Saturday 29 September 2007

Globe got it right

It could be the spot news photo of 2007, reminiscent of the iconic 1989 photo of a lone man standing in front of a tank to protest the bloodbath in Tienanmen Square.

Kenji Nagai, 50, a Japanese freelance APF News Inc. video journalist, has been shot by a soldier while taping a violent pro-democracy protest crackdown in Burma.

A Reuters photo shows Nagai on his back, his video camera gripped in his raised right hand, plus club-swinging and rifle-toting soldiers and dozens of terrified protesters scrambling for safety.

Nagai, a dedicated newsman to his death, continued to tape the violence while dying. His video footage is missing and the outrage over the junta's deadly crackdown on Burmese monks and their supporters is being heard around the world.

Put yourself in the shoes of editors at Toronto's morning Globe, Star, Sun and Post. It is Thursday night and you have that dramatic, full-colour photo.

How would you play it in the Friday newspaper?

Well, in our opinion, the Globe and Mail was the only Toronto newspaper to get it right - front page, over six columns, in full colour.

The Star ran the same photo, lightly cropped, but inside on the front page of its World & Comment section. Their front page photo? A wedding photo from a New Zealand realty show!

The Post play was rather strange. It cut the photo in two, with the front page portion showing only protesters fleeing a club-swinging soldier. The rest of the photo, showing Nagai, was on an inside page.

The Toronto Sun's front page photo left us incredulous - golfer Tiger Woods. The full photo from Burma was on Page 12.

Kudos to the Globe, a newspaper that is consistently on top of its "news" game.

Meanwhile, the person who snapped the dramatic photo, published in newspapers around the world, has not been identified. The photo is being distributed by Reuters on his or her behalf.

A grim goodbye

The faces of seven Toronto Sun pressroom workers in the photograph used for Mike Strobel's column Friday speak volumes for Quebecor's complete lack of compassion for employees.

The seven workers are among the 100 or so non-union employees who will lose their jobs when the five Goss Metros are silenced early Sunday morning.

In contrast to numerous photos taken of pressroom workers since the presses first rolled 32 years ago, there are no broad smiles reflecting the pride of a job well done.

They all look disillusioned and saddened by the loss of their jobs and pissed off for not being given first dibs on pressroom jobs at Quebecor's new printing plant.

Collectively, their expressions can be summed up in three words:

Up Yours Quebecor.

The pressmen and their presses have been the pride of the Sun since the summer of 1975, so much so that many of the Sun's annual reports and anniversary editions have included their photos.

The late, great Doug Creighton would weep if he were here to witness the treatment of the dedicated pressmen, some part of the Sun family for 30-plus years.

But Doug, and most other Sun pioneers, had a lot of heart and considered every employee in every department a key player in the success of the tabloid.

Quebecor just doesn't care about employees and their lives.

The Toronto Sun building at 333 King Street East is becoming a tomb thanks to Quebecor's unrelenting dismantling of everything that made the Sun a North American media success story.

Come Monday, the Toronto Sun becomes just another product to print among other Quebecor printing obligations, including huge numbers of telephone books.

TSF has been told the Sun printing time will not be flexible, so we can only wonder how that will affect late-breaking news, final sports scores and evening concert coverage.

Will editors be allowed to stop those new presses for updates and corrections with a phone call, or are replates history? Will news and sports coverage suffer?

It doesn't bode well for Toronto Sun readers and Sun employees who want the tabloid to remain a news, sports and entertainment competitor in Toronto's tough newspaper market.

Friday 28 September 2007

Strobel & the presses

Toronto Sun columnist Mike Strobel says it all for Sun vets as he bids farewell to the tabloid's proud presses and their keepers in today's Sun.

After tomorrow night's run, the Toronto Sun will be printed at Quebecor's new printing plant on Islington Ave., ending a 32-year almost flawless printing marathon at 333 King Street East.

Some call it progress, others call it just another step in the dismantling of the tabloid as it was in the Summer of 1975 when a proud bunch of Sun pioneers moved into their new building.

"The last official run here is tomorrow night, though the five old Goss Metros will be emergency backup," Mike says in his column.

That first run of the presses in 1975 was exhilarating and a feather in the cap of Sun co-founders Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt.

Some employees remained long after their shifts were done to witness the magic of the presses. For the first four years of the Sun, the Sun was packaged at the old Eclipse Building and printed in Mississauga.

Going with the presses are more than 100 non-union pressroom and related jobs, some staffers losing their jobs after more than 30 years at the Sun.

One source told TSF the presses at 333 will eventually be dismantled and moved to other Quebecor facilities or sold for scrap and the vacant space will be used for other Quebecor needs.

"The presses have been sold, including one to Edmonton, another to another country and for scrap," said the source. "Very few pressmen are going to the other plant. They are taking their packages and moving on to other careers.

"I know one who is going into the auto repair industry. Most that are going up are mail roomers or paper handlers.

"Quebecor has already apparently decided other Quebecor companies are moving into the press room, but which ones, I have no idea, but I was assured that other presses were not coming in."

Thanks to Mike Strobel for giving the presses and their dedicated keepers a full column to say farewell. Both were the pride of the Sun.

TSF and fellow vets say thanks for the memories.

Dave Ellis TLCs

When Dave Ellis, a Toronto Sun assistant city editor, ended up in ICU following a recent bicycle accident, friends and co-workers turned to CarePages to send their best wishes.

The online service, designed to keep loved ones and friends up to date on hospital patients, has been very active since Dave's accident. The latest entry from Dave's family Thursday night reads:

"Success! Surgery is over, David is doing well. Doctors said the fused bones look better now than at the end of the first surgery. David will spend night in ICU and tomorrow he should be off the ventilator and moved to the floor. Just like the first time, CT scans will note progress in coming days. We are passing on all your well wishes to David. We'll let you know when visitors are allowed - Tanya, Lisa and Marilyn."

Dave, a well-liked Sun newsroom staffer for about five years, has received numerous speedy recovery messages from co-workers, former co-workers, friends and family. Visitors are not yet allowed so CarePages is the next best thing to being there.

It takes less than a minute to register and post a message. Family members say each and every CarePages message for Dave - there were 51 pages of postings as of Thursday night - is much appreciated.

Rob Lamberti, a veteran Sun crime reporter, says Dave was riding his racing-type bicycle recently when the thin front wheel got stuck in a sewer grate.

Dave's hard spill sent him to hospital with facial injuries requiring 15 stitches and three vertebrae in his neck were broken, cracked or severely damaged.

"Dave sounds like he is getting better and has movement in the hands and feet," says Rob. "It has been a very long week for the guy."

Dave, who has also worked for the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, is feeling the "family" touch of media people who have worked with him over the years.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Scott & Wayne

Scott Morrison
and Wayne Parrish, two former Toronto Sun sports editors, have popped up in the news out of the blue, prompting flashbacks to the 1980s and 1990s.

Scott, a Hockey Hall of Fame sports writer who bowed out of the Sun as sports editor six years ago, is returning to the Sun in October (by way of Quebecor's purchase of Osprey Media) writing two Inside the NHL hockey columns a week.

He joined the Sun as a hockey writer in 1979, was appointed sports editor in 1991 and in 1999, with Scott at the helm, the Sun's sport section was named one of North America's Top 10. It was Canada's first sports section so honoured by the AP Sports Editors North American Award.

After leaving the Sun following a 22-year run, 11 years as sports editor, the multi-talented nice guy moved on to Rogers Sportsnet as managing editor - hockey and then became a high profile hockey commentator on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

Scott, former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, is also a recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fame's 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award.

When Sun vets talk about the good old days at the Sun, Scott Morrison comes to mind as one of the many reasons for its success, as a newspaper and as a working environment.

The return of this widely-praised hockey writer to the tabloid he loved follows Quebecor's purchase of Osprey, where Scott's columns were featured. We're not sure of Scott's feelings about the full circle, but he has been missed.

Meanwhile, Wayne Parrish, whose forte at the Sun was sports writing (he won two National Newspaper Awards), not management from a former employee's viewpoint, was named yesterday as Canada Basketball's new executive director and CEO.

Wayne, a former sports columnist at the Toronto Star and sports editor of the Toronto Sun, was later the GM and executive editor of the Sun and vice-president of strategic operations for Sun Media.

A Canadian Press story says Wayne "won the job over about 50 applicants, many with far more extensive basketball backgrounds. Parrish played high school basketball growing up in Vancouver and covered the sport as a reporter."

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Rabble & Sun Media

Rabble News columnist Maude Barlow says you only have to look at the five-month lockout at Sun Media's le Journal de Quebec to realize big media is out of control.

"With media ownership being more highly concentrated in Canada than almost anywhere else in the industrial world, our government has a vital role to play in reversing the trend and preventing what is happening to workers at le Journal de Qu├ębec from happening elsewhere in the country," Barlow says in her online column today.

Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, says the CRTC hearings "aimed at setting new policies for media consolidation and diversity" are "an important opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the impacts media convergence has had on journalism and journalists in this country."

Referring to the April 22 le Journal de Quebec lockout of editorial and office workers and the sympathy strike by pressroom workers. she says: "A story unfolding in Quebec City shows the extent to which things have gone out of hand in Canada."

She has much more to say in her column.

It should be recommended reading for Michael Sifton, Sun Media's new CEO. You can't have a "fun" atmosphere within the chain when 280 employees are waiting for Quebecor to return to the negotiating table. Do the right thing, Michael.

Wesleys in pic show

Photographs by Hugh Wesley, an award winning former veteran Toronto Sun photographer, and his daughter, Nikki Wesley, are on display at a Camera Works exhibit in Mississauga.

The father and daughter selection, and photographs from dozens of other photographers, can be viewed through Nov. 4 at the Living Arts Centre in Square One.

A Camera Works opening reception will be held this Saturday, Sept. 29, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Photographs by Hugh, Nikki and 40 other photographers can also be viewed at other venues throughout Mississauga through early October.

"Camera Works is not a huge body of work, but a juried show of photographs taken from the Month of Photography, Art in the City exhibition," Hugh, who was the Sun's photo editor when he made his exit in 2000, tells TSF.

"The exhibit will feature an eclectic mix of styles and techniques from established to emerging artists, traditional to modern works, and documentary to inventive practices," says Hugh, who won numerous photo awards in his 27 years at the Sun.

"I was excited that daughter Nikki and I were both selected to be in the group of 42 . . . but then further selected for the Camera Works exhibition."

You can also see Nikki's other selected works at the Enfield Fox Lounge, 285 Enfield Place, Mississauga, and Hugh's work at Abstract Auto Related Images at Mercedes-Benz, 6120 Mavis Road, south of the 401, until Oct 15.

Star, Sun gems

Two stories, two different newspapers, two reasons why we never take the print media in Toronto for granted.

(1) The Toronto Star's front page follow-up to the July discovery of a mummified baby in a Toronto house. Kudos to Francine Kopun for finding and interviewing Rita Rich, 92, who was 10 and living in the house when the baby's body was hidden. It is a Toronto Sun story if there ever was one. Where is Max Haines when you need him? There is still time for the Sun to do this story justice, with a ceremony for Baby Kintyre scheduled for Oct. 12.

(2) The Toronto Sun's Alan Parker pleasantly surprised us with an entertaining two-page feature story about Adrian Shine, the "Guardian of the loch." Al is a newsroom management type, much like Mike Strobel was before he discovered his new calling as an offbeat columnist. His report from the banks of Loch Ness is a fresh approach to the decades-old story and what a smooth and easy read. Nessie was a favourite with Sunday Sun readers for years. Welcome back Nessie. And Al, we didn't know you had it in you.

Excellent reads.

More inside Sifton

A Quebecor newsletter called Phoenix profiles Michael Sifton, the new Sun Media CEO, in an issue posted Monday. In it, Sifton says “life is too short to not have fun. There is lots of tough stuff to do, but we have to remember to have fun.”

Fun at the Sun? The Toronto Sun was a fun fest in all departments until Doug Creighton's ouster in 1992 and not so much fun in the years since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999.

Michael, more give than take on Quebecor's behalf would help rekindle the fun part.

Back to the Phoenix newsletter:

Mike Sifton is from the school of managing by walking around, communication using simple words, and setting goals that drive the process.

“I want a lot of input,” he says. “We won’t necessarily come to a perfect consensus, but all our people should feel they have had a chance to share their opinions. It’s communication, communication, communication. It’s about how we see ourselves and how others see us.”

That approach panned out at Osprey Media where he created a new enterprise culture. After spending five years in the Hollinger organization, he had the chance to build Osprey Media into a group of 20 dailies and 38 community publications in Ontario from the diverse styles of Thomson, Southam and other previous owners.

“Rather than spending a lot of time working on vision statements, we focused instead on understanding the purpose of the business. It’s about building better communities. That’s what a newspaper or any media organization should be doing. That’s what publishing is all about.”

Osprey was guided by a short list of core values.

“Regional publishers and local publishers were asked to define the core values. We found that there were a number of words that were common from all the regions.”

Using this common language, Sifton and the Osprey team established the list of values, based on simple language, with each point leading into or connected to the next. This became the core philosophy of the company and part of how Sifton defines his own style.

“It starts with honesty. It’s so simple. If you lie you won’t be part of this organization for long. We need people who can provide honest feedback to everyone inside and outside the organization.”

Integrity is developed when you do what you say. Knowing that people will always act in the best interests of the company, our readers and advertisers is a key link in the chain.

Respect is built on honesty and integrity.

“This is exhibited by how I interact with senior managers and how I expect them to deal with their reports. Humility is important. I don’t like people who are full of themselves.”

Trust is established when we demonstrate honesty, integrity and respect. We strive to be trusted within the organization and with readers and advertisers.

The next consensus value that emerged is empowerment.

“That’s the process by which we manage,” says Sifton. “If a manager is always looking to head office for direction, it means his or her backside is facing the community and that’s not the right focus. We don’t want people who ‘manage up.’ I want people to take risks. I want our folks to have courage to try new things, like being a bit irreverent with the front pages. You shouldn’t fear you’ll be punished for taking a risk, even if it doesn’t work out.”

Finally, fun: “Life is too short to not have fun. There is lots of tough stuff to do, but we have to remember to have fun.”

Did You Know?
• Mike Sifton was introduced to the business through summer jobs as a pressman at the Brockville Recorder and Times, then as a reporter at the St. Catharines Standard and at the Canadian Press. He became publisher in 1992 of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and the Regina Leader Post.

• In 2001 he began assembling newspapers that would become the Osprey Group.

• Born in Toronto, he is married with three children aged 20, 18 and 13

On the Big Issues
• Convergence: “It’s not the future anymore. It is with us now. We need to get better at it. The one thing I know about convergence is we need everyone’s input because I am not smart enough to figure it out by myself.”

• Content: “We’re a news and information company and clearly going forward I am placing the focus on content. Content is where it all begins.”

• Changing business: “Understand what you want to achieve, design the business, then apply tools, systems and processes. We need to look at the tasks at hand and then assign who’s best equipped to achieve success.”

• Fun at work: “The most enjoyable part of the job is travelling and meeting our team.”

Michael Sifton memo

The recent appointment of Michael Sifton as Sun Media's CEO has generated positive buzz among shell-shocked employees.

They have been looking for a light at the end of the tunnel following almost nine years of Quebecor cutbacks, firings, layoffs, buyouts and resignations.

This is a memo Sifton, CEO of Osprey Media until Quebecor bought the Ontario chain of daily and weekly newspapers, sent to all Sun Media employees.

Is it a light at the end of the tunnel - or an oncoming train?

Sifton's "tough times" rhetoric hints of more slicing and dicing down the road, but the Sun tabloids don't have much more to give before being declared vital signs absent.

(There is more about Michael Sifton in a Quebecor newsletter called Phoenix.)

September 21, 2007

To: All Sun Media Employees

From: Michael Sifton

"I’d like to introduce myself as the President and CEO of Sun Media and open what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue.

I have worked for most of my adult life in the newspaper and information business, in a wide variety of markets and a number of different media organizations. I have worked for some colourful owners and I have been an owner. I am passionate about our industry and believe in its potential.

Six years ago, I and a number of colleagues formed Osprey Media. The various newspapers that made up Osprey came from different ownership groups and had different ways of doing things. I like to think that we kept the best of what we inherited, we learned and adopted best practices from each other, and we sought out and implemented the best ideas we could develop internally or copy from elsewhere. Osprey’s businesses came together while maintaining strong local identities and keeping strong relationships with the communities they serve. When we met challenges, as we did, we met them head on and we persevered.

Quebecor has put together in Sun Media a great collection of assets, and together we have a strong and creative team. With hard work, and a little luck, we can achieve much. We can also have some fun doing so. It is remarkable what can be accomplished when people come together around a common vision of creating a modern news and information company, guided by a set of core values anchored in honesty. Goals that may currently appear to us to be stretch goals will start to come within reach.

Getting there will not be easy. We operate in some tough, competitive markets. Our competitors can be counted on to do everything in their power to ensure that our path is not an easy one. There is a continuing risk of a general economic slowdown. And if we fail to come together as a team, all bets are off. There will undoubtedly be some difficult choices ahead of us. But I believe that our industry can have a bright future, if we embrace constructive change and work together to achieve it.

I would not have accepted the challenge of being Sun Media’s President and CEO if I felt otherwise.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and to meet as many of you as possible. I will keep you informed of major developments, but also I want this to be a two-way communication process."

Monday 24 September 2007

T.O. Sun style lax

We did a double take after reading the second paragraph of a story on Page 3 of the Saturday Sun.

It begins with: "1-month-old Abbygail Elizabeth Dice . . ."

How did that abandonment of newspaper style get past the editors and into the Sun?

Or has the Toronto Sun thrown in the towel when it comes to traditional newspaper style?

Readers finicky about newspaper style - let's say just about every journalist and editor in the GTA - must have winced over that lapse.

Sloppy writing - and editing.

We have also winced a few times recently in reading Toronto Sun stories with 40 to 45 words in the leads.

Once upon a time, the edict from just about every Sun city editor was no leads with more than 20 words. And Les Pyette, Bob Vezina, Bob Burt among others, enforced the edict.

It made sense. Tight, bright tabloid stories with tight, bright tabloid leads.

We sympathize with green reporters working in today's bare bones Sun Media newsrooms. They are destined to repeat their mistakes without mentors and advice from editors.

The Toronto Sun hasn't had a rewrite desk since 1994 - and it often shows. Using "1-month-old" anywhere in a story instead of "one-month-old" and chunky, 40-word leads are signs editors at this major Toronto daily are too busy to care about style.

Forum: Pete Simpson

An e-mail from former Toronto Sun staffer Peter Simpson, who is now Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

Peter writes:

I stumbled over this blog and was surprised to see my name (in an e-mail to TSF from Dave Blizzard.)

Thanks for the memories. I still have a soft spot in my heart for all the comp room guys. Man, those were the days!

I still wear the Sun ring that Doug Creighton gave me when I left.

Alas, the Sun will never be the same.

Currently, I am the CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association.

Keep in touch.

Peter Simpson.

Friday 21 September 2007

Linehan book prices

Brian Linehan fans eager to read George Anthony's new book on the celebrated celebrity interviewer can get a hefty price discount by ordering from Amazon.

Wednesday's Toronto Sun had a full page ad offering Starring Brian Linehan: a Life Behind the Scenes for $47.99, including shipping and GST.

Amazon is selling it online for $22.04 Canadian ($29.61 with shipping and GST), but now that the dollar is at par (hurrah, hurrah), it doesn't matter whether it is Canadian or U.S. currency.

The official release date for the 360-page hardcover book is this Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Does George get a bigger slice of the profit from each $47.99 book sold via Sun Media News Research Centre than he does from Amazon's per book sale at $29.61? Hmmmm.

Whatever the price, we are sure George wants the widest possible exposure for his book, which was no doubt a labour of love for the Toronto Sun Day Oner and former entertainment editor.

Time for some give?

The Toronto Sun enjoyed a healthy 9.9% hike in daily readership between the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007 - a NADbank stat that calls for some give from Quebecor.

Saturday Sun readership was up 5.7%. Sunday Sun figures were not available in the Toronto Star story by Rita Trichurstory.

Sun Media's flagship tabloid topped all of the competition for daily and Saturday readership figures, despite another year of downsizing in the newsroom.

The Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild says newsroom staff at the Toronto Sun has been halved since Quebecor purchased Sun Media in January of 1999.

Topping the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and National Post in daily and Saturday readership in one tough newspaper market should bode well for unionized Sun employees. They return to the negotiation table this fall for a second contract.

But we are thinking of the pre-Quebecor years when improvements usually meant some give from management in the form of profit sharing and raises.

With Michael Sifton now at the helm at Sun Media, employees can only hope he will have the clout to beef up newsroom staff and ease the burden of those who survived the carnage.

More Toronto Sun jobs will be lost in 10 days when the presses at 333 King Street East are silenced and printing of the tabloid moves to Quebecor's new plant.

That once bustling six-floor Sun building will be mighty quiet without the roar of the presses; a newsroom that has been cut in half; a classifieds department shut down in favour of a move to Kanata; the thinning of other departments etc.

Glenn Garnett, the Sun's editor in chief, said in his NADbank story in Thursday's Sun:

"The best is yet to come, and we thank a growing number of readers for joining us on a very interesting ride."

How Quebecor negotiates with SONG at the bargaining table will determine if the best is yet to come for employees of the profitable tabloid, who helped boost those readership figures.

They have been closely watching the five-month lockout and strike at the Journal de Montreal in Quebec City.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Liz Braun nails Fox

Liz Braun, take a bow. Your Take Two replay of what Sally Field said during the Emmys on Sunday and what wasn't heard by American viewers put Fox in its place.

Canadian viewers watching the Emmys on CTV heard Sally say "if all the mothers ruled the world, there would be no God damn (sic) wars in the first place."

We thought Toronto TV critics would be all over Fox for its juvenile censoring of Sally and several other celebrities during the Emmys, but nooooo.

Liz Braun said more about Fox taking television back to the "Dark Ages" in two paragraphs than we have read anywhere else.

Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America said Canadian TV viewers heard all of the words censored during the Emmys, so why not American viewers?

Has anyone asked CTV how the True North, strong and free got to be treated as adults?

One American talk show host suggested Fox wasn't censoring the goddamn, but was silencing Sally's anti-war sentiment. That raises a more serious form of censorship.

The Huffington Post offers numerous commentaries on the censorship.

TV ratings revealed this year's Emmys bombed big time, compared to the Emmys on NBC last year. It will tank further next year if Fox is allowed to host it again.

Fox should be banned from hosting any awards show after its embarrassing display of censorship.

And American viewers should be mad as hell and just not taking it anymore - from Fox or any other media source.

So thanks Liz for today's Take Two and for your priceless, no holds barred movie reviews.

Now if we can only wean you from frequent P.H. mentions.

New Sun Media CEO

Michael Sifton's appointment today as Sun Media's president and CEO has to be good news for hundreds of employees who worked for Osprey.

The newspaper executive was at the helm at Osprey this summer when shareholders agreed to sell the chain of 54 daily and weekly Ontario newspapers to Quebecor.

Today's announcement that Sifton's appointment is effective immediately should provide comfort to those concerned about their jobs under Quebecor.

At Osprey, they watched from a distance as hundreds of Sun Media employees were cut through firings, layoffs, resignations and buyouts after Quebecor took over in 1999.

Some Osprey workers were Sun Media refugees, now back in the shadow of Quebecor.

Is there room for employee optimism with Sifton at the helm?

Sifton, 47, served as the head of Osprey for six years and is the great-grandson of Sir Clifford Sifton, who owned the Winnipeg Free Press in the 1890s. He is also a former publisher of the Star Phoenix in Saskatoon and a former chairman of Canadian Press.

So there is print blood in him.

"I'm thrilled at this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Sifton said in a Toronto Sun story.

Time will tell if Sifton will have the freedom and the clout to act on behalf of employees for the betterment of Sun Media newspapers, or if he is destined to become a mouthpiece for PKP?

We wonder how Sifton feels about the Le Journal de Quebec lockout and strike that marks its fifth month on Saturday. The stagnant lockout and strike affects 280 Sun Media employees.

And we are anxious to hear if Sifton is concerned about the bare bones newsrooms across the Sun chain following years of Quebecor cutbacks, firings, layoffs, resignations and buyouts.

Welcome to the club, Michael. We wish you - and all Sun Media employees - well.

Hopefully, your presence will be a turning point in staff numbers and morale.

Pierre Francoeur, 55, a 20-year Quebecor Media vet and outgoing CEO, will play a key role in the management transition before he retires next summer, says a Canadian Press story.

T.O. readership 47%

Toronto newspaper readers are fourth in Canada when it comes to picking up a newspaper on weekdays, says an Editor & Publisher story based on the latest NADbank figures.

Circulation figures in four major newspaper markets (from the fall of 2006 to the spring of 2007) show Vancouver had the highest average weekday readership at 53%, compared to Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal at 51% each and Toronto at 47%.

"On Sunday, print readership falls compared to daily readership," says E&P. "Twenty-eight percent of adults read a Sunday newspaper in Toronto, 35% do so in Montreal, 23% in Vancouver, and 33% in Ottawa-Gatineau."

"The Ottawa Citizen can claim the most daily readers in its market at 28%. In Toronto, 23% of adults read the Toronto Star. Twenty-six percent of adults read the Vancouver Sun on an average weekday while 21% of adults read Le Journal de Montreal."

E&P says online newspaper figures are: In Toronto, 20% of adults read a newspaper online each week, 15% of adults do so in Montreal and Vancouver respectively, and 22% of adults in Ottawa-Gatineau.

We await a more detailed accounting of GTA print newspaper circulation figures from NADbank (
Newspaper Audience Databank.)

Big Red videos

Phil Johnston, a Toronto Sun copy editor and family man, bought a camcorder in the early 1990s and took to several Sun events.

We are forever grateful for the amateur video photographer's decision to take it to Doug Creighton's 64th birthday party that staff organized and held in the creaky old Eclipse Building, where it all began on Nov. 1, 1971. It was a bittersweet evening.

Phil also took it to an office warming two months later in Doug's new penthouse suite with a view of 333 King Street East, where Doug was ousted as CEO without explanation on Nov. 5, 1992.

(Blind comic Gord Paynter kept us laughing during the office reception. There is also footage of Mike Strobel with hair. Others there to wish Doug well included Bob MacDonald, John Downing, Sherry Johnston, Lorrie Goldstein, Tom Godfrey, Lynn Carpenter, Jim Yates, Marjorie Henry.)

The birthday party was held three weeks after Doug's ouster and Phil's camera captured the loyalty and love of hundreds of Sun employees who crammed into the Eclipse to support Doug. Footage includes the faces of many employees now long gone from the thinning Sun.

The camera also catches Doug's emotional speech, often interrupted by shouts of support for the veteran newsman, who worked his way up from Telegram police reporter to newspaper co-founder and CEO. Doug's wife, Marilyn, sat nearby, roses on her lap.

It was Doug's night and except for a ballsy Judas in the crowd, there were no doubts 99.9% of Sun staffers in the Eclipse that night felt Doug's pain and their loss as employees.

Watched Phil's party video recently to make a copy for a former Sun staffer who hadn't seen it and it revived memories of a pledge made that night during speeches by then Toronto Police Chief William McCormack and other police vets.

After presenting Doug with a badge naming him Honourary Police Chief, it was announced the Toronto Historical Society would provide a plaque for the Eclipse Building identifying it as the first home of the Toronto Sun.

It was an excellent gesture, but as of last year the plaque could not be found on the building at the corner of King and John Streets.

With the 36th anniversary of the launch of the Sun approaching, perhaps the few remaining Toronto Sun staffers from the 1970s could see to it that promised plaque sees the light of day.

How about it Peter? Mark? Andy? George? Jim? The Toronto Sun has given much to the city since 1971. It is part of the city's history.

The Eclipse Building is also unique in that it is the only original home of a major Toronto daily newspaper still standing.

It is time to fulfill a promise to Doug in 1992 and plaque it.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

TV coverage lacking

Toronto Sun readers who watch a lot of television must be feeling like second class citizens.

Sun TV coverage has been wanting since the forced departure of Bill Brioux, but that is not the fault of Bill Harris, who can only do so much as the Sun's solo TV writer.

The Sun, to date, has shortchanged readers in the fall preview department. Sun Television on Sunday had zero coverage. Not a word. Ditto for ENT.

The Globe and Mail got it right with new and renewed TV shows outlined in its Friday TV/film guide and on Saturday with almost two pages by TV writer John Doyle.

The Toronto Star had full coverage in its Saturday StarWeek TV magazine - plus an eight-page Fall TV Preview pullout section in Monday's paper, with reviews by Rob Salem.

Maybe the Toronto Sun is planning a fall preview for next weekend - a week into the new fall season. Or not.

And then there was the Sun's AP coverage of the Emmy Awards. We learned from the Larry King show that Kathy Griffin (Jesus comments) and Sally Fields (anti war comments), among others, were censored by in the U.S. by Fox , not just Ray Romano.

The censor's delete button was busy on a night that saluted The Sopranos, HBO's recently departed mob family series that was peppered with George Carlin's famous seven words.

(Thanks to Good Morning America on ABC, we learned the CTV feed from the Emmys was not censored and Canadian viewers heard most of the comments bleeped by Fox. Maybe a TV writer in T.O. can explain how does that work.)

Meanwhile, did you notice the large four-column Global TV colour ad on Page 45 of Monday's Sun, the one promoting the series premiere of Back To You?

"Tonight 8:00 Back To You, Series Premiere," the ad reads.

It is a good looking ad, but it was published on the wrong day. The series debuts on Wednesday.

The errant ad and the lack of fall preview coverage are signs the once well-oiled Toronto Sun is hurting following years of cutbacks and staff reductions.

Kudos to the Star and Globe for their Fall Preview coverage. We can now accurately program our PVRs and settle in for for another season.

Monday 17 September 2007

Page 6 thriving

The Toronto Sun hasn't had a full time Page 6 columnist since Gary Dunford was uprooted and moved about before he left the building in 2005.

Dunf filed 7,127 columns from 1973 to his exit in 2005 and for most of that run, Page 6 was his home - and his license plate. His appeal with Sun readers was legendary.

Meanwhile, the New York Post's Page 6, the granddaddy of Page 6s in North America, is not only thriving, it is expanding to a 96-page glossy Page 6 magazine in the Sunday Post.

The title refers to the gossip page that is the Post’s most recognizable brand, but the magazine will be broader than its namesake," says an online New York Times story.

"In addition to celebrities, there’s lots of fashion, some profiles, food, wine, restaurants, stuff like that,” Col Allan, editor of the Post, told the Times.

Rupert Murdoch's New York tabloid is moving Page 6 to a new level while on a roll with circulation, taking the daily lead over its longtime rival, the Daily News.

"In the most recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Post had weekday paid circulation of 725,000 and 439,000 on Sunday, to 718,000 weekday and 776,000 Sunday for the Daily News," says the Times.

We await new Toronto Sun ABC stats to see how Quebecor's grand plan - without a dedicated Page 6 columnist and ample newsroom staff - is unfolding.

Money honey back

Pardon our loose use of the old song Money Honey, but that was what came to mind in reading Linda Leatherdale's Your Money column on Sunday.

Fresh from her recent sabbatical (a cherished Sun benefit down the tubes in Quebecor's Sun Media), Linda couldn't have picked a more appropriate money man than Fred Ketchen for her second post-sabbatical column .

We missed you Linda.

Speaking of the Sunday Sun, did we miss it? Was there a Fall Preview of new and renewed TV programs somewhere in the Sun this past week? Nothing in the TV guide.

Fall previews used to be a popular Sun TV magazine feature, but today's shell of a guide pales in comparison to TV guides in the Star and Globe.

Headline list update

TSF's Top 10 Headlines list was at six and holding until yesterday's Sunday Sun, where we found two more contenders on Page 26.

Firefighters save farmer's ass - for an AP story about Minnesota firefighters saving a donkey from the bottom of a farmer's well.

Meal almost becomes cereal killer - a London, Ont. story about a Hwy. 401 motorist who lost control of his car while eating cereal.

"Man" would have worked better than "meal," but both are strong enough for Numbers 7 and 8 on our Top 10 list, where they will remain unless bumped by stronger entries.

We don't know who wrote the headlines, but it has us wondering if it was a newcomer or a rejuvenated old rim pro on a roll.

Whatever, clever headlines like these over the years helped put the "fun" in the Sun.

We'll give credit by name for those two headlines and the previous "Queen of Mean has room in tomb" headline if e-mailed to TSF.

Friday 14 September 2007

Ken Gray flashback

Ken Gray, the Ottawa Citizen's city editorial page editor and Friday columnist, got his start at the London Free Press some 30 years ago.

In today's column, he recalls those early FP days and the long nights of drinking we vets all thought would never end. And he fondly remembers the late Mel Howie, the Free Press assistant managing editor who hired him on full time.

Ken says if alive today, Mel would probably wonder what has happened to the "fun" in journalism and where the Woodwards and Bernsteins and hard news exclusives are today.

We hear you there, Ken.

When we began reading Ken's column, we thought it was leading up to his retirement announcement, but it is just a column about newspaper memories that many media vets can relate to in 2007.

Hopefully, it won't be the last career flashback column for Ken.

We'd like to see Sun Media vets take turns writing columns about their cub reporter days and the people who made a difference in their careers.

Peter Worthington, Mark Bonokoski or Mike Strobel would be a great start for Toronto Sun staffer flashbacks.

Thursday 13 September 2007

A great Sun day

It is days like today when, after reading the Toronto Sun, you realize the depleted tabloid is still often too good a newspaper to be owned by the likes of Quebecor and PKP.

Today, it was Andy Donato, Mike Strobel and Michele Mandel, to name a few, who gave readers their money's worth once again.

Andy - If you have been wondering why most of the Toronto radio talk show hosts were talking about Andy today - catch up to his controversial editorial cartoon and check out the Inside the Sun blog for the Donato cartoon background story. The Sun's Day Oner cartoonist is the tabloid's answer to the battery bunny that keeps going and going - and oh so creatively.

Mike - A surprising and heartwarming column about Colin Farrell, a selfless young actor with a big heart, and "Speed," a very appreciative homeless Toronto man he befriended. His full page column about an actor's generous deeds makes up for several months of wasted Sun space devoted to the talentless P.H. and other self-absorbed bimbos.

(Mike's column knows no boundaries. It was picked up by the Hollywood celebrity gossip site, front page Sun photo and all, under a tag line "Celebrities Doing Good.")

Michele - The transformation of Michele the Sun columnist to a stunner on a shopping spree looking every bit the celebrity was simply amazing. The Sun's online story without Michele's makeover photo is a disservice to online readers. Worked with Michele for years and didn't recognize her smile or her looks in the print edition photo.

(Why no online photos for stories and columns that beg for illustration? It doesn't make sense to post a story or column about a makeover or whatever without photos.)

Today's $1.06 investment in the Sun out here in the boondocks was worth every cent.

A sub, a Sun, a sunny day and a scenic waterfront. Does it get any better?

Sun side of FN

Glenn Garnett, the Toronto Sun's editor in chief and Inside the Sun blogger, devotes his latest posting to the use of swear words in the first 36 years of the Sun.

Have to say it is one of our Top 10 favourite Inside the Sun postings since Glenn launched the blog in early April.

The posting focuses on the recent debate over a Canadian film entry in the Toronto International Film Festival that includes the "F-bomb," as Glenn calls it. The film title has divided editors and entertainment writers, but its full spelling has drawn few objections from the public.

Glenn gives us a full count of swear words that have been published in the Sun since it was launched in 1971, which is a fascinating technological wonder in itself.

He also works in George Carlin's classic 1970s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” routine that desperately needs updating four decades later. (We have heard all seven during prime time CBC and CITY-TV movies and have read all but a couple in local print media.)

At least five of those seven Carlin words have been published in the Sun since 1971, some reluctantly judging by Glenn's tone.

What we didn't know about the "F-bomb" is: "Our database shows the term, used as verb and adjective, has appeared on our pages all of five times in Sun history, most often quoting an executive directive to clear protesters from a provincial park."

Five times? We were aware of one mention - as noted by Sun movie critic Jim Slotek in a recent TSF comment - and it was wrapped up in a band's name.

What Glenn doesn't say is whether newspapers in the Quebecor chain were allowed to decide how to address the title, or was there a blanket edict from Quebecor against its use?

We do know there was at least one maverick.

Sun Media's 24 Hours in Toronto, as noted by Glenn, used the full word six times on one page. It appears to be the only Sun Media paper to skip the dashes.

Were 24 Hours readers offended? Glenn says 24 Hours editor Ted Rath told him they got "one call and one e-mail from readers distressed by the use of the f-word in his paper."

One call and one e-mail. Hardly an uprising.

It has also been used in full in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Vancouver Sun etc. Are they less respectful of readers than the Sun, the Star and other papers that censored the word?

Another little known fact in Glenn's posting is the word was not censored in Canadian Press releases. He says CP told him the news agency left it up to member newspapers.

The irony of this entire 2007 word game is Young People Fucking has received favourable reviews.

The question now is how will the title of this Canadian flick be handled for movie theatre and DVD promotion and advertising?

Maybe Glenn can advise his readers how that works in advertising. Does money dictate, or do you still draw the line when it comes to one of Carlin's seven words?

We do remember some feathers were ruffled when the Vagina Monologues came to town.

Will time make all of this look rather silly?

As silly as the 1939 controversy over Clark Gable's "damn" in Gone With the Wind?

Or the controversial use of "virgin" in Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue in 1953?

Or the daring use of "pregnant" in A Hatful of Rain in 1957?

Or "bastard," used in context but cut from Home From the Hill by Ontario censors in 1960?

We're getting there with Glenn's "F-bomb."

Newspaper editors just have to give the majority of their readers more credit in 2007.

24 Hours - one call and one e-mail.

We dig it, George Carlin.

If you want to talk obscenities in 2007, talk Darfur, Iraq . . .

Wednesday 12 September 2007

TSF poll results

Results of TSF's 35 seven-day polls:

Poll 35: Your favourite Toronto Sun content is
34 votes
Cops & robbers
6 (22%)
0 (0%)
Op ed & cartoons
2 (7%)
7 (25%)
3 (11%)
1 (3%)
0 (0%)
3 (11%)
Local news
5 (18%)
National news
0 (0%)
World news
1 (3%)
1 (3%)
TV coverage
0 (0%)
Tech and games
0 (0%)
Crosswords etc.
2 (7%)
The ads
3 (11%)

Poll 34: Your daily news source preference:
30 votes
Internet - 10 (33%)
Print - 12 (40%)
Radio - 6 (20%)
TV - 2 (6%)

Poll 33: How would you grade the 2008 Toronto Sun?
41 votes
A1 to A+ - 7 (17%)
B- to B+ - 6 (14%)
C- to C+ - 4 (9%)
D- to D+ - 8 (19%)
E- to E+ - 3 (7%)
F- to F+ - 13 (31%)

Poll 32: Are print TV guides obsolete?
38 votes
Yes - 23 (60%)
No - 15 (39%)

Poll 31: Are Sun's adult ads OK with you?
38 votes
Yes - 19 (50%)
No - 19 (50%)

Poll 30: Will you visit Newseum?
20 votes
Yes - 11 (55%)
No - 9 (45%)

Poll 29: Do you view online Sun videos?
27 votes
Most of the time - 1 (3%)
Occasionally - 5 (18%)
Never - 21 (77%)

Poll 28: Boycott the Olympics?
36 votes
Yes - 21 (58%)
No - 15 (41%)

Poll 27: If you had a vote
48 votes
Clinton - 17 (35%)
Obama - 31 (64%)

Poll 26: Best editorial comment/cartoons?
23 votes
Globe and Mail - 11 (47%)
National Post - 3 (13%)
Toronto Star - 5 (21%)
Toronto Sun - 4 (17%)

Poll 25: Best arts and entertainment coverage?
20 votes
Globe and Mail - 8 (40%)
National Post - 2 (10%)
Toronto Star - 7 (35%)
Toronto Sun - 3 (15%)

Poll 24: Best sports coverage?
25 votes
Globe and Mail - 7 (28%)
National Post - 0 (0%)
Toronto Star - 9 (36%)
Toronto Sun - 9 (36%)

Poll 23: Best local news in T.O.?
36 votes
Globe and Mail - 7 (19%)
National Post - 3 (8%)
Toronto Star - 20 (55%)
Toronto Sun - 6 (16%)

Poll 22: How long can T.O. sustain four daily papers?
37 votes
Another 5 years - 21 (56%)
10 years - 4 (10%)
15 years - 1 (2%)
Indefinitely - 11 (29%)

Poll 21: U.S. president run news in Canada:
14 votes
Gimme more - 5 (35%)
It's adequate - 5 (35%)
A tad much, eh - 2 (14%)
Beyond belief - 2 (14%)

Poll 20: Sun Media's Aboriginal coverage is:
20 votes
Excellent - 3 (15%)
Satisfactory - 9 (45%)
Disappointing - 8 (40%)

Poll 19: Winning Leafs only on front?
26 votes
Yes, bury losers - 13 (50%)
No, win or lose - 13 (50%)

Poll 18: Are full online Suns feasible?
28 votes
Yes, if the price is right - 18 (64%)
No, partial Sun OK - 10 (35%)

Poll 17: Can Sunday Sun be No. 1 again?
49 votes
Yes - 12 (24%)

No - 37 (75%)

Poll 16: Sun Media mood for 2008?
27 votes
Optimistic - 8 (29%)
Pessimistic - 10 (37%)
Status quo - 9 (33%)

Poll 15: What is your Christmas wish?
34 votes
A 2007 NNA nom - 3 (8%)
A 2007 Dunlop nom - 0 (0%)

Good health - 15 (44%)
More money - 9 (26%)
More staff - 4 (11%)
Nothing, have it all - 3 (8%)
OK, world peace - 0 (0%)

Poll 14: No. 1 Toronto Sun front page?
40 votes
Elvis dies - 1 (2%)
Lennon murdered - 1 (2%)

9/11 "Bastards" - 20 (50%)
Mississauga disaster - 3 (7%)
Pope shooting - 0 (0%)
03 "Blackout" - 2 (5%)
Diana weds - 1 (2%)
Diana dies - 1 (2%)
Donato cartoon - 1 (2%)
A sports photo - 3 (7%)
Other - 7 (17%)

Poll 13: Most Sun Comics Are:
29 votes
Hilarious - 2 (6%)
Good for a laugh - 2 (6%)
Mildly amusing - 8 (27%)

A lost cause - 17 (58%)

Poll 12: PKP should sell:
32 votes
Quebecor World - 6 (14%)
Quebecor Media - 15 (35%)
The Works - 21 (50%)

Poll 11: Biggest Sun Media loss:
36 votes
Christmas bonus - 5 (13%)
- 23 (63%)
Profit sharing - 4 (11%)
Stock options - 4 (11%)

Poll 10: Replace Rachel Marsden with:
34 votes
Lighter op ed fare - 5 (14%)
More politics - 4 (11%)
GTA issues column - 14 (41%)
Guest columns - 11 (32%)

Poll 9: Which do you prefer:
26 votes
Unsigned editorial - 15 (57%)
Point of View - 5 (19%)
A mix - 6 (23%)

Poll 8: Should EIC Lou Clancy write the Toronto Sun blog?
32 votes
Yes, we'd read it - 12 (37%)
No, he's too busy - 20 (62%)

Poll 7: Front page blue strip car ads
30 votes
Thumbs up - 10 (33%)

Thumbs down - 20 (66%)

Poll 6: Do you favour back pages sports:
11 votes
Yes - 6 (54%)
No - 5 (45%)

Poll 5:
Sun tabloids need more: (a multiple choice poll):
Local news: 22 (43%)
Investigative pieces: 20 (39%)
Offbeat features: 12 (23%)
Sports coverage: 12 (23%)
Financial news: 10 (19%)
Op-ed pieces: 10 (19%)
Internet, tech stories: 9 (17%)
Television coverage: 7 (13%)
Lifestyle features: 5 (9%)
Stage, screen news: 4 (7%)
DVD & CD reviews: 3 (5%)
Staff to do all of the above: 30 (58%)

Poll 4: Is Mike Sifton pro employee?
44 votes
Yes - 27 (61%)
No - 17 (38%)

Poll 3:
Will Sun Media survive Quebecor?
62 votes
Yes - 26 (41%)
No - 36 (58%)

Poll 2: Is F-word OK in print media?

48 votes
Yes - 18 (37%)
No - 30 (62%)

Poll 1: Will print media become obsolete?
51 votes
Yes - 18 (35%)
No - 33 (64%)

24 hours now 100%

Quebecor, fresh from the acquisition of Osprey's chain of 54 Ontario newspapers, is still in a buying mood.

The Vancouver Sun says it has bought out Jim Pattison's interest in Sun Media's 24 hours, the free Vancouver commuter paper, for an undisclosed price.

The joint venture began March 30, 2005 after Sun Media launched 24 hours in Toronto and Montreal, says the Vancouver Sun story. Other 24 hours were later launched by Sun Media in Calgary and Edmonton, and in French and English in Ottawa.

"It's not a strategic investment or core holding for the Pattison group," Glen Clark, former 24 hours president and senior Pattison executive, told the Vancouver Sun.

"On the other hand, Sun Media is developing the brand all across the country. It's a core business for them, there are synergies for them. It made more sense for them to own 100 per cent."

Pattison, is an astute, self-made multi-millionaire, so we wonder what the between-the-lines message is in selling off interest in 24 hours.

The Vancouver Sun notes that CanWest's Dose, another free paper and former 24 hours competitor, is now an online-only newspaper and CanWest has sold its interest in Metro, another Vancouver free paper.

We are dizzy from the free paper maneuvers.

So when does the morphing of the thinning Suns in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton into free Sun/24 tabloids begin? PKP says it will never happen, but . . .

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Peter W. circa 1984

On Oct. 11, 1984, Peter Worthington, fired from the Toronto Sun he co-founded and recently defeated as a Tory candidate in Broadview-Greenwood, was a guest speaker at the Empire Club.

Thanks to the Empire Club and the Internet, his speech can be read verbatim 23 years later. His book, Looking for Trouble, had just been released, Ronald Reagan had been U.S. president for four years and the Soviet Union was still communist.

It is prime Peter, fired at the time by Doug Creighton for commenting on the content of the Sun, talking politics.

Random thoughts

Are any crossword puzzles in the Toronto Sun and other GTA newspapers created in Canada? Is so, can they be identified as such for fans tired of American-themed words?

Does the return of Osprey's James Wallace (we knew him as Jamie) to the Sun's op-ed pages affect the Sun's Queen's Park hierarchy? Welcome back James.

Why isn't Joe Warmington, aka Scrawler, doing more celeb hunting pieces during this year's Toronto International Film Festival? We miss his random snaps and celeb notes.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is reporting circulation figures for the Sun and the Daily Star - in the United Kingdom. What's happening with ABC stats for the GTA? Still waiting. (Overall UK newspaper circulation performance.)

We didn't think it possible to have photos of two people many Toronto Sun readers do not warm up to on the same front page, but there they were Thursday: B.M. and P.H. Yowza!

Do all of the dedicated non-union Toronto Sun pressroom employees just go quietly into that good night when the presses are silenced in a few weeks? The presses have been the pride of the tabloid since the Sun moved into 333 in 1975.

Why are Sun readers beyond the 416 and 905 GTA sales area still paying $1.06 for the daily paper when GTA subscribers can get 7-day home delivery for $1.70?

Why have the Sun and the Star abandoned TV capsule comments in their TV guides. The Globe and Mail has got it right with its meaty Friday film/TV Globe Review magazine. Lots of TV tibits. Bravo.

Top 10 headlines

Jay Leno's popular Monday night headlines bit has added another gem to our favourites list:

"Homeless man under house arrest" is from an unidentified U.S. newspaper.

It is No. 3 in our ongoing list of favourite headlines:

(1) Headless Body In Topless Bar - New York Post (written in April 1983 for a front page story about a "maniac" who forced a patron to decapitate the bartender.)

(2) Queen of Mean has room in tomb - Toronto Sun (author unknown, written this year following the death of New York hotels billionaire and ex-con Leona Helmsley, 87.)

(3) Homeless man under house arrest - unknown U.S. newspaper (sent to the Tonight Show for Jay Leno's headlines segment.)

(4) Chump Chomps Champ - Calgary Sun (submitted by Lyle Harvey who says: "This gem was written by the multi-talented Kevin Franchuk of the Calgary Sun after the infamous Tyson-Holyfield ear-biting incident of 1997.")

(5) The wurst is yet to come - Ottawa Sun (submitted by Mark Bonokoski, who wrote it in the mid-90s while op-ed page editor. It was for his column about a tabloid libel case in England, which involved a starlet, a German sausage etc. )

(6) Bears say Packers fudged injuries - Toronto Sun (submitted by Bob Bishop, who credits John Fitz-Gerald on the sports desk and adds: "Believe me, that head is legend among those of us of a certain era at the Sun.")

(7) Firefighters save farmer's ass - Toronto Sun (author unknown, for an AP story about Minnesota firefighters saving a donkey from the bottom of a farmer's well.

(8) Meal almost becomes cereal killer - Toronto Sun (unknown author, for a London, Ont. story about a Hwy. 401 motorist who lost control of his car while eating cereal.



We'll fill the remaining Top 10 as we find them.

Do you have a favourite?

Sunday 9 September 2007

Al Cairns' gig

Al Cairns, the award-winning former Toronto Sun investigative reporter and author, has been concentrating on music since his departure from 333 King Street East.

The big bass man is a member of a band called The Nagging Doubts, sharing the stage with vocalists
Eric Lam and newcomer Meghan Parnell, guitarist John Daily and drummer Greg Sarney.

Al and the band are booked into the The Loose Moose at 146 Front St. W. on Thursday, Oct. 11 , and staffers at the nearby Toronto Sun are invited to drop by for a brew or two.

"It would be nice to see some old faces," Al, who left the Sun in March after 17 productive years in the newsroom, says in an e-mail to TSF. " I often used to sing away in the newsroom, much to the chagrin of some, but to the amusement of most.

"The Nagging Doubts started four years ago with some staffers from the Globe and Mail. I joined the band about three years ago."

Al, formerly of the Sun's Shrinking Newsholes band, says the Loose Moose is one of several September/October bookings for the band.

Fans say they do it all from five decades of rock, soul, R&B, pop etc.

Save us a chair, Al.

Saturday 8 September 2007

Young People mix

No movie title has stirred the emotions of Canadian journalists more than Young People Fucking, a Canadian entry in the Toronto International Film Festival.

In Toronto, the Globe and Mail, National Post and 24 hours, have been calling it as it is, without any dashes or alternate disguises.

The Toronto Star, as explained by Kathy English in her Sept. 1 public editor column, decided Star readers do not want to see the "F" word in print.

"Call us old-fashioned if you will, but respect for our readers should never be out of style here," said Kathy.

Fair enough, but we thought the Star passed the point of no return in using the full four-letter word decades ago in an editorial about Pierre Trudeau.

So "fucking" is OK with the Globe, Post and 24 hours editors and not so OK with the Star, which is using F___ over protests by more liberal-minded Star staffers.

That leaves the Toronto Sun, which has ignored the movie in TIFF coverage judging by fruitless Google searches for any Sun Media references to the movie.

But today, in the Saturday Sun, we discovered the Toronto Sun is going with Young People

So what's the story Bruce Kirkland, Liz Braun, Jim Slotek and Kevin Williamson? Why the full title in Sun Media's free 24 hours and not in the Toronto Sun? Do they not want to offend anyone who pays for their paper?

The Toronto Sun could always adopt the "Young People Fly-Fishing" line from a Star cutline Friday. That is safe.

It makes us wonder how distributors of the DVD release will handle the title.

But seriously, folks, will we ever get past words considered too obscene to hear or read?

The only four-letter word that turns us off in 2007 is B__h.

Friday 7 September 2007

"Community" news

The Peterborough Examiner launches a new website tomorrow it says will include a community group feature that tops anything being done in Canadian media.

"It's your community site where you can upload your videos, your photos, your stories, your announcements, your blogs, your events, your schedules, your team's standings, your game results, your team photos and your community news," says an online Examiner story.

"It's your community web. You even get to moderate it. Readers can vote items off the community web; if enough voters don't like it, the item will be taken off by the system."

The Examiner, one of the many Osprey newspapers settling in as a Sun Media paper, says the community group site is free but requires registration.

The Examiner says "none of our competition has it: none of the local newsgroups, not The Globe and Mail, not The Toronto Star, no electronic media and not even our sister papers in the Sun Media chain have this community feature."

Community groups can register at

TSF has only one question: Will text, photographs and videos provided free by community groups be used in Quebecor-owned newspapers and on television without compensation?

Is there fine print somewhere that guarantees the use of text, photos and videos submitted free of charge by citizen contributors will be restricted to the Examiner's community web site?

If not, citizen journalism at the Examiner or any other newspaper can be viewed as an additional threat to jobs in the newsroom.

Wednesday 5 September 2007

Eating your words

There is weird news and then there is the story about an Edmonton woman named Maggie who literally has a craving for a taste of the Sun.

Her seven-year appetite for strips of pages torn from the Edmonton Sun recently landed her in hospital where doctors found a ball of paper blocking her esophagus.

But read Nicki Thomas' story about the senior citizen in today's Edmonton Sun. Definitely one for the books.

"I tried the (Edmonton) Journal," Maggie told Nicki during an interview. "It wasn't as good."

We can picture Sun ad execs working overtime to exploit this unique use of the Sun.

"The Sun - it's good enough to eat."

Pass the ketchup. Mike Strobel's column looks mighty appetizing.

175 Freep jobs saved

Quebecor has decided not to print the London Free Press at its new plant in Toronto - saving 175 Sun Media jobs, says Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M.

"CEP Local 87-M (SONG) is elated to learn that Quebecor/Sun Media today rescinded its (July 20) layoff notices . . . because of a decision to keep printing the Free Press in its existing building," Brad told TSF.

"That means about 175 people, many of whom had spent much of their working life at the London Free Press, will continue to hold good jobs," says Brad.

Brad said layoff notices had been formerly issued July 20 to the press room, distribution centre and building maintenance staff.

"The company has informed the union that it wishes to enter discussions to establish conditions that will allow a more viable business in London. We will learn more about what this means in the weeks to come."

Susan Muszak, Free Press publisher and CEO, announced the reversal in today's edition.

"Two years ago, a decision was made to move the press and distribution centre to a new printing plant in Islington near Toronto," she said. "Although operations at Wide Web Printing have already begun, the Free Press has been given the green light to submit a business case to keep printing and distribution work and the jobs here.

"We will start discussions with the union soon to establish conditions to allow us to have a viable long-term business solution.

"This is great news for our employees, for the Free Press and for the community. As you know, we have a 158-year history in London and we remain committed to this wonderful city and its bright future."

Plans to print the Toronto Sun at the new plant, beginning at the end of September, continue.

Critics of the proposed transfer of Free Press printing from London to Toronto said winter weather and Hwy. 401 congestion could wreak havoc with deliveries.

Whatever the reason for the reversal, 175 Free Press workers are applauding the decision.

Not that two years of anticipating job losses didn't take its toll.

"Regarding London, it should be said that, while it's great to have the jobs back, the employees there have been through a very difficult time these last two years thinking that they would lose the jobs and friends they have held for decades in some cases," Brad told TSF.

"Some sold their homes, anticipating closure and a buyout at the end of September. Some made large purchases. Their world was turned upside down and then back over again.

"I have tried to figure out what changed for Quebecor between July 20 when they issued the layoff notice and the end of August when they decided to rescind it and the only thing I can think of is the purchase of Osprey, which includes several papers in southwestern Ontario, relatively close to London.

"I'll leave it at that."

MIA columnists?

With Updates (*) from TSF readers

Dennis Earl
, a Hamilton, Ontario, blogger who occasionally comments on Sun Media happenings, wants to know the fate of numerous MIA columnists.

Dennis, obviously an avid Sun reader, says in a new posting the unexplained absence of Sun Media columnists "can be frustrating and aggravating. Infuriating and upsetting, as well."

In a nutshell, Dennis wonders what has become of:

* Holly Lake, MIA from Sun Media papers since February.

Update from Neate Sager, Ottawa Sun staffer and Out of Left Field blogger: "FYI for Mr. Earl, since he was wondering . . . Holly Lake left to take a PR job, I believe with a health professionals' association. Not sure which one."

Link Byfield of the Calgary Sun.

* Jose Rodriquez, whose Calgary Sun column hasn't been published since June 9.

Update from Mike Jenkinson, The Newsroom blogger and former Comment Editor at the Edmonton Sun: "Jose Rodriquez became editor in chief of the Calgary Sun, and probably doesn't have time to write columns anymore."

* Paul Stanway of the Edmonton Sun.

Update from Mike Jenkinson: "Paul Stanway left the Edmonton Sun earlier this year to become the communications director for Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. This was announced in the Sun."

Ross Romaniuk and Shahina Siddiqui of the Winnipeg Sun.

Andre Boily, another Sun Media columnist.

* Jim Chapman, MIA since March 24.

Update from Butch McLarty, blogger: "Jim Chapman of London is running for the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial riding of London-Fanshawe."

* Allison Graham (last appearance April 28.)

Update from Butch McLarty: "Allison Graham of London is running for the Progressive Conservatives in the provincial riding of London West."

Nicole Langlois (last appearance February 8.)

* Sean Twist (last appearance: February 3) in the London Free Press.

Update from Butch McLarty: "My buddy Sean Twist of London refused to sign the Sun Media freelancer's agreement several months ago and is now doing work for the CBC part-time."

Dennis says anyone with credible information about any or all of their whereabouts can reach him by email.

E-mail a copy to TSF and we will update this posting.