Saturday 31 March 2007

Guy's exit column

Guy Huntingford, the Calgary Sun's publisher for seven years and a 26-year Sun Media vet, was allowed to say farewell to readers and staff in a parting column today.

Guy, who got his start at the Toronto Sun as a systems analyst in 1981, is a gentleman about it all despite the circumstances of his departure, but he was allowed to bid adieu in the paper he loved.

The opportunity to say goodbye to colleagues and readers has been lacking at the Toronto Sun since the carnage began.

The absence of personal farewells, or at least stories about the departures, have left countless Sun readers wondering why favourite writers have suddenly vanished.

The absence of words in the Sun about the departures this week of high-profile reporter Al Cairns, popular columnist Valerie Gibson and former Raptors columnist Mike Koreen is sad and shameful.

Maybe some parting words will be in the Sunday Sun, but we sense the editors have been told to ignore the exodus of veteran staffers no matter how worthy they are of recognition.

The height of insensitivity followed the quiet departure last year of award-winning columnist Hartley Steward. His final Sun column on Father's Day, 2006, did not mention his departure. It took a column by Mark Bonokoski weeks later to give him a sendoff deserving of a key player in the success of the Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa Suns.

So bravo to the Calgary Sun for publishing Guy's farewell.

(Toronto Sun Family is here for all departing colleagues who want to vent or say goodbye. Comments about staffers who have left can be found here.)

Friday 30 March 2007

A reader's viewpoint

Toronto Sun Family has been focusing on in-house reports and comments about cutbacks, layoffs, firings, buyouts, resignations etc. since the blog was launched in December.

And now for something completely different, commentary about the woes of Sun Media since Quebecor's takeover - from a Sun reader.

A reader who echoes what some Sun vets have been thinking - let Quebecor go on its merry way with the remnants of the Toronto Sun, regroup and start anew as an independent print/Internet tabloid.

Kaeli Andersen, a Toronto Sun reader, writes:

"I'm so sorry to See all these people go. Valerie Gibson, Al Cairns, Mike Patton and Mike Koreen, as well as others I have not mentioned.

"This is just leaving a gaping hole in the Toronto Sun, a newspaper which is badly needed in this city. It's sad to see a newspaper go down the tubes like this. (The Toronto Star has an article on it

"Toronto needs a paper like the Sun. The Star is quite left-leaning, the Sun is more to the right. The city needs both papers in order to provide a balanced view.

"It is very sad to see this happening to what was a good paper. With the Sun gone, a huge gap would be left in the city's journalism circles, and with that, a balance in reporting.

"I hope one day a new paper will arise from the ashes of the Sun should it go under."

Kaeli Andersen

Thank you for your e-mail Kaeli.

The thought of telling Quebecor to take a hike and round up former and current employees for a new venture is exhilarating.

We can hear the cynics shouting "it can't be done," just as the Toronto Sun's founders heard the cynics when the tabloid was launched Nov. 1, 1971.

But it could be done, with the proven talents of Sun vets from all departments and with the financial backing of people who believe in the proven ways of the Toronto Sun.

Remain independent, focus on the proven print/Internet readership niche and enjoy being a newspaper that provides a quality product, with adequate staff and a hospitable work environment, just like the Sun of old.

The idea gives us goosebumps.

Talent lost to Quebecor's mayhem since 1999 represents hundreds of years of tabloid experience, so there would be no need for job applications and screenings.

This phoenix of a newspaper wouldn't have age restrictions now that the archaic forced retirement at 65 laws are history, so proven Sun talent of all ages could contribute.

As Ma Murray and other late, great legendary independent publishers in Canada's media history books clearly showed, you are never too old to be in the news biz.

It's a new game plan

The reason for the exodus of several key people from the Calgary Sun is crystal clear following this CCNMatthews press release:

Sun Media Expands Executive Role in Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta - (CCNMatthews - March 30, 2007) - Sun Media Corporation announced the appointment today of Gordon Norrie to the new executive role of Senior Group Publisher responsible for all the company's daily newspaper publishing operations in Edmonton and Calgary.

Craig Martin, executive vice-president, Western and Central Operations, Sun Media Corporation, said the new senior executive role will enhance the impact of best practices and expertise from the two major urban markets and community newspapers.

"Gord Norrie's in-depth knowledge of the Alberta business scene and its distinctive requirements will be an even stronger asset in this new role to improve our service to advertisers and business partners" said Mr. Martin.

Mr. Norrie will be publisher and chief executive officer of the Edmonton Sun, the Calgary Sun and the 24 hours dailies in both cities.

"With strong and experienced teams in both the Edmonton and Calgary operations, we intend to create efficiencies and opportunities that will generate greater benefits for our employees, shareholders and customers," said Mr. Norrie.

Mr. Norrie joined the Sun organization in 1985 and has served in positions including publisher, advertising director and general manager, in both Edmonton and Calgary. He and his wife have three children."

The announcement smacks of the next stage of the eventual merging of Sun and 24 Hours newspapers into free Sun/24 commuter tabloids.

The Calgary and Edmonton Suns now have a centralized publisher to go with the centralized editorial, entertainment, lifestyle pages.

Will Ontario follow, with a "Group Publisher" for the Toronto and Ottawa Suns, London Free Press and the 24s? Nothing appears to be beyond the realm in PKP's arena.

Quebecor's game plan is obviously geared to weeding out all of the people who devoted decades of their lives to buidling the tabloids from sod turnings on up.

Publisher resigns

Guy Huntingford has resigned as publisher and CEO of the Calgary Sun, effective today.

News of his resignation comes on a day when Toronto Star readers are reading Antonia Zerbisias' column about the fading Sun Media newspapers and the key people who are jumping ship.

Guy, a 26-year Sun Media vet and Calgary Sun publisher for seven years, announced his resignation in an e-mail to staff today:

"All Staff:

I have resigned.

I will be leaving today.

The corporate office asked that I wait until my last day before announcing that I am leaving. That provides very little time for me to say goodbye. I will try and get around to each dept before I go.

It has been my pleasure to work with all of you.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my 26 years and especially my last 7+ years as your Publisher. I have no plans at this writing except to relax and consider some next steps.

Thank you all for making my time at the Calgary Sun such an enjoyable one.



As publisher, Guy was highly visible to Calgary Sun employees and to readers. A recent Publisher's Message from Guy can be read here.

Guy began his career with Sun Media Corporation in September of 1981 when he joined the Toronto Sun as a systems analyst.

A Calgary Sun source says the "much loved" publisher's departure is the third resignation of key staff at the paper in the past month.

Chris Nelson, the paper's editor-in-chief, resigned in February and is now president of e-health for the Calgary Health Region.

Chris was with Sun Media for 25 years.

When Chris resigned, Guy told reporters "the paper's loss is the CHR's gain.

"First and foremost, Chris is the only executive editor I've encountered who had a true appreciation for the entire business, not just the business of editorial or words," Huntingford said.

"He understands the delicate balance between advertising, news, promotions and all the things that make the Calgary the great paper that he edited and built. He'll be sorely missed."

As Guy will be sorely missed.

The third key staffer to resign in the past month was Carson Ayckroyd, advertising director.

Re Michael Peake

When we talk about Sun veterans who have given their all over the decades, Michael Peake is among them. The award-winning photographer has been snapping photos for the Sun since 1975.

Michael has also been paddling canoes in the wilds of the Canadian north since the 1970s, with camera in hand, and we have just discovered his web site containing a wide selection of his breathtaking souvenirs.

The dozens of photos snapped from canoes and on land include scenic rapids, sunsets, waterfalls etc. (Two treasured wall hangings in this blogger's house are river scenes snapped by Michael on Northern Ontario canoe trips in the 1980s. They are forever mesmerizing. )

Michael is a rare breed. As a photographer, he has been fortunate enough to maximize his lens talents at work and at play.

The associate Sun photo editor is also editor and publisher of Che-Mun - The Journal of Canadian Wilderness Canoeing, a 12-page quarterly magazine devoted to opening up the wilds to canoe enthusiasts. Che-Mun online can be found here.

But when most Sun readers think of Michael circa 1986, they don't picture him paddling canoes in the wilds. They remember his photo of a bikini-clad model getting manhandled by a large tiger in a High Park photo shoot gone wrong.

That memorable front page Sun photo was published in newspapers and magazines around the world and won Michael a coveted 1986 National Newspaper Award for photography.

Michael is just one of many key Sun employees whose talents played a large part in the success of the tabloid. Viewing dozens of his photos online for the first time just called for another tip of the hat.

Thursday 29 March 2007

Say it ain't so

Word is Valerie Gibson's contract with the Toronto Sun was not renewed because some higher ups think she is too old to be writing about sex.

The multi-talented, 60-plus Valerie, writing candidly about sex and relationships in the Sun for more than two decades, learned Tuesday she is history.

If the age rumour is true, we are dying to hear the reaction of Sue Johanson, a Toronto-born recipient of the Order of Canada and a North American sex advice favourite on radio and TV talk shows. She has always been coy when it comes to her age, but a source says she just celebrated her 61st birthday on March 16.

And how about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, another media darling when it comes to talking frankly about sex on the air and in print? She will celebrate her 79th birthday on June 4.

So poppycock.

In 2007, the too old for sex talk mentality is flawed - and discriminatory.

Speaking of age, it is no secret Quebecor's favoured readership demographics are now ages 18 to 49. Toronto Sun Publisher and CEO Kin-Man Lee last week called it the "desired category."

We remember the days when the Toronto Sun was a newspaper for all ages, starting with grade school children. (Annual Halloween drawing contests became class projects to the delight of our young Sun readers, teachers and parents.)

Labelling men and women aged 18 to 49 as the "desired" readers is clearly telling people 50 and over they won't be getting their money's worth with the new content of the 53-cent Sun, so go buy the Star, the Globe or the Post.

For now, the always reliable Toronto Sun columnists are doing their share in catering to readers of all ages. Valerie Gibson just won't be among them now.

It's not that this tireless, red-headed "cougar" will be idled in print or on the air. As the author and broadcaster told Toronto Sun Family in an e-mail: "I have so many irons in the fire."

Burn on, Valerie. The Sun will be dimmer without you.

Remember the TV commercials last year, the ones profiling five Sun writers as "five good reasons to read the Toronto Sun?"

Make that four re Bill Brioux's forced exit
Make that three re Valerie's forced exit.

They won't be recycling those expensive commercials.

Our basic needs

Journalists just want to write.

Few among the last several generations of journalists picked up pad and pen as cub reporters with visions of becoming millionaires. Most leave hording of the millions to owners and investors.

Just give us a desk, a keyboard and other tools of the trade, fair wages and respect and you will be hard pressed to find employees who are more loyal to management.

Hundreds of reporters, columnists, editors, photographers and other employees throughout the tabloid found their Shangri-La at the Toronto Sun in the two decades before the bubble burst in 1992 with Doug Creighton's ouster.

Then along came Quebecor in 1999.

The Quebec-based media conglomerate has, in eight short years, decimated the Sun, slashing staff throughout the building and curbing most of the company benefits, including sabbaticals after 10 years service, profit sharing, stock options, Christmas bonuses etc.

What 62 Day Oners nurtured from the start on Nov. 1, 1971 and through the 70s, 80s and 90s, has been evaporating into thin air.

So we have been asking ourselves when will the once proud tabloid reach the point of no return? When will it be time for the Save Our Sun movement to throw in the towel?

When Al Cairns, Len Fortune and other gifted but frustrated veteran newsroom staffers who have given their all to the tabloid for decades begin to call it quits voluntarily, this is it.

We are teetering on the brink. Stay this tunnel vision course and the Miracle on King Street, an incredible North American media success story, will become only a memory.

Merge the remaining Sun staff with 24 hours, sell off 333 King Street East, move everything under one roof after the new printing presses roll this fall.

The dismantling of a dream newspaper spawned by Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt et al, will be complete.

We have empathy for the surviving Sun employees in all departments who are getting the job done daily despite the increasingly dire circumstances.

We also have empathy for the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild reps who are trying to retain some dignity among journalists who just want to write.

But dignity is difficult when collectively you feel like road kill being pecked at daily.

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Farewell messages

Numerous veterans have left the Toronto Sun and its sister Suns for various reasons in recent months, many going quietly into the night without parting words in the tabloids they loved.

This posting is to invite farewell messages for any of the Sun people in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and yes, even our stepsister in Winnipeg, who made their exits in recent months.

Collectively, their departures represent hundreds of years of newspaper talent gone from the Sun chain forever, not to mention the heartfelt loss of colleagues.

Please e-mail your message for and about departing staffers.

Re Keith Bradford (Edmonton)
From an anonymous former staffer who posted a comment about the Edmonton Sun sports editor, who resigned: "Bradford, who routinely worked 60-80 hour weeks just to get his section out with no appropriate compensation or recognition, was ordered out of the building immediately, as the paper's publisher Gordon Norrie decided he was crossing the street by going to the Herald - because Norrie is now also publisher of the Calgary Sun. Bradford was a very talented guy and a highly principled and effective writer and editor; and they should have gone to lengths to keep him. Instead, it was a classless act. This is why some of us are as glad as sad to no longer be working there.

Re Thomas Williams (Toronto)
From Hugh Wesley, former Toronto Sun photographer and photo editor: "Anybody who worked with Thomas (an invaluable, behind-the-scenes graphics department worker for more than 20 years) knows he was one of the best. Sorry to see him pushed out, but he will find even without the Toronto Sun, there is a big and beautiful world out there."

Re Len Fortune (Toronto)
From Linda Barnard, former Toronto Sun reporter, now with the Toronto Star: "Len Fortune and I are old school chums. Honest. He was in my English class at Ryerson. Hard to believe, I know, because Len is so very much older than me. But he'd decided to go back to school and get his degree despite running the colour lab at the Sun and working late nights to do it. But that was our Lenny - the hardest working man in newsbiz. He was obsessed with getting it right visually (if not always in print - remember the day you spelled your byline wrong and wondered if it was time to quit, Len?) Lenny carried a special obit section for the Pope John Paul II around for more than a year that he had meticulously crafted - but the Pope just refused to die, so Len worked on it endlessly. He taught me about layout and design and how to make a page pop. He taught me why Jameson's is better than Bushmills and that if you asked for a "special coffee for Len" at Crooks on a takeout run, you come back with an ounce of coffee and 4 ounces of hooch in a Styrofoam cup. I wish you well, buddy. You will be missed."

Re Len Fortune (Toronto)
From Tim Peckham, the Toronto Sun's editorial designer: "Lenny, You were the "Man" in "Manager." No, that doesn't sound right. You were the "L" in Loser? No! No, no, no. "Lucky!" Hmm. Give me a minute. The "J" in "Jameson?" No. Put the "Len" in "fLend?" This is hard. The "Miss" in "Missed?" Aw, Lenny, what can I say? A thousand bad headlines can't put into words what I feel about you. You're great! A great friend and I'll miss seeing you around (the office). Tim."

Re Al Cairns (Toronto)
From Brodie Fenlon, former Toronto Sun reporter now at the Globe and Mail: "I am one of the reporters to leave the Sun in recent months for greener pastures after seeing the writing on the wall (and narrowly escaping a layoff thanks to Sandy Naiman’s buyout). I miss everyone there. They are a great group of people who take a habitual pummeling from their corporate masters, yet somehow pull themselves up from the mats every day - bruised, shaken, disheartened, but determined to put out the paper. I wanted to pass on a special farewell to Al Cairns, who I was so fortunate to work with, learn from, and share a Dunlop Award with last year for investigative reporting. I know of no reporter who can dig for a story and work sources better than Al. It would always brighten my day to see him grin like the Cheshire cat as he worked the phones on a scoop (our desks were side by side). After all these years in the business, he still buzzed with excitement when clawing away at an exclusive story. It was inspiring. Thank you, Al, for the lessons and incredible memories, from staking out fraudsters to chasing Karla Homolka through Montreal. The Sun has lost one of the best in the business. Thankfully, the Sun’s loss will be another newspaper’s gain, as I’m sure Al will be snapped up soon."

Re Len Fortune (Toronto)
Les Pyette, former Toronto Sun editor and publisher: "As a former editor and publisher, Leonardo Fortune made me look good on numerous occasions and I wish him much happiness and good fortune (sorry about the pun) in the next chapter of his brilliant newspaper career. In so many years working together, you make some friends along the way, friends that stick with each other through thick and thin. Len Fortune was that. Countless late nights putting out the paper and never a complaint. He can do it all, a special guy with loads of character and talent. Good luck, my friend."

Re Mike Koreen (Toronto)
From Jason Paul, Toronto Sun Sports Department: "While Mike has not been there as long as those other great Sun staffers, he should have been the future of the Sun. He was the one of the best young reporters in the building, and one of the best sports reporters of any age, period. It was a tremendous loss for Sports, and our Raptors coverage, when he was shuffled into news. His ability to track down a story was superb and his dedication unmatched. He'll do a great job at York University, but hopefully he will find his way back into reporting. He's too talented not to be one."

Re Al Cairns (Toronto)
From Ian Harvey, longtime friend and former Toronto Sun reporter: "Al has been a dogged, digger, news breaker and ace reporter for almost 20 years. He was the go to guy and a stalwart of the newsroom. Al is apparently sick and tired of the cutbacks and sees no future. Publisher Kim Man Lee apparently tried to persuade him to stay, but Al, forced back into general reporting and away from his first love as a crack investigative reporter, has no stomach to stay. And, though we love him, that's saying a lot. Al is a hot property and media proprietors should be swift to latch on to the availability of this hard nose news guy."

Re Valerie Gibson (Toronto)
From blogger Dennis Earl, a media watchdog (his full post): "An important question has to be asked: what did the lovely British lass do to deserve such awful treatment? Answer: absolutely nothing. She was one of my favourite Sun writers for years. A champion of men, fiercely independent, funny, intelligent and deeply devoted to animals and her only daughter. The stylish, red-headed divorcee with those killer gams paved the way for women like Demi Moore and Cameron Diaz to consider younger men suitable for sexual trysts and even serious relationships. That is a good thing. She bore the abuse for years so that others would not in the future. She is a true pioneer in this regard. She is one of the nicest ladies working in media today. And also, one of the smartest."

Re Kit Poole (Calgary)
From Bob Bishop, former Toronto Sun Showcase editor: "When I was Showcase editor at the Toronto Sun, Kit Poole was one of the kindest, most professional people I had the pleasure of dealing with. To see her, and so many others, leave, take buyouts or fall under the axe makes whatever voodoo spin-doctoring they'd like to put on the latest NADbank (circulation) numbers moot. The product cannot survive without good people. It's that simple."

Al, Len, Val - gone

The exodus from the Toronto Sun continues this week, with some of the five new departures being compared to body blows.

Al Cairns, Len Fortune, Valerie Gibson, Mike Patton and Mike Koreen are all leaving for various reasons.

Al Cairns, an award winning, high-profile veteran senior investigative reporter and author, has accepted a voluntary buyout. Al, who makes his exit this Friday after 17 years on the job, has covered just about every move Karla Homolka has made since her arrest. Deadly Innocence, a book on the Paul Bernardo-Karla Homolka multiple murder case he co-authored with Scott Burnside in 1995, was a best-seller. The investigative reporter's reassignment to general reporting duties and away from his award-winning investigative skills was apparently the final straw for Al. He will be missed by colleagues and readers.

Len Fortune, another veteran Sun staffer and an unsung Sun hero in the graphics department for almost three decades, has also taken a buyout. Len started at the Sun in the graphics department in the early 1980s and worked his way up to assistant managing editor. If you own a copy of 25 Years of Being There - A Pictorial History - a 304-page tribute to the celebrated Sun photographers and their photographs - you have a book Len compiled along with Wanda Goodwin in 1996. The book, a labour of love for Len, says a lot about his impact on the presentation of Sun graphics. Sources say Len, recently reassigned to photo editor duties, became disillusioned with Quebecor's cutbacks, including his daughter's layoff in the advertising department last month. We Googled for a photo of Len, without success. Did anyone ever turn the lens on Len?

Valerie Gibson, a colourful and controversial Lifestyle writer and author since the 1980s, introduced Sun readers to the "cougar" way of life for older women dating younger men. Valerie, a major contributor and reader favourite since 1983, was told today her Sun contract will not be renewed. Valerie's Sunday Sun column was suddenly axed recently, leaving her with S&M, the weekly Sex and Money feature Mondays, with Linda Leatherdale writing the Money half of the page, and her Friday advice column. Valerie, who is right up there with Dr. Ruth and Sue Johanson in the frank sex talk circles, will be missed by colleagues and Sun readers, but they will still be able to find her on the Internet and in future book and media ventures.

Mike Patton is leaving the chaos of the Sun and Sun TV in favour of a government job. Mike joined the Toronto Sun in 1986 as a news desk editor and also worked the foreign desk and city desk before becoming one of the many staffers laid off in May 2001. Without skipping a beat, Mike shifted to the National Post's news desk. He returned to the Sun news desk 2 1/2 years later and in 2006, he was appointed the Toronto Sun's convergence co-ordinator for the new Canoe Live TV show on Sun TV. The easy-going editor, who met and married Kaarina Leinala, a 25-year Sun news rim editor still on the job, is also a music man. He plays harmonica for the Rim Pigs, a group consisting of current and former Sun staffers. Here's hoping the boys in the band haven't lost his talents.

Mike Koreen, a news reporter and popular former Toronto Raptors columnist, is also leaving. He has accepted a public relations job at York University. Mike was considered a shining young star as a Raptors columnist and one of the "best young sports reporters" at 333 King Street East. If you Google Mike's name, you will find his Raptors columns and sports stories. Mike was slated for a layoff last fall in yet another round of cutbacks, but his job was saved by another employee's buyout. The cutbacks, however, shifted Mike, 26, from sports to general reporting. The move was a major loss to the sports department and to Raptors fans who admired his knowledge of the game and his writing style. Colleagues, both in sports and news, say losing the talented young reporter is a blow. They also say Mike is too talented to put down his pen and pad forever.

It is a draining experience for former and current staffers as they watch the life of the Toronto Sun newsroom slip away week by week, body by body.

Ian Harvey, a former Sun reporter and spokesperson for the Canadian Freelance Union, says the departures of Cairns and Koreen leave the Sun with six general news reporters, three bureau reporters and three cop desk reporters to cover the GTA 24/7

"Obviously, that's not possible anymore," says Ian, who wrote an open letter to Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Peladeau
in October.

Another cut announced this week:
Canoe Live on Sun TV is being cut to 30 minutes from an hour starting next Monday.

Jim Jennings e-mail

An e-mail from Jim Jennings, who resigned as editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun in September and is now at the Globe and Mail:

"Someone on this blog pointed out that the silence from members of the Sun family who have left the building was deafening.

One reason for that could be so many people have put so much of themselves into building the Sun into a great place to work and learn that watching it in its current state is simply too difficult to do.

Benjamin Disraeli said “There are three kinds of lies: "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics.” With respect to Disraeli, he¹s wrong. There are four kinds of Lies: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and Newspaper Numbers.

Several times each year, the folks at NADBank and the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) release data on newspaper performance. The day after this information is released, newspapers go into a spin cycle that would make Maytag proud. The recent NADBank numbers are much like the recent provincial budget - if you look hard enough, you¹ll find something capable of pleasing everybody.

(Let me say at the outset that every newspaper in Canada takes part in the spinning of numbers to their own advantage and the disadvantage of their competitors described below. Failing to point this out would be unfair.)

Glenn Garnett notes that the Toronto Sun readership is up seven percent (6.6, but who¹s counting). He's right. That was one number, which was reported last week. It represents the response of the people who read the paper yesterday.

There are a couple of other numbers that Garnett chose not to mention, however. It is interesting to note, for example, that the readership of the Sunday Sun, the paper he used to tout his numbers, was down 5.4 percent. Or the fact that the five-day cume (the total number of readers over the Monday-­Friday period) was off 1.4 percent as well.

The most interesting fact, which was ignored by every media outlet that reported any number from the report, is that most of them were deemed “NS,” or not significant by the group releasing the report. That¹s right . . . irrelevant because of small sample size, margin of error or both. This is not to say the numbers are worthless - they're not. Rather, one should not take any one number in isolation and build a case around it.

It's unfortunate that as journalists we feel obligated to report on all of this. It¹s inside baseball. The advertisers know the game and readers don¹t care. It might be a good idea however, before we declare the patient healthy, to do a full examination, or at least ask for a second opinion.

A better indicator of a newspaper's success is circulation. At least these numbers are audited. ABC numbers are not, however, free from some degree of interpretation (read spinning).

Garnett observed that the Toronto Sun¹s paid circulation was up 16 percent last fall. That¹s accurate . . . well, sort of. Some part of “paid” circulation was up that amount.

The question is, which part? Was it the "paid" at over 50 percent of cover price? Was it the "paid" regardless of relation to cover price? In other words, did it include deeply discounted home subscriptions, “sponsored” bulk sold for pennies a copy, etc.? That¹s a question that has gone unanswered.

I would argue that the only real barometer of a newspaper¹s performance in this area is the fully "paid" number. This is especially true of a single copy paper, such as the Toronto Sun, where the readers provide the editor daily feedback by dropping their quarters into the box or their 53-cents on the shopkeepers' counters.

This is a number that isn't being touted. I wonder why? They are reported internally on a daily basis. My days as EIC always began with a review of the production runs, followed by a conversation with circulation.

Could it be that overall performance continues to decline? You can argue, if you go back to using the NADBank numbers that Garnett selected, that overall readership of the Toronto Sun is off 30-plus percent since Quebecor took over. Paid circulation is off significantly over the period as well.

.I wonder what effect the decrease in the number of journalists in the newsroom has had on these numbers? It would be interesting to overlay investment in content (i.e. journalists, news hole, etc.) with readership and circulation figures. My guess is the resulting graph could be used as a blueprint for the downhill ski run for the Vancouver Olympics.

I realize that there are times where adjustments in newsroom staffing levels are not only needed, but also required. That is a part of the evolutionary cycle of our business. Removing resources by replacing local content with mass produced generic content is hardly a recipe for growing the business.

It is very easy to view Pierre Karl Peladeau as some sort of Darth Vader character intent only on inflicting damage to the property. I believe that would be not only inaccurate, but also unfair. Pierre Karl is a very intelligent individual, who is receiving (and following) poorly conceived advice. (This is nothing new. Remember when the Sun raised its cover price by 50 percent in the middle of the NHL lockout?)

Pierre Karl is correct in saying that newspapers must change if they are to survive. Everyone in the industry knows that. But change need not require wholesale elimination of the core of the newspaper. The things that make up the essence of the brand . . . its voice . . . its attitude . . . its local-ness, to name a few.

Pierre Karl is correct. Convergence is a cornerstone of the future of our business. I could care less if our readers get our information from ink on dead trees, online, on their cell phone or a device to be invented next week. All I care about is that they use us to get their information.

We must interact with our readers, providing them with engaging, relevant and compelling content that warrants the investment of their time (and money) to get it. I said that at my first staff meeting on King Street in September of 2004. We must be prepared to provide our readers with the information when, where and how they want to receive it.

But convergence is more than a buzzword. It requires a seismic shift in editorial thinking. It requires an investment in both time and training. It requires an adjustment in the organization of the newsroom. It requires the trust and buy-in from those expected to converge, which means the message must be well communicated.

Most important, it requires staying-power . . . a commitment to the process, which experts in the online world say generally agree is a minimum of 18-24 months before the success or failure of a product can be determined. Instant gratification is a non-starter here.

I applaud the introduction of some of the concepts that are being introduced at King Street East. It's the execution and the nature of the content itself that gives me pause.

It's too bad that the meaning of relevant and compelling seems to have been lost in translation, with routine and generic being inserted in their place. Pierre Karl has given lip service to the need to move away from commodity news. Yet, a look at the current incarnation of the paper would seem to carry more CP and "common" content than ever before, coming at the expense of solid local reporting. The fact that there are fewer and fewer local reporters may play into this. I don¹t know.

Some of this content even appears in identical form in 24 hours. (Quebecor's) Luc Lavoie has been quoted as saying the amount of overlap between the two papers could reach as much as 20 percent.

Garnett is correct. It is a “terrific time to be the Sun¹s editor-in-chief.” There are difficult and challenging times ahead. Today, more than anytime in its history, the paper needs an insightful, strong willed, visionary sitting in the editor¹s chair. I wish him well."

Jim Jennings

Thank you for your e-mail, Jim.

Media job sites

In the good old days of Canadian journalism, ambitious young reporters, photographers and editors could work their way across the country bouncing from paper to paper with ease.

We called the coast-to-coast jobs "working holidays" and they were probably the most productive training grounds for several generations of reporters and photographers.

These are tougher times for daily and weekly newspapers, but it is still possible to travel the country, landing newspaper jobs along the way. You just have to be willing to pack your bags.

Canadian Press (national news agency)

CEP/Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild

CTVglobemedia (CTV & Globe and Mail) - Canada-wide search engine

Jeff Gaulin's Job Board

Jobrapido (Canadian job search engine) (U.S. + international)

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Ian Harvey post

Former Toronto Sun reporter Ian Harvey posted this comment re Glenn Garnett, the Sun's new editor-in-chief, and the NADbank circulation figures:

"The scary thing is that driving success as a newspaper is no mystery.

In New York, the Post and Daily News have both won readership by beefing up their newsroom and leading with more local news.

Why? It's simple, New Yorkers want to read more about New York and other New Yorkers.

A study to be released this spring shows newspapers which invest in their newsrooms by adding resources fare better than newspapers which cut their newsroom budgets and shift the money to advertising and promotion.

I can believe the Sun actually gained numbers during (Jim) Jennings' tenure.

But I'll bet those numbers will erode if the Sun doesn't continue to invest in its newsroom staff and stretch its coverage.

Readers want more than the same old same old wire stories about the current flavour of the month celeb in rehab.

They want news about their city and the people who live there.

With 24 looking more and more like the Sun and the Sun looking more and more like 24, almost everyone sees the writing on the wall ... and it's obscene.

Luc Lavoie, PKP's lapdog, can say all he wants but if Quebecor is serious about the Toronto Sun, they need to put their money where their mouths are.

All they seem to care about is seeing how few people they can actually get away with in putting out a paper, how they can farm out as much of the layout and news gathering responsibilities as possible so they can break the union.

Oh, and getting reporters and photographers to do two jobs and pay them as little as they can.

Here, shoot video and still and then you, write this for Net, for print and, make a script so we can use it as TV and on our Netcast.

Who cares if its the same old fodder that's already on the radio or TV. We can do more with less.

Sadly, Quebecor seems to believe the content component of a newspaper/website/TV channel is a secondary thought.

Instead of hiring the best in the business they go for cheap and few and invariably cover the same old ground.

Those talking head hosts on Sun TV are an embarrassing joke. I've seen sheets of toilet paper with more gravitas.

Even CITY TV wasn't this weak when it launched back in the day with fewer resources.

Glenn is a nice guy but he's got his work cut out for him if he expects to inspire a decimated newsroom reeling from cuts and certain their future is a freebie.

Jim Jennings' boots are a tough task to fill for anyone in this business and given Quebecors reputation and the resignation of long time editors like Chris Nelson and Gord Walsh, one starts to think few veterans were willing to slip their head into the noose.

Good luck Glenn. You'll need it.

Ian Harvey

Monday 26 March 2007

Lotto replay 2

We forgot to mention a comment made by an OLC rep in 1988 when the Toronto Sun obtained proof that industrial x-ray equipment could be used to detect winning instant win tickets.

The OLC rep said it was industrial equipment and not something that was readily available for use by the majority of people intent on cheating the system.

Well, one person capable of beating the system is one too many.

Today's Ontario Ombudsman report should clear the OLG of people who are not consumer friendly and help restore the confidence of ticket buyers.

While the media spotlight is on the OLG, the Toronto Sun and other media should raise the issue of unclaimed lottery prize money.

Millions of dollars in prizes go unclaimed each year for various reasons and the OLG does little to advertise those winning numbers and where the tickets were sold before the tickets expire. Yes, they have a web site listing winning numbers, but not every ticket buyer has a computer.

The numbers should be advertised in the print and broadcast media at least a month before the tickets expire. Every effort should be made to find winners, rather than waiting for tickets to expire so new multi-million jackpots can be offered using the unclaimed prize money.

That is something the OLG could do to put the emphasis on customer service. Finding just one last-minute winner would score big points with consumers.

Sunday 25 March 2007

New editor-in-chief

Glenn Garnett, the Toronto Sun's new editor-in-chief, is full of optimism in today's Sunday Sun in spinning the 2006 NADbank circulation figures as positive for staff, readers and advertisers.

Glenn's opening comments: "The Sun: Fastest growing newspaper in Toronto. Has a nice ring to it."

Perhaps for him, but it has a muffled ring for staffers fearful of more layoffs and for the dozens of laid off and fired employees still licking their fresh wounds.

Glenn's full column, based on the results of the NADbank survey, sounds very much like the uplifting comments made about and by Jim Jennings after he arrived on the scene as editor-in-chief in 2004 .

What was said about Jennings was all positive and newsroom staff endorsed the kind words because they saw him as someone who truly cared about the news and the news makers.

The renewed enthusiasm in the newsroom quickly deflated last September when Jennings suddenly resigned and another round of layoffs were announced weeks later.

We would certainly share in Glenn's positive view of the Sun if not for all of the cutbacks and layoffs that have left the newsroom with minimal morale.

So spin on Glenn. The readers might buy it, the advertisers might buy it, but poll the remaining newsroom employees and you will discover they are not buying it.

Sun employees might buy it if the reported increase in circulation at the profitable tabloid prompts Quebecor to announce an end to the carnage.

A much-needed increase in staff? All the better.

But eight years of Quebecor cutbacks tells us that scenario is not going to unfold as it should.

Bob Bishop comment

Bob Bishop, a former Toronto Sun Showcase editor, posted this comment in response to our Calgary Sun layoffs posting:

"When I was Showcase editor at the Toronto Sun, Kit Poole was one of the kindest, most professional people I had the pleasure of dealing with.

"To see her, and so many others, leave, take buyouts or fall under the axe makes whatever voodoo spin-doctoring they'd like to put on the latest NADbank (circulation) numbers moot.

"The product cannot survive without good people. It's that simple."

Thank you for your comment Bob.

Lotto replay

In June of 1988, Toronto Sun reporter John Schmied took a call from a lab technician.

That call would eventually lead to the withdrawal of 12 million scratch-and-win lottery tickets and the resignation of an Ontario Lottery Corporation president.

What the York Region lab technician told Schmied was he could use an industrial x-ray machine to detect winning Money Match and Double Dollars tickets before they were scratched. He had called the OLC but was dismissed as a "crank."

Schmied, skeptical at first, arranged for a live demonstration and excitedly returned to the Sun newsroom with proof that it could be done.

This blogger was writing the Luck of the Draw lottery column at the time, so a couple of Johns teamed up for a series of x-ray tests and exclusive stories on the faulty tickets.

Other media initially downplayed the story. One Toronto television report from a dentist's office dismissed the x-ray theory after trying to read tickets with a dental x-ray machine.

But when our test after test revealed positive x-ray results, CFRB talk show host Ed Needham put the Ontario Lottery Corp. reps on the hot seat and repeatedly asked why they would not witness the Sun's tests and accept the results.

The OLC repeatedly said it would do its own independent tests, which were slow in coming. Meanwhile, the $2 tickets with prizes of up to $50,000 were still on sale.

The OLC was acting like an arrogant private business, dismissing numerous calls for a ticket recall and a full investigation.

The Toronto Sun, following several successful x-ray test sessions, took its story to Mike Farnan, the provincial NDP critic for tourism and recreation, the ministry in control of lotteries.

Farnan, impressed with the test results he witnessed and critical of the OLC's handling of the security breach, called a Queen's Park press conference for 1 p.m. June 14.

On the morning of the press conference, the OLC announced a recall of 12 million Money Match and Double Dollar tickets saying it had duplicated the Sun's x-ray tests.

During the press conference, Farnan, surrounded by reporters and photographers, announced the x-rayed prize values of two Money Match tickets and two Double Dollars tickets with 100% accuracy.

OLC president Norman Morris, who told Ed Needham he had doubts about the Sun's testing only hours before he announced the recall, tendered his resignation days later.

The series of lottery ticket stories earned the two Johns an Edward Dunlop Honourable Mention Award (we lost to George Gross and his series on shamed runner Ben Johnson.)

What stuck with this lottery columnist was the OLC's arrogance in dealing with the media and its reluctance to concede there was a breach in ticket security.

After making my exit in 1994 in the first round of voluntary buyout offers, the Sun decided to drop the Luck of the Draw column, which was Toronto's only weekly lottery watchdog.

That decision probably brought a sigh of relief from OLC reps, who tend to be extremely evasive and publicity-shy when anything negative is said about the OLC.

The talented John Schmied made his exit from the Sun less amicably several years later. He was among the first of the 80 Sun layoff victims.

Now, almost 20 years later, thanks to several investigative pieces by The Fifth Estate, another OLC (now the OLG), president has resigned (and there has been another ticket recall - a million instant win Super Bingo tickets.)

Duncan Brown resigned Friday as the release of a provincial ombudsman prepared to release a report into allegations of lottery ticket theft, fraud and coverups.

Maybe the report will coax the Ontario Lottery Corporation-cum-Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. into becoming a less arrogant and more open Crown corporation.

The Toronto Sun did its job in 1988 and The Fifth Estate did its job in 2006/07. Who knows how many people were the benefactors of faulty tickets and ticket thefts in the interim.

The OLG, a pot of gold for the provincial government since 1975, needs to be revamped and operated as an open book to satisfy ticket buyers who have lost faith in the system.

As Mike Farnan told the legislature in 1988: "The public demands that if there is going to be a lottery, it must be above reproach."

Saturday 24 March 2007

Globe's data spin

The Globe and Mail's Grant Robertson offers another view of the NADbank figures in his column today, with an emphasis on a decline in the circulation of 24 Hours and other free newspapers.

"The rapid growth of free newspapers in Canada appears to be softening, while more than one in five readers of some major dailies now get their news online, industry data released yesterday suggest," writes the media critic.

"Readership of the commuter dailies Metro and 24 Hours fell in Toronto last year, marking a shift for the segment, which has been the fastest growing in the industry for several years.

"Metro, which has become the fourth-biggest paper by readership in Canada's largest market, had an 11.7-per-cent-drop in weekday readers, to 372,800, said Newspaper Audience Databank Inc.

"Weekday readership of 24 Hours, the fifth-biggest Toronto paper, fell 1.1 per cent to 345,700."

You can read Grant's full story here.

Thanks for the 24 Hours figures, Grant. We didn't see those figures in today's Toronto Sun and the CNW and CCNMathews press releases.

Sun print edition circulation up, 24 Hours print edition circulation down. Go figure.

Most interesting is the variety of ways one newspaper circulation figures report can be played.

Friday 23 March 2007

Antonia Z writes

Antonia Zerbisias, a popular Toronto Star columnist/blogger, is inviting Sun Media staffers who have been laid off, fired or have resigned in frustration to chat with her about their experiences.

"Write to me at if you're reluctant to leave a comment here," Antonia says in a comment at the bottom of our Sun deja vu posting. "I have never burned a source. But I will need to confirm who you are."

Antonia, a media watchdog who has blogged about the woes of Sun Media several times and isn't optimistic about the future of the Sun dailies.

The rise and fall of the Toronto Sun on its own (in staff numbers and morale) is a major Canadian media story that has yet to be told by those who were along for the ride.

Will it take other media, the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, the fifth estate etc., to get Sun Media victims to tell it like it is?

Fair enough.

So if you are among the Sun Media victims who feel Toronto Sun Family is too close to home, e-mail Antonia with your stories. Or talk to the Globe and Mail, the fifth estate, W5 etc.

Just get your stories told before the Suns burn out.

It is time to communicate.

Stats sound empty

Do you have a pinch of salt handy? You might need it to swallow the following press release today from CCNMatthews.

While reading the press release, think about:

The 80 talented Toronto Sun newsroom staffers axed since Quebecor purchased Sun Media in 1999;

The loss of key talent in management through resignations;

The loss of numerous other jobs throughout 333 King Street East;

And think about all-time low morale and the lingering fear of more job cuts.

The press release:

Toronto Sun: Fastest Growing Newspaper in GTA

Toronto, Ontario - (CCNMatthews - March 23, 2007) - The Toronto Sun is the fastest growing newspaper in the Toronto marketplace. Data from the independent NADbank shows the Toronto Sun weekday readership was up seven per cent among adult readers 18 and older to 483,400.

"The numbers show clearly that our distribution and content strategies are paying off among discriminating readers in Toronto," said Kin-Man Lee, Publisher and CEO of the Toronto Sun. "When we combine the Toronto Sun and our sister publication, 24 hours, we have the most Toronto readers in the desired 18-49 year old category."

The data from NADbank - the research organization whose members represent daily newspapers, advertising agencies, media companies and advertisers - show that the Toronto Sun's adult weekday readership increased by seven per cent or 30,100 in 2006 compared to 2005, the fastest growth among all the dailies in the competitive Toronto marketplace.

"This research validates that the Toronto Sun is very much alive in Toronto for the long haul. In fact, we are continuing to make investments to improve the quality of the paper," said Mr. Lee. "In addition to new content, including multimedia innovations, we will soon have access to a new multi-million-dollar printing plant later this year that will improve the reproduction quality of our newspapers, as well as increase our colour capacity."

The NADbank research shows that the amount of time adults spend reading a newspaper is stabilizing and that there is incremental growth for readership of the online editions of newspapers, an area where the Sun organization is uniquely positioned to make use of its multimedia, multiplatform assets.

Our question is, does that seven per cent increase on the backs of surviving Toronto Sun employees mean the layoffs and firings are history and the re-hiring of laid off staffers will begin?

That is what was expected of management from 1971 through the early 1990s when circulation went up and Doug Creighton, founding publisher, most often delivered.

Cynics among us think not, especially when reviewing Quebecor's track record.

While Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Péladeau has told the Toronto Sun morphing the tabloid into a free Sun/24 Hours commuter paper is definitely not in the cards, the feeling is there are more cutbacks to come and morphing is inevitable.

A veteran Toronto Sun reporter who was laid off says "While (Quebecor spokesman) Luc Lavoie can deny all he wants, anyone with a pair of eyes can see 24 is morphing into the Sun and the Sun is morphing into 24 physically. The similarities are just too striking."

So take that seven per cent circulation hike with a pinch of sale and wake us when the tabloid we knew and loved is resuscitated and bursting with enthusiasm and positive vibes.

Calgary cuts update

When the dust settled in the Calgary Sun newsroom yesterday, these staffers were out of work:

Kit Poole, assistant managing editor, 23 years service;

Ian Wilson, Business editor, 11 years service;

Carlos Amat, photographer, 23 years service;

Dan Toth, Calgary Stampeders beat writer, 10-plus years service;

Brian Whipp, systems manager, 20-plus years.

Roughly 90 years of Sun experience out the door.

One former staffer says Kit Poole is "one of the most-liked editors at the Calgary Sun. She handles the Sunday entertainment pullout and TV book, as well as most of the advertising/editorial tabs."

Also announced yesterday: the vacant entertainment editor, lifestyles editor and music editor positions will not be filled.

So Quebecor's convergence plan has pretty well gutted the non-union Calgary Sun, leaving it without local business, entertainment, music, football and lifestyle content.

Add the absence of promised profit sharing (despite a "record 2006" for the Calgary Sun) and raises that were to be given in January, and you are left with zero morale.

Sun deja vu

Was it deja vu all over again at the Calgary Sun yesterday, when four senior reporters and editors were called aside one by one and fired?

The firings at the non-union tabloid came several weeks after Chris Nelson, the Calgary Sun's editor in chief, suddenly resigned.

Jim Jennings, editor in chief at the Toronto Sun, resigned in September, several weeks before the paper was hit with another round of layoffs.

Did the Toronto and Calgary editors in chief and other senior Sun people who have resigned in recent years just tire of butting heads with Quebecor and its Sun Media cutbacks?

We don't know. Nobody's talking.

It is really quite amazing how most of the Sun staffers who have resigned, or have been turfed since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999, have opted to remain mute about their experiences.

The rise and fall of the Toronto Sun and its sister tabloids is a major Canadian media story, but incredulously most of the people with stories to tell are failing to communicate. That is a peculiar trait to be saddled with in the communications business.

Their silence is deafening.

Thursday 22 March 2007

Calgary Sun cuts

It is the Calgary Sun's turn today to feel the wrath of Quebecor's newsroom cuts, with five veteran staffers being axed.

Carlos Amat, photographer, 23 years service, and Ian Wilson, Business editor, 11 years, were the first to be told they were no longer needed. Also cut were Kit Poole, assistant managing editor, 20 years; Dan Toth, Calgary Stampeders beat reporter, 10-plus years, and Brian Whipp, systems manager, 20-plus years.

They represent more than 80 years of Calgary Sun newsroom experience.

The latest Sun Media casualties learned their fate one by one as they were called to an office.

"The axe is falling on long-time editorial staff in Calgary today as I write this," said the first of several tipsters in an e-mail to Toronto Sun Family.

(The Calgary Sun was launched Aug. 3, 1980, during the glory days of the Sun, with Les Pyette at the helm in the former offices of the Calgary Albertan.)

Toronto Sun Family blog readers at the non-union Calgary Sun have been watching the cutbacks at sister papers in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg with concern they would be next.

Carlos, Ian, Kit, Dan and Brian, welcome to the growing Sun Media casualties club. If you want to vent, TSF readers are here for you.

T.O. CFU April 4

Quebecor's demands in a compulsory freelancers' agreement will be among topics discussed at an April 4 meeting of the Canadian Freelance Union.

Former Toronto Sun reporter Ian Harvey, a CFU spokesperson, said the 7 p.m. Toronto chapter meeting will be held at the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild offices, 1252 Queen St. E.

One of the topics will be "why Quebecor's freelancer agreement, which they are demanding all contributing freelancers sign, is such a bad idea," says Ian.

The role of the CFU will also be discussed.

The 2007 CFU recruiting drive has the support of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), Canada's largest media union.

"(CEP) has decided to utilize its resources to create a strong collective voice for media freelancers and other independent communication professionals — to improve their income, benefits and working conditions," CEP says on its web site.

"We believe that uniting everyone who works in Canada's media — employee or independent contractor — will be good for everyone," the CEP says. "In addition, the development of an independent media sector, in which people can earn a decent living, will allow more viewpoints to be expressed, energizing our democracy."

The CFU is much needed for freelance reporters, photographers and videographers in this age of media conglomerates and multi-media demands.

This blogger's first freelance assignment for Southam in the early 1960s paid $50 for a short farming story and a photo. Payment was pre-arranged and there were no concerns about the story being used more than once.

Since the arrival of the Internet and media conglomerates, the lives of an increasing number of men and women working freelance have become a constant battle for fair play and decent wages.

Freelance stories, photographs and video footage can all be duplicated for use on the Internet, in sister newspapers and on television, creating the need for written usage agreements.

The CFU makes sense in 2007. The growing number of freelancers across Canada are being taken advantage of in this multi-media age.

FU membership is open to service-for-fee print and broadcast reporters, writers, producers, editors, columnists, commentators, artists, designers, web designers, technicians, technical support staff, researchers, information officers and public relations practitioners.

Tuesday 20 March 2007

Where was Sun?

We might have missed it, but was there a single word in the Toronto Sun about a recent newsroom visit by Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Péladeau?

Was there any mention of Peladeau's emphatic denial that Quebecor is considering turning the Sun into a free Sun/24 Hours commuter newspaper?

Quebecor spokesman Luc Lavoie is quoted in today's Globe and Mail as saying that is exactly what Peladeau told newsroom staffers during his visit.

Grant Robertson, the Globe's media reporter, quotes Lavoie as saying Peladeau told the newsroom: "Let me answer the question before it is asked: There is no plan to go free with the Sun - period."

That is positive news for Toronto Sun staffers, who have been demoralized by cutbacks, layoffs and rumours of a Sun/24 merger.

That should have been a Sun story, especially when Peladeau was being quizzed by Sun staffers about the future of the thinning tabloid.

But Peladeau's visit didn't get past Grant Robertson. In today's Globe, he writes about Peladeau's visit and Quebecor's focus on free 24 Hours commuter newspapers.

Grant caught our attention in the first four paragraphs:

"When Pierre Karl Péladeau visited the newsroom of the Toronto Sun a few weeks ago, the head of Quebecor Inc. faced several questions from his staff about the future of the paper, the flagship of Canada's largest tabloid chain since the 1970s.

In particular, they wanted to know where the Sun fits into the Montreal-based media giant's plans. It's a question that has been asked a lot lately within Quebecor and throughout the industry as the company expands its free newspaper, 24 Hours, across the country.

At a time when the Sun's readership and circulation have dipped, Quebecor has launched several editions of 24 Hours throughout Canada in recent months. And increasingly, the Sun tabloids and the free daily are looking similar.

In a departure from its original small-page format, new editions of 24 Hours in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton have been created in the Sun's image, in a larger tabloid size. The latest move came this week when the smaller, glossy version of the freebie in Toronto was converted, and Vancouver is next on the list."

You can catch the remainder of the story here until the Globe archive service takes over.

Thank you Grant Robertson for writing about the Sun at a time when the Sun isn't writing about its own house.

Sunday 18 March 2007

ALS post e-mail

Our recent post linking Toronto Sun Family to Jerry Gladman's complete four-part series on Living and Dying With ALS prompted this e-mail from Debbie Tope, the web site host:

"Thanks for the link to TSF. I was introduced to Jerry Gladman's ALS series by an acquaintance of his who also has ALS. (I) thought that it needed to be shared with others as it could be helpful to all of us who have the disease. I am glad that it is appreciated."

Debbie Tope

Thank you for your e-mail, Debbie.

Saturday 17 March 2007

Les Pyette e-mail

Les Pyette, a key player at the Toronto Sun and the Calgary Sun for almost 30 years, sent us an e-mail and has posted a comment in The Departed posting.

The semi-retired native of Sault Ste. Marie, who started at the Toronto Sun in 1974 as city editor and retired in 2003 as publisher, writes:

"Great idea, the blog. It certainly takes us back. We were part of a terrific ride. Cheers, Les."

His comment on The Departed reads:

"No wonder the Sun was successful. Amazing talent, all Sun legends and nice folks too. Les Pyette, still kicking in the Soo. "

Thanks for the input, Les.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

The Conrad Trial

After assigning no-name junior reporters to cover the sensational Robert Pickton pig farm murders trial in Vancouver, we have to say congrats to Sun Media for its Conrad Black trial team in Chicago.

It is only a two-man delegation, but that is all you need when it is veteran reporter/columnist and Toronto Sun co-founder Peter Worthington with pen in hand and Sun photographer Dave Lucas.

Sun Media fumbled the ball big time when it refused to send a high-profile Toronto Sun reporter or columnist to Vancouver in January for the start of Pickton's trial. It called for a Michelle Mandell, a Mark Bonokoski, an Al Cairns, not unknowns.

The world was watching the high-profile Pickton murder trial in the deaths of 26 Vancouver-area women between 1997 and 2001 and Sun Media played it poorly. (The online CBC coverage has been far more enlightening.)

But the Sun did it right this time around, sending Peter to Chicago early to set the stage with columns about the fallen media mogul, his wife, Barbara Amiel, a former Toronto Sun editor, the legal team etc.

Mark Bonokoski added to the coverage with an amusing column Tuesday about rubbing shoulders and kibitzing with Barbara the newspaperwoman in the Sun newsroom and in Europe during his London bureau chief days.

And there was Mark being quoted Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune by media columnist Phil Rosenthal. Mark will also be interviewed on CTV during a repeat of the Conrad Black TV movie this Monday night at 9.

Peter and the Toronto Sun also got a mention in David Frum's Diary on National Review Online in the U.S., David Frum being a big booster of his father-in-law.

At a time when most of the news coming out of 333 King Street East is negative, it is refreshing to see the Toronto Sun in a more positive spotlight.

Leave the pros to what they do best - and the resources to do it properly - and you won't have to worry about losing the interest of readers.

Monday 12 March 2007

NNA noms? Nil

Nominations for the 2006 National Newspaper Awards have been posted and the long, embarrassing dry spell for the Toronto Sun and its Sun Media sister newspapers continues.

In all, 60 finalists from 20 news organizations have been nominated for 2006, but the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun are once again non-contenders.

The coveted national awards, open to all Canadian newspapers, have not been won by Toronto Sun staffers since 1995. (See our earlier awards posting.from Dec. 28.)

There have been a few Toronto Sun nominations since 1995, including nominations in 2004 for Mark Bonokoski in the columnist category, a first for the Toronto Sun in that category, and Ernest Doroszuk for photography, but no wins.

The absence of NNA wins for the Toronto Sun since 1995 is a clear indication that Doug Creighton's ouster in November of 1992 was the day the music died for the once proud tabloid.

It also reflects the sagging morale at the shrinking Toronto Sun and Quebecor's preoccupation with the bottom line rather than producing a quality product with adequate staff.

It is difficult to still think of the Toronto Sun as a competitive major Toronto daily newspaper in viewing the full list of 2006 nominees.

The NNA web site says: "The Globe and Mail leads all newspapers in Canada with 13 finalists in the 58th National Newspaper Awards competition.

The Toronto Star and Montreal’s La Presse have seven nominations each, followed by the Ottawa Citizen with four.

The Canadian Press and Edmonton Journal have three each.

The Hamilton Spectator, National Post, Vancouver Sun, Kingston Whig-Standard, Reuters, Montreal Gazette, The Record of Waterloo Region, Winnipeg Free Press and Le Journal de Montreal have two nominations each.

Valley Today of Windsor, N.S., Guelph Mercury, The Windsor Star, Victoria Times Colonist, and Saskatoon StarPhoenix have one each.

The 60 finalists in the 20 categories were announced March 9 from the National Newspaper Awards office in Toronto. There were 1,380 entries in this year’s competition for works that appeared in the year 2006, the third highest in NNA history.

The winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony in Winnipeg on Friday, May 11. Winners will receive cheques for $1,500 and a certificate of award. Runners-up receive citations of merit and cash awards of $250 each."

Saturday 10 March 2007

Jerry Gladman, ALS

In surfing the Internet for Jerry Gladman references, we discovered the Focus on ALS website has Jerry's complete four-part series on Living and Dying With ALS online for all to read.

If you did not read the series in 2003, we recommend you read it online.

Our late, great colleague wrote the series after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The acclaimed series would win him an Edward Dunlop Award. Jerry, 61, died June 21, 2004, the day before the Dunlops were awarded.

The good-natured veteran Sun writer did what he did best to the end, writing with integrity and, in this final series, with a compassion for fellow-ALS sufferers.

We had looked for the series on the Toronto Sun/ web site previously without success, which is typically Sun Media these days. No time for sentiment or web space for staff tributes or for award-winning columns, stories and photographs.

In the early days of the Internet, we thought newspaper web sites would be an excellent source for linking mentions of awards and honours to the original content that earned the awards and honours. It hasn't happened and we are puzzled by the oversight.

So thank you Focus on ALS for sharing Jerry's award-winning series.