Saturday 30 June 2007

TSF Flashes

Quebecor is suing to block Osprey Media from considering a rival takeover proposal from Black Press Ltd., a British Columbia newspaper chain. A court appearance is scheduled for July 4.

Osprey said yesterday Quebecor is “seeking to block” a Black Press offer of $8.25 per unit for Osprey's 54 daily and weekly newspapers in Ontario. Quebecor offered $7.25 per unit in May.


Friday 29 June 2007

Alan Shanoff exits

UPDATED

Who knows how many legal actions might have been taken against the Toronto Sun without Alan Shanoff, an in-house lawyer who was called upon night and day.

Gung-ho reporters in the 1970s and 1980 often thought Alan got in the way of a good story when he advised against publishing legally questionable content in their stories.

But Alan, who retires from the Sun today after 30 years of legal duties and was given a sendoff last night at the former Crooks bar around the corner from the Sun, was saving reporters their reputations and management big bucks.

And he was always only a phone call away.

Lorrie Goldstein
, a veteran Toronto Sun staffer and associate editor/op-ed columnist, was one of the many guests at Al's sendoff Thursday night. He told TSF:

"For my money, Alan Shanoff is the best media libel lawyer in Canada. I'm sorry to see him leave the Sun after 30 years, but delighted he's leaving happily and on his own terms, in part to spend more time with his family, although he won't be disappearing from the legal scene.

"The greatest thing about Alan is his moral compass - his profound and instinctive sense of right and wrong and that you should go to the mats when you are right about something, but also admit you are wrong, apologize and move on when you are not.

"He saved Sun Media tens of millions of dollars over the years with his knowledge, courtroom skill and talent, won the big cases we had to win and demanded only of editors, columnists and reporters that they did their homework before putting stories into the paper. In other words, he demanded that people do their jobs properly, just as he always did his job.

"To any editor, columnist or reporter who did that, Alan was the best ally you had at the Sun, when it came to getting stories into the paper, instead of keeping them out.

"Speaking personally, Alan was and is a mentor and friend and a constant source of wise advice, both professional and personal. I'll miss him."

Les Pyette, who started at the Toronto Sun as city editor in 1975 and retired as publisher and CEO in 2002, told TSF:

"Al was the voice of reason for many, many years. He was always calm, right down the middle and gave me and many others great advice during the glory years of the Toronto Sun.

"He had a terrific sense of values and knew the legal aspect of newspapering inside-out."

And veteran columnist Mark Bonokoski gave Alan this fitting sendoff in his column today:

"The man who became a verb at this newspaper - in-house lawyer Alan Shanoff - retires today after almost three decades of dealing with egotistical columnists, irreverent reporters, libel-conscious editors, thin-skinned readers, and all the various lawsuits that come with the daily miracle of putting out a newspaper.

"Has that story been Shanoffed?" an editor will ask. And, If not, why not?

Shanoff's departure, without question, leaves a huge void. When a story passed his muster, it was virtually bullet proof. If not bullet proof, it was at least defendable.

Few know libel like Alan Shanoff knows libel.

We personally go back to the early mid-'70s when Shanoff was an articling student at Goodman & Goodman under Ed Eberle, who went on to the Supreme Court of Ontario. The Church of Scientology was suing me, and this newspaper, and Shanoff was brought in to assist in our defence. We ended up fighting Scientology to a draw.

From the day he was called to the bar in 1978, Shanoff had the Toronto Sun file. In 1991, he joined the newspaper as its full-time, in-house counsel, and has been steering the Sun's legal ship ever since - a ship that is now virtually ark-sized since it also includes the scores of English-language newspapers owned by Sun Media.

He will now do some mediation work, and some teaching - as is lecturing on media law to graduate students attending Humber College's journalism program. That, and volunteer work.

Alan Shanoff is an intensely private man. He is also a devoted family man. The licence plate on his car reads CHAJ. The letters stand for his two daughters, Chelsea and Haley, both now in post-graduate studies at the University of Toronto, himself, and his wife, Joanie.

He is also one of the nicest human beings one could ever know. This, I believe, is universally accepted at this newspaper as beyond argument.

He wanted nothing written about him, of course. He simply wanted to pack up his boxes and leave the building.

Tough. Let him sue."

TSF hasn't heard how Sun Media will fill Al's shoes, but like Mark says, not being "Shanoffed" will be an experience most reporters will miss.

Being "Shanoffed" and having him clear your story word for word was an incredibly uplifting experience.

A badge of honour.

Thursday 28 June 2007

CEP study 2

Vancouver's CKNW has put a new slant on reporting CEP's national year-long study of Canadian journalists and the state of journalism.

"A study by Canada’s largest media union on the state of Canadian journalism has found the bottom line is taking precedence over the corporate commitment to news gathering," says CKNW.

TSF seconds that emotion.

CKNW says on the upside, CEP Vice President Peter Murdoch says journalists still believe in their craft and are doing the best job possible, but there have been serious concerns.

"They’re overwhelmingly concerned that the commitment on the part of their corporate owners is not what it once was and resources have gone down in many cases and some of the kinds of things that we used to do, investigative journalism and that sort of thing is very much on the decrease, so there are concerns about that."

The study - 854 anonymous participants returned the eight-page questionaire - also says there are concerns about ethics and the amount of corporate input into newsrooms.

Amen to that . . .

Initial news reports on the study highlighted the on-the-job dangers for print and broadcast journalists and photographers, including assaults and threats.

The complete results of the CEP study can be read here in PDF format.

Fair news play?

The new Osprey purchase bid from Black Press in B.C. is receiving huge play in newspapers and on web sites across Canada.

Quebcor's Toronto Sun devoted two paragraphs in Thursday's Money section.

So much for providing readers of a major daily newspaper with fair and balanced news.

Pathetic.

Osprey newspaper readers, including the Northumberland News in Cobourg, are reading a lengthy story on the new bid thanks to James Wallace, an Osprey News Network columnist.

And, as usual, Grant Robertson at the Globe and Mail gives readers of his media column much more background to the Osprey newspaper takeover battle.

Plus the Toronto Star business section story by Rita Trichur

Just about every web story devoted to the post-Quebecor bid for Osprey's 54 daily and weekly newspapers across Ontario has been more detailed than information found in the Sun.

Major Canadian business news story - two paragraphs.

The ex-con bimbo P.H. - unlimited news space.

That is Quebecor's brand of journalism in 2007.

Edmonton union drive

Employees of Quebecor's thinning Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Examiner launched a united union organizing committee Wednesday, with CEP union reps soon arriving to hand out leaflets.

The union says approximately 200 employees in the building gave the union reps and organizers a warm welcome, with many saying a union was long overdue.

Management attempted to force organizers off the parking lot, but they pointed out the property wasn't owned by Sun Media/Quebecor and they refused to budge.

Employees have been complaining of heavy and increasing workloads, pay raises averaging half the rate of inflation, no grids, no overtime, arbitrary changes in sales commission plans, and very poor morale, says the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

Employees of both papers notified their publishers they had formed a union organizing committee. Soon after, members of the organizing committee, along with Ray Wade, CEP Local 255-G president, and Brad Honywill, CEP Local 87-M (SONG) president, were outside the building handing out leaflets announcing the drive.

Honywill said the goal is to get 40% of the Sun and Examiner employees to sign cards saying they favour a union. If that is accomplished, the Alberta Labour Relations board would oversee a secret vote.

The profitable Edmonton Sun, hammered by cutbacks, layoffs, buyouts and resignations in the past year, is down to about 150 employees, said one source.

"I've never seen a group of employees so demoralized," said Honywill. "And it's obvious from the size of the paper that it is thriving. But the employees aren't sharing in that success."

Honywill said it appears as if a typical reporter earns about $45,000 a year at the Edmonton Sun, compared to a rate of $76,000 per year for reporters in the unionized Toronto Sun newsroom.

And, he says, Edmonton Sun reporters' rate will go down by 3% this year in real terms because they got an average wage increase of 2% when the Alberta inflation rate is 5%.

What's more, they don't get recognized for experience because there is no grid, he said.

"Some people in Toronto may have forgotten what life was like before they had a union," says Honywill. "The Edmonton situation is a poignant reminder."

He said SONG has organized five Sun Media units in the last four years, including:

Sales/circulation/production employees at the London Free Press;

Editorial units at the Toronto Sun and Ottawa Sun;

Pre-press at the Toronto Sun;

Most of the Simcoe Reformer staff.

"It is now playing a lead role in the drive at the Edmonton Sun," said Honywill.

Perils of the job

Canadian print and broadcast journalists say it can be dangerous on the job and they aren't talking about war zones, Canada's largest media union reported Wednesday.

More than 850 Canadian reporters, print and broadcast editors, camera operators and photographers, producers, announcers, and others who gather and package the news, completed a year long national CEP study (the complete report in PDF format) of on-the-job journalism.

In the print sector, more than 75% of photographers and almost 30% of reporters said they been assaulted or threatened with injury on the job. Of those who reported assaults or threats, more than 20% said it had happened three or more times.

More than 80% of TV camera operators and half of broadcast reporters who completed the survey said they have been assaulted or threatened with injury at least once while doing their current job.

Almost half of TV camera operators and slightly more than 20% of photographers also reported suffering a physical injury in their current job that caused them to take time off work.

Gary Engler, a CEP union member, told the Hamilton Spectator the most interesting finding from the study was, "how dangerous the jobs are. Photographers and camera operators are attacked by people and there are a lot of at-work injuries."

So, dear journalists, as they used to say on Hill Street Blues - Be careful out there.

The study was conducted by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, with input from researchers at McMaster and Ryerson universities, who developed a questionnaire that was distributed by the union to broadcast and print newsrooms represented by the CEP.

These include most private English language television stations, four of the top-five circulation English daily newspapers, dozens of other daily and weekly newspapers, a few radio stations and one mass circulation newsmagazine.

The CNW Group press release said the study also revealed a strong desire for an independent code of ethics for the news media. More than 86% said they want owners, management and working journalists to agree on a code of ethics that everyone in the news media should follow.

It was the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in the privately-owned Canadian media.

Other highlights of the study:

- More than 77% said promotional considerations influence the news agenda and 58% reported being assigned a story to promote paper/station/management;

- More than 95% said their job is essential to democracy, though many question the commitment to quality journalism of the corporations they work for.

- Almost 70% of the journalists who completed a lengthy questionnaire disagreed with the statement that "the corporate owners of this publication/station value good journalism over profit."

- Almost one-third disagreed with the statement that "the corporate owners of this publication/station respect journalists." Among print journalists, 44% disagreed and only 28% agreed with the statement.

Wednesday 27 June 2007

New Osprey bid

Updated links

Stop the presses.

Reuters Canada and Bloomberg.com are reporting a new Osprey offer from Black Press Ltd. in Briitish Columbia has been received and it tops Quebecor's offer.

No, not that Black. This one is partly owned by Torstar.

Bloomberg reports:

"Osprey Media Income Fund, a Canadian newspaper publisher, said it received a takeover bid of about C$404 million ($377 million) from Black Press Ltd., topping a previous offer from Quebecor Media Inc. Osprey shares surged.

"Black Press offered C$8.25 per share in cash, according to a statement from the companies today. Osprey, based in Markham, Ontario, said the offer is a ``superior proposal'' to Quebecor Media's May 31 bid of C$7.25 per share.

"Osprey, the publisher of 20 daily newspapers and 34 non- dailies, said it notified Quebecor that it has until July 5 to make an amended offer. If there is no higher bid, Osprey said it will pay Quebecor a C$15 million termination fee."

Bloomberg says Black Press, a closely held company based in Victoria, B.C., owns 150 community papers and 15 regional press operations. Its annual revenue is $500 million. David Black is chief executive officer and chairman and his family owns 80.6% of the shares.

Reuters Canada says books and newspaper publisher Torstar Corp. owns 19.4% of Black Press. Torstar publishes the Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper.

Bloomberg says Quebecor has told Osprey that the Black Press offer may have breached terms of Quebecor's acquisition agreement with Osprey and indicated it may sue, according to the statement.

(A press release Wednesday from Quebecor.)

You might recall Torstar has complained it had an agreement with Quebecor to share Osprey's newspapers before Quebecor made its solo bid in May.

The Globe and Mail highlights the Torstar/Quebecor feud in its report today and this is Canoe.ca's story from Canadian Press.

Who is David Black?

Online sources say Black’s career in newspapers began as a junior business analyst with the Toronto Star and is quick to confess that he came at the newspaper industry from the business side.

In 1975, Black began his foray into community newspaper ownership, when his father offered to sell him the Williams Lake Tribune. It was the first of 62 B.C. newspapers he would own.

Black Press, not Quebecor?

Is that a collective sigh of relief we heard from employees at Osprey's 54 daily and weekly newspapers across Ontario?

We have got ourselves a ball game and Osprey shareholders are cheering from the sidelines.

Stay tuned.

Chief Simon Fobister

The long neglected residents of Grassy Narrows near Kenora have seen their fishing waters poisoned by mercury from the Reed Paper Company and their traditional hunting grounds bulldozed by Abitibi and Weyerhauser despite extended logging blockades and disputes.

They have been short-changed for decades by governments more interested in appeasing big business than lifting Ontario's aboriginal communities out of Third World living conditions.

Residents of Grassy Narrows have earned and deserve our respect.

So when the chief of Grassy Narrows First Nations arrives in Toronto for a Queen's Park protest, the Toronto Sun's Antonella Artuso should have made an effort to get his name right.

It is Chief Simon Fobister, not Foeister.

Once could be excused as a typo, but the Queen's Park Bureau writer spells Chief Fobister's name wrong four times. (It was still wrong in her story on Canoe.ca)

(The Star got it right.)

Not a good start in a week leading up to Friday's National Day of Action.

Our best to Chief Fobister and all of the families at Grassy Narrows.

Your plight is Ontario's shame.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Gary Dunford MIA

Gary Dunford retired from the Toronto Sun in 2005 after 32 years at the keyboards, but judging by comments on web sites, faithful fans crave more Dunfisms.

Gary retired to the north country, became an occasional blogger (avid fans say much too occasional) and has generally vanished from the media scene.

Faithful readers hungry for Dunf have been using TSF to revive the memories with our link to his final Sun column.

"Speaking of Page 6, whatever happened to Gary Dunford? His columns were cut back, then they weren't there any more," asks a fan posting on the Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum site.

"Dunford retired a couple of years ago," replies another fan. "I stumbled on his farewell column while reading about (Paul) Rimstead the other day. It's vintage Dunf."

The fan, who included TSF's link to Dunford's final column for others to enjoy, also said "Dunford has a blog, although he doesn't post a lot."

Another fan recalls Dunford's columns during his stint at the Sun - 7,127 columns from 1973 to 2005:

"Thanks for posting this! Dunford was moved to the back of the paper and seemed to be on unpredictable days, and Canoe probably DIDN'T archive that last column. I certainly didn't see it online or in print.

"Dunf was the guy half the radio industry would turn to in the morning to see if they still had jobs. He also wrote material for Bruno Gerussi's radio program and his recordings. Yes, I have a copy of "Signing With The NHL."

Dunf's fans can only hope he is holed up in his cabin working on a book about his Sun years, or will be publishing a compilation of his favourite columns.

As one of the key players at the Sun for more than three decades, he must have a million stories to tell.

Page 6 at the Toronto Sun is no more, but in his honour, Page 6 lives on at other Suns.

Monday 25 June 2007

Edmonton forum

If the folks at Quebecor can't take the heat from irate readers of the once popular Edmonton Sun, they should avoid the Connect2 Edmonton forum web site.

The site is for feedback about all things Edmonton and when it comes to the downsized Edmonton Sun, the heat from readers and former readers is blistering.

The numerous negative comments about the current state of the Edmonton Sun make us weep for the Sun pioneers who launched the newspaper on April 2, 1978.

And empathy for the remaining staff who are hanging in there after the layoffs, buyouts and resignations and doing their best to publish a newspaper.

Of the many recent postings on the forum site, one from a Dusty Bear, says a lot:

"I'm no fan of the Sun either, but I really feel for the people working there. They have endured some deep cutbacks in the past few years and the existing staff are constantly worried they may be next.

"You might have already noticed the declining number of local editorials, stories and columns. Mike Jenkinson and Scott Haskins, both longtime employees, are gone. As are numerous reporters and people behind the scenes.

"This despite the fact that it is a profitable newspaper. I'm only speculating, but I suspect it has a lot to do with Sun Media's parent company Quebecor making unwise acquisitions (ahem, Videotron) and squeezing every dollar out of its successful operations to make up for it.

"The Edmonton Sun has never been my favourite newspaper, but it's getting much worse. And I think people are noticing."

Noticing, indeed.

We are confident similar public forums in other Sun Media newspaper cities would draw the same volume of negative comments following eight years of Quebecor cutbacks.

Minimalist publishers who produce bare bones products can't expect paying customers to tolerate the loss of favourite features and writers.

But if the long term goal of Quebecor is to milk the cash cows until dry and then merge them with the free 24 hours commuter newspapers, negative reader feedback is irrelevant.

Instead of readers reaching into their pockets and purses, advertisers will be carrying the full load. Readers will get what they don't pay for - and it won't be quality journalism.

What a contrast to the collective, positive attitude of the co-founders of the Toronto Sun when they ventured into other Canadian cities to provide the best damned Sun tabloids possible, with flare, a sense of fun and ample staff to do the job.

Edmonton Sun on April 2, 1978.

Calgary Sun on Aug. 3, 1980.

Ottawa Sun on April 11, 1988.

Those were the days . . .

Sue-Ann is gay?

Sue-Ann Levy, the Toronto Sun's veteran city hall columnist, came out of the closet in the Sunday Sun.

We knew first-hand that the former assistant city editor had an irritating habit of popping her bubble gum all night long, but a lesbian? Who knew?

Would it have made a difference if we had known when she joined the Sun18 years ago? No.

Does it make a difference now? No.

In fact, our respect for Sue-Ann for sharing her experiences as a closet homosexual socially and at the Sun has just been raised a few notches.

Since the Toronto Sun was launched in 1971, reporters and columnists have written first-person stories about mental illness, alcoholism, battling cancer, living with ALS, coping with heart disease etc., but Sue-Ann is the first to come out of the closet in print.

We can understand her hesitance.

While the Toronto Sun was considered one of the Top 100 companies in Canada to work for in the glory days, for a period of time homophobia reared its ugly head.

One vindictive, homophobic political writer from the early Sun years created much of the "witch hunt" atmosphere within the Sun and his 1970's gay-bashing columns not only alienated the homosexual community, it incited a visible hatred of the tabloid.

The Sun became known on the street as an anti-union, anti-gay newspaper.

Before Sue-Ann's time, a Sun darkroom technician and an editor were a couple, but far from an open couple at work. Not in that early environment.

A reporter in the late 1980s became one of the first openly gay Sun staffers. He told his bosses he was booking days off to participate in Pride Week events.

When it comes to sexual orientation, the Toronto Sun has moved out of the dark ages into a more liberal age.

Sue-Ann must be feeling liberated following her Sunday Sun column. She has worked at the Sun for 18 years, all the while fearful of her "secret" becoming known.

What a waste of time and energy.

We are confident the majority of her fellow staffers support her openness, as should her true friends and her family.

Sue-Ann's sexual orientation will be noteworthy to us only when she is writing about related issues as a city hall columnist.

Much the same as we note that Peter Worthington comes from a military family and is a staunch Conservative when reading his columns.

Or noting that Andy Donato is Italian when he pushes the envelop with editorial cartoons about the Pope.

Sue-Ann's column brought back memories of another era.

In the early 1960s, this blogger hung out with two close friends, Angie and Sam. The Three Amigos. Shooting pool, trips to Buffalo when the drinking age there was 18 and 21 in Ontario. Road trips to Memphis to visit the home of Elvis Presley.

Angie, the son of a prominent downtown Toronto chef and the best looking of The Three Amigos, had a steady girlfriend.

During a weekend in Wasaga, Angie confided that he was a homosexual and he didn't know whether to commit suicide or come out of the closet. He told us first, then his family. We were all supportive, but his new lifestyle took him down a different path.

We lost touch. Sam called me at the Sun in the 1980s to say Angie had become one of the first in Toronto to die from AIDS.

Angie's debate within himself about suicide or coming out of the closet said it all about the rampant, dehumanizing homophobia of the 1960s.

Here we are almost 50 years later and sexual orientation is still an issue for many Canadians.

So Sue-Ann is a lesbian. That said, let's get everybody else out of the closet and move on.

Cross Words 2

More cross words for the editor of Sun Television.

For the second time in a month, the Toronto Sun has managed to screw up the Sun Television crossword puzzle, repeating last week's puzzle and answers.

A month ago, they had a new puzzle but the previous week's answers. They corrected the mistake by publishing the correct answers on the Monday, but not much use to all of the Sunday Sun readers who don't buy the Monday paper.

We would complain to the editor of Sun Television, but nobody is taking credit for its publication anywhere in the 36-page guide.

Why the screw ups?

Apathy? Too few staffers doing too much work?

Speaking of the Sunday Sun, our ENT section was a mess, with several shredded pages and 10 extra blank white pages between the pages.

And there were five copies of the FIFA U-2 World Cup soccer supplement.

Again, why the screw ups?

Our gut feeling is this was a less-than-perfect trial run of the presses at the new Quebecor printing plant in west end Toronto.

Whatever.

Between the outdated crossword puzzle and the ragged ENT section, it was a Sunday Sun letdown sure to further alienate weekend readers.

Friday 22 June 2007

Feud coverage

Kudos to Quebecor's London Free Press and Osprey's Kingston Whig-Standard for publishing a Canadian Press version of the Quebecor/Torstar feud over the sale of Osprey.

At least one newspaper from Quebecor and one from Osprey let their readers know about the feud.

Grant Robertson over at the Globe broke the story about Quebecor's disputed solo $356 million offer for Osprey's 54 daily and weekly newspapers Thursday in his media column.

Canadian Press caught up to the story and it was in the London Free Press and the Kingston Whig-Standard today, along with a report on the Canadian Magazines web blog.

We haven't seen a word about the Quebecor/Torstar feud in the Toronto Sun, but it has been reluctant to make waves on issues involving potentially negative news about Quebecor.

And if Torstar did have a deal with Quebecor to share Osprey's newspaper holdings, that would definitely be negative news.

Stay tuned.

Say what?

Update:

A few readers have come to the rescue, sort of, in trying to make sense of a Sun Media/Quebecor press release.

Says one anonymous TSF reader:

"Hi there,

"I won't promise I'm 100% right, but I cover business in Alberta and if I read that release right . . . it means that recently Sun Media changed its accounting practices to reflect more closely with Canadian GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices).

"Canadian and U.S. GAAP are similar, but slightly different (don't ask me to explain, I just know they are). As such, the company had to restate financial earnings with the U.S. SEC. Those impacts are listed in the releases.

"Bottom line? The restated earnings show the company's debt to be higher and earning less than before the GAAP re-statement, but it's a not a severe blow or anything. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

"But I agree the release was written for accountants not journalists."

Laura Bobak, a former Toronto Sun staffer now at Canadian Press, and blogger Dennis Earl e-mailed Canadian Press version of the story.

Said Laura:

"Here's what Canadian Press had on it: (I didn't write it myself but it's in the CP database). "Essentially, they had to go back and revise the way they had reported their results under U.S. accounting principles. Impact explained below."

Said Dennis: "I think this is what you were looking for, regarding an explanation about that Quebecor press release.

"Hope this helps. Take care."

Well, thank you readers. We appreciate the feedback, but as press releases go, this one made little sense to anyone other than a few bookkeepers.

The original posting:

Wanted: One astute, bean counting accountant to give us the bottom line on this press release from Quebecor/Sun Media.

We found it on Marketwire, but we haven't a clue about what it all means. It has something to do with the U.S. and the GAAP and "Fair Value Hedge Relations" and Form 6-K/A etc.

It is also at earthtimes.org, but no help there in explaining it to the financially challenged.

It is the most perplexing press release we've seen in years and we've seen quite a few.

Where's Morty Shulman when you need him? He used to be a phone call away for Toronto Sun reporters writing about financial matters and is sadly missed.

Or Garth Turner, perhaps.

Maybe Linda Leatherdale will decipher the press release for us in her next column.

In a nutshell, just what does it all mean? Is the sky falling?

Thursday 21 June 2007

All things Black

Lorrie Goldstein seems befuddled by Toronto media coverage of Conrad Black's trial in Chicago, as indicated in his Toronto Sun column today.

"Does anyone out there know what's going on at the Conrad Black trial in Chicago, because here in Toronto we have no !@@## idea," says Lorrie.

"Reading our local media, you'd think there was one trial going on in the Windy City and another on Mars.

For a wider view of all things Conrad, Lorrie, you can't beat a blog called The Conrad Black Trial: Comeuppance Or Vindication: Running Commentary on the trial of Lord Black.

The site provides links to the trial coverage of numerous media sources across North America, including several Sun Media newspapers.

The trial has introduced two popular Canadian figures to American readers: Toronto Sun co-founder and columnist Peter Worthington and veteran Toronto lawyer Eddie Greenspan.

A not guilty verdict will vindicate Peter, whose critics say he has been biased from the start of the trial, and it would further enhance Eddie's impeccable record as a winning Canadian lawyer.

Osprey bid feud

Grant Robertson, the Globe and Mail's media writer, shines new light on Quebecor's solo offer to buy Osprey's newspapers for $356 million, a move that has left Torstar in a fighting mood.

"A protracted feud between Quebecor Inc. and Torstar Corp. has surfaced in the wake of this month's sale of Osprey Media Income Fund, which saw Quebecor buy some of Canada's oldest newspapers for $356-million," Grant writes in today's Globe.

"Documents filed with securities regulators by Quebecor show that Torstar believes it had an agreement with Quebecor to make a joint bid for Osprey and its 54 daily and weekly newspapers," he writes.

The rest of the story is a most interesting investigative piece. The Star might have had the same story, but it no longer has a media critic.

Antonia Zerbisias has taken her leave as the Star's media critic, which leaves Grant as Toronto's only dedicated media writer.

The Fading to Black blog says the Star is not replacing Antonia, who has moved on to other duties at the paper involving "social issues/cultural trends."

Antonia's final media column was June 9.

Monday 18 June 2007

Changes . . .

Welcome to Changes, which was one of Doug Creighton's favourite Toronto Sun features. The only difference here is all of the TSF items will be about current and former Sun Media people.

Hirings, promotions, departures, obits, where are they now? etc.

To submit notices, e-mail TSF. Photos will be used when provided.

New Technology
Columnists at the Winnipeg Sun have added sound bytes to their daily routine, providing commentary that is a click away at the Winnipeg Sun web site. First of the Sun Speaks columnists are Laurie Mustard, a former radio guy, and city columnist Tom Brodbeck. The Sun says there will be three or four new audio clips every weekday.

Obituaries
Steve Lequire, a reporter for the Calgary Sun from 1983 to 1987, has died in Vernon, B.C.The avid outsdoorman and horse rider was found dead in a mountain range near his Vernon home after driving there to ride his beloved horse. Steve grew up near Rice Lake, south of Peterborough, Ontario. After leaving the Calgary Sun, he worked for the Calgary bureau of the Alberta Report Magazine, then moved to B.C. where he was a senior editor with B.C. Report. Friends say when the B.C. Report was about to fold, he left and this summer, he and his wife were owner/operators of a dog boarding kennel near Vernon. "He was a good, ambitious reporter and a good friend to, among many others, myself," Peter Miller, a longtime friend, told TSF.

John Briglia, former managing editor of the London Free Press, of Parkinson's disease on June 12, 2007. He was 81. John's association with the Free Press began at 16 as a part-time sports stringer. John left to get a University of Western Ontario journalism degree and Columbia University master's degree. He returned in the 1950s and worked his way up from reporter to managing editor (1978 to 1985). He is survived by his wife, Mary, and five children.

Where Are They Now?
Ron Corbett, a former award-winning Ottawa Sun columnist and author, has joined Ottawa radio station CFRA 580 as host of Unscripted, a talk show that airs weekdays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Ron, who also enjoyed a stint at the Ottawa Citizen, shares his life with Julie Oliver, his photojournalist wife, and four children.

Allan Bolstad, former Edmonton Sun city hall columnist, is now executive director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.

Helen Connell, former 20-year London Free Press staffer and Editor from 1997 to 2000, has been appointed the University of Western Ontario's associate vice-president, communications and public affairs. Helen left the newspaper in 2000 to work as executive director for United Way in London and Middlesex.

Chris Gerritsen, who signed off earlier this year as Calgary Sun's Page Six after nine years, has found a new and comfortable home at Telus. Chris is a senior communications manager on the Telus Media Relations team. He handles Telus media relations for Alberta. Chris says the career move was a positive one for him and his family.

Anita Elash, former 1980s Toronto Sun reporter: Anita, as Ian Harvey notes in an e-mail, is now a freelance writer based in Paris, France. She has been writing for the Globe and Mail and had another freelance article published in the June 16 Focus section. Freelancing from Paris? Does it get any better? Well done, Anita.

Saturday 16 June 2007

Kathy English debut

Kathy English made her debut as the Toronto Star's public editor today.

"The Star has long had clear policies on ethical behaviour for its journalists," Kathy writes in her first column. "It helped create the Ontario Press Council, and was among the first Canadian newspapers to appoint an ombudsman.

"According to the membership rolls of the U.S.-based Organization of News Ombudsmen, the Star is now the only Canadian newspaper to employ a full-time public editor/ombudsman, a fact that speaks volumes to this news organization's commitment to credibility in an alarming period of newspaper industry retrenchment."

Kathy was a Toronto Sun reporter long before the tabloid
named Alison Downie as its first readership editor in 2005, thanks to Jim Jennings, a highly respected editor in chief. Kathy moved on to the Star in the 1980s and taught at Ryerson for 10 years.

Alison and her post were quietly axed by Quebecor last November, two months after Jim Jennings suddenly resigned. Not a word in the Sun about her departure.

The Star's recent face lift and a new public editor in Kathy English, along with the Globe and Mail's recent revamping, leaves the Toronto Sun lagging where it once shone - as a serious contender in the GTA newspaper market.


Kathy says in her first public editor column: "It's a job that's often referred to as the loneliest job in journalism. It surely won't be an easy task, but it is increasingly essential to media organizations committed to transparency and accountability."

All the best, Kathy. The Star is a better place with you at the keyboards.

London Press Club

The London Press Club, a rare breed in 21st century journalism circles across Canada, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, as reported today by Joe Matyas in a London Free Press story.

Joe says the London Press Club bounced back from near extinction three years ago, while dozens of once prosperous Canadian press clubs, including those in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, have closed their doors since the 1970s.

His story (in full below) brings back a lot of fond memories. Someone should write a book about the demise of press clubs in Canada. They were second homes for several generations of workaholics, alcoholics, bar stool story tellers, pool players and poker players.

They were haunts where your fellow workers and the competition spent a lot of time comparing notes and bonding. They opened doors for young journalists wanting to spread their wings. And press clubs were also a haven for world-travelling journalists wanting to share a pint or two with the locals. If you were media, you were welcomed.

Press clubs were also known for impromptu visits by politicians, movie stars and entertainers. Stories are still being told about the night Minnesota Fats dropped by the Toronto Press Club in the 1980s for a few games of pool. Jimmy Durante matched noses there. Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau also dropped by.

The Toronto Press Club's address was as transient as a lot of its clientele over the decades, housed for a time at the Prince George Hotel, above Hy's on Richmond Street, on Wellesley near Yonge, in the Sheraton Hotel, at Ed's Warehouse restaurant, Ontario Club etc.

Changing attitudes about drinking and driving, a new generation of journalists opting for affordable homes in the suburbs and sometimes just poor management lessened the popularity of downtown clubs.

So press clubs have all but gone the way of top drawer drinkers, cigar and cigarette smokers, Linotype and teletype machines, compositors, copy boys, pneumatic tubes, typewriters, carbon paper, newsroom rims etc. But the memories linger.

Not in London, Ontario, where 130 members, more non-media than media these days, are keeping its press club afloat.

We'll lift Joe's story because it does deserve to be available online for those who remember the glory days of press clubs:

By Joe Matyas
Two days before Dianne Haskett knocked out Jack Burghardt in one of London's toughest battles for mayor, she performed in a skit at the London City Press Club.

Dressed in black and surrounded by backup singers, Haskett lip-synced the words to Hit the Road Jack.

It was one of the hits of the 1994 municipal election candidates' night at the club, something the public didn't get to see.

But members of the media were used to seeing politicians singing, telling jokes, playing musical instruments and sometimes making fools of themselves on such occasions.

Over the years, it has been tradition for the press club to invite candidates for municipal, provincial or federal office to a pre-election gathering where everyone can put their guards down.

"It's one of those traditions we plan to continue," president Pat Currie said yesterday as his club started celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend.

Near death about three years ago, the club has been revived under Currie's leadership to remain one of the few still in existence.

In the golden age of newspapers, when circulation, advertising lineage and newsrooms were growing, every city worth its salt had a press club.

Now, only a few survive.

"I think the only active one left, besides ours, is the one in Moncton (N.B.)," Currie said after a golf tournament with 60 duffers kicked off the golden anniversary weekend.

"We're dinosaurs that have survived the big impact and it has been a case of adapt or die."

Now located in the London Towers at 379 Dundas St., the first club was on Dundas Street near Talbot, later moving to York Street.

The club opened with fanfare in 1957 with Ontario Premier Leslie Frost in attendance.

Over the years, the biggest names in Canadian politics have visited the club, including prime ministers Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker, Ontario premiers John Robarts and David Peterson and Joey Smallwood, the premier who brought Newfoundland into Confederation.

They sometimes held formal press conferences on the record.

But it was the club rule anything said there stayed there, said Currie, adding the club was a place of merriment and ferocious argument.

Originally the private preserve of mainly working journalists and broadcasters, the club changed over the years by accepting first other media employees and then associate members.

There were always associate members - publicists, lawyers, police officers, insurance and real estate brokers and other professionals, said Currie, but they were originally a minority.

"The club's membership was capped and I remember a time when we had 350 members and 150 on a waiting list," said Currie, a retired Free Press reporter.

There are 130 members today.

After a period when the club was faltering, it has raised its profile in the past couple of years with public roasts of Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best and London West MPP Chris Bentley and an evening celebrating some of London's prominent female politicians.

"We no longer count members of the media as the majority of our members, but we still have the press club flavour," said Currie.

Friday 15 June 2007

Web duties

A recent Editors Weblog posting is about a Sun south of the border, but new print/web photo and video demands of newspaper owners appear to have no borders.

The posting begins:

"Professional photojournalists, the Guild Unit at The Sun and the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild are worried about the requirement of reporters at The Sun to shoot still pictures and video for the paper’s website.

"Photojournalists see the move as threatening quality and infringing on their profession and the guilds see this as compromising the quality of reporting and as over-burdening journalists’ already heavy workload."

To voice their concerns, 18 Baltimore Sun photojournalists launched a three-day byline strike that ran Monday through Wednesday.

We wouldn't want to be a Sun Media reporter or columnist with a video camera pointed at angry people in the middle of heated protests. Not without danger pay.

Page 22 says it all

Kudos to Christina Blizzard, the veteran Queen's Park columnist whose frequent columns about the plight of Ontario's aboriginal communities are always written with such empathy.

People in the GTA tend to forget about the "intense poverty" of First Nation men, women and children, but Christina has always been there to remind us of our lingering disgrace.

Nothing spoke more for Ontario's warped priorities than the placing yesterday of Christina's report from Pickle Lake beneath a Rob Granatstein column about Toronto's waterfront.

Toronto's waterfront, once a green paradise inhabited by aboriginals for centuries, is now a glut of concrete, roadways and high rise condos. The "haves" have it all on the wasted waterfront.

Meanwhile, aboriginals living in our remote and not-so-remote communities, the "have nots," struggle to survive one day at a time.

The proposed sharing of Ontario's annual billion dollar gambling profits with First Nation communities across the province is an overdue gesture, but it is progress.

Perhaps Christina's enlightening columns have helped shame the provincial government into doing more to improve the lives of aboriginals.

She is certainly due a salute for embracing aboriginal communities and for frequently reminding us something is terribly wrong here in Ontario, not just in Third World countries.

Taped & ready

What do you do when a union president threatens you with a lawsuit for defamation?

When you are Gordon Norrie, publisher of the Edmonton Sun, you post a "we'll fight the suit" story online and include an audio tape recording of the comments in dispute.

TSF can't recall a newspaper answering a defamation threat with an online tape recording, but listen to the 55-second recording. It is likely to be Exhibit A if the lawsuit reaches court.

Yesterday's Edmonton Sun story says Doug O'Halloran, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, and Local 401 members served the paper with a notice of intent to sue for defamation last week.

The Sun says O'Halloran claims in the notice he was misrepresented in a June 5, 2007 story in which he stated the vast majority of his own union's members, on strike at the Palace Casino, "probably have an addiction to gambling to a degree but they can go there and they can play with the casino’s money."

The Sun says the notice of intent reads: "We are advised that at no time did Mr. O'Halloran state or suggest that Casino workers are gambling addicts, or 'likely' or 'probably' gambling addicts."

Norrie says the Edmonton Sun not only stands by the story, the interview between Sun reporter Jeremy Loome and O'Halloran was recorded by Loome.

A link to the audio clip for playback is below the online story.

The timely recording reminds us of Dick Chapman, a former veteran Toronto Sun reporter who taped every telephone interview and always had a drawer full of tapes.

We're not sure if Dick ever needed a recording to back up a story, but he certainly was prepared. Some of those tapes are probably collector items if he kept them.

Thursday 14 June 2007

Rita's sabbatical

If you don't see a Rita Demontis story in the Toronto Sun in the next few months, don't fret.

The veteran Toronto Sun writer is enjoying one of the last sabbaticals at the tabloid and, says editor in chief Glenn Garnett in his Inside the Sun blog, will return after Labour Day.

Sabbaticals - paid two-month leaves after each 10 years of service - were one of several much appreciated benefits introduced by founding publisher Doug Creighton in the glory days of the Sun. Employees could tack on vacation time and be gone for three months.

One thing Doug asked of employees was to write about their extended time off for an in-house newsletter. Employees were happy to oblige and wrote about travels near and far, thanking Doug and the Sun for the unique employee benefit.

This blogger pocketed $8,000 in travellers cheques in 1984, hopped a plane to Frankfurt and roamed Europe by train, bus and boat for 10 eventful weeks. What a unique way to thank loyal employees, but that was then and this is now.

Some veteran employees squeezed in a third sabbatical after 30 years before sabbaticals became a Quebecor cutback casualty, along with profit sharing and Christmas bonuses.

Brad Honywill, president of CEP's Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild, says sabbaticals were axed in 2004 as part of contract talks with Quebecor.

"Editorial staffers were able to keep whatever sabbatical they had accumulated to that point, but they had to wait until they were eligible to take it," said Brad. "This was a much better deal than the non-union folks got."

A former Sun executive said when sabbaticals were cancelled some people were granted the accrued time and could take it over a two or three-year period.

"This only applied to those who only had a few years to go before they would have been eligible. Others got nothing."

Quebecor's bean counters don't enjoy giving back, not the way founders of the Sun did for almost 30 years.

As for Rita, she has earned every hour of her latest sabbatical.

Joanne Richard and other guest columnists will be filling in for the food and shopping writer.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Press runs

Toronto Sun editors can't be comfortable with the pending loss of control of the tabloid's press runs after more than 30 years.

Not if they are going to be assigned an inflexible time slot at the new Quebecor printing plant, wedged between Bell telephone directories and other non-newspaper printing jobs.

(Sources say the Ottawa Sun has an earlier deadline and an "inflexible" one hour slot at Quebecor's new plant two hours away in Mirabel, Quebec, for the printing of 50,000 papers.)

Toronto Sun editors have had full control of press runs from the day the Webb presses first rumbled into service at 333 King Street East in the summer of 1975, much to the delight of founders Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt.

Editors have decided when the presses would roll and when they would be stopped for replates. That freedom gave appreciative Sun readers the latest possible news.

And those first papers off the presses were being read in the Sun newsroom within minutes.

The freedom to extend deadlines and to stop the presses at a moment's notice is critical for Toronto's competitive morning newspapers.

This blogger's favourite "stop the presses" story has to do with Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space in 1961.

The Globe and Mail had been put to bed, the presses were rolling and the editors were heading into the night when a teletype machine bulletin bell began to ring.

Late-night copy boy Sam Briggs read the bulletin, ran to a window that overlooked the parking lot and shouted at departing editors, who scrambled back to their desks for a replate. It was the story of the year, the morning Globe got it first and Sam got a bonus.

The Toronto Sun has had its share of deadline delays and replates to accommodate late-breaking stories, sports scores, election results, corrections etc.

So this summer's move to a new printing plant raises a few questions.

Will Sun editors lose full control of press runs?

Will there be an earlier deadline, affecting late-night news and sports coverage?

Will employees at the new plant have the same professional work ethic as the longtime, loyal Sun pressroom workers?

Stay tuned.

Peter/Lorrie

It's dueling keyboards at the Toronto Sun this week, with veteran columnist Lorrie Goldstein squaring off with Day Oner Peter Worthington.

On Monday, Peter took a few jabs at Lorrie for his June 5 "try him or free him" Point of View commentary about Omar Khadr's confinement at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Yesterday, Lorrie fired back in an op-ed column saying Peter, "a stickler for due process and following proper legal procedures . . ." is inconsistent in his views on Khadr's detention.

Shades of the old days of Sun columnist vs columnist.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Print plant woes

Editors at the Toronto Sun and London Free Press have had a keen interest in the performance of the new Quebecor printing plant in Mirabel, Quebec, since it opened last fall.

And, they have learned, not all has gone smoothly in printing the Ottawa Sun in Mirabel, with "considerably" earlier deadlines to accommodate the two-hour drive from Mirabel, mixed with some wicked whiteouts during the winter months.

Delivery times for the Toronto Sun shouldn't be a problem when the new Quebecor plant opens this summer in the city's west end, but winter storms could be problematic for the Free Press runs.

Sources say weather aside, a major drawback for the Ottawa Sun has been the absence of late sports scores due to earlier deadlines.

"Printing in Mirabel has most definitely meant that some late sports scores have been missing," says one source. "In a few instances, that even included Sens games in some editions, though none in the playoffs that I am aware of.

"There certainly have been a lot of reader complaints about missing scores and late or missing papers. When bad weather threatens in the winter, the deadline is moved up even earlier, everyone being aware of what can happen on two hours of highway in Eastern Ontario in January. (Look out London! Anyone ever hear of whiteouts in the snow belt?)"

Another source says with all of the non-newspaper commercial printing being done at the Mirabel plant, the Ottawa Sun slot is about one hour to print 55,000 papers and that is "fairly inflexible."

The toll in pressroom jobs has been heavy, with 50 to 60 non-union pressroom jobs lost in Ottawa when the tabloid's Stevenage Drive press came to a halt. More than 125 pressroom jobs will be lost at the Toronto Sun and London Free Press this summer.

A source said some of the Ottawa Sun pressroom employees were offered contract jobs at the new super press in Mirabel.

"Some went, some didn't and from what we heard, those who went, didn't stay long."

The Ottawa source said "quality and journalistic principles" have also suffered with recent Quebecor innovations, including staff cuts, centralized printing, centralized page production and corporately mandated copy, multi-tasking with multimedia and the disastrous new front-end system.

"But they don't care. They just want to get a product on the street at the lowest possible cost. I think they delude themselves that they are actually putting out good journalism, but most of the people calling the shots aren't journalists, so the results are predictable."

When the new Quebecor printing plant opens in Toronto this summer, presses at the Toronto Sun and Free Press will be silenced, ending decades of independent press runs.

Quebecor has said it hopes to have the Toronto plant fully operational by August.

The presses at 333 King Street East have been a source of pride and independence since that memorable first run in the summer of 1975.

Rumour has it that once the Sun presses are silenced, the countdown to the sale of 333 King will begin and staff will be packing for a move to a new home.

And the once-thriving, six-story building, built a short four years after the launch of the Sun, will be only a memory.

It will be a cherished memory for the thousands of staffers who contributed to the Miracle on King Street. The Sun building represents the best of times for the tabloid.

We can thank the 62 Day Oners and the leadership of Doug Creighton for all of those memories.

We will also scratch our heads and wonder how it went so very wrong at the best tabloid Canada has ever seen.

Sunday 10 June 2007

Saturday's Sun

Saturday's Toronto Sun was a newspaper worthy in almost every way, tarnished only by yet another display of excess in P.H. coverage.

Kudos for:

Page 4 - The Kelly Pedro and Randy Richmond (London Free Press)/Joe Warmington combo followup to the London murder-suicide of a senior female cop and her ex-lover, a retired police vet. Page 4, where it belonged, not Page 18 where the initial story was buried.

Page 6 - Prime Mike Strobel tackling Bell for its embarrassing Americanization of Zed in those increasingly annoying beaver ads. "From A to Z, the calls are free?" Sorry, wrong number, Bell. Hopefully, Mike's column will shame Bell into pulling the plug on those ads.

Page 8 & 9: Kathleen Harris deserves an award nomination or two for her insightful two-page feature on Jack Babcock, Canada's last WW1 vet. After reading two pages, we wanted more of the life and times of Jack Babcock. It was a long overdue tribute to Babcock and, with Mike Strobel's full column on WW1 vet Dwight Wilson, 106, before he died, earns full credit for the Sun for highlighting their lives while still alive.

Page 26 - Thane Burnett's new look at the tabloid's old favourite, the Loch Ness monster. Thane's columns took us back to the early days of the Toronto Sun when sea monsters and UFOs were reader favourites and Sun writers obliged almost weekly. Those were the fun days of the Sun and we thank Thane for reviving the mood.

Page 46 - Jim Slotek's review of Hostel: Part II, simply for categorizing yet another Hollywood gore fest as "torture-porn." He gave it one star and his review should convince ticket buyers to give it a pass, but chances are it will be among the top box office draws come Monday.

Page S6 & S7 - Terry Jones provided an interesting twist in his two-page Aces In The House poker spread. Little did we know the NHL's Terry Bettman and Jeffrey Pollack of the World Series of Poker fame are half brothers. Great quotes from poker legend Doyle Brunson about the evolution of poker, plus quotes from Canadian poker pro Daniel Negreanu, whose Friday Sun column was axed recently.

All of the above stories and columns illustrate what the Toronto Sun is capable of doing daily.

And then there was the ongoing excess with P.H. - another Page 1 photo and another full page on Page 3.

We have come to the conclusion devoting front pages and full inside pages to P.H. is not a Sun newsroom decision, but has to be a directive from Quebecor.

We are confident Michael Burke-Gaffney, managing editor, wouldn't voluntarily be wasting that amount of precious editorial space on a woman the majority of Sun readers have repeatedly said is of little interest to them.

Why a directive from Quebecor? Perhaps it is prove its point that Sun readers will accept Hollywood drivel in place of community news, columns on local issues and investigative pieces.

Saturday 9 June 2007

Bye Sun TV guide

The once-popular and thriving Sun TV guide is no more.

It is being merged with the ENT entertainment section, says a message to readers on the Edmonton Sun web site.

Shades of the Globe and Mail's Friday entertainment and television guide package.

There was little left of Sun Television, so Sun TV coverage can only improve with the merger.

Says the Edmonton Sun message:

"TV mag, ENT, comics now rolled into one!

"Our faithful readers like their Sun compact and easy to read and we think we've got a new weekend product that fits the bill.

"We've merged our new Sunday entertainment pullout section, ENT, with TV Magazine and the comics for a one-stop read - that will keep readers entertained and informed for the entire week.

"We think we've covered the bases with what our readers like - quality, comprehensive listings for the entire week.

"Our popular comics round out this new section.

"So go ahead, delve into ENT, find out what's on or have a chuckle - this section will sit nicely on the coffee table for the whole week."

RIP Sun Television, previously known as TV Magazine. A lot of good people worked hard to build you up over the years, only to be deflated by Quebecor staff and content cutbacks.

Union busting?

Quebecor is being accused of union busting with its decision to close a profitable Vancouver printing plant at a cost of 190 union and non-union jobs.

Canadian Press says the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union (CEP) said Quebecor was union busting with the pending closure of the plant on Southeast Marine Drive.

The plant, in business for more than 50 years and under Quebecor's control since 1988, prints 24 hours, Sun Media's recently revamped free commuter tabloid, magazines and other publications.

It employs 160 unionized workers and about 40 non-union staff. Layoffs at the plant could begin next week. The union workers' contract expires Oct. 31.


"I am surprised and disappointed that Quebecor has decided to abandon its employees," Dave Coles, president of CEP, said in a letter to Quebecor CEO Wes Lucas.

Alex Charles
, CEP's Local 525G president, said the plant is profitable and called the situation frustrating.

"This facility is profitable," Charles says in a CNW Group press release. "The employer called all of the staff together to congratulate them on meeting their sales targets for the year - by April - and two days later assembled them again to tell them the place was closing.

"While plant closures are not uncommon, most involve facilities that were no longer profitable," said Charles. "That's what frustrates us about this situation. The employer's negotiators were absolutely up front with us about it. They said they were closing the plant because they don't want to do business under this collective agreement any more.

"That's a pretty powerful admission. Even though they're still getting their profit, they're closing the place because they think the workers there make too much. That's just spiteful. It's a lousy way to treat the people that have been generating your company's wealth.

"This highly profitable employer is simply trying to send a message to working people that it's okay for corporations to make good money, but not for workers," said Charles. "That's not going to wash in Canada in the 21st century. Our members won't be pushed backwards, to face tomorrow's prices with yesterday's wages. What is this company thinking?"

The Vancouver Sun says a Quebecor spokesman gave another reason for the closure.

"We sold the building," said Tony Ross, executive vice-president of corporate affairs.

Ross told the Vancouver Sun that after the company told employees about its plans in April, it entered into negotiations with the union on terms and conditions to merge the operation into Port Coquitlam but "we were unable to reach a satisfactory conclusion."

Ross told the Sun no attempt will be made to relocate employees, who will all be laid off by the end of the year.

Friday 8 June 2007

London FP bylines

London Free Press newsroom staffers awoke yesterday to the story of the year - the murder and suicide of a senior policewoman and her ex-lover, a retired police superintendent.

It was a tragic story and a major story for the London Free Press.

One detailed story on Canoe'ca's London Free Press web site this morning had a double byline for Free Press staffers Randy Richmond and Kelly Pedro, who probably worked overtime to get their story. Great quotes from police and witnesses, a job well done.

Jane Sims, Kate Dubinski and April Kemick worked on related Free Press stories.

But over at Canoe.ca's national CNews, there are no bylines on the London murder-suicide stories, just "By Sun Media." Suddenly, all of the work by Randy, Kelly, Jane, Kate and April is not recognized.

Local reporters become anonymous Sun Media contributors on CNews. It happens all too often in this new age of Sun Media centralization and it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The bylines of local reporters working on stories of national interest should be used on CNews.

It reminds us of an early Thomson newspaper edict to avoid giving reporters at small town newspapers bylines to minimize the risk of losing talented staff to other newspapers.

If we missed any of the London Free Press reporters who worked on the story, e-mail TSF. You all deserve full credit for a solid day of news gathering.

Thursday 7 June 2007

Sun/24 signposts

Watching the moves of Quebecor's 24 Hours from the sidelines is much like watching a cliched who-dun-it mystery. You know what's coming, it is all a matter of how and when.

News this week that Vancouver's free 24 Hours has been beefed up to a full tabloid-sized paper, along with an increasing number of 24 Hours ads in Sun Media newspapers, adds credibility to the rumour that the Sun tabloids will eventually be merged with 24.

Quebecor's Pierre Karl Peladeau told a gathering in the Toronto Sun newsroom there will be no merging of Suns and 24s, but 24's presence in Sun circles is getting stronger by the month.

With Vancouver's free 24 Hours now looking and behaving like a full-fledged tabloid, revamping the remaining 24s across Canada seems inevitable.

And if that happens, would most consumers continue to pay 53 cents ($1.06 beyond the GTA) for a Sun, or switch to a free, full-sized tabloid? You said it.

The balance of 2007 should reveal more of the story, with the Toronto Sun presses being silenced this summer by Quebecor's new printing plant, the possible sale of 333 King Street East, contract renewal negotiations for Toronto Sun editorial workers.

Sun page count

We are not sure when it began, but somewhere along the way the Toronto Sun page count on the last page now includes the sports section and special supplements.

An observant Toronto Sun reader asked TSF if the tabloid was padding the page figures after noticing Wednesday's back page count was 116, when the previous news page was 67.

The Wednesday count was 68 news pages, 20 sports pages, 16 Summer Fun pages and 12 Job pages, making it 116 pages in all.

No padding, just another way of making every page count should advertisers and readers be interested in knowing what they are getting for their money at a glance.

A stretch would be adding advertising inserts to the page counts.

Update: The page count change is old news, a former Toronto Sun executive tells TSF in an e-mail. "The change in counting pages in the Suns was made 18 months - two years ago. PKP requested that it be done to mirror what was done at LJM (Montreal Journal.) There was never an intent to include advertising supplements in the count."

Thanks for the update.

Bono goes blogging

Mark "The Moose" Bonokoski has tackled just about everything in three-plus decades at the Sun - reporter, columnist, publisher, freelance magazine writer etc.

The multi-talented Bono has just added blogging to the list with Moose Country, a blog hosted by Canoe.ca and featuring transcripts of his radio commentaries aired on the Moose-FM network.

It is another side of the city dweller that Sun readers haven't seen in his years of penning mostly serious columns about life in the Big Smoke, so you are in for a treat.

Listeners in Ontario's cottage country tuning into Moose-FM stations mostly hear a more laid back Bono commenting on the lighter side of new life as a country dweller.

Bono launched his blog with transcripts from a few recent Moose-FM broadcasts and an introduction to his latest venture:

"Well, folks, I'm getting a blog soon. In fact, here it is. So ramp up the lawyers, and put them all on notice.

"This could get interesting.

"Blogs are on-line notebooks. They're the in-thing these days. Anyone who has a computer and can string two words together can have a blog — even if what they have to say makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

"Anything is possible in cyberspace.

"And that's what makes it so scary.

"The blog that is being created for me will be called Moose Crossing.

"Get it? Moose-FM. Moose Crossing."

Bono has been using that five-letter word frequently in the past year, so don't get Mouse Country confused with his widely-publicized Free Bob the Mouse campaign. That's a whole other moose story.

Welcome to blogging, Mark. We are looking forward to reading your country side.

Just one tiny, tiny request. Spaces between paragraphs. Much easier to read.

Wednesday 6 June 2007

Two Sun highs

Rob Lamberti's three-part Toronto Sun series on home invasions was crime reporting at its best, putting every reader in the shoes of traumatized victims.

Few writers have captured the terror of violent home invasions and the lingering trauma of victims, but the veteran award-winning Sun crime reporter did so in chilling detail.

Rob's crime reporting continues to raise the bar in Toronto crime reporting circles.

We searched Canoe.ca for Rob's three-part series, which ran Sunday through Tuesday, without success.

A second story, written by the Calgary Sun's Todd Saelhof, describes how a long lost sister and bother were reunited thanks to a Letter to the Editor.

The letter in the Calgary Sun reunited Malcolm Wathall of Bow Island, Alberta, and his sister, Brenda, from England. They lost track of each after he moved to Alberta in 1982.

Brenda sent the "Brother Where Art Thou" letter prior to a three-week trip to Canada with her husband. An unidentified Sun reader contacted Malcolm following a successful web site search for him and the reunion took place this week.

Our kind of Sun stories.

Monday 4 June 2007

Gamer ethics

Gamers anxious for any words on Microsoft's much anticipated Halo 3 due Sept. 25 showed a bit of restraint after Steve Tilley's "exclusive" three-page review was published in the Sunday Sun's ENT section.

For reasons unknown, Steve's Halo 3 exclusive is MIA on Canoe.ca and there is no mention of it on his blog. But gamers being gamers . . .

From halo.bungie.org: New Halo 3 Info from Toronto Sun
Yesterday, John_117 posted a note about an article in his local newspaper - the Toronto Sun. Our policy with newspaper scans is the same as our policy with magazine scans - we will not link them until the issue is no longer available on newsstands. (It's why you won't find any links to the GamePro article here yet . . .)

"This was Sunday's paper, though, and today is Monday - so thanks to Hawaiian_Pig, who scanned in the article (along with closeups of the pictures), you can get a good look at some of the changes expected for Halo 3! (If you're totally against knowing anything about Halo 3, this article could be considered to have spoilers.) "

TSF doesn't know why Steve's Halo 3 special isn't on Canoe.ca, but they must know you can't keep the news from gamers. At least they waited a day to ignore copyrights.

New Sun low

The Toronto Sun slimed its way to a new low today with a headline about a toddler's "death plunge" above a photo of a talentless, superficial bimbo most readers don't give a damn about on any day of the year.

Was there any consideration for the family and friends of the dead toddler before placing the headline on the same page as a photo of this now jailed party girl? It showed a disgraceful lack of judgment on the part of editors.

The page 3 photo related to the boy's death would have been more appropriate.

Besides, the tabloid's own surveys have shown Sun readers are not the least bit interested in this now jailed party girl, but she's back again and again.

Sunday 3 June 2007

It all "ads" up

The 72-page Saturday Sun news section felt a little light yesterday after laying down $1.06 in a corner store beyond the GTA borders.

Soon discovered the news content was even lighter, with an irritating amount of precious news space being used to promote Quebecor' new national online classifieds.

We counted one full page ad for classifiedextra.ca, one quarter page ad, plus 11 banner ads at the bottom of pages throughout the paper measuring 10 inches wide by 1 1/4 inches deep.

Add those 13 space-consuming ads to the numerous Canoe.ca and torontosun.com/video promotional plugs and you have Saturday Sun readers feeling like are being spammed.

(Sunday Sun update: More of the same, with three, count 'em, three full pages devoted to promoting that online classifieds site, plus the banner ads scattered throughout the paper.)

Tipsters say it was much of the same in other Sun Media newspapers. One told TSF: "Sun Media is blowing editorial independence out the window. Papers are being forced to run editorial copy about the launch of the new Quebecor Media Inc. online classified service (in addition to the full page ads and banner ads.)."

From Day One, Sun readers have been known to scan the paper from front to back. One or two ads for the web site are tolerable, but 13? Insulting.

The folks at Quebecor obviously believe they have to hard sell their Internet properties, but continue to the overkill and, like e-mail spam, some readers will simply delete the Sun.

Enough with the hammer - and using limited Sun news space for shameless self promotion.

It might give some people the impression Quebecor has little interest in providing adequate editorial content in its newspapers.

Saturday 2 June 2007

Laura Bobak trio

It was kind of a journalistic triple play yesterday to see a Canadian Press story by laid off Toronto Sun staffer Laura Bobak in the Toronto Star.

It is a well-balanced story about the Quebecor offer to buy Osprey's chain of newspapers. She covers all of the bases and then some.

Laura is clearly someone who knows what to do when laid off by Sun Media - quickly get back on the horse and write away. You don't surrender and get out of journalism.

Media have had a field day reporting on the Quebecor/Osprey deal, including an Eric Reguly piece in the Globe and Mail about Osprey's setback as an income trust.

The Financial Post analysis of the deal.

Grant Robertson at the Globe and Mail looks at Quebecor's game plan.

James Wallace at the Niagara Falls Review sets the stage for a Torstar/Quebecor newspaper war.

Bryn Weese at the North Bay Nugget says it's business as usual.

The Toronto Sun interviews Quebecor's Luc Lavoie.

The Fading to Black blog has a press release from the CEP media union.

And just the facts - about Osprey and Quebecor

A lot of words written and only time will tell if Quebecor's treatment of Osprey's 54 newspapers will be a repeat of the first eight years of Sun Media gutting.