-M (SONG), extending his leave from the Toronto Sun newsroom.

Brad says there will be an election in March for the Local's third vice-president, with Denise Cyr of the House of Commons Broadcast Unit and Stuart Laidlaw of the Toronto Star in the running.

The new executive will have a full slate of Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild negotiations later this year, including five Sun Media newspapers and the Toronto Star.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Kevin Hann

Veteran Toronto Sun staffer Kevin Hann is certainly pulling his weight at 333 these days.

He is listed as city editor in the Page 2 directory and as the new deputy editor in the Comment section's masthead.

As mentioned previously, James Wallace is now interim editor-in-chief.

Congrats to Kevin. Can we assume the newsroom is looking for a new city editor to replace him?

Meanwhile, Sun Media is in the hiring mode, with an editor needed for the magazine division in Kingston and page builders in Brockville.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Donato deux

For the second consecutive winter, fans of veteran Toronto Sun cartoonist Andy Donato are down to Sundays only for his priceless cartoons.

They will have to wait, as they did last year, until spring before the cartoons he has been contributing for almost 40 years, return to to the Sun weekdays.

One cartoon in these eventful times - Haiti, Harper, Obama etc. - just doesn't cut it for Sun readers who have been paying more for less for several years.

Who's running Sun Media these days? NBC?

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Haiti's Kiki

It is this still shot of Kiki Joachin's miraculous rescue from the rubble in Haiti seven days after the earthquake that AmeriCares is using to encourage donations.

The photo - the Toronto Star got it right with front page play Friday - was snapped by veteran New York freelance photographer Matthew McDermott, He describes the emotion of the moment for CNN's Jeanne Moos.

McDermott is also interviewed in a UK Times story out of New York.

It is THE shot to beat among the many potential photojournalism competition award entries for 2010

McDermott's photo talents also shone in the days following 9/11.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Re Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who turned down an opportunity to become Surgeon General in Barack Obama's White House, is another CNN journalist working both sides in Haiti.

Gupta. 40, has been putting down his pen to provide medical care in deplorable conditions for more than seven days and nights, Twittering his experiences along the way.

The National Post's Kathryn Blaze Carlson caught the complexity of Gupta's journalist/doctor/Tweeter assignment alongside Anderson Cooper in Haiti this week.

As noted by Carlson, Gupta, an American brain surgeon, is not alone in the dual efforts.

"CBS' Jennifer Ashton wears scrubs and has reported from a clinic in an airport cargo building, and ABC's Richard Besser was filmed delivering a baby in a park."

What we haven't read in the first eight days of earthquake coverage is how media reps are being housed and fed; their mode of transportation; whether they are providing medical supplies and food and water while on their daily treks?

Yesterday, Gupta reported on how he went to the airport with a cameraman and left with a small bag of medical supplies for a local clinic. Why didn't they leave with numerous bags?

We've been watching daily television reports on a seniors home with about 40 residents in dire need of food, water and medical attention. Are reporters returning with bottles of water and other supplies?

The world is watching and frustrated as hell by the lack of a swift, coordinated effort. It is a disturbing shortfall in humanitarian aid.

Tonight's televised financial aid efforts might suffer from continuing coverage of millions of dollars worth of supplies sitting at the airport while thousands of Haitians die from lack of medical care, food and water.

Perhaps media reps have done their jobs too well in highlighting the daily plight of Haitians while befuddled Haitian, United Nations and American chiefs work on the "logistics" of aid distribution.

You would think there would be more clarity in the American effort following Katrina and all of the post-Katrina debacle analysis.

How about helicopters, helicopters and more helicopters within the first few days to airlift skids loaded with medical supplies, water and food?

And Americans should be humble enough to take notes from Canadians, Israelis, Cubans and others on natural disaster relief needs and response times.


As one observer said early in the coverage: "Just because you are poor and black, it doesn't mean you are dangerous."

There has been violence, but deprive anyone of water and food for a week . . .

PKP & unions

Philippe Gohier over at provides a revealing stat involving PKP and Quebec unions.

His article focuses on an open letter from PKP published in his French-language Journal de Quebec "blasting unions for hampering the province’s economic progress."

The heading: Why Péladeau’s anti-union plea is more than a bit disingenuous

Gohier writes:

"Perhaps no other Quebec employer has as gleefully locked out its employees as Québecor has in recent years. To wit: the ongoing, year-old lock-out at the Journal de Montréal, the 16-month-long lock-out of workers at the Journal de Québec between 2007 and 2008, the year-long lock-out of Vidéotron employees in 2002.

"In fact, since 2002, Québecor has resorted to locking out unionized employees no less than 10 times."

An unsettling stat for the Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild as it prepares to negotiate new contracts for five Sun Media papers in Ontario later this year, including the Toronto and Ottawa Suns.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Anderson Cooper

And let's hear it for CNN's Anderson Cooper who put his video camera down during a street melee to help a boy who had been struck in the head by a brick in Port-au-Prince.

Found this clip on Mashable - The Social Media Guide and it comes with comments about the role of the media in desperate situations. Should they isolate themselves, or get involved.

The 90 or so comments posted generally applaud Cooper for getting involved.

Said Krystal Ortiz:

"Preservation of human life should always take precedence over 'the independence required for good journalism.' To be a good journalist, one must be human."

We second that emotion.

Haiti rescue

This brief NBC video clip, courtesy of Ben Barkay, (we'll know tomorrow if there are still photos) says it all about never giving up on rescue work beyond calculated life expectancy.

He's eight years old, trapped alive with a 10-year-old sister for seven days in the earthquake rubble, and as he is rescued, spreads his arms and smiles to the applause and cheers of rescue workers and bystanders.

This Haitian boy, arms wide and smiling, should become a poster boy for rescue workers worldwide. Seven days and experts say hope fades after three. Thankfully, trained rescue teams don't surrender to probabilities.

Haiti fronts: 1

And then there was one . . .

Ottawa was the only Sun to go with a Haiti front page today as media coverage in the aftermath of the earthquake began its second week.

The Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton Suns went local.

The misery in Haiti hasn't subsided, with another jolting aftershock hitting today. The chaos continues.

Media on the ground say the delay of food, water and medical supplies continues to claim lives. CNN reporters have stopped short of accusing Haitian government officials of intentionally slowing international relief efforts.

The Israeli medical team that set up a medical camp on Day 2 has put the American medical effort to shame, but one news report said Haitian officials do not want more medical tents.

Medical supplies have been delayed and Doctors Without Borders doctors have been having difficulty landing at the airport and getting to the injured.

Why is that happening? Are the dead and buried less of a burden on the government than the walking wounded?

There are some serious questions to be asked by the media in week two of the relief efforts. Ask them now while the world is watching, not at some future inquiry into relief effort failures.

Oh crap!

Every 30 years or so, a Toronto Sun columnist tackles the sensitive topic of workplace washrooms.

McKenzie Porter
did it in 1976 and Mike Strobel does it again today.

The freedom to roam six floors and 31 washrooms at 333 in search of a little loo privacy is coming to an end with the new owners restructuring the building, says Mike.

"Soon, that will be impossible," he writes. "We’re being herded onto one floor, with six bathrooms, three each for men and women. That’s fine by the building code. But our roving days are done."

As Mike says, shit happens.

Shades of the infamous Potty Porter column that vets still talk about today.

Porter's column comments included:

"It is essential, of course, to provide water closets in all places of employment and public buildings for the use of persons who need them at odd times. But to encourage better habits in the general population each public water closet should carry on its half-door the notice: For Emergency.

"On the inside of the door, for the edification of the user, the following notice should be posted: "This Water Closet Is Provided For Persons Suffering From Temporary Irregularity of the Bowels. Healthy Persons Use the Water Closet At Home Where It Is Possibly To Wash The Body Before Adjusting the Dress."

The walls in the 31 washrooms at 333 had stories to tell other than stall whiz and bowel movements. Some couches in the ladies rooms were slept on and there were reports of some hanky panky.

Those lazy, crazy loo days are over.

One floor, six washrooms. That's taking one for the team nearby.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Canwest cheer

Lise Lareau, president of the 6,000-member Canadian Media Guild, welcomes word of an offer from a consortium interested in purchasing three major dailies from Canwest.

News reports say a group of investors wants to purchase the National Post, Montreal Gazette and Ottawa Citizen. The group is led by former Senator Jerry Grafstein.

Lareau tells readers of her -30- blog:

"What's so encouraging about this news is that not only does the group have background in the business (Grafstein was a founder of Citytv in Toronto, Ray Heard used to be an editor at the Montreal Star then he was an executive at Global TV and Beryl Wajsman is editor of a weekly newspaper in Quebec), they are actually talking about content!

"The three are not talking about "synergies", not making this about bottom-line cost-effective delivery of news on all sorts of platforms. That's the kind of talk that led to Canwest's troubles."

We couldn't have said it better, Lise.

Time to dismantle media conglomerates and return control of the news to "news" people.

Synergies. We are so tired of reading that word in Quebecor press releases.

Media in Haiti

One week, tens of thousands of casualties and countless tears later, print, broadcast and new media around the world continue to focus on the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Collectively, you could say coverage of the natural disaster has been media's finest hour, from the haunting scenes captured by photographers and videographers to countless spoken and printed words.

We can't say the same for the bureaucrats and strategists who have allowed precious water, food and medical supplies arriving daily to be stockpiled while the thirsty, the hungry and the injured desperately await the cavalry.

It is the plight of the poor and the black in post-Katrina New Orleans magnified thousands of times and frustrating beyond words.

Print media has excelled in the aftermath of the earthquake, holding its own in the competition for attention, but something has been missing in the Toronto newspapers - The Big Guns.

We were expecting to see the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford, the Star's Rosie DiManno and one of the Toronto Sun's high-profile columnists assigned to Haiti.

That's not to say the Globe and Star teams dispatched to Haiti have not done a herculean job in covering the story day after day. It is just surprising that Blatch and Rosie are not contributing.

As for Sun Media, we would have sent two friends of the Canadian Armed Forces - Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington and Cobourg's ace photographer Pete Fisher - to Haiti , catching a free ride with the troops.

Again, that is not to downplay the words and photos from Ottawa Sun photographer Andre Forget and other QMI contributors dispatched to Haiti.

In the next week or so, there will be fewer Haiti front pages and the coverage will subside, but thanks to the media, we will not forget the people and their plight.

There have been so many visuals from Haiti, but one that stands out was a photo snapped by Gerald Herbert of the Associated Press after Redjeson Hausteen Claude, 2, was rescued from a collapsed home by Belgian and Spanish rescuers.

It is the frame where the boy sees his mother minutes after being rescued. A mother and son reunion that tugs at the heart and speaks volumes for the heroic efforts of rescue teams.

Photographers wanting to know more about Gerald Hebert and his camera techniques can listen to a 2008 interview recorded by Inside Digital Photo while he was on the U.S. election campaign trail.

During the 30-minute interview, Herbert talks about previous visits to Haiti while working for the New York Daily News and Washington Times a decade ago.

He said then that Haiti, inhabited by some of the poorest people in the world, doesn't get a lot of ink and that motivated him to risk the bullets and violence of the dictatorship.

"To me that is the glory of photojournalism - informing people of other peoples' plight."

Little did he know his photojournalism would return him to Haiti for the worst of their prolonged nightmare.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton . . .

The Toronto Sun went with a local earthquake story and photo on Monday.

The Ottawa Sun went with a rescue photo

Calgary stayed the course with an Evil Erupts headline

Edmonton went with the same photo and headline

Monday, 18 January 2010

TorSun wrap

Haiti earthquake coverage in the Suns on Sunday remained strong, with a rare Toronto Sun wrap and another Calgary Sun heart-tugger.

The Winnipeg Sun went local for front page story and photo.

The Toronto Sun went with a rare, eight-page wrap

The Ottawa Sun ran a similar photo/headline, but not a wrap

The Calgary Sun shone with Small Mercies headline and photo

The Edmonton Sun went with local headline and same Haiti photo

The Winnipeg Sun's front page story/photo was local with a Haiti throw

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Awards info

Reliable sources say Sun Media staffers can submit their work for newspaper competition awards but all at their own expense.

"Journalists can enter awards, but must pay any entrance fees personally," says one source.

Entrants who win awards must also pay any expenses incurred to attend awards ceremonies.

So Sun Media's investment in showcasing the best of the best is nil.

But count on Sun Media to proudly tell readers employees have won local, provincial and national awards.

For those who submit 2009 entrees, all the best.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Chaos fronts

The Sun tabloids stood out once again in the sea of newspaper front pages from around the world with "Chaos" and "Total Chaos" headlines.

Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg went with "Chaos"

Edmonton and Calgary went with "Total Chaos"

Solid tabloid news fronts that capture the growing desperation of Haitians in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Kudos to the Canadian government for announcing seven more helicopters will be sent to Haiti.

Within hours of Tuesday night's earthquake, it was known the Port-au-Prince port and roads leading to and from it were heavily damaged and a swarm of helicopters would be beneficial.

It must be deja vu for the thousands of poor, black survivors of Katrina who waited days for George W. and Co. to come to their rescue in New Orleans.

New Orleans refuges must be puzzled by the presence of George W. in the earthquake fundraising efforts with the tireless and more productive Bill Clinton.

Meanwhile, is it looting when hungry and thirsty Haitians waiting for the cavalry, delayed for days because of "logistics" at the airport, begin stealing the necessities of life?

Do you drive away with a truck loaded with food when hungry and desperate Haitians become unruly, or do you unload the truck and then leave?

They need food and water, not a lecture in the rules of civil obedience.

Delays in getting the world's food, water and medical supplies to the earthquake victims is another Katrina, but on a much larger scale.

Odds & ends

Musical chairs: A TSF tipster says Bill Pierce, the Toronto Sun's entertainment editor, is the new sports editor. Dave Fuller, the veteran sports editor, is now a columnist. A sports columnist, no doubt. No mention of a replacement in entertainment.

Another TSF reader writes: "Has anyone heard there's a ban on all Sun papers entering awards this year? That means no ONAs, no NNAs, etc. as the company refuses to pay memberships or entry fees for same. It's the word here and I'd assume everyone in the realm has been given the same edict."

Kudos to Mike Strobel and his readers for raising $28,791.50 in the Variety Village Christmas Fund appeal. It was the Sun columnist's second run at the Christmas fund since the death of Sun sports legend George Gross. Impressive bookkeeping, Mike.

The Journal de Montreal lockout of 250 employees will be a year old Jan. 24, proving readers of a wise lot. In a poll last January, 98% of readers said the lockout would continue into 2010. Still four months shy of the Journal de Quebec lockout/strike.

CEP Local 87-M (SONG) meets in Kitchener next Wednesday to elect a president, secretary, treasurer and six vice-presidents. Brad Honywill, on leave from the Toronto Sun, is seeking re-election as president.

Kevin Slimp of the Institute of Newspaper Technology in British Columbia writes about "Ontario papers doing much more than surviving" in a recent blog posting. He's talking about a group of newspapers based in Prescott.

We again echo Jim Slotek's sentiment: Why do TSF readers who no longer work for Sun Media feel the need to post here anonymously? As Jim asked a recent anonymous casualty: "Are you afraid they'll hunt you down and lay you off again for fun?"

Friday, 15 January 2010

Horror & Agony

The Sun tabloids were again five for five with Haiti fronts on Day 3 of earthquake coverage,.

Three went with the same "Agony" headline and photo and two with the same "The Horror" headline and photo.

Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa fronts

Toronto and Winnipeg fronts

"The Horror" says it all.

Meanwhile, the frustration of armchair viewers during the aftermath of Katrina is being duplicated with media coverage of the earthquake.

Most frustrating from our armchair has been the absence of helicopters airlifting medical, food and water supplies from the airport into the city.

Tons of supplies at the airport - but where have the helicopters been for two days?

On the media front, why give an inch of copy, or a second of airplay, to the views of a senile so-called Christian whose time has long passed? GMA lost us on that front.

Canadians should be proud of its contributions to the earthquake effort and the extensive multi-media coverage.

"The Horror" has just begun.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Five for 5

All five Suns in the Sun Media chain of tabloids went with Haiti earthquake fronts today, but the Toronto Sun stood alone for original layout.

The Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg Suns all went with the same photo and "Tears For Haiti" headline.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Some Suns nail it

Editors at the Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg Suns got it right today with their front page news priorities. Was there any doubt the devastating earthquake in Haiti was THE story?

Not so impressive are the Toronto and Calgary Sun fronts, with Toronto editors going for heroics in a local accident for its main story and Calgary going with an NHL story.

As usual with major breaking news, the Toronto Sun will no doubt catch up with front page photo coverage tomorrow. The flagship tabloid certainly has lost its edge.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

We're No. 184

Newspaper reporters and photographers rank in the dungeon level in a Wall Street Journal "Best and Worst Jobs 2010" report.

Reporters ranked 184th, between seaman and stevedore, and photographers ranked 189th, between firefighter and butcher, for 2009.

Publication editors are 65th, between electrical engineer and electrical technician.

No. 1 on the best-to-worst list is actuary. No. 200 is roustabout.

It is a U.S. report so Canadian reporters and photographers might fare better in a homegrown study.

But how the Front Page workers have fallen in stature since the glory days of journalism.

The criteria mentioned in the Journal report on the study: Environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress.

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief at the London Free Press, looks at the positive side of the poor newspaper job rankings in an LFP blog posting.

"Despite all this, and despite the fact that many reporters have been jumping ship at an unprecedented rate in recent years, I think most find the unpredictability, stress, chaos, insanity, creativity, lunacy and other immeasurables of the industry exactly to their liking.

". . . most days. Or at least some . . ."

Monday, 11 January 2010

Edgar D @ 100

Edgar Dunning was co-owner of B.C.'s Ladner Optimist in 1968 when he took a chance on a green reporter from Ontario who was living in his '65 Chev and down to his last $50.

Well, that appreciative reporter spent five months working for Edgar Dunning and Ernest Bexley before moving on to the Richmond Review for a five-year stint and then the Toronto Sun for 19 years.

How often can you thank the people who played key roles in your newspaper years? The Dwayne Howes and Bob Britnells at the Toronto Star; the Bob Turnbulls at the Globe and Mail; the Edgar Dunnings and Mickey Carltons in B.C. and the Les Pyettes at the Toronto Sun?

Not enough.

So news that Edgar turned 100 last week and is still a story teller writing his Rambling column for the Ladner Optimist prompts another huge thanks four decades after bidding his paper farewell. (CBC News covered his 100th)

Dunning's father, Vincent, started the Weekly Optimist in 1922. His mother, Gertrude, took over the paper a year later after his gallivanting father took off for California.

Edgar sold part interest of the Optimist to the Bexley family in 1964 and the remainder in 1980. The Optimist is now a Canwest weekly with a one-man reference library on its staff.

Happy 100th, Edgar.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Canwest papers

Updated re CEP comments
The sell-off of Canwest newspapers could be the light at the end of the tunnel for print media in Canada if the papers are sold to private interests.

To have one of today's struggling media conglomerates buy all of the newspapers would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Canwest employees, including those at the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Regina Leader-Post, Ottawa Citizen, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Victoria Times-Colonist, Windsor Star, Vancouver's Sun and the Province, must be fretting about their futures.

And cringing at the thought of Quebecor's PKP keeping an eye on the Canwest pickings.

Torstar has also shown an interest in the wake of chopping Toronto Star and Metroland jobs.

It would be refreshing if all of the Canwest dailies and weeklies were purchased by private interests and managed by people with newsroom experience on their resumes.

Have you noticed how many of today's Sun Media publishers and CEOs are from advertising backgrounds, not newsrooms?

Freeing Canwest newspapers from the bonds of unstable, profit-motivated conglomerates would be a great day for journalism.

News reports suggest Canwest papers might be sold as a package deal. Why not attach a price to each and every newspaper, big and small, to encourage sales to people within the communities?

How much would it cost to buy the Windsor Star? Ottawa Citizen? Montreal Gazette? Calgary Herald? Richmond News? Commox Valley Echo?

Perhaps men and women with printer's ink in their blood and the core principles of journalism in their hearts might consider pooling their resources to buy papers in their community.

The other, less desirable scenario, is a conglomerate buys the complete package, eliminates newspapers that were in competition with its products and trims others to the core.

So, Canwest employees, we are thinking about the future of your newspapers and your jobs.

Bob McKenzie, publisher of the 152-year-old Victoria Times Colonist, says Canwest's bankruptcy filing will not affect readers and advertisers.

"You can read our commitment to the community on every page of this newspaper, and that is not going to change," he says in a message to readers.

But ask former Osprey Media/Sun Media employees about new owners and change.

It is all a matter of priorities.

As Peter Murdoch, vice president of media for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, notes in a press release:

"It is important to note these papers are profitable, but they were encumbered by the enormous debt of too ambitious ownership.

"We need responsible ownership who treat the papers with more respect than a simple gamble on the stock market."

Saturday, 9 January 2010

333 Loblaws?

An anonymous TSF reader says the first floor of the recently sold Toronto Sun building will become a Loblaws store later this year.

Everything from soup to nuts . . .

TorSun/Canoe staffers huddled in a rented corner of the second floor wouldn't have far to go for soups, salads and bottled water.

Makes us wonder how the remainder of 333, built in 1975 by the then independent tabloid, will be carved up by the new owner.

An employment agency on the sixth floor, where all of the Sun execs used to work their magic, would be convenient.

Friday, 8 January 2010


John Paton, whose print media career spans Toronto Sun copy boy to co-founder of impreMedia in the U.S., is on the move again.

Editor & Publisher's 2009 Publisher of the Year is the new CEO at the restructured Journal Register Co., effective Feb. 1.

"I have been a director of the company since August," Paton, 52, told TSF. "I will have a stake in the company as well."

As for impreMedia, a chain of Spanish-language newspapers he founded in 2004: "I will remain an investor and director of impreMedia and CEO until Jan. 29."

The Journal Register is no stranger to former Toronto Sun staffers. The late Bob Jelenic was its president and CEO from 1990 to 2007. He died of cancer at 55 in December 2008.

A Wall Street Journal story says New Jersey-based Journal Register publishes 19 daily newspapers, including the New Haven (Conn.) Register.

Paton says JRC is about the size of the old Sun Media prior to the sale to Quebecor.

It was one of a handful of newspaper companies to file for bankruptcy protection over the past year, says the Journal.

Le Devoir @ 100

The independent, French-language daily Le Devoir turns 100 on Sunday with an open house and other fanfare.

A Canadian Press story in the Winnipeg Free Press says publisher Bernard Descoteaux emphasizes the newspaper takes pride in the fact it's independently owned and operated.

As it should. Newspapers under the wings of floundering media conglomerates across Canada can only watch independent print media from the sidelines with envy.

As Descoteaux, publisher since 1999, told CP: "We are sheltered from certain influences. This independence gives us what I call 'freedom to think.' We are free to take positions.""

Tell us about it. The Toronto Sun was proud, prosperous and private from 1971 to 1982 when the decision was made to sell controlling interest to Maclean Hunter.

A decade after opening the door to bean counters, co-founder Doug Creighton was on the outside looking in and the rest is the sad history of the flagship tabloid and its siblings.

Le Devoir, published in Montreal, is not a major circulation daily - 28,000 weekdays, 45,000 on the weekend - but it has a faithful, Quebec-based "elitist" audience.

As the CP story says, the French-language daily has been read by the province's intellectual class since 1910.

That is focus.

Happy 100th, Le Devoir. And many more.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Romanelli out

TSF sources say Jack Romanelli was pink-slipped at the Toronto Sun today.

No further details were available, but in May 2008 it was rumoured Romanelli was brought into the Sun newsroom at the expense of two highly praised veterans, Tim Fryer and Darren "Woody" McGee.

Fryer and McGee were shown the door before Romanelli entered the building. Management described him as a newsroom manager, but his name was rarely mentioned by TSF tipsters.

(Fryer and McGee were quickly picked up by the Toronto Star. McGee recently moved on to the National Post sports department.)

Romanelli's previous print media stays were at the Montreal Gazette, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder and the defunct Halifax Daily News.

TSF won't be posting a couple of anonymous comments sent to us today. Suffice to say, the contributors sense Romanelli will not be missed in the newsroom.

More weekly spin

Sun Media's Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News in Alberta made the switch to the chain-wide cloned format yesterday.

Also new for the new year is a new editor, Ryan Frankson. The weekly's front page story reads, in part:

A brand new year means a brand new look for the Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News, as the publication adopts a new Sun Media-wide format for community papers.

Recent surveys completed by the company found that the design of a newspaper has a major impact on reader enjoyment. Guided by feedback obtained from readers, design changes were implemented for all Sun Media community papers, which has started today for the News.

The changes will provide readers with a more modern look, improved organization and easier readability.

"We are pleased to be implementing these design changes within the News," said Derek Pyne, group publisher of the Edmonton area for Sun Media and publisher of the News. "We are confident that our new design will be met with a positive reaction in our community."

NCIS logic

If you missed Tuesday night's NCIS, you missed a superb, subtle plug for print media.

It comes just after the credits, during an NCIS staff discussion about the Internet, with all of its pop-up ads, banner ads and other obstructions.

During the banter, Tony says he found something online and will send Ziva a link.

"No more links," says Ziva. "I have spent my entire morning sifting through all of this nonsense looking for something that matters. How hard is it for someone to tell me the news and bring it to me?

"There must be a better way," says Tony.

A split second later, Gibbs arrives and slaps down a newspaper.


Hear, hear Tina

First, a hasty link to Tina Brown's Things to Stop Bitching About in 2010 posting over at the The Daily Beast - link.

As she writes: "At least the Internet links to the things it steals."

But we digress.

What a load of Spam! American newspapers are dying mostly because they were so dull for so long a whole generation gave up on them. They needed to innovate back in the Fax Age of the 1980s but were too self-important and making too much money with their monopolies to acknowledge it.

In the U.K., there is a banquet of glorious newspapers to feast on in the morning despite the presence of the Internet. All of these papers look nothing like they did 15 years ago. Furrow-browed broadsheets like The Times of London and The Guardian got snappy new overhauls, cut down to a more modern-feeling tabloid size, with a use of pictures and color that's imaginative and striking and appealing to the younger demographic.

These "serious" papers are replete with sexy culture coverage and hip fashion stories as well as foreign reporting and brainiac columnists that make them a guilty pleasure to read.

It's one of the biggest fibs going that American newspapers are now being forced to give up their commitment to investigative reporting. Most of them gave up long ago as their greedy managements squeezed every cent out of the bottom line and turned their newsrooms into eunuchs.

As for the Internet thieving the bona fide news reporters' hard-worked stories, "Back at ya!" is all I can say. Online writers for years have had their stories ripped off by newspapers with no credit. At least the Internet links to the things it steals.

Whatever his views on this issue, by the way, Rupert Murdoch has greatly improved The Wall Street Journal. Leave it to an Aussie to give American journalism a swift kick in its down under.

New Barrie pub

The Barrie Examiner has a new publisher/general manager.

An Examiner story says David Zilstra, a 45-year-old Whitby native with 20 years of newspaper experience, introduced himself to staff on Monday.

"I'm one of those soldiers you can always count on," says Zilstra. "I have a commitment to the papers I manage, and I bring 20 years of experience here with me."

The paper says Zilstra got his media start in 1989 as a Napanee Guide sales rep and spent 16 years there, becoming advertising manager in 1993 and general manager in 1998. In 2005, he began managing four Algonquin Group papers - the Haliburton County Echo, Minden Times, Bancroft This Week and Barry's Bay This Week.

TorSun presses

The long-silenced Goss presses at the Toronto Sun are being dismantled this week, ending a 35-year presence at 333 King Street East.

Pardon oldtimers who lament the passing of an era when a bustling newsroom had ample staff, late night deadlines and full control of the presses for early morning replates.

We tear up these days as the newspaper we knew and loved is dismantled piece by piece, department by department.

A morning newspaper with all of the late-night sports scores, evening concert reviews, late-night local, national and international breaking news? Those were the days, my friends.

In the summer of 1975, the Sun's very own presses within the walls of a new three-storey building said it all for the rising of the tabloid.

The Sun wasn't yet four years old when it moved from the rented Eclipse Building space down the road. On-site presses at the then independent Toronto Sun represented success.

Employees and readers were eager to tour the new digs and viewing the presses that would lift the feisty tabloid to new heights was always a highlight.

Quebecor's new plant in Islington killed the nightly roar of the presses at 333 in 2008 and the dedicated pressmen who made them hum flawlessly for decades were shown the door.

TSF doesn't know the fate of the faithful presses at 333, but presses removed from other Sun Media newspapers have been shipped to Peru, far from the hands of any potential Sun Media competitors.

The Toronto Sun is now a shoulder-to-shoulder, second-floor tenant in the building, recently sold to an unidentified buyer for an undisclosed price.

PKP's late father was laughed out of 333 when he attempted to buy into the Sun in the 1970s.

Dammit, Rimmer, maybe Sun execs shouldn't have laughed.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Fairview spin

The positive spin of Sun Media management in the face of the dictated "weekly sameness" we have been talking about is admirable.

Take a read of how the Fairview Post, a weekly in Alberta, explains to readers changes to be made to the paper next Tuesday. TSF has highlighted a few comments in bold.

It reads:

In the more than 60 years the Fairview Post has been serving the Fairview area and surrounding communities, the paper has undergone a number of style and format changes and next week the evolution of the Post will take one more step forward.

The Jan. 12 edition of the Fairview Post will have a new look and new size. Post publisher Scott Fitzpatrick said that a number of readers have suggested that the Fairview Post change to a smaller, easier to read tabloid format, much like the Peace Country Sun, and given the cost of paper and printing these days the new smaller sized Fairview Post will be beneficial for everyone.

In addition to the smaller format the Fairview Post, a Sun Media publication, will be taking on a whole new look similar to other Sun Media publications. It's to keep a more uniform look along with its sister publications, Fitzpatrick pointed out.

He noted that the front page, the sports page and editorial page will have a new fresher look, but the paper itself will still cater to local news and issues that affect the area and its residents.

"If you can read about it in the Edmonton Sun or New York Times, I don't want it in the Fairview Post. We are a local newspaper and will continue to provide local coverage of people, politics, and issues concerning our home towns and the things that we need to be aware of," he said.

He also noted that subscription prices will remain the same, and that the new smaller pages will help advertisers in that their ads will now have more page dominance as there will be fewer ads on the page.

"Even though the paper size will change, we are still in the business of recording Fairview and area's history one week at a time."

End of story.

Let us know how keeping external Sun Media/QMI content out of the Fairview Post works out for you this year.

Monday, 4 January 2010

PKP 7M 08

PKP pocketed $7 million in 2008 as the head of Quebecor, putting him on the Top 100 list of highest paid Canadian CEOs, says a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report released today.

"The total average compensation for Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs was $7,352,895 in 2008 - a stark contrast from the total average Canadian income of $42,305," says Hugh Mackenzie, the report's author. "They pocketed what takes Canadians earning an average income an entire year to make by 1:01 pm January 4 - the first working day of the year.

"During the worst of economic years, the average earnings of Canada’s highest paid 100 CEOs were 174 times greater than Canadians earning an average income."

Mackenzie's report places PKP at 35th, with a salary of $1.2 million, $5,769,562 in options and $15,900 pension.

Thomas Glocer at Thomson Reuters Corp. tops the list at $36.5 million. Robert S Pritchard at Torstar Corp. is 84th at $4.1 million.

Media employees in the trenches can learn how long it takes corporate CEOs to earn their annual salaries with CCPA's Salary Calculator.

If your annual salary is $75,000, the calculator says by 2:17:51 p.m. tomorrow, the average of the top 100 Canadian CEOs has already earned your salary of $75,000 for the entire year.

Tough economic times, indeed.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Odds & ends

Geoff Nixon, a News staffer, kicks off 2010 with a review of the newspaper business in North America and the ongoing woes of print media. Former Toronto Sun vet Ian Harvey, laid off in 2001, was interviewed by Nixon for the story, a recommended read.

The Toronto Sun has changed the status of James Wallace from deputy editor to "interim editor-in-chief." The Sun has been without an editor-in-chief since Lou Clancy left in November. Having a deputy editor without an editor never made sense.

Did you notice the Jay Leno Headlines candidate in the Toronto Sun for two consecutive days? In a Boxing Day Bash ad for Select Furniture: "Microfibre Recliner Chairs, $249. Reg $249." A steal.

The hunter who killed Minnie the pet deer up Madoc way in December was fined $2,000 and had his hunting licence suspended for a year. Minnie's death was the subject of a Mark Bonokoski column, but the Northumberland Today court story did not mention the dead deer was Minnie.

Patrons of the Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt Toronto not only have a panoramic view of the city, they can also view "a collection of Andy Donato sketches featuring famous Canadian literati, including Mordechai Richler and Margaret Atwood," on the walls.

Sun Media's Welland Tribune, hard hit by layoffs and cutbacks, was hit again on the weekend - by a thief. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken overnight from a main floor vault at the Tribune's Main Street office. Also missing: a quantity of cheques and Seaway Mall gift certificates.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Re Michelle Lang

Recommended reading today is Peter Worthington's column on the death of Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang in an Afghanistan bombing.

The column heading reads: There's a death in the family.

Worthington, a WW2 and Korean War vet, writes: "I did not know Michelle Lang - but in a way, all of us in the news business knew her.

"We feel we have lost one of our own, just as soldiers feel they've lost a comrade when someone they didn't know from another regiment is killed in action."

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Lang was the 20th journalist killed in Afghanistan since 1992 and 141 have been killed in Iraq since 1992.

Lang, the first Canadian reporter to be killed in Afghanistan, was one of 70 journalists killed worldwide in 2009, says CPJ.

And print media journalists killed worldwide top the 1992-2009 casualty list: Print, 57%; Radio, 27%; Television, 20%; Internet, 1%.

Lang's death, at 34 and in her prime, personalizes all of the stats for Canadian journalists.

As the heading for Worthington's column says, there has been a death in the family.