Thursday 30 August 2007

Forum - Classifieds

A former Toronto Sun classified advertising employee who has asked to remain anonymous writes about the final curtain for the ads staff at 333 King Street East:

It's done and over.

Being outsourced to the call center in Kanata.

Closing happens at the end of October.

Only person being kept on is Elenore (customer service).

Goodbye Barb, Anna, Yasmine, Kristie, Winslow, Georgina.

Lucky for me, I left the classifieds three months ago. I saw this coming for awhile.

Now I wonder how people in Ottawa are going to answer rental questions about Toronto.

Can they advise if Christie Pits or Rexdale are good areas for renting?

I think not.

Thanks Quebecor!

TSF note: Another source says further shutdowns of local Sun Media classified operations in London, Edmonton, etc. to come in the near future.

The dismantling of the Toronto Sun and London Free Press will continue when the pressrooms become obsolete with the opening of Quebecor's new printing plant in Toronto, which has apparently been postponed until later this year.

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Forum - TSF blog

Congratulations to the Toronto Sun Family blog for consistently doing a much-needed job in an outstanding fashion.

While I'm not an ex-Sun staffer, I've been a Southwestern Ontario newspaper junkie for more than four decades, including working as a newspaper delivery boy for the forerunner of the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Telegram, during the early 1960s in Woodstock, Ontario.

I also used to enjoy Paul Rimstead's TV show back in the mid-1970s (I believe) when I lived in Hamilton, Ontario. I also know Les Pyette and the rest of the gang that came from the Windsor Star during the 1970s, including former Toronto Star editorial cartoonist Vic Roschkov, who is now living back in London.

Vic Roschkov subsequently joined the Sun family when he became the editorial cartoonist at the Edmonton Sun during the 1980s.

Today, I operate my own Breaking News-and-Views blog in London, Ontario - Butch McLarty's Alt-London at -- and check out your website on a daily basis for its quality posts and updates.

I also have a high-lighted link to the TSF in the left-hand galley of my site, to encourage my readers to tune into the TSF.

Keep up the outstanding work!

Best regards,
Butch McLarty
London, Ontario

TSF Open Forum

The Toronto Sun Family blog, launched in early December, has just hit the 50,000 hits mark.

So, we thought, this is a good time to open postings to any and all current and former Sun media employees from all departments at all newspapers.

It is time to let you have your say on any Sun Media topic - good, bad or indifferent.

You can talk about the past, the present, the future.

Former staffers can share stories about their time at any of the Sun Media papers and bring us up to date on what they are doing today.

Today's Sun Media staffers can talk about their jobs and experiences.

Sun readers and anyone else can also e-mail us Sun-related postings.

All we ask is e-mails for Open Forum postings be civil.

Heck, we'll even post an open letter to TSF from Quebecor's Pierre Karl Peladeau if he's interested.

All Open Forum e-mails received by e-mail will be posted. If you want to remain anonymous, request anonymity in your e-mail, but we do need to know the identities of senders.

Meanwhile . . .

Hitting 50,000 visits is a milestone of sorts for a blog, but we do not have a breakdown of faithful readers, occasional readers, accidental readers etc.

TSF hits have come from around the world and while many foreign visitors come and go in a matter of seconds, some have taken the time to read our posts.

Our several hundred posts have prompted numerous comments, mostly anonymous. We have eliminated a dozen or so anonymous comments containing cheap shots at Sun staff and TSF.

We have also received numerous e-mails from the Sun's pioneers who contributed to the success of the Toronto Sun and its sibling newspapers.

TSF Open Forum - 50,000 hits and rising.

Sun Media is in the communications business.

TSF invites you to communicate.

Saturday 25 August 2007

Sun Media jobs

Sun Media has posted 15 Help Wanted listings on its Employment Listings web site - eight multimedia positions and seven newsroom jobs.

The job offerings for publications in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, including full time general assignment reporter and part time sports copy editor at the Edmonton Sun, all have late August to mid-September application deadlines.

The Toronto-based jobs are for a national multimedia editor, six multimedia editors and a national online editor.

Employment listings for the depleted Toronto Sun newsroom? Nil.

But if you are willing to pack your bags for newsroom jobs in Northern Ontario (Kenora) and points west . . .

Thursday 23 August 2007

Queen of Mean

"Queen of Mean has room in tomb"


That headline on Page 44 of today's Toronto Sun prompted flashbacks of the days when Sun rim pigs with unrelenting wit competed for the most memorable headline of the day.

We think a round of beer at Crook's was involved.

Those were the days when tabloid editors were in awe of the brilliant New York Post headline from April. 15, 1983:

"Headless Body In Topless Bar."

It remains the undisputed champion of tabloid headlines.

"Queen of Mean has room in tomb" is now on our Top 10 list of favourite Toronto Sun headlines.

Paul Heming, the late, great Sun copy editor, would be amused.

Will the Queen of Mean headline writer please stand up . . .

But speaking of the New York Post, veteran tabloid staffers might be interested in this online BusinessWeek review of It's Alive, a 2006 Steven Cuozzo book about the Post.

Monday 20 August 2007

Readers smeaders

In the Sunday Sun, Toronto Sun Editor Rob Granatstein defended the use of a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey photo on the front page of the tabloid in the middle of summer.

Irate readers wondered why a Toronto Maple Leafs photo and not a photo reflecting a more important news story?

Rob quoted Mike Burke-Gaffney, the Sun's managing editor, as saying: "We make no apologies (for the hockey photo.) It was truly one of the slowest news days of the year."

On Monday, the Sun's front page photo was of the Rogers Cup winner, which was also the front page colour photo for the pullout sports section.

Another quiet news day? Not.

Jamaica was ravaged by Hurricane Dean; another Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan; there was a huge demonstration on Parliament Hill protesting George W's security summit visit.

So why a tennis photo after a not-so-slow news day, with a killer hurricane, a dead Canadian soldier and a huge anti-Bush protest?

The reality is Quebecor's world is focused on sports and entertainment, not news. The Sun's allotted news space is quickly being devoured by Internet info, gadgets and Hollywood fluff.

Full news coverage on all fronts has clearly become optional.

The Toronto Sun has become more confrontational in dealing with the complaints of readers since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999.

While readers were once on a pedestal, catered to and told their feedback was welcomed and appreciated, the "new" Sun does not have the same respect for readers.

The unique Sun one-liners below letters to the editor, which were once witty and whimsical, are now often confrontational and dismissive.

Readers, smeaders.

Using a tennis photo today instead of a news-related photo on a busy news day is just another slap in the face.

Circulation figures show readers wanting more news from their newspapers and a little more respect are switching to the rejuvenated Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.

That doesn't bode well for the remaining and ever-shrinking Sun newsroom staff.

Friday 17 August 2007

TSF count updates

The Toronto Sun Family blog, launched early last December, has more than 360 posts covering a wide variety of topics from the first 35 years of the Toronto Sun and at its younger sister tabloids.

Three postings that continue to grow deal with the large number of men and women who have contributed to the success of the Toronto Sun over the decades.

Many are deceased, others have moved on and have found new careers.

Sun Family Links posting includes links to 32 personal and professional web and blog sites by former and current Toronto Sun employees, which is being used to reunite former colleagues.

(Personal or professional web sites and blogs can be added by e-mailing the links to TSF.)

TSF Authors contains an impressive list of 31 former and current Toronto Sun employees who are published authors, with new books being published and added throughout the year.

(Authors wanting to be added to the list can do so by e-mailing book title(s), publication year, publisher, number of pages and whether fiction or non fiction.)

The Departed posting now includes 21 profiles of Sun vets who are no longer with us.

(If friends, families or colleagues of the departed whose profiles are not online, please e-mail the contents of obits and other information.)


Numerous profiles of Toronto Sun employees hired in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

(Not on the hired lists? You can be added by e-mailing a bio and photo.)

Media Job Sites now has 11 active job sites for newspaper people looking for employment in Ontario, across Canada and beyond.

Adding up the numbers - and the talent - from the first 35 years of the Toronto Sun tells the story behind the success of the Little Paper That Grew.

It truly is a North American media miracle, with full credit going to the 62 newspaper men and women, jobless after the Toronto Telegram folded in 1971, who gambled on the Sun.

The lone Sun survivors of that prestigious Day Oners club: Peter Worthington, Andy Donato, George Gross and Jim Thomson.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

The King Dies

UPDATED: 31/08/07
Toronto's Q107 FM boasts that it scooped everyone in Canadian media in breaking the news that Elvis Presley had died in Memphis 30 years ago today.

But it was the memorable Toronto Sun edition, with "The King Dies" front page, that became a Canadian collector's prized possession from the day it was published.

The Aug. 17, 1977, Toronto Sun still shows up occasionally on eBay in postings by sellers in North America and Europe and has sold for $10 to $20 online and at live auctions.

It helped that the Toronto Sun newsroom was peppered with avid Elvis fans, including Les Pyette, the city editor who would keep Elvis alive in the Sun on and off for four decades.

Day Oner Andy Donato remembers being asked to help with the Elvis sendoff.

"I remember the great Pyette coming to me with a black and white photo of Elvis and asking me to put Donatovision to work and colour it," says Andy. "I did. It turned out great."

Les Pyette says he "remember it well."

"I pleaded with Ed (Monteith), with the support of Kathy Brooks and others, to put Elvis as the main line and main picture. Finally, Ed said okay and we called Donato for his magic touch with colour - remember there was no regular colour available in those days - and bingo!

"We had a great front page that sold out! I got the picture from an Elvis album cover which was a hot seller a few years earlier."

Elvis stories would be told by avid Elvis fans at the Sun, including the late Ray Smith, who was working for the National Enquirer when Elvis died, and Linda Barnard, now at the Star, over the years.

This blogger paid $4.50 to see The King at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1957. The emphasis is on "see" not "hear" because we couldn't hear him for the screaming.

That precious memory is of a distant, gold-suited singer on stage and tens of thousands of hysterical female fans breaking records for the loudest and longest scream fest.

But just witnessing one of the few Canadian concerts by The King was worth the ear pain.

Twenty years later, Elvis was dead at 42.

An assignment in Calgary on the day Elvis died kept me from sharing the newsroom experience in packaging the emotional sendoff, but it was productive.

Hugh Wesley, former veteran photographer and photo editor, remembers the late, great Jerry Gladman got the call to fly off to Memphis for reports from Graceland.

The Sun did that in the 70s - fly reporters and photographers to where the action was instead of relying on wire copy. Not so much today.

The Sun gave Elvis a fitting royal sendoff on Aug. 17, 1977, and he has never really been forgotten. A glossy Elvis tribute magazine packaged a few years ago by Les Pyette and Len Fortune, the Sun's former graphics maestro, is another Sun collectible for Elvis fans.

Elvis just won't die, thanks to his movies, his records and the wonders of 21st century technology. He topped the charts in 2002 with a remixed A Little Less Conversation, a song from the 1968 film Live A Little, Love a Little.

And that on stage If I Can Dream duet with Celine Dion and a virtual Elvis on American Idol in April gave Elvis fans goosebumps.

And now, Lisa Presley and her virtual dad sing an In The Ghetto duet in a video and on CD. The video will be posted on

Elvis would have been 72 this year. On records, CDs and video, he is forever young.

Nepotism: win win

We have never envied the sons and daughters of Toronto Sun vets and execs hired for a variety of jobs at 333 King Street East.

Office gossip thrives when it comes to nepotism and the Toronto Sun certainly has had its share of gossips in every department.

"Nepotism" put-downs can be cruel and, as witnessed at the Sun, are usually unfounded.

Except for a daughter of a Sun director, we can't remember a single son or daughter hired over the decades who received failing grades for attitude and performance.

They ignored the gossip and pulled their weight.

It was gratifying to watch these novice sons and daughters blossom into competent newspaper people without slacking off and taking advantage of family ties.

Moira MacDonald, daughter of the late Sun legend, Bob MacDonald, was first seen around the Sun newsroom selling Girl Guide cookies. Look at her now, an op-ed columnist.

Richard MacFarlane, son of another legend, J. Douglas MacFarlane, worked in the Sun library and went on to honour his father with a well-researched tribute book.

Rolf Rimstad, brother of the celebrated columnist Paul Rimstead, has been a valued sports copy editor for 30 years, with a one-year layoff recently reversed on appeal.

Bruce and Donald Creighton, sons of founding publisher Doug Creighton, pulled their weight in key office positions at the Sun.

And Danielle Crittenden, step-daughter of Peter Worthington, did the Sun co-founder proud as a tireless general assignment reporter then and as a Washington-based author now.

It was Peter's column about Danielle and her latest book in Tuesday's paper that got us thinking about all of the positive nepotism experiences within the Sun since 1971.

The above sons and daughters, and others hired along the way, helped put true "family" in Toronto Sun Family.

Credit crunch?

Black Press Ltd. and part-owner Torstar have been rather quiet about Quebecor's winning $414 million bid for Osprey's 54 daily and weekly publications, which was completed Aug. 8.

But a Canadian Press story in the Toronto Star yesterday might explain why Black Press, with Torstar support, didn't up Quebecor's bid for a second time before time ran out.

The CP story says DBRS, a credit risk agency, said Tuesday it was placing the international commercial printing titan's "BB long-term debt and preferred share ratings under review with negative implications."

Interesting . . .

Could a credit crunch force the media conglomerate to sell off some of the Osprey properties, with Torstar waiting eagerly in the wings?

Or, dare we ask too much, would Quebecor consider selling the Toronto Sun or all of Sun Media to lighten the load?

We await the results of the DBRS credit review.

Monday 13 August 2007

John Downing e-mail

John Downing, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former Editor now busy catching fish at his cottage retreat, took time out to respond to Ted Gorsline's recent "always fluff" comments:

"I don't think the Sun family should over react when some eminently forgettable yahoo says the Sun was always just a puff pastry of a paper. Since neither the Day Oner who phoned me, or my memory, could recall just who this critic was and what exactly he did, then it's like water criticizing the glass when it was discarded.

Blatch, of course, was and is great. Bob Reguly, a friend, got us into a Greek tragedy of a libel suit, an embarrassment that spilled on me and other editors, and is forever seared into the Sun history of a debacle that blackens Reguly's name forever at the Sun after all those glorious and dogged triumphs for the opposition.

The curious thing about reading about the Sun past is that so many Sun-beams worked in silos, not knowing much of what was happening elsewhere in the paper. You could even say that about the brass. Alan Shanoff was writing about Sun editors and seemed to miss that the early Editors fancied themselves the Editor of the paper, not just of the editorial page.

Worthington went out back one night and changed his title to Editor-in-Chief just to make sure everyone knew he wasn't reporting to the legendary JDM. Amiel wouldn't have taken the job if it had just been Editorial Page Editor. When I was made Associate Editor, it was said to be for Municipal Affairs. When I raised hell with Doug Creighton about this, the asterisk to the title was dropped. When I was made Editor in 1985, I was listed third on the masthead, under the publisher and general manager, and was involved in all sorts of things beyond the editorial page, even the rules for the strip ads.

My point for this meandering trivia is that it was an insight into just how complicated a newspaper is, and how often the gossip in the office just didn't have much of a clue as to who the movers and shakers really were.

Creighton, of course, being so smart (and nice) as a boss, kept his editors on their toes by taking a bunch of writers on an informal basis to places like the Founders Club at the ball park and pumping them for gossip.

Then he would phone the next day and say 'Blatchford says that you have secretly got Don Hawkes back from Ottawa and put him on your staff when Pyette swears that Hawkes is working for him and I told Les and you that I didn't want Hawkes back working for Downing.'

And Les and I would run around and dream up some explanation to placate Doug. (By the way, this is a real anecdote, and just shows how quixotic the Sun could be in its staff relationships.)

The reason I'm going on about this is because I've always thought it was dangerous and dumb for a newspaper to be summed up, as it were, in the names of two or three "stars." In fact, I've always argued that give me a newsroom filled with solid, hard-working journeymen and we will scoop the ass off any newspaper that leans on several stars. (Same with baseball or hockey.)

So any person who wants to say that several decades of work by hundreds of staffers and freelancers, seven days a week over two fat shifts a day, can be ignored and only two people can be remembered is silly to the absurd.

Actually, I would like to hear more about, and from, the Sun-beams without the fancy credits. I would like to be told when the Sun rises up out of the gloom and sticks it to the opposition, as I'm sure must still happen.

Enough about Donato and Downing and let's hear more about what's happening in 2007.

Gee, maybe Peter Worthington could write a daily column for the Sun family blog since he's only writing one or two a day for the paper.


John Downing

(The fishing is great, but stay away. There are already boats 24 hours a day around my point.")

Thank you for your e-mail, John. Always a pleasure.

And should Peter Worthington, or any other Sun Media staffer, be motivated to post feedback or write a guest column for this blog, the door is always open.

FYI: TSF received a second e-mail from Ted Gorsline, which we will not be sharing. In fact, it makes us regret posting the contents of his first e-mail. Mostly vindictive cheap shots about Sun vets.

Sunday 12 August 2007

Another Sun, but . . .

Sean Condon's Flickr piece on "The Death of Canadian Journalism" tells the story of another demoralized Sun owned by another media conglomerate.

But it isn't difficult while reading the author's lengthy commentary to replace "Vancouver Sun" and "CanWest" with "Sun Media" and "Quebecor."

If the conglomerate shoe fits . . .

"The most obvious example of consolidation run amok is Vancouver, where one corporation has such a tight control over the city that it gets away with bullying its reporters and slanting its news coverage without ever being challenged," says Sean in summing up his commentary.

"The problems inside the Sun and CanWest papers will be repeated across the country if consolidation is allowed to continue unabated.

"Because the priority of the paper’s corporate controller is on the bottom line instead of the public trust, a once-proud newspaper chain has turned into a skeleton of its former self."

He also writes:

"When journalists are denied resources and can’t truthfully disseminate information, the entire public is held hostage. It’s time to set them free."

Another quote from his piece:

“This whole corporatization of journalism is not healthy,” says Mike Gasher, director of journalism at Concordia University and a former Vancouver Province reporter.

“I know journalism is a business, but I think it’s just a question of how you strike the balance between the quality of the product and the bottom line. My concern is that when you have these conglomerate ownerships, that not only own several newspapers, but radio, television, Internet, then I think by definition the commitment to any one of those properties is decreased.”

TSF seconds that emotion.

Brian Linehan book

There was a time when Brian Linehan walked the halls at 333 King Street East, when not behind a keyboard writing an entertainment column.

More often than not, he would grin that Linehan grin and say hello. He wrote a weekly Sun column for more than a year before those brutal Sun Media cutbacks curtailed his Sun input.

We thought about Brian's presence at the Sun the other night in discovering one of his TV interviews at 6 a.m. on the Star channel. It was a 1999 interview with actor Anthony Quinn.

Rather than being an in-your-face interviewer, Brian's style was to sit back and let the actors tell their stories. His 1999 Anthony Quinn interview was a rare half hour of raw emotions from a world-acclaimed actor.

Brian, who was 59 when he died in June 2004, is the subject of a new book by George Anthony, a former Day Oner Toronto Sun entertainment editor and columnist now living in Montreal with his wife, Gail, and their three children.

Starring Brian Linehan: A Life Behind the Scenes will be released Sept. 25 by McClelland & Stewart. The 272-page hardcover book, written by a friend and colleague, will no doubt be popular among Brian Linehan fans from all walks of life.

The book promo reads: "Starring Brian Linehan has it all: the wit, the struggles, the insecurity, the famous friends, the secret life behind the camera, and the ground-breaking interviews. Before ET, Access Hollywood, and STAR, there was City Lights and there was Linehan."

Thanks to George Anthony, Brian Linehan fans on both sides of the border will soon know more about their favourite Hamilton-born Hollywood interviewer.

And thanks to the Star channel, we can still watch the master interviewer at work.

Friday 10 August 2007

CP funeral photos?

The Toronto Sun used four large Canadian Press photographs from Wednesday's emotional Newmarket funeral for a slain police officer, including the full front page photo.

Where were Toronto Sun photographers? Columnist Joe Warmington took one smaller photo for his story and two other smaller photos were taken by Sun photographer Ernest Doroszuk.

That's CP 4, Toronto Sun 3. Sun team coverage? Hardly.

Was Doroszuk the only full-time Toronto Sun photographer assigned to cover the huge funeral for York Regional Police Det-.Constable Rob Plunkett?

It is probably not a big deal for readers, but newspaper people must be wondering where the Toronto Sun magic has gone when local photo coverage of a major news event is dominated by CP.

Sun Media 2007 logic: It is cheaper to use CP photos than hire ample photo staff to get the job done without outside help.

Thursday 9 August 2007

Sun always puff?

The name Ted Gorsline rings a bell, but we can't quite pin it down following a Google search. But he says this in an e-mail to TSF:

Dear Editor,

I find this nostalgic 'what could have been' website a bit wearing. The
only reason anyone was ever hired by the Sun was to fill the space between the ads. There were some good people there, especially the lovely girls like Diane Koslowski and Diane Christianson in the ad department, but the only two real journalists who ever set foot in the place were Christie Blatchford and Bob Reguly. Otherwise the Sun was and remains a wasteland of puff journalism.

I see now it offers "full columns" and "full points of view." why not try
half columns and half points of view to save space.

The more newspapers in Toronto the merrier, but the Sun never really had any news in it except recycled Star and Globe stories, so what's the loss if it becomes a throwaway?

Ted Gorsline

Thank you for your e-mail Ted, but . . .

It sounds like Ted worked for the Toronto Sun, but he obviously didn't work for the same Toronto Sun where the celebrated Ted Reeve, Bob MacDonald, Jerry Gladman, Gary Dunford, Paul Rimstead, Scott Morrison, Trent Frayne, Max Haines, Andy Donato, Peter Worthington, John Downing, Lorrie Goldstein, Mike Filey, Mark Bonokoski, Mike Strobel, Bruce Kirkland, Jim Slotek, Liz Braun, Michele Mandel, Joe Warmington et al worked over the years.

He didn't work for the same pre-Quebecor Sun that collected National Newspaper Awards year after year - and you don't win NNAs with recycled Star and Globe copy. Plus numerous police, fire and ambulance awards won by police desk staffers.

And his description sure doesn't fit the paper that once had the most solid gathering of award-winning photographers Toronto media has ever enjoyed, including Hugh Wesley, Stan Behal, Veronica Henri, Mike Peake, Norm Betts, Bill Sandford, Fred Thornhill et al.

It was a competitive, major daily newspaper and recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 favourite workplaces.

The Sun doesn't shine like it did when Christie and all of the people mentioned, plus hundreds more throughout the bustling 333 King Street East, called it home.

But when it did shine, from 1971 through 1992, it was the toast of the town with readers who couldn't get enough of their Little Paper That Grew.

It definitely wasn't a "wasteland of puff journalism" in the pre-Quebecor years. Maybe more puff now, but not then.

Freep goes boom

The London Free Press says its building was rocked by an explosion in an underground transformer yesterday.

Fortunately, no injuries, but today's Free Press story does not say if the smoky noon hour blast affected production of the newspaper.

The paper says fire and hydro officials blamed the explosion on a fault in a high-voltage connection box.

Wednesday 8 August 2007

Cash or Visa?

Update: It's a done deal.

Welcome to the club, Osprey ladies and gents.

Today's the day for Quebecor to pay Osprey $414 million for its 54 daily and weekly newspapers across Ontario.

Meanwhile, Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M (SONG), says he doesn't expect a rush of former Osprey workers seeking union membership.

"Several Osprey papers are already organized by SONG," Brad told TSF yesterday. "Others are organized by The Newspaper Guild, which is a branch of the Communications Workers of American, i.e. the Sudbury Star and the Kingston Whig.

"I don't anticipate a sudden rush of organizing, because most are already organized, but there may be some unorganized who realize that Quebecor has the ability, through economies of scale/sharing of copy, to reduce staff.

"And Quebecor has already said that's what they intend to do."

Brad says he "fully expects" more Sun Media layoffs, "although the main victims will likely be Osprey employees."

London Free Press

When Sun Media Corporation purchased the broadsheet London Free Press in 1997, readers feared it would become a tabloid to mirror sister Suns in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary.

That didn't happen.

Sun Media respected the wishes of Free Press readers, advertisers and the Blackburn family, owners of the independent newspaper since Josiah Blackburn purchased it in 1853.

The paper was first called Canadian Free Press when founded in 1849 by William Sutherland. The Blackburns changed the name and made it a daily in 1855.

John Paton, a London-born former Toronto Sun copy boy who worked his way up the Sun ladder, became publisher in 1997 and quickly introduced a Sunday paper.

Readers, advertisers and the Blackburn family were content.

But two years later, Quebecor bought Sun Media.

Today, the London Free Press is 158 years old and a shadow of itself. Staff has been slashed and the paper will become a tabloid when Quebecor's new printing plant in Toronto opens this fall.

Ancestors of Josiah Blackburn must be dismayed by the sudden downturn of the family newspaper in a city with an increasing population.

And there is no shortage of critics of Quebcor's cutbacks within the London Free Press and throughout the city.

Butch McLarty, an blogger since 2001, doesn't mince words in his appraisal of today's "Freep." Feedback on his blog echo his critical look at today's product.

In an e-mail to TSF, he writes:

"We here in London, Ontario, are suffering because of the non-stop BS of Quebecor. Morale has never been worse at the Freep. End of an era, really. The dream is over for that paper. Everyone is wondering who will be the last person standing in the newsroom.

"In 1991, they had 170 in the newsroom, including support staff and photogs. Today, there's about 52, with more cutbacks on the way. Since 1991, London has grown by more than 15 per cent, population wise. More than a third geographically."

Paul Berton, editor-in-chief of the London Free Press and son of the late, great author Pierre Berton, is holding it together with columns and guidance.

But for how long?

The Blackburn family provided London with a respected community newspaper for 144 years.

Quebecor has owned it for eight years.


Tuesday 7 August 2007

New Harvey blog

Ian Harvey, the multi-talented former Toronto Sun vet, has expanded his web site to accommodate a new blog.

The freelance writer, musician and soccer aficionado's early postings include comment on Beckham and other soccer icons.

Ian sums up his blog's agenda as "random musings about life, footie, music, parenting, relationships and living in Toronto."

Welcome to Blogdom, Ian.

Former Sun Media staffers with blogs, or personal or business web sites, are invited to e-mail links for our growing Sun Family Links list.

Multi-media tasking

Rex Rhoades, executive editor of the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine, decided to take a crash course in multi-media tasking while on assignment in China - with mixed results.

Journalists being asked to provide digital stills and video footage along with their stories will empathize with Rex, who writes about those new challenges on

"I've been a newspaper worker for 32 years and, like many my age, it would be comfortable to keep doing things the way I've always done them," writes Rex.

"But, we have asked our reporters, editors and photographers to learn new skills, and I felt uncomfortable and, I'll admit, a bit envious, not knowing how.

"So, I decided to take a crash course and then use my new skills following a group of college students on a service-learning project in a foreign land."

But, says Rex, there are drawbacks to multi-media tasking.

"Taking photos is usually a full-time job for one person. Reporting a story is usually the job of another.

"While I am busy taking photos, good quotes are not being noted, or critical details are escaping my eye," he writes. "While I am taking notes, useful sound or video is not being recorded.

"I often felt like a musician with a guitar in my hands, a harmonica in my mouth and cymbals between my knees."

Rex sums up the new media experience in saying:

"Yes, the trip was way more demanding and stressful than I imagined it would be.

"The consolation? A feeling for China and its orphans - in words, pictures and sound - for you, our readers.

"And for me? A greater appreciation of what our newsroom is going through as we enter the world of multi-media reporting."

There is much more to his online story, but it does raise the issue of whether requiring reporters to multi-task is affecting the quality of journalism.

How many good quotes are being lost at crime scenes, traffic accidents and public demonstrations because the reporter is carrying a camera?

The traditional approach with camera-shy witnesses is a reporter doing the talking while a photographer snaps the photos from a distance.

And as Rex says, good quotes can be lost while shooting stills and video.

It is all a matter of focus.

Reporters with quotes, photos and videos on their agenda are less likely to provide the same comprehensive news coverage as journalists who are focused strictly on words.

Hopefully, management is focusing on hefty wage hikes for multi-media journalists.

Sunday 5 August 2007

Fave comment

Of all the e-mails and posted comments Toronto Sun Family has received since this blog was launched in December, nothing has touched us more than this one:

"I just wanted to say how pleased I am with this page. My father was Mark Stewart and I am very happy that he was not forgotten because he loved his job very much. Thank you so much!"

No name was attached to the feedback left Friday for our The Departed posting, but Mark, a veteran Toronto Sun crime reporter, had three children when he died at 38 in 1995.

The comment highlights a priority of this blog - to not forget any of the late pioneers of Sun Media's flagship Toronto Sun. Mark, who won multiple awards, was among them.

(Update: People who worked with your father would like to hear more about how you, your siblings and mother are doing. You can e-mail TSF or send another comment.)

TSF's goal is to post posthumous tributes for all Toronto Sun staffers responsible for making the Miracle on King Street the tabloid that is was for almost three decades.

Quebecor's Pierre Karl Peladeau and some of the fresh faces in Sun newsrooms have no time for nostalgia and less time for stories about the good old days of the tabloid.

Well, sorry guys, everything that was so right with the Toronto Sun before Doug Creighton's heartless ouster in 1992 is just too memorable to forget.

Yes, the good old days, when the newspaper was run by newspaper people.

And when the going got good, as it did very quickly after its launch in 1971, newspaper people at the helm generously gave back to the dedicated and loyal employees.

Sabbaticals, profit sharing, stock options, medical and dental plans, generous Christmas bonuses, a blah day in February, parties to celebrate anniversary and circulation milestones etc. etc.

Quebecor, in eight short years, has all but wiped that slate clean with cutbacks, firings, layoffs, buyouts, elimination of benefits etc.

The Toronto Sun is profitable - but without the heart and soul it once had. Morale is low and loyalty is nil.

So when former Toronto Sun vet Sean McCann asks remaining members of the Toronto Sun's old guard why they are hanging in, we echo the sentiment.

It can't be loyalty, not with Quebecor pulling the strings. So it must be their well-paid egos.

In a perfect world, all of the Sun vets who still have so much more to give appreciative readers would launch an independent publication of their own.

Leave the spoils of the once treasured tabloid to the cold, calculating hands of the bean counters who have no rapport with employees and less time for readers.

But, for now, we can only hope few people who worked for the Toronto Sun and read the Toronto Sun during the good old days won't forget the experience.

It was North America's media success story and management, loyal employees and dedicated readers were all benefactors.

The Toronto Sun was such a media darling, key people preparing to launch USA Today paid a visit 25 years ago to ask Doug and others for advice.

Yes, Wayne Janes, the Sun has always been a business. The difference is, Doug Creighton et al knew more about heart and loyalty than PKP et al will ever muster.

To the child of Mark Stewart who left the much appreciated comment, thank you. It was rejuvenating.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Osprey sale

Black Day In August?

Or the start of a mutually enjoyable relationship?

Whatever, once Quebecor pays its $414 million-plus tab on Aug. 8, Osprey employees at 20 dailies and 34 non-dailies across Ontario will become Sun Media/Quebecor employees.

They include some of the many Quebecor cutback casualties hired by Osprey after being laid off or fired by Sun Media.

We know that will be a blow to the gut, but that is life among the conglomerates.

Questions on this morning after:

Will the hundreds of soon-to-be Quebecor employees be lining up for membership in the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild?

Why did Black Press decide not to make a second offer for Osprey?

How many of those 54 dailies and weeklies will survive unscathed in the next year or two?

For now, Toronto Sun Family invites all of Sun Media's future sister newspapers to the fold and welcomes any and all comments from new staffers.

The following Osprey newspapers will soon be Sun Media newspapers and the Osprey name in association with media in Ontario will be history.

Some of Canada's oldest newspapers are among the lot. All the best under Quebecor.

Bancroft This Week

Barrie Examiner

Barry's Bay this Week

Belleville Intelligencer

Brantford Expositor

Chatham Daily News

Cobourg Daily Star

Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin

Community Press Eastern Edition

Community Press Quinte Edition

Community Press Western Edition

Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Dunnville Chronicle

Elliot Lake Standard

Espanola Mid-North Monitor

Haliburton Echo

Hanover Post

Kingston This Week

Kingston Whig Standard

Kirkland Lake Northern News

Lindsay Daily Post

Markdale Standard

Midland Free Press

Minden Times

Napanee Guide

Niagara Falls Review

North Bay Nugget

Orillia Packet and Times

Owen Sound Sun Times

Pembroke Daily Observer

Petawawa News

Peterborough Examiner

Petrolia Topic

Picton County Weekly News

Port Hope Evening Guide

Sarnia Observer

Sault Star

Sault This Week

St. Catharines Standard

Sudbury Star

Timmins Daily Press

Trenton Trentonian

Wallaceburg News

Welland Tribune

Friday 3 August 2007

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Sean re Wayne

An e-mail from Sean McCann in response to Wayne Janes' comments. Sean writes:

"Wayne: Hey, I have a decent head of hair, don't even have to remember it. Most of my teeth as well. No pot belly either. How about you?

Anyway, you seem to have misconstrued my posting. All I was trying to say is I don't believe talents (at the Sun) are being utilized for the best. So If I were one of them, I'd have to ask myself: "Why hang around?"

I did mention a few and I know there are more like Michele Mandel, Jim Slotek, Lorrie Goldstein, Lynn Cockburn, Paul Jackson, Kerry Diotte, etc, etc. - many of whom I worked alongside - throughout the chain, all very talented people.

I agree it's up to them, and I would never suggest for one minute one shouldn't earn a pay cheque. And your point about having a "shitty" job is well taken. We've all had them.

However, I believe the Sun talent is being wasted by Quebecor. The Man at the top, Pierre Karl, is not a friend of journalists. He's a businessman; he could care less about what we do. We, on the other hand, are NOT businessmen. We care about what we do. Ergo, why would we hang in with someone like that?

Let's face it, if we were business folks and didn't care about what we did, we'd be buy newspapers and not be writing for them!

As for the original Sun. No it wasn't perfect. But it was a helluva lot more perfect than it is today. Remember where it sprang from, 62 dedicated journalists, NOT businessmen.

Be that as it may, the Sun was on the verge of having a national voice, sort of "Canada's other voice," as opposed to "Toronto's other voice." Peladeau has killed that.

Nobody pays any attention to the Sun anymore, in any city, and that's the tragedy, for it has voices that need to be heard."

Thank you for your e-mail Sean.

Highs & lows

Today's Toronto Sun said it all about the highs and lows of Quebecor's Sun Media.

The high of the day, word for word, was Joe Warmington's replay of the missing Mennonite boy in a Wellington cornfield and the heartwarming, happy ending for all concerned.

Joe's photos, including one of young Jacob Berg, 5, wearing the police cap of his hero rescuer, Belleville Const. Todd Bennett, capped the magnetic appeal of this feel good story.

Classic Toronto Sun from one of our favourite Sun vets.

Joe Warmington is one of those dedicated Sun staffers Wayne Janes talks about in his e-mails to TSF in support of all of the 'great, thoughtful, dedicated and bloody hardworking' staffers.

No argument.

The low of the day . . .

So we continued reading the remainder of the Sun out here in the boondocks, feeling like we got our $1.06 worth all from one story.

Then along came Page 28 and the good vibes fizzled.

There, in the top right corner of Page 28, is a large photo taken at a supermarket opening in Toronto and one of the four men in the photo is Toronto Sun publisher Kin-Man Lee.

The same Kin-Man Lee, whose athletic daughter Peng Peng has been written about at length in a George Gross column or two.

To his right is Tim Corcoran, the Sun's advertising director, and to his left are the owner of the new supermarket and the local MPP.

"Opening day, supermarket style." says the caption. There is nothing to indicate this is paid advertising, so it must be precious tabloid editorial space.

The photo took us way, way back to small town newspaper publishers who would wear a chicken suit if it helped attract an advertiser.

So Kin-Man Lee is doing supermarket openings.

Does that mean the owner of every new supermarket in the GTA should be calling the publisher of this large city daily for free photo coverage of their grand openings?

Business owners must be wondering 'why this supermarket?' Is there a personal connection between Kin-Man and the store owner? Did it involve a huge advertising contract?

We'd like to see the use of this photo explained in Glenn Garnett's Inside the Sun blog, but we won't hold our breath.

The supermarket opening photo brings to mind the recent national CEP survey of 854 Canadian journalists, which indicated, among many other issues,
there are concerns about ethics and the amount of corporate input into newsrooms.