Tuesday 31 July 2007

Wayne re Sean

An e-mail from veteran Toronto Sun staffer Wayne Janes:

"I feel I have to comment on Sean McCann's 'Why are you still hanging on at the Sun?' email.

I can't speak for anyone else (though Sean seems to feel he can speak for people who signed on), but the most obvious reason is that it's a paycheque, and a pretty decent one, too.

And the job is still a good job (ask anyone who's ever had a shitty job). And the people are still great. And thoughtful. And dedicated. And bloody hardworking.

Maybe it's just me, but I get damn tired of the "old Sun" talk on this blog. The current Sun is no paradise, but then the "old Sun" was no paradise either. Yes, there were great perqs and some good times, but there were
also huge pay inequities, favouritism, being forced to run stuff that was downright embarrassing and to pull stuff that was righteous, etc. No newspaper, according to what I read, is what it used to be. The business — and it is, and always was, a business - isn't what it used to be.

(I remember when I had hair — so what?)

You mention the Strobels and the Bonokoskis. There's also the Tilleys and the Harrises, the Sloteks and Simmonses, Songs and Greens, and now the Williamsons and the Schmeichels, and on and on. In a cage match, I'd bet on half our current writers against a full complement of any other paper's on work ethic alone, not to mention talent.

Anybody with any depth has a life before, during and after the Sun. And no disrespect intended, but the late David Bailey's quote is a bit ironic, don't you think?"

Wayne Janes

Thank you for your e-mail, Wayne.

Monday 30 July 2007

Osprey countdown

Black Press has four more business days to counter Quebecor's $414 million offer for Osprey's chain of newspapers in Ontario.

Quebecor and Osprey said today the Canadian Competition Bureau has cleared the way for Quebecor's proposed purchase of Osprey Media Income Fund.

So if David Black and Black Press shareholders don't come up with a second offer, some of Canada's oldest daily newspapers will become Quebecor newspapers.

Osprey has accepted Quebecor's latest offer, but says the bidding will remain open until Aug. 3, which is Friday.

If successful, Quebecor's tab for the chain of daily and weekly newspapers will be $575.8 million, including debt.

Canadian Press says Quebecor would then own about 16% of Ontario's daily newspaper circulation.

We can picture an assembly of Osprey employees chanting "come on Black Press, come on Black Press," with vivid memories of Sun Media's casualties since Quebecor took over in 1999.

All of this reminds us of the popular Pac-Man video game. Gobble, gobble, gobble and the numerous casualties in this game of newspaper ownership are employees and readers.

Our kingdom for a good, old-fashioned independent daily newspaper, free from the wrath of controlling shareholders and bean counters.

Hey, we had that with the Toronto Sun in the 1970s.

But that is being nostalgic and in PKP's book, nostalgia is non-productive.

Best to look ahead to more debt and more extreme measures to trim that debt, i.e. massive cutbacks, layoffs, buyouts, firings etc. Lean and mean.

On second thought, we're going to stick to nostalgic thoughts of the Sun in the 70s. It is so much more comforting.

New York 4some

New York City appears to have tied Toronto for North American cities accommodating four competitive daily newspapers.

The New York Sun, an underdog broadsheet, is behaving like a contender with the well-established New York Times, Post and Daily News, in content and newsstand price.

The Sun - sadly not in the Sun Media stable of newspapers - will be doubling its newsstand price to $1 on Aug. 6, which follows a Times price hike to $1.25 and a Wall Street Journal hike to $1.50.

(The Post doubled its weekday newsstand price to 50 cents in April. The Daily News is 50 cents during the week.)

Such optimism in a sea of doubt surrounding the future of print journalism in North America.

"As you know, our print and online product has grown continuously over the past five years in the world’s most competitive news market," Sun editor Seth Lipsky told staff after the price hike was announced. "Admirers and competitors alike recognize our reporting to be among the finest in the industry."

A visit to the Sun's impressive web site speaks volumes for quality of the five-year-old newspaper, partly financed and nurtured by Conrad Black during his Hollinger years.

The Sun's online newspaper mirrors the print edition, a big advantage during the print-to-web transition for generations of readers raised on print-only newspapers.

A lot of older readers are less adaptable to change. Mirror print newspapers and you have the carrot needed to comfortably entice them into reading online newspapers.

Why didn't the Toronto Sun, which ventured into Houston, launch a New York tabloid?

In the early days, when the Toronto Sun holdings were expanding, staffers would ask about launching a Sun tabloid in the Big Apple. The reply from Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt was usually one word in unison: unions.

So we cheer for the Sun in New York as the underdog, not as a family member, and wish them well.

The New York Sun's success will bode well for big city print media.

Ottawa screwup

Ottawa's Sunday Sun readers thought their Sun Television guide looked familiar yesterday.

Yep, the geniuses at the new printing plant in Mirabel inserted week-old TV guides in all of the Sunday papers.

Management quickly apologized for the error on the Ottawa Sun web site Sunday and said the current TV guild would be in today's paper.

Sunday Suns have always been the biggest seller for Sun Media, so thousands of people who buy the Sunday Sun and not the Monday Sun are without a TV guide.

And Sunday Sun readers who do not have computers, or do not surf the Sun web site daily, wouldn't have known the guide would be in Monday's paper.

Sun Media's habit of screwing up on Sunday and making amends on Monday is meaningless to Sunday-only readers.

The Toronto Sun is improving. The third Sun Television screwup in three months - no answers to a crossword puzzle - was corrected by including the answers in the next Sun Television guide.

Sunday 29 July 2007

Why hang in?

Sean McCann, former Toronto Sun and Calgary Sun vet, reflects on the changing face of the Toronto Sun in an e-mail to TSF:

"I can't help wondering why some of the folks who knew the old Sun keep holding on," Sean writes. "Maybe they have it right, change with the times. However, I still have to wonder why they are still there. It's not what they signed on for.

"Oh, I can see the Bonokoskis, Strobels, Worthingtons, Donatos etc. Obviously they still have their forum.

"But it's not the forum it used to be, so why would those talented folks hang around is all I ask. It is beyond me really.

"I remember having a drink with David Bailey (former Toronto and Edmonton Suns staffer) in T.O. shortly before he died. He was ME, I believe, of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record at the time. He said to me: 'You know Sean, there is life after the Sun.'

"He was so right. There is life after the Sun . . . we both knew."

Thank you for your e-mail Sean.

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Rolf reinstated

Rolf Rimstad, laid off last summer after 30 years as a Toronto Sun copy editor, is back on the job following an Ontario Labour Board ruling.

Janice Johnson, an OLB arbitrator, ruled in favour of Rolf and ordered he be allowed to return to his job immediately, says the new SONG newsletter at SunFamily.ca

Rolf, brother of the late Sun columnist Paul Rimstead, was among those laid off in June of 2006. The Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild filed a grievance against Quebecor.

SunFamily.ca says Johnson's comments in her decision included:

“In light of the facts as I have found them to be and after carefully considering the submissions of the parties, I conclude that in laying off Rolf Rimstad on June 20, 2006, the employer did not act in a manner that was consistent with the terms and conditions of the collective agreement as is required by Article 401.

"Specifically, the employer violated Article 710 of the collective agreement in that it laid off Mr. Rimstad from his classification of copy editor and retained employees classified as copy editor, who had less seniority than Mr. Rimstad. The grievance is therefore upheld.

"Accordingly, the layoff of Mr. Rimstad was a contravention of the collective agreement. He is to be immediately reinstated.”

Well done, Rolf and SONG.

You couldn't ask for a more dedicated Sun staffer.

For those Sun Media employees still pondering the merits of being a union member in Quebecor's world, consider Rolf's successful grievance Exhibit A.

The latest SONG newsletter at SunFamily.ca also includes updates on the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Examiner organizing drive, an update on the Toronto Sun's pre-press bargaining news etc.

Frank & Ernest

A web site promoting the syndicated Frank & Ernest comic strip by Bob Thaves says the strip is "read daily by over 25 million people in 1,200 newspapers."

Those numbers will have to be revised now that Sun Media has dropped the longtime favourite from the daily papers.

Frank & Ernest, launched in 1972, was one of four daily comic strips axed by Sun Media this week. (It is Sunday's only for the punsters from now on.)

Were the changes based on surveys and reader feedback? Or was the goal to package a less expensive, centralized cartoons page for use in all Sun Media newspapers?

Whatever the motivation, we'll miss Frank & Ernest. You could always count on a humorous message from the punsters after wading through the daily diet of murder, mayhem, war coverage and stereo ads.

Also trimmed to Sunday's only - The Born Loser, a Toronto Sun comic strip since Day One in 1971, first drawn by Arthur Sansom and then by his son, Chip, after Arthur died in 1991.

The Born Loser, created by Arthur in 1965, is published in more than 1,300 newspapers in 30 countries, so father and son must have been doing something right.

Sun Media's daily comics are now top heavy with relatively new comic strips, so we're down to one favourite established daily strip - Garfield, created by Jim Davies in 1976 and syndicated since 1978.

Time will tell if the recycled Archie strip and the three other newer strips will catch on with readers.

Glenn Garnett, editor in chief of the Toronto Sun, said in his Inside The Sun blog this week that dropping cartoon strips "is a fairly risky thing to do, but every once in awhile a breath of fresh air on the comics page is a good thing. I hope."

There will be letters to the editor over the changes, much like 1993 after the Sun suddenly threw Overboard overboard. The Sun refused to revive Overboard. It is now in the Globe and Mail.

But there is always hope. When the Chicago Sun-Times dropped Garfield in 1978, 1,300 "angry" people wrote letters and called the paper. Garfield was quickly reinstated.

Garfield is now viewed daily in 2,600 newspapers around the world by an estimated 230 million people.

We'll be looking for another Inside the Sun blog with an honest appraisal of reader feedback to the comics page changes.

Until then, we're on the hunt for another daily publication that carries Frank & Ernest. They are always good for a laugh.

Friday 20 July 2007

Jailbird columns?

Seth Lipsky's proposition for Conrad Black is if he goes to the slammer this fall, write columns for the Sun.

While that sounds like something the Toronto Sun would have proposed, Seth's Sun is the New York Sun.

Black was a founding investor in the conservative daily, which claims a readership of 150,000.

Seth, who is editor, told a gathering of New York Sun staffers the gate is open to the media mogul and convicted felon.

In his talk with staff, Seth expressed his feelings about Black and the jury's findings in great length. All of his comments were posted on the paper's web site this week.

In a nutshell, he says: "I don't mind saying that it is a sad turn. In my view, Conrad Black is one of the greatest newspapermen of his, or any, time - and, in my own career, he has been an inspiring partner and a friend."

He told Sun staff: "If he does go to prison, I hope he will be able to send us some columns. I don't know whether he will want to, or be permitted, but the invitation is out."

Seth also told his staff: "And to those of you who might handle his copy here at the Sun, I say this: Please treat any of his dispatches as coming from a man who made your newspaper possible and, when you edit his prose and put it into print, remember that the honor is ours."

Prison columns by Conrad Black? An excellent idea for Sun Media or any of the Canadian newspaper chains. Who knows, signing the fallen media baron to a newspaper column deal could could turn into a bidding war if he embraces the idea.

Perhaps Peter Worthington can talk Quebecor into making a bid.

Babs, a former Toronto Sun editor and columnist, will certainly need money for food and lodging if her hubby is sent to prison for a decade or so.

Columns from the slammer, humbly written with honesty and humility, would gain Black some respect from a largely unsympathetic public who know him only for his greed and power.

But prison cell columns by Conrad the con will probably never fly, not with his ingrained disdain for the media. Past behaviour suggests he would never lower himself to become a newspaper columnist.

Yes, as a TSF reader notes, Black dispatched columns here and there to the National Post, but they were optional and written from his comfortable loft, not from a prison cell.

Thursday 19 July 2007


Quebecor's lack of interest in providing daily news in its "newspapers" has become crystal clear at the Toronto Sun.

In Wednesday's Sun, only 22 of the 108 pages were news pages, and two of those pages contained only news flashes.

Eliminating Page 2 as a key news page in favour of thewebpage this week is another blow for Sun reporters and editors wanting adequate news space to get the job done.

Devoting two back pages for The Daily Dish (Hollywood wire copy fluff) also lowered the news page count.

Toronto's Other Voice is rapidly losing its voice.

It is clear the once proud tabloid newspaper is being morphed into a sports and entertainment newspaper. We can hear PKP saying 'if you want adequate news coverage, go buy the Star, Globe or Post.' Many Sun readers have switched newspaper allegiance.

Quebecor's tunnel vision doesn't bode well for remaining newsroom staffers who are fast approaching contract renewal negotiations.

It has been relatively quiet for survivors of the spring round of layoffs, firings and buyouts, but it is just the calm before another storm.

When the Toronto Sun and London Free Press pressrooms are silenced in the next month or two, Quebecor's new printing plant will have claimed another 125 or so jobs.

The sale of 333 King Street East will no longer be a rumour within the year.

Weed out the few remaining old guard down the road and Doug, Peter and Don's Miracle on King Street will be vital signs absent. Younger staff, no memories of the good old days, lots of wire copy, Hollywood fluff, centralized copy, cookie cutter journalism. Whatever.

The Toronto Sun's only hope of resuscitation is a new owner, but TSF feedback from former and current staffers since this blog began in December has been defeatist on that front.

You can't sell a cash cow. Well, not before you milk it dry.

So for now, in this Summer of '07, we watch it being de-newsed bit by bit and yearn for a time machine to take us back to that pre-Quebecor gang of ours.

People who did not participate in the rising of the Sun say move on, what's done is done and it's time to forget North America's media miracle, circa 1971-1999.

Someday, but not today.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Re Terri Williams

Back in the day when the Toronto Sun's Money section was more than a single page, part of the financial team was the always effervescent Terri Williams.

Terri called the Sun home for 10 years and has been out of the Sun fold for 10 years.

Well, she's back, as of next Wednesday.

Her "Welcome to Money in Motion" story is in today's Suns.

The Toronto Sun's business coverage desperately needs a boost and from what we remember of the Terri Williams years, she will be a welcomed addition to Linda Leatherdale's team.

Terri, a certified financial planner and director of educational services at DundeeWealth, writes:

"Welcome to Money in Motion. This new Sun Media column is being brought to you by an "old" Sun face.

"Many years ago, I spent over a decade as a business writer and consumer columnist for the Toronto Sun. In fact, I marked my 10th anniversary away from the Sun in March. But, do you know the saying, "what's old is new again?" Well, talk about retro . . . I'm back!

"My previous Moneyline and Consumer Alert columns gave Sun readers "news you can use" by helping to answer people's financial questions and providing warnings and guidance about consumer purchases. With this new column, I hope to again give readers the ammunition to make sound financial decisions.

"What I've learned over the past decade working in the financial services industry is that typically people will not make financial decisions, or seek financial advice, unless something happens to put their money into motion.

"Until a life event happens that changes our money flows, we just carry on with the status quo - probably spending more than we should and saving less than we could - not making the most out of our hard-earned dollars.

"When that windfall unexpectedly arrives, or our employment or family situation changes and we are forced to face financial realities, we don't know where to start.

"This column will help you kick-start the financial decision-making process to help you make sound financial choices when they need to be made.

"Next week, we'll start right at the beginning, literally, at birth. There are many financial decisions to make when you have children.

"Believe me, as a parent of two teenagers I know kids can be expensive. We're getting ready to fork out some big bucks for college or university in the next few years, as are many other baby boomers with teenagers.

"How can you afford to put your kids through school and ensure that they are not starting off their adult lives saddled with horrendous student loans? What's the best way to be prepared?

"Tune in next Wednesday to Money in Motion to find out."

Will do. Welcome back, Terri.

Hidden talents

The Toronto Sun has had its share of hidden talent since 1971 - talent that eventually surfaced, much to the surprise of fellow employees.

Readers would have been deprived of a wide range of words without those talents being allowed to blossom, everything from rose gardens to the life and times of Shaky Lady.

Here are a few who were given the freedom to explore new avenues:

Bob Vezina
Toronto Sun newsroom newcomers in the 1980s probably summed up Bob Vezina, the city editor, as a grouchy s.o.b. and the guy to tolerate if they were going to survive.

But when you got to know Bob, you discovered he was mostly all bark and little bite and that he spent his leisurely hours cultivating his prized rose garden.

Who knew the veteran editor had a columnist streak in him? But he did. As retirement approached, he turned to the keyboards and blossomed as a popular Sun gardening columnist.

Mike Strobel
Back in the days when Mike had hair and a Toronto Sun desk job in management, the newsroom was a better place. He was approachable, good-natured and fit in at the Sun like a glove.

But in the post-Doug Creighton years, changes in management numbers created a turning point for some in management positions. Decisions had to be made and Mike made his.

Who knew Mike Strobel had a future as a popular, offbeat columnist? But he did and Sun readers have been treated to years of the Shaky Lady and other assorted characters.

Dean McNulty
Dean McNulty was a nose-to-the-grindstone Toronto Sun editor who worked his way up to assistant city editor. Another of the many people who were a joy to work with in the newsroom.

Of all of the jobs in a newsroom, the city desk is up there on the stress meter, with deadlines and reporters to deal with daily. Health issues arose and a decision was to be made.

Who knew Dean McNulty would move over to the sports department and become a popular motor sport writer, covering major races in North America?

Pam Davies
Cameras have never been allowed in Ontario courtrooms, but the Toronto Sun has never needed them with sketch artist Pam Davis on staff. She could outdraw anyone in court.

Pam has often been on call for last-minute sketches of suspects appearing in courtrooms on serious charges. She has captured the likeness of the most infamous for three decades.

Who knew Pam was more than an sketch pad artist? She can also write and is now writing full-page columns on art in the Sunday Sun's ENT section.

Al Shanoff
Toronto Sun readers knew little of Al Shanoff in the first 30 years of his association with the tabloid. He was a vital, behind the scenes lawyer on call day and night.

Al saved Sun Media millions over the years by keeping libel from reaching the papers and defending the chain when taken to court over content. But all good things . . .

Who knew Al Shanoff would retire as a lawyer, but quickly return as an op-ed columnist? A lawyer who can write for the Sun masses? Yes, indeed. He is now on our "must read" list.

Sun readers would have been deprived of volumes of quality writing had editors, artists and lawyers been told to stick to their primary jobs.

Travels with Kate

Kate Pocock, a name and face familiar to Toronto Sun staffers and travel readers for 10 years, has done some inner-city travelling - to the Globe and Mail.

The Globe is hosting an online Q&A session with the award winning, globe-hopping mother of three Thursday at 1 p.m.

"Family travel expert Kate Pocock can help you plan the perfect summer holiday for your family - even if it includes a rowdy toddler, a stubborn teenager or a picky spouse (or all of the above)," says a Globe story. "She will be online Thursday at 1 p.m. EDT to take questions on summertime family vacations."

You have to register with globeandmail.com to submit a question but it's free.

Kate, a Toronto-based author, editor and freelance writer, has made a career out of advising parents on how to get the most of vacationing with children of all ages, as she has done with her three children for 20 years.

For 10 of those years, she shared her experiences with Toronto Sun readers and other Sun Media papers in a Family Fare column.

Kate's lengthy and impressive bio on her Family Travel Ink web site would make Percy Rowe, the late great Toronto Sun travel writer proud of her accomplishments.

Well done, Kate.

TSF has added your Family Travel Ink site to our growing list of Toronto Sun Family personal and business links.

As Toronto Sun Family, you are in excellent company.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Guild meet news?

Did we miss it?

Did we miss a Sun, Star, Globe or Post story about The Newspaper Guild and the Communications Workers of America union holding their conferences in Toronto?

The 72nd TNG conference, with delegates from across Canada and the United States, was held Friday and Saturday. The 69th CWA conference opened Monday and ends today.

But you wouldn't know it from Toronto media coverage. (Are they open sessions?)

TSF learned about the TNG and CWA conferences from a Milwaukee Newspaper Guild blog.

Delegates had favourable things to say about Toronto, as a city and as a competitive newspaper town, says the detailed Milwaukee blog.

It says:

"With a backdrop of U.S., Canadian and Puerto Rican flags, the 72nd meeting of The Newspaper Guild sector conference opened Friday morning in Toronto, one of the most ethically diverse cities, and union supporting, in the world.

"Lise Lareau, president of TNG-CWA Local 30213, the host local of the conference, welcomed the 148 Guild delegates from across America and Canada.

"Lareau noted that Toronto is a great newspaper town, with four daily newspapers - Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Toronto Globe and Mail and the National Post - as well as a daily Chinese and daily Italian newspaper.

"She also noted that the conference is being held just a few blocks from the headquarters of CBC, where 2,500 members of TNG work.

"Simcoe Park, next to CBC headquarters, is a place with history for the Guild because of the many events that took place there during the contentious CBC strike a few years ago."

The Milwaukee blog also says:

"Arnold Amber, director of CWA Canada, said the union faces many challenges in an industry that is changing at a breakneck pace. Yet he said the industry in Canada does not face as many problems as the U.S. industry. He noted that two of the dailies in Toronto have held their own in circulation in recent years.

"But the real keynote in Canada is the same as it is in the United States: change, change, change," Amber said.

The blog says Bernie Lunzer, TNG secretary-treasurer, said Guild membership in the past few years had dropped from 33,000 to 30,000 members.

It quotes Lunzer as saying "it is tragic that newspaper people are leaving the industry and going to public relations and other jobs outside the industry and enjoying their work for the first time in a long time."

“How sad it that?” he said.

Lunzer's "how sad is that?" comment hits close to home for hundreds of Quebecor employees laid off since 1999, especially the journalists who opted to move on to non-media jobs.

It is sad to see men and women born to be journalists giving up their dreams.

FYI: Conference speech by Larry Cohen, CWA president.

Monday 16 July 2007

Cross Words 3

To paraphrase rapper Kanye West: Sun Television editors don't care about Crossword Puzzle fans.

How could they care when there have been three, count 'em, three screwups with the TV Crossword Puzzle in three months.

The monthly screwup for July? They left out the answers to this week's puzzle.

Instead of the answers on Page 16, where they are usually placed, readers found a repeat of the beginning of Jim Slotek's Page 4 TV Trivia column.

In June, they repeated both the puzzle and answers from the previous week.

In May, they had a new puzzle, but the previous week's answers.

There was a time when editors of the Sun's TV magazines took pride in their work. People like Gord Stimmell and Jim McPherson.

They catered to crossword puzzle addicts knowing they were a demanding lot and worked overtime to produce an informative and reliable television guide.

But they were the good old days, when surveys showed a lot of readers bought the Sunday Sun for the TV magazine and all of its features.

We can understand why nobody is taking credit for editing the 36-page guide these days.

Three crossword screwups in three months is just plain sloppy.

As newspaper television guides go in 2007, the entertainment and guide combo in Friday's Globe and Mail and the Saturday Star guide put the anemic Sunday Sun guide to shame.

It's time to pull the plug on Sun Television.

Do what the Edmonton Sun said it was doing - merging Sun Television with the ENT section.

Ottawa coverage

Have Ottawa media been covering the national capital's increasingly visible problem with drug pushers and crack addicts?

No doubt about it, say TSF readers.

"Minister lends support to city's drug solution" - Ottawa Sun

"Ont. minister, mayor to take 'first step' toward Ottawa drug treatment centre" - CBC

"Ottawa drug treatment centre under discussion" - CFRA

"Police chief urges review of scrapped crack pipe program" - CBC

"Doctor questions demise of crack-pipe program" - Ottawa Citizen

"Agencies plan own crack-pipe program" - Ottawa Citizen

Plus an Ottawa Sun story street scene story which is now pay per view.

And, for good measure: A Welcome to Hell on Earth blog posting.

Adequate coverage, we would say.

Add Erin Anderssen's report in the Globe and Mail report in April and Christina Blizzard's column in the Toronto Sun on Friday, and it is safe to say Ottawa's dirty little secret is no longer little, nor secret.

Sunday 15 July 2007

Winnipeg publisher

Sun Media has made it official - Kevin Klein is the new publisher of the Winnipeg Sun.

Kevin, with 20 years experience in advertising and broadcasting, had been acting publisher since April.

He replaces Ed Huculak, who was promoted in April to general manager/director of sales for the Calgary Sun.

Christina rocks

Initially, we thought Toronto Sun op-ed columnist Christina Blizzard was in for a chilly reception on her next visit to Ottawa.

Heck, following her Friday column, reprinted Saturday in the Ottawa Sun, we thought she might require a passport and 10 other pieces of ID to return to a city she calls "a national disgrace."

But an Ottawa radio station's online poll says otherwise.

The CFRA poll asked: In today's Toronto Sun, columnist Christina Blizzard says Ottawa is fast becoming a cesspool - a national capital that is a blight on the country. Canada's capital city is a national disgrace infested with crack addicts. Do you agree our downtown is as bad as she says?

The latest numbers: 79.1% of the 2,637 respondents said yes and 20.4% said no.

So Ottawa media, police and politicians expecting an uproar from Ottawa citizens over Christina's comments might be kept waiting.

The Ottawa Citizen fueled the flames Saturday by rehashing Christina's barbed criticisms of downtown drug dealers and crack addicts and added rebuttal comments from Ottawa police.

The Citizen's headline: Toronto columnist slams Ottawa as "rotting at the core."

Roger Collier's lead: "Ottawa residents beware: you live in a crack-infested cesspool that may very well be the most dangerous city on Earth. At least, that's what one Toronto Sun writer believes."

Perhaps the Citizen expected the majority of Ottawa residents would disagree with Christina's blunt observations.

If her column sparks a police crackdown on drug peddlers in downtown Ottawa, Christina just might receive a bouquet of roses on her return to the capital city.

UPDATE: A TSF reader notes the Globe and Mail did a take out on the Ottawa crack scene in April. "They even had a web audio-photo slide show. It was a good job."

Toronto Sun, Globe and Mail. TSF wonders if Ottawa's downtown drug dealers and crack addicts have been issues covered by Ottawa media.

Saturday 14 July 2007

Berton on Black

Recommended reading today is the London Free Press commentary on Conrad Black by Paul Berton, editor in chief.

Paul had us from his first three paragraphs:

"Conrad Black's one-finger salute to the gathered media on his way into a Chicago courtroom this week pretty well sums up his attitude toward the profession.

"It has always been thus.

"Despite the fact he has employed hundreds of journalists over the years, and produced in the National Post one of the most refreshing newspapers the country has ever seen, his disdain for the profession has always been evident."

One of the true ironies of the Conrad Black saga.

Friday 13 July 2007

Green Berets

The Toronto Sun's popular Marc the Litter Guy story by Kevin Connor is still a big draw on Canoe.ca, Glenn Garnett reports in his Inside the Sun blog.

Kevin's front page story about a down and out guy who cleans the streets for donations because he doesn't want to panhandle was in Tuesday. Mike Strobel did a followup column Wednesday.

When you talk about positive Sun news stories, this is a classic.

Readers are applauding Marc the Litter Guy, who said he can make $10 an hour in donations picking up trash. They are hoping Toronto will become a cleaner city with others taking up the cause.

Numerous bloggers and forums have picked up the story, with an overwhelming positive response, i.e. Walk On My Path, C2NN, Free Dominion, DIGG, eBay.ca etc.

The potential for a new way of life for panhandlers reminds us of lyrics in Arlo Guthrie's classic Alice's Restaurant where he says one person doing something might be ignored, two people might also be rejected, but three might be considered an organization and 50 people a day would have some people calling it a movement.

Marc the Litter Guy's innovation has miles to go before it can be called a movement, but with the cooperation of bureaucrats, the media, citizens and panhandlers, Toronto could become the apple of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's eye.

Bloomberg's efforts to beautify New York from the litter on up to broken windows and buildings in need of repair have been a huge success.

Toronto would have to get tough and give panhandlers two choices - risk arrest for panhandling or volunteer to help clean up debris in selected areas where the city's sanitation workers don't clean.

You could call the volunteers The Green Berets, with no disrespect to John Wayne.

Provide them with gloves, green garbage bags and green berets to make it easier for citizens to spot them and make donations.

Have Toronto residents report locations that are an eyesore.

The potential is there to return Toronto's long lost title of the Cleanest City in Canada, while making the streets panhandler-free.

It is a win-win scenario.

A movement launched by a front page Toronto Sun story on a quiet news day.

That would be one big feather in the caps of Marc the Litter Guy, Kevin Connor, Mike Strobel et al.

Or not.

Meanwhile, blog readers inspired by the story have two questions:

Has someone offered Marc the Litter Guy a full-time job?

Where can they send Marc a donation by mail?

Thursday 12 July 2007

Screwing Up$$$

Vivian Song's story in today's Sun about four in 10 Canadian homes "haven't bothered to install energy-saving light bulbs" would have been more balanced had she mentioned the cost of the bulbs.

How many of those Canadian homes are owned by struggling low-income families or fixed-income pensioners who can't afford to pay higher prices for the energy-saving light bulbs?

Two Sylvania Super mini light bulbs purchased at a hardware store this week cost $9.11, including taxes. Multiply that by the number of light bulbs required in a house and you can understand why many Canadians are sticking with the much cheaper standard bulbs.

Vivian, a National Bureau writer, quotes a Sierra Club of Canada spokesman as saying "it's disgraceful" that four in 10 households haven't bothered to change one light bulb. It's really disappointing."


What is disappointing for fixed-income pensioners and low-income households is the cost of the eco-friendly bulbs. They are living pay cheque to pay cheque and pension cheque to pension cheque and you want them to spend food money on a $4.50 light bulb?


What is disgraceful is suggesting all of those four households out of 10 are inhabited by people who don't give a damn about saving energy or saving the planet.

Are manufacturers, politicians or eco groups offering discounts or rebates? We haven't heard of any price breaks, but they would definitely be an incentive.

Thank you Globe

Dick MacDougal, aka Dirty Dick.

So that was the name of the toothless, down-and-out alcoholic Ed Mirvish took under his wing soon after opening Honest Ed's in 1948.

It might have been reported elsewhere over the years, but the Globe and Mail's mention of the name of Honest Ed's well known mascot is the first we have seen in print since 1948.

As mentioned in a previous posting, a photo of Dick MacDougal greeted visitors to the store and identified Dick as Ed Mirvish.

We've also been told Ed used Dick's photo on the cover of his menus at Old Ed's restaurant.

Ed's helping hand in giving Dick the use of a basement cot in exchange for odd jobs around the store impressed a lot of people in the multicultural neighborhood.

His early, heart-felt feelings for people in the community earned him large numbers of faithful customers who continued to shop there after moving out of the neighborhood.

Speaking of Toronto front page media coverage of Ed's death:

The Toronto Star gets our nod for the full colour of a gleeful Ed standing on the street across from his neon shopping palace, a Reuters file photo circa 2001. Ed's "It's Showtime" pose in living colour is how Toronto residents will remember Ed.

The Globe and Mail used an undated and much earlier black and white photo of Ed in a similar pose with a long lineup outside his store, but the Honest Ed's sign is not visible. There is no photo credit.

The Toronto Sun had a colour photo of Ed's classic pose on the street in front of his store, taken by Ken Kerr in 1998, but used it on Page 3. The large black and white head and shoulders photo of Ed on the front page indicated a reflective, sombre mood.

Favourite line of the day goes to the Sun for "Death of a salesman."

The city, the media, theatre patrons, Honest Ed's customers, should celebrate his life with a posthumous 93rd birthday party on July 24.

Much like the final curtains for the many plays he hosted, we're sure Ed would rather leave 'em laughing.

London going tab?

Quebecor is apparently still weighing the advantages of turning the broadsheet London Free Press into a tabloid when its new printing plant opens in Toronto in the next month or two.

A report on the Independent Media Centre web site says that decision will be based on the amount of advertising the Free Press might lose by going tabloid.

The posting says Paul Berton, editor in chief, recently told University of Western Ontario journalism students the move may not occur if Quebecor decides the loss of advertising revenue is too costly.

The IMC posting says Berton said newspapers switching to compact versions typically lose 10 to 30% of their advertising revenue because advertisers are unwilling to pay as much for the smaller page size.

The posting says Berton told the students a compact version of the London Free Press would allow for greater integration of Sun Media content when the paper is produced at the new press in Islington.

About 25 to 30% of the paper’s content comes from the Sun Media chain and that number will increase by 5% when the LFP makes the switch, said Berton.

“Part of our challenge is to integrate some of the best things about the Sun Media chain with some of the best things about our local coverage.”

Berton had a lot more to say about the London Free Press in the posting.

One thing, for sure, is about 180 jobs will be lost in the city when the London Free Press's presses are silenced.

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Ed Mirvish

The Toronto Sun lost a good friend when Ed Mirvish died today at 92.

He was a supporter of the tabloid from the start, buying a full page ad in the tabloid's first 48-page edition on Nov. 1, 1971.

"Honest Ed's Ain't Upper Crust But His Bargains Sure Save You Dough" was his pun of the day and bargains in the ad included a Corningware Twin Set for $5.88 a set.

Reporters loved Ed and Ed loved reporters. He was always good for a story.

The media and Ed shared space in the 1980s when the homeless Toronto Press Club accepted his invitation to move into Ed's Warehouse restaurant on King Street West.

This blogger, born and raised on Euclid Street, remembers when Ed got started in 1948 in a converted house at the southeast corner of Bloor and Markham Streets.

You couldn't help but smile every time you entered Honest Ed's because of a photo of a toothless, down-and-out alcoholic from the neighborhood Ed took under his wing for odd jobs.

The photo said something like "This is Ed."

Honest Ed's eventually consumed a restaurant to the east and a former Loblaw's supermarket at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets to become a landmark neon shopping palace.

Then came the theatre district on King Street West and a lifetime of helping to make Toronto a better place.

Thousands of people, from recipients of his annual free Christmas turkeys to Toronto's elite, are remembering Ed today in e-mails to newspapers and phone calls to radio talk shows.

The Toronto Sun is welcoming online comments about Ed. Click here.

The online Star has devoted a page to memories of Ed. Click here.

The National Post is also inviting e-mails about Ed. Click here.

The Globe and Mail also has a comments page for Ed. Click here.

Re Strangers

Our Waking Up To Strangers posting ruffled a few feathers among Sun Family folks, including Linda Williamson, former editor of the Toronto Sun and Paul Cantin, former Ottawa Sun staffer. (See e-mails below.)

The point of our TSF posting was a generation of readers raised on the Toronto Sun do not have the same bond with a lot of today's writers as they had with most writers from the 1970s through the 1990s.

"Strangers" we mentioned might not be strangers within Sun Media, but poll Toronto Sun readers and ask them how much they know about the tabloid's post-2000 imports.

Ask readers if they embrace any of the "strangers" to the same degree as Paul Rimstead, John Downing, Gary Dunford and other Sun pioneers, who were always much more than a byline and head and shoulders photo.

Linda Williamson writes:
"I hope you will get a number of responses from current Sun employees about your recent "strangers" post, but just in case, I am writing to set you straight on a couple of points.

I suspect you were being facetious, since I know you are well aware that some of the people you cite - such as P.J. Harston, whom you mentioned many months back when he was named the corporate business editor, are part of Quebecor's "convergence" effort that began about a year ago.

However, describing some of the people you mentioned as "strangers" is highly unfair. I'll stick to Comment, where, as you know, I was the editor until November 2006:

- Salim Mansur has been a regular Comment columnist since at least 2001 (I no longer have access to the database, so I can't give you an exact date, but that is my recollection). He is a political science professor at UWO in London, Ont., and widely respected as a commentator on politics and international affairs, particularly terrorism and the Mideast.

- Kathleen Harris has been a reporter with the Parliament Hill Bureau for several years and started before that at the Ottawa Sun - almost 10 years ago now, I believe.

- Mindelle Jacobs and I worked together at the Winnipeg Sun in the 1980s and the Ottawa Sun in the 1990s; she has been at the Edmonton Sun ever since, where she is one of the top columnists. Her columns have been picked up in the Toronto Sun Comment section periodically (like many others from the sister Suns, including my own before I moved to Toronto in 1997) for a good 10 years.

- Rachel Marsden? You know her story full well, having posted about her a few times. Whatever you may think of her, she has been a Sun columnist for about two years now, and is hardly a "stranger" to readers. None of these people are.

- Ajit Jain and Donna Marie Artuso are indeed (relatively) new additions, but it seems to me that they were introduced to readers in some way when they first appeared.

I hope this helps.


Linda Williamson"

From Paul Cantin:

"Hey, I just wanted to say that describing long-time Sun contributors such as Mindelle Jacobs and Salim Mansur as part of some recent program by Quebecor to ration resources or describing them as strangers to longtime Sun readers . . . you risk embarrassing yourself.

Mindy is a longtime veteran journalist who is based out west but has made some excellent contributions to the Toronto Sun over the years. Salim's work has been appearing in the paper for several years - he's not a figment of Quebecor's cost-cutting.

They may not be as well known to you, but for anyone who has been reading the op-ed pages carefully in, say, the last five to 10 years, I bet these are more familiar names than some of the long-departed (though fondly remembered) names you invoked from the good old days.

There is a danger in assuming that YOUR era at the Sun represents a pinnacle and anything else is a shadow of former glories. It's a danger any of us can fall into and it is disrespectful."

Thank you for your e-mails, Linda and Paul.

We now know more about the backgrounds of some of these "strangers."

But while some of the staffers mentioned above worked for other Sun Media newspapers for years or decades, they were new to Toronto readers.

Knowing who they are and where they came from would help readers bond with the post-2000 writers.

Sun's strangers

Have you ever had your day begin with a mate telling you: "It's like I don't even know you?"

Great way to start your day, eh?

Well, Toronto Sun readers who have been buying the tabloid since the 1970s have been waking up to a lot of strangers in the past few years.

For almost three decades, faithful readers were considered part of the Sun family and they considered Sun reporters and columnists part of their family.

Over the years, readers came to know and appreciate Peter Worthington, Paul Rimstead, Max Haines, John Downing, Gary Dunford, Bruce Kirkland, Eric Margolis, Andy Donato, Jim Hunt, Michelle Mandel, Bob Pennington, Joey Slinger, Rita Demontis, George Gross, Jim Slotek, Mark Bonokoski, Lorrie Goldstein, Val Gibson, Rob Lamberti, Thane Burnett, Joe Warmington, Linda Leatherdale, Jerry Gladman, George Anthony, Liz Braun, Joan Sutton, Ted Reeves, John Colborne, Jane Stevenson, Jim MacPherson, Scott Morrison, just about everyone in the sports department and others.

Readers felt comfortable with the multi-talented Sun family members and when staffers moved on, retired or died, readers let the tabloid know they felt the losses.

There was a genuine, two-way connection.

Not so much these days, with new names and faces frequently appearing out of nowhere throughout the paper. No bios or introductions.

Just who is P.J. Harston on the Your Money page? Or Ann Marie McQueen and her Trends column? Who are Entertainment's Kevin Williamson and Michael Rechtshaffen and how did they arrive at the Sun?

Waking up to strangers.

Who are all of these op-ed people and assorted columnists? Ajit Jain? Donna Marie Artuso? Kathleen Harris? Salim Mansur? Mindelle Jacobs? Rachel Marsden?

A lot of new names and faces with little bonding going on with readers. What are their roots and their credentials as journalists?

This out of the blue crowd, are they products of Quebecor's centralized ballgame? Columnists from other Sun Media papers?

All readers know is they are strangers in our midst and that is a most alienating experience.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

New legal lawyer

Lorne Honickman, former Citytv newsman and legal specialist, is Sun Media's new legal adviser.

Sources say Lorne replaces Al Shanoff, who made his exit as legal adviser last week after 30 years at the post, but remains as a Sunday Sun columnist.

Lorne, a lawyer since 1997, knows his media, having spent years in the field as "a leading Canadian broadcaster, Citytv's legal specialist, weekly talk show host, a media communications consultant, professor and practising litigation lawyer."

One source said Lorne, who has a passion for constitutional law, has represented Sun Media in court during legal challenges.

He has also been a "skilled" story teller at hands-on media training sessions, says an online profile for his speaking engagement bookings.

Perhaps, Lorne would just like to forget the night he sang at Yuk Yuk's comedy club.

Another online profile says this of Lorne:

"With a knack for creating a really good legal argument, Lorne Honickman's brush with the law as a "CityPulse" reporter from 1981-92, prompted him to successfully pursue a law degree, while continuing to work part-time in the Citytv newsroom.

"He graduated in the top-10 percent of his class at Osgoode Hall Law School, with three Academic Awards and numerous Advocacy Awards.

"Since he was called to the Bar in 1997, he continues to practice civil litigation, while working full-time as "CityNews'" legal specialist. Lorne is one of Toronto's foremost media experts on the deaths of sick kids, the Canadian abortion controversy and the Guy Paul Morin case."

His education: H. Bsc., Specialist Degree, Psychology, University of Toronto, and Bachelor of Laws, Osgoode Hall Law School.

Overall, Lorne certainly has the experience and credentials to fill Al's shoes.

Northern Sun

The canoes are back on Canoe.ca

Generator problems kept the Hide-Away Canoe Club trek in northern Saskatchewan offline for a couple of days, but Michael and Geoffrey Peake, Peter Brewster et all are back.

Michael, pictured above listening to tunes on his son's iPod during a break in their hectic schedule, has been busy taking photos for the online photo album.

Peter and Geoffrey are writing detailed daily journals and from what they have written to date, the going was wet and wild during the first few days of their 17-day expedition along a course David Thompson canoed in the summer of 1796.

Their six-man, 450-km trek in three canoes is a reminder for couch potatoes and armchair adventurers of all ages to get outdoors and smell the roses before the snow flies.

Peter, a former Toronto Sun managing editor, is 64; Michael, a veteran Toronto Sun photographer, is 55, Geoffrey, a teacher, is 46.

We should all be so fit.

So being there on the trek via satellite is not only informative, it is motivating.

As Geoffrey says in his journal for Sunday:

"The biggest portage, 1.5 km, took several hours to complete and thoroughly exhausted us all - possibly the best way of losing weight known to man. If every gym in the country had a circular track where you could wade through muskeg while carrying a heavy canoe pack on your shoulders, there would be no obesity problems."

There is much more to come from Geoffrey the cook - everything from mac and cheese to fresh fish; Michael the photographer - snapping canoeists at work and play, breathtaking scenery and wildlife spotted along the way; Peter the "Piscine Procurement Officer" - catcher of fish.

Rounding out the crew are Rev. Canon Peter Scott, Tom Stevens and novice Keith Gunn.

Other than the July 4 sendoff story Michael wrote for the Toronto Sun, we haven't seen any coverage of the trek in the paper.

We know the Sun plans to do a spread on their return, but a photo or two and some words along the way would be of interest and draw new visitors to the web site.

Monday 9 July 2007

Shanoff Shanoffed?

Al Shanoff wore a different cap in the Sunday Sun, writing an op-ed column instead of offering legal advice on Sun content as he had done for 30 years.

So the question is, who will "Shanoff" Shanoff?

Not that the veteran lawyer, who saved Sun newspapers millions over the years, will need Shanoffing. He's probably the safest columnist at Sun Media.

Al's first column was lighter fare, mostly a recap of his reasons for bowing out as legal adviser last week. He also outlined a few of the numerous Sun content cases he handled.

It was a good read and Al appeared to be quite comfortable with the transition. Who knew Al the lawyer had the potential to become an op-ed Sun columnist?

What is his forte as a writer?

We wouldn't mind if he wrote about his more interesting Sun content complaints and libel actions for the next year. Journalists and readers would benefit from his experiences.

But if Al wants to avoid law, his lighter style in Sunday's Sun is promising for readers desperately in need of a break from the steady stream of commentary on politics and world conflicts.

Who knows, Al could become a favourite, depending on the path he takes. The Sun needs light, bright and humourous. Rimmer style, or Joey Slinger style.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Or not.

Osprey options

Black Press CEO David Black is waiting word from company shareholders before announcing a possible new bid for Osprey's 54 daily and weekly newspapers in Ontario, says a Canadian Press story out of Montreal.

"(Black) is keeping his cards close to his chest but will likely announce next week his decision on entering a cross-country bidding war with Quebecor Inc. for Osprey Media Income Fund and some of Canada's oldest dailies," CP says.

"The head of the Victoria-based operator of community newspapers said he's made a decision but must win approval from company shareholders.

"I think it's time for me to think about, think of our options and look at the detail of their bid," Black said in an interview yesterday.

"Black's unwillingness to categorically rule out a higher bid has many expecting the final sale price hasn't yet been set.

"On Thursday, Osprey's board agreed to recommend acceptance of Quebecor Media's increased offer of $8.45 per unit.

"However, it is still open to a higher bid until Aug. 3."

Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher says Quebecor's purchase of Osprey is "virtually assured" after upping the bid on Thursday.

The E&P headline reads: "Quebecor Taking On $750 Million In Debt To Pay For Osprey Acquisition"

Donato & Dewar

What a week it was for Andy Donato and Susan Dewar while attending the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists' 50th anniversary convention in Washington, D.C.

The award-winning Sun Media editorial cartoonists mingled with hundreds of other North American cartoonists and Wednesday night, watched Independence Day fireworks from a patio atop the Canadian Embassy with 250 other guests.

We have to wonder if Andy's unflattering George W. cartoons were discussed at the embassy or while attending the four-day convention.

Not that Andy would be alone with that sentiment. Razzing George W. appears to be a popular pastime for cartoonists.

Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic presidential candidate, got the last laughs as the closing guest speaker at the convention Saturday night.

On a more serious side, association members voted earlier to support a list of measures aimed at preserving the jobs of newspaper cartoonists, as mentioned in an Editor & Publisher story.

As for Canadian input,
the E&P story says Malcolm Mayes of the Edmonton Journal said Canadian editorial cartoonists tend to get paid more for their work than American editorial cartoonists do.

"Mayes' comment was the impetus for the vote to look into the possibility of higher U.S. pricing.

Should Quebecor execs have read the same story, in our books, Andy Donato could never be paid too much.

Saturday 7 July 2007

Star seeks brevity

Kathy English, a former Toronto Sun reporter settling in as the Toronto Star's new public editor, writes about brevity in newspapers in today's column.

The Toronto Sun embraced brevity from Day One in 1971, banishing the continuation of stories to another page weekdays and allowing only the occasional two-page feature in the Sunday Sun.

Sun readers who favoured a quick read during their morning commute to work applauded the tabloid's style - tight and bright. It was the Sun's mantra and it worked.

The Sun has lost sight of tight and bright in recent years, with its multiple page special reports weekdays on various issues and with its non-tabloid war casualty coverage.

So it is interesting that at a point when Sun stories are getting longer, the Toronto Star editorial orchestrators are listening to the demands of readers who don't have time for lengthy stories.

The call at the revamped and much more reader-friendly broadsheet is for brevity.

Says Kathy in her column: "Studies indicate that it takes an average reader one minute to read 200 words. I've written 614 words here. Will you stay with me for the next three minutes or so, or is your weekend to-do list beckoning?"

We did stay to the end, but take Kathy back to her days at the Sun in the 1980s and she would have found a way to say all that she said today in 200 words.

As she writes at the end of her column today, "we must not forget that for busy readers, brevity is more often best."

Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt, co-founders of the Toronto Sun, knew from the start that brevity "is best" for a tabloid.

NDPers scary lot

B.C. reporter Chris Foulds responds to the recent CEP survey of journalists with his own story about the perils he faced while covering NDPers during the 1996 provincial election campaign.

"It was a gloriously sunny Saturday morning – until the flower pot and a stack of newspapers were thrown directly at my head," the Kamloops This Week staffer writes in the Abbotsford News.

"The cacophony of the crash when the projectiles whizzed by my ear and met the wall was followed by the rapid-fire profane invective booming from the lungs of the New Democratic Party of B.C.’s campaign team.

"It seemed appropriate at that particular time to decamp from the NDP’s campaign office in downtown Abbotsford in those final few days before the 1996 provincial election.

"Bruce Temple was the candidate, and he had amassed a campaign squad that made the Pinkerton guards of the Depression look like pacifists."

Chris has more to say about the perils of being a journalist and his first-person story will probably have other journalists recalling their hazardous encounters far from the war zones.

We're sure veteran Sun staffers, including Toronto Sun crime reporter Rob Lamberti and photog Dave Thomas, have had their share of threatening moments on the job.

If any Sun Media staffers want to tell TSF their stories, the couch is vacant.

This former police reporter was never physically assaulted on the job, but more than a few not-so- jovial men being photographed on perp walks outside police stations pointed fingers and cursed.

There was one off-balance kick in the direction of my groin, which happily didn't make contact.

One of my first assignments as a cub reporter in the 1960s was to get a photo of a Streetsville man killed in a plane crash. His brother lunged at me at the door, but was held back by his wife.

To be truthful, my fear of bodily harm reached a peak that night in 1980 when Les Pyette, the ever-inventive Sun city editor, sent me out to get a quote from actor Lee Majors on the day he learned his estranged wife Farrah Fawcett had moved in with Ryan O'Neal.

But Lee the gentleman, who was in town for a film festival, grinned and gave Farrah and Ryan his best. So no bop on the nose from The Six Million Dollar Man.

Osprey still open?

The fat lady has not taken the stage in the Osprey/Quebecor/Black Press opera.

Not so, says a story today from James Wallace, Osprey's Queen's Park columnist.

James writes:

"At this point Quebecor's on top," said Mike Sifton, Osprey's president and CEO. "They lost their court case. They have, however, stepped up on price yet again so they are the front runner."

But the bidding for the newspaper chain could just be getting under way.

"Black or anybody else could come in with an unsolicited, superior proposal at any point in this process, right up virtually until (Aug. 3)," Sifton said.

We found this full story with Sifton's comments in the online edition of the Welland Tribune, an Osprey newspaper, while news reports from most other sources say Quebcor's latest offer was approved by Osprey's board Friday and is a done deal.

So Who's on first?

We are talking media here, a business that is supposed to be focused on getting the facts right.

James quotes Osprey's president and CEO saying Osprey is still open to bids up to the Aug. 3 deadline. Sounds official to us.

So the game of Osprey hold 'em continues.

Friday 6 July 2007

Osprey hold 'em

Osprey trustees are playing a strange game of poker in trying to attract the best offer in the sale 54 daily and weekly newspapers across Ontario.

They were mighty quick to recommend acceptance of Quebecor's new offer yesterday, which was made soon after Quebecor lost a court bid to curb the Black Press offer.

Black Press was given until Aug. 3 to top Quebecor's latest offer, but Osprey execs told reporters they are recommending the new bid be accepted.

To recap the high stakes game:

May 31 - Quebecor makes a solo bid of $355 million, or $7.25 per unit. TorStar cries foul, saying it had an agreement with Quebecor to share the Osprey newspapers.

June 27 - Black Press, based in British Columbia and partly owned by TorStar, offers about $405 million, or $8.25 per unit

July 5 - Quebecor loses a court bid to block the Black Press deal then ups its bid to about $414 million, or $8.45 per unit. Later in the day, Osprey's trustees recommend acceptance of Quebecor's new offer, which is a 16.6% increase over its first offer.

That's it? Game over?

If we were playing, we would wait to see if Black Press is still in the game.

Game over, or not, we ponder the fate of Osprey newspaper employees down the road when the dust has settled. Will they have to endure the same carnage experienced by Sun Media since Quebecor took over in 1999?

Time will tell.

Thursday 5 July 2007

Judgment Day

It is judgment day for Quebecor's legal bid to block a Black Press offer for Osprey's 54 newspapers across Ontario.

A Sun Media story in the Edmonton Sun today says:

"A Superior Court judge will rule today on Quebecor Media Inc.'s quest to block a competing bid for Osprey Media Income Fund - 90 minutes before the (4 p.m.) deadline to match the Black Press Ltd. offer.

"Lawyers for Quebecor and Osprey were in court yesterday arguing over the validity of the Black Press offer.

"Quebecor lawyer Alan Mark told Justice Colin Campbell that he should block a rival bid by Black Press to buy newspaper company Osprey for $405 million or $8.25 a unit (Quebecor offered $356 million or $7.25 a unit on May 31.)

"Mark argued that Victoria-based Black Press improperly negotiated with its partner Torstar Corp. to divide up Osprey's assets. Torstar owns 19% of Black Press.

"Osprey's lawyer Kent E. Thompson said Black Press's offer was unsolicited and it didn't break the "no shop" rule of the standstill agreement. Thompson called Quebecor's application a "meritless" attempt to interfere with a superior offer for Osprey."

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts on a quiet media news day:

The Daily Dish - Just what the Toronto Sun needs, more wire copy and Hollywood fluff.

Inside the Sun
- Why doesn't Glenn Garnett provide active links to web sites he mentions in his online blog?

Tuesday's drowning story - The Page 3 story by Ian Robertson says the drowning victim swam from shore "with a boy, a non-swimmer, in his arms" but says nothing more about the boy or what happened to him.

Flashes - Why are stories once given adequate news space in the Sun being thrown away as flashes. Tuesday's "Friendly fire killed Canuk: Report," a three-paragraph flash on Page 20, is a classic example. Globe - Page 1, Star - Page 1. Sunflashes, Canada Sunflashes, World Watch Sunflashes, Quick Money Sunflashes, Sports Sunflashes.

Donato's bird - Why was Andy Donato's bird MIA in the before-and-after cartoon he did of that talentless, ex-con porno flick bimbo last week? P.H. is a bad influence, perhaps?

Highway safety - Could Sun Media publish a small public service ad telling motorists they can report street racers and road jockeys on their cell phones by dialing "OPP (6-7-7)" or 9-1-1?

Media ethics - If a son or daughter of a newspaper executive is written about in length for his or her athletic skills, shouldn't the writer tell readers about the relationship?

Scab recruits? - Why would newsroom employees be asked if they were interested in moving to another province to work as scabs in the event of a newspaper strike?

Crossword Puzzler - Why didn't the editors of Sun Television apologize to Sunday Sun readers for screwing up the previous week's puzzle? Do they care anymore?

TV Extra - Why are all of the daily TV listings in alphabetical order in every grouping except Canadian Broadcast, which has SUNTV 52 at the top? Is it a petty case of "it's ours and we'll flog it as we wish?"

TV Extra - Other than the erratic TV listings, the TV page layout, with the Prime Time Best Bets, Late Night Lineup and The Top 10 List, is one of our Top 10 favourite Sun layouts.

Tuesday 3 July 2007

New Peakes '07

Armchair adventurers have been travelling the scenic wilds of Canada with members of the Toronto-based Hide-Away Canoe Club via satellite since 1997.

And lovin' every minute.

Michael Peake, 55, an award-winning veteran Toronto Sun photographer, and Peter Brewster, 64, a former Sun managing editor, are among six club members leaving today for a trek to Rainbow Lake in northern Saskatchewan. It will take three airplanes to reach their starting point.

The four other members are Michael's brother, Geoffrey Peake, 46, a Toronto teacher, fellow teacher Tom Stevens, Orangeville's Rev. Canon Peter Scott and Keith Gunn, one of his parishioners. All but Keith, a last-minute replacement for Sean Peake, are repeat Hide-Away Canoe Club voyageurs.

Thomas Claridge of the Orangeville Citizen wrote a story about the two Orangeville adventurers and their pending journey last week.

"Dubbed the Northern Crossing, the trip will follow a route taken by explorer David Thompson, Canada's greatest land geographer, in 1796, (and Eric Morse in 1957)," Thomas wrote.

"They'll be taking with them three canoes, three tents, all the food they'll need for the 300-mile, 17-day journey through northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, and state-of-the-art satellite communications that will allow the trip to be chronicled on the Sun Media website canoe.ca.

"The journey, from July 4 to 22, will feature daily Web logs and photos, podcasts, and video diaries from the club members, who did a Labrador Odyssey in 2001 through the mountains of northern Labrador and down river into Ungava Bay." You can also read about their 1997 George River trek in Quebec and their 1999 journey up the Winisk River to Hudson's Bay.

Before the high tech Roadpost Communications equipment was added to their gear, armchair adventurers had to settle for photo stories by Michael and Peter in the Toronto Sun. The club's first canoe trip was in 1981 and this will be its first since 2001.

What this longtime fan of Michael's photography anticipates are his spectacular landscape photographs. We have two large framed photos on the walls here and they have been appreciated daily for almost 20 years.

What a gift Michael and the rest of the Hide-Away Canoe Club members gave armchair adventurers on their high tech 1997, 1999 and 2001 journeys.

In 1997, Michael expressed his feelings about the wilds and motives of club members:

"These trips are tough, that's for sure. And that's partly the point. They bring you back to the basics of living. Food, shelter and weather. These are the only things that really matter when you're on the land. They also give you a chance to reflect on one's usually harried city life."

The 2007 trek, which will include some hazardous rapids, can be monitored daily at canoe.ca/northerncrossing.ca. A Northern Crossing forum has been set up here.

As Michael, a 32-year Sun vet, says in his 2007 Governor's Message: "In all, there is about 450 km of travel by shoe and canoe."

Peter Brewster's opening journal entry explains the six-year layoff for club expeditions, which he says mostly involved the loss of loved ones.

"Our lives have been branded deep by the vagaries of fate. The events that unfolded are the reason our tightly-knit group suspended the canoe expeditions that have been the mile-markers of our collective adult lives," Peter writes.

"The tragedies and joys are the reasons we could not go. With time, they are now the reason we must."

Glenn Garnett, editor-in-chief and Inside the Sun blogger, told his blog readers last night: "We’ll put together a spread of Peake’s best work in the Toronto Sun next month."

The Peake brothers also publish Che-Mun, a publication for and about canoeists.

Soccer highs

Metro came and went, the Blizzard came and went. It seemed soccer just wasn't going to get a foot in the door in Toronto.

But soccer has arrived in T.O. big time, thanks to Toronto FC, a new stadium and the Toronto Sun's recognition of the thousands of soccer fans in the GTA.

Monday's Sun coverage of the Canada-Chile FIFA Under 20 World Cup game Sunday was extensive, but one of the first web sites we ran across had a negative mention about the Toronto Sun.

"A lameass reporter for the Toronto Sun bitches & moans about how tough it is covering the event. Shut up!" says the Du Nord blog.

The comment is below numerous links to media sites reporting on international soccer games, which on their own earn a mention for soccer fans in search of wider coverage.

The Du Nord blog links to Stephen Brunt's mostly positive Olympic Stadium coverage for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star's special report on the Under 20 World Cup.

It is just odd that the only mention of the Sun is a negative comment about Bill Lankof's column.

Should we count that as one yellow card for Bill?

Speaking of soccer, a TSF reader wonders why the 50,000-seat stadium formerly known as SkyDome wasn't chosen for the World Cup games. Probably would have sold out there as they have at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.