Monday 31 December 2007

2007 Sun Lite

Pardon us for pushing all of the 2007 murders, wars and other mayhem aside for a recap of more positive stories found in the Toronto Sun throughout the year.

No murders of the day, no talentless bimbos, no divisive left/right politics, no world leaders with questionable ethics, no Wag the Dog-style invasions, no corrupt politicians.

The following mix of positive and lighter fare - partly inspired by Joe Warmington's 2007 review - is in addition to the smile-inducing Andy Donato and Susan Dewar editorial cartoons, the helpful Bruce Kirkland DVD reviews, Steve Tilly's gaming reviews, Peter Worthington's dog columns etc.

Marc the Litter Guy, ready and able to clean Toronto streets for donations, received his 15 minutes and a lot of verbal bouquets in July with a Sun story by Kevin Connor and a follow-up column by Mike Strobel.

Belleville Const. Todd Bennett and five-year-old Jason Berg will be bonded for life after the Mennonite youngster vanished in a sun-baked cornfield for 28 hours in July. A determined Bennett found the severely dehydrated Jason in the nick of time.

Ronnie Hawkins fans, thanks to Joe "The Scrawler" Warmington, were updated several times on the life and times of Ontario's favourite U.S. rocker import. A December column took Rompin' Ronnie back to hosting John Lennon in 1978.

In September, Hollywood celeb Colin Farrell warmed our cynical hearts when he took a homeless Toronto man on a $2,100 shopping spree. Mike Strobel gave Sun readers an uplifting replay of the Irish actor's generosity.

Knut, a cuddly polar bear cub rejected at birth at the Berlin Zoo, captured the hearts of young and old world wide when introduced to the media early in 2007. Knut the celeb got his 15 minutes on magazine covers, videos etc. Then he aged, turned brown . . .

Christmas 2007 marked the changing of the guard for Kansas City's Secret Santa. The new Secret Santa, and his random $100 handouts, continued in honour of a late friend, Larry Stewart, who gave away more than $1 million in three decades.

Positive, but bittersweet, Brian Gray's November story about the late Maddie Babineau and her dream to build wells and schools for children in Africa was inspirational. Maddie, who died of bone cancer, made a difference in her all-to-brief 15 years.

Queen's Park columnist Christina Blizzard fought the good fight on behalf of bewildered motorists caught up in the great MOT vanity plate debate. It got FN Ugly for Rev Jo, the former was approved, the latter denied after 20 years - until the media stepped into the debate.

Rather than wait for the passing of Dwight Wilson, 106, to pay tribute to the last WW1 vet in Canada, Mike Strobel honoured Dwight with a fitting, full-page column in April. Dwight, thanks to Mike and his readers, knew Canadians cared. He died in May.

Veteran Maple Leafs fans found it heartening to see Johnny Bower back in the news in April, this time for the return of a lost 1967 Stanley Cup ring by honest finder Tino Cassar. Joe Warmington was with Cassar and Bower for the ring reunion.

Sun readers were treated to positive, old-fashioned newspaper doggedness when Pete Fisher heard slain Cobourg Const. Chris Garrett was being denied a Cross of Valour medal. Pete's scoop became national news leading up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's intervention.

We close with a classic Mark Bonokoski column lead from September:

"Q: What is pink, weighs 72 lbs., is 5-foot-2 tall, 3-feet in diameter, got the bounce from eBay, and is likely the largest of its kind in the world?

A: The penis in Jo Mann's kitchen."

Rim shot, please.

As the old saying goes, "Always leave 'em laughing."

Have a great '08, Toronto Sun Family.

And now, for something completely different, a Monty Python song to take you into 2008:

Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best . . .

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.
You'll see it's all a show
Keep 'em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

And always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the right side of life...
(Come on guys, cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the bright side of life...
(Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
Always look on the bright side of life...
(I mean - what have you got to lose?)
(You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing,
What have you lost? Nothing!)
Always look on the right side of life...

words and music by Eric Idle

Sunday 30 December 2007

Masthead strength

We did a little math while viewing the Toronto Sun's revised Comment section masthead yesterday.

Five of the names on the left side of the masthead collectively represent more than 120 years of newsroom experience. They are:

Lou Clancy, editor-in-chief; James Wallace, newly-appointed deputy editor; Mike Burke-Gaffney, managing editor; Rob Granatstein, editorial page editor and Lorrie Goldstein, senior associate editor.

Their newsroom experience bodes well for the tabloid as it closes out a year that began dismally, with non-stop Quebecor cutbacks, layoffs, buyouts, firings and resignations, plummeting morale to new lows.

Newsroom vets say two significant appointments in the latter half of 2007 were lifelines to the rapidly sinking flagship tabloid - Osprey's Michael Sifton being named Sun Media chief in September and the return of Lou Clancy in October as editor-in-chief.

Can two people make that much of a difference in a matter of months? Apparently so. Newsroom tipsters say the renewed focus on local news and the hiring of several bodies following nine years of departures elevated morale.

Back from the brink, 2008 should be a defining year for the still profitable Toronto Sun as it co-exists with three other morning newspapers in a unique and very competitive market.

Can 120-plus years of newsroom experience be fully utilized in 2008, culminating in a reversal of the Toronto Sun's slide in circulation?

Sun vets say it all depends on Quebecor and the support PKP gives Sifton and the management team throughout the year.

For now, life at 333 King Street East is not as depressing as it was last spring.

And that is a good thing.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Huntingford post

One of the many Quebecor-induced Sun Media losses in 2007 was Guy Huntingford, who signed off as Calgary Sun publisher and CEO in March.

Well, Huntingford will kick off 2008 as the newly appointed president and CEO of the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA).

Huntingford, 51, who devoted 26 years to Sun Media, officially becomes CODA chief Jan. 7, with two years of preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver ahead of him.

"I am looking forward to working with a great team that is fully committed to ensuring Canada continues its rise as a world-leading winter sport nation," he said in an interview.

Sun colleagues have always said Guy was a good sport. CODA's board of directors obviously feels he is also good for sport.

Friday 28 December 2007

2008 crystal ball

'Tis the season for lists. Top 10 stories of the year, Top 10 photos of the year etc.

This list is TSF's Top 10 crystal ball/wish list for 2008:

10 - The Sun, Star, Globe and Post go into a huddle and come up with uniform prices for street sales - tax included. Store and box prices, ranging from 50 cents to $1, and the Sun's highly irritating tax bite at stores, can only be curbing the enthusiasm of readers.

9 - Quebecor and CUPE, set to return to the bargaining table in January, bring the eight-month Journal de Quebec lockout/strike, involving 250 Sun Media employees, to an end. Failing that, the free MediaMatin strike paper becomes a fully commercial tabloid.

8 - The Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild begins updating its web site at least once a month to keep members up to date on union activities, troop movements, membership drives and other news. Months without an update? Not cool.

7 - The Toronto Sun revives its annual weekday and Sunday Sun readership surveys, giving readers the opportunity to comment on their favourite reads and features throughout the tabloid. It worked for management and readers for decades.

6 - Major dailies in the Sun Media chain adopt the Winnipeg Sun's move to full online editions at a reasonable monthly subscription rate for the benefit of seniors, shut-ins and others who can't always get to a Sun box or outlet, or live beyond home delivery boundaries.

5 - New life is pumped into the lethargic, bare bones Sunday Sun television guide, or is merged with the ENT section. Sunday Sun readers who depend on the television guide are being short changed with the minimal television news and often inaccurate listings.

4 - Sun cartoonist Andy Donato and op-ed columnist Eric Margolis continue to say more about George W. pushing us to the brink with his invasion of Iraq and other follies in one cartoon and one column than most media ever do. Bravo Andy, bravo Eric.

3 - Negotiations for a second Toronto Sun editorial contract, scheduled for mid-January, go smoothly, with SONG and Sun Media quickly putting pen to paper sealing a second deal at the flagship daily. No staff cuts, no cutbacks, no animosity.

2 - The Sunday Sun, with the help of reader feedback, begins to bounce back, with the ultimate goal of picking up 60,000 readers for No. 1 Sunday paper bragging rights. It will require a mentality focused on unpredictable tab, not predictable broadsheet.

1 - Pierre Karl Peladeau, backed into a corner by Quebecor World's financial woes, sells Quebecor Media to an entity that believes in the future of print media and has the highest respect for newspaper people and readers.

Well, we can dream, can't we?

Monday 24 December 2007

Christmas memories

A few cherished Christmas memories

Bob MacDonald's annual Christmas Day dinners with the down and out at the Regent Park Christmas Party. Bob's volunteer work on Christmas Day year after year spoke volumes for the man he was and reflected the heart of Sun Family members. Bob's shoes are hard to fill.

Standing in line in a festive 6th floor Sun reception area waiting to shake the hands of Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington. The two Santas brought envelopes full of cash (a week's pay), armed guards, cookies, refreshments and effervescent SUNshine Girls.

The generosity of Sun readers everywhere, taking up challenges to raise money for Christmas events. The Calgary Sun, for example, has topped $100,000 in this year's SUNshine Fund, with every penny going to the Salvation Army for Christmas goodies for the needy. Well done.

The Toronto Sun's Annual Variety Village Christmas Fund, inspired by the late Doug Creighton and a fundraising project for tireless George Gross for 24 years. More than $1.1 million has been raised since 1983. The most recent total we saw for 2007 was $25,000 and counting.

Readers taking time out from their hectic Christmas schedules to call or send Christmas cards with thanks for columns written. A couple of cards included cash, taking us back to the Toronto Star delivery days in the 1950s when collecting Christmas Eve meant maximum tips.

The feel good stories. You can always count on bad deeds by the minority becoming a showcase for the good deeds of the majority. The Whitby bar theft, where $7,000 in donations for needy kids at Christmas was stolen, was a classic example of the good media can do for communities.

"Good health" topped TSF's most recent Christmas wish poll, so good health to all Toronto Sun Family members as we celebrate another Christmas.

Artuso makes 3

Add Washington-based Sun Media op-ed correspondent Donna Marie Artuso to the list of columnists no longer with the chain as 2007 winds down.

The former Edmonton Sun staffer, who moved to Washington, D.C., about a decade ago, quietly made her exit from Sun Media's op-ed pages recently.

So that's Rachel Marsden, Sheila Copps, Licia Corbella and Donna Marie Artuso out the door, making an anonymous TSF tipster sound like a crystal ball reader.

The tipster said after Marsden's abrupt departure three more Sun columnists would be gone by January.

But a Toronto Sun source says the tipster's call for three departures, other than Marsden, was a lucky call because the exits were not planned.

"There was no plan at any point to lose three columnists by January," the source told TSF. "It just happened that way."

So a new year will bring new op-ed faces, with new views and ideas, and most times, that is a good thing for readers looking for diversity in their newspaper.

There is still a solid mix, with four fewer columnists.

Alan Shanoff is a newcomer who has become one of our op-ed favourites. Who knew the former Sun lawyer would click as a columnist?

Connie Woodcock is always a good read, especially for readers living in the boondocks.

And we can never get enough of Andy Donato's editorial cartoons and the world views of Eric Margolis, sans the George W. propaganda spin.

Shanoff, Donato, Margolis, Woodcock et al and the return of unsigned editorials - all big pluses for the tabloid's editorial pages.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Sun smokes 2

Former veteran Sun staffer Ian Harvey, a non-smoker, shares his memories of the Toronto Sun's voluntary attempt to go weedless.

"Hey TSF, just an observation. When the smoking ban was first introduced, it was a gradual thing. First, the newsroom was divided, I think, into smoking and non smoking, but that didn't work because people would just walk around with cigarettes in their hands.

So then there was a general ban on smoking, though those who had offices could smoke with the door closed. That prompted Gord Walsh, I believe, to throw open his office for all smokers. So there they were, cloistered in his office turning it into a fog of blue haze.

About that time, and I can't recall the sequence, Blatch took umbrage (what a surprise) and they organized a "smoke-in" in the lobby.

As a non-smoker, I remember the hilarious sight of smokers sitting on the floor puffing madly to make a point.

Anyway, after about a year or so, it resulted in a total ban. I think Trudy was the driving force since she had the good sense so see that the majority of folks were non smokers - and that smoking was a dying practice.

Whoops, did I just say that out loud?

Merry Christmas TSF and a Happy New Year to you and all."

Thank you for your info and holiday greetings, Ian. All the best to you in 2008.

What TSF needs are smokers who can detail the Toronto Sun's path to a smoke free environment and the impact it had on their working day.

Non smokers, other than remembering feeling grateful for the absence of smoke, can't do the transition to a complete ban justice.

Sun & smokes

One of the Toronto Sun's numerous "firsts" in its first 36 years was the 1993 smoking ban throughout most of 333 King Street East.

The workplace ban was a first for the four major Toronto dailies and one of the first for businesses in Ontario. The decision attracted other media to the newsroom, including a TV crew looking for reaction.

Sun smokers were allowed 15-minute breaks and a designated smoke room was set up in a doored dining area in the ground floor cafeteria.

While a lot of employees begrudgingly accepted the ban, a few rebelled and puffed here and there on the sly until it became tiresome.

Several longtime newsroom smokers quit cold turkey rather than interrupt their work and retreat to the designated smoke room or stand outside.

It took a few weeks to get visitors to butt out, but the complete ban eventually worked, well in advance of municipal and provincial laws.

Who knew that 14 years later, smoking bans in the workplace, and just about everywhere else, would be the norm across North America?

There is no official count of the number of Sun smokers who became non-smokers because of the inconvenience of the ban.

And there is no way of knowing how many lungs were spared the ills of second hand smoke during those 14 smoke-free years.

But in 1993, it was the high-profile Toronto Sun that helped set the pace voluntarily in a city filled with smoky office buildings.

The 1993 ban came to mind Saturday while reading about Dave Thomas kicking his 34-year addiction with laser surgery.

The Toronto Sun photographer, who figures he has spent more than $70,000 on cigs since his first smoke, hasn't had a puff since Nov. 4.

His first person story will no doubt have frustrated smokers thinking about laser surgery.

Congrats, Dave. You will find crime fighting on the streets of Toronto so much easier.

Saturday 22 December 2007

Sun Copps out

Sun Media op-ed columnists are dropping like media barons and the credibility of U.S. presidents and Canadian prime ministers.

Sheila Copps, a Liberal who has spent two years airing her views in the Conservative tabloid chain, signed off in today's column.

"'Tis the season to be jolly. But my ho ho hos are tempered by the fact that today is my last column for this esteemed news organization," says Copps. "It has been a blast."

What isn't clear in her column is whether her departure is voluntary, or the Sun decided not to renew her contract.

Could this content in her column be a clue:

"Having been on the receiving end of vitriol from time to time, I have generally tried to refrain from columnist hyperbole. But I know my pen has cut deeply into some.

"To those I may have unfairly damaged, I am sorry."

Whatever. Op-ed page faces are a-changing.

Sheila is the third op-ed columnist to leave Sun Media in recent weeks, but at least she says her goodbyes to readers. Rachel Marsden and Calgary's Licia Corbella parted company rather suddenly and without farewells.

"This newspaper gave me the privilege to combine my passion for writing with my political experience," Copps says in her final column. "For that I am especially grateful. I want to thank my editors, in particular Rob Granatstein for his incisive, and cogent edits."

A TSF tipster recently e-mailed to say three more Sun columnists would be gone by January and that was after Marsden's departure.

So if that is two down and one to go, who is next?

Friday 21 December 2007

Forum: Len Fortune

Len Fortune, a Toronto Sun graphics vet whose middle name is "Magic," helped make countless Sun fronts shine before taking a buyout in March.

In a Christmas greeting e-mail to TSF, Len also provides insight into the mechanics of creating some of those memorable front pages.

Len, who is sorely missed at 333 King Street East, writes:

"Season's greetings,

I haven't the foggiest who was responsible for the "Bastard" headline that highlighted the front page of the 9/11 Toronto Sun, but I'm almost certain that same headline was used during Desert Storm - 1991 - possibly when Saddam was pictured parading a boy hostage before cameras.

And I am also certain that it was Peter Brewster - most likely encouraged by Les Pyette - who boldly proclaimed the Iraqi dictator a "Bastard" on the front page. Maybe the Sun library can verify my claim.

Your enquiry about the choice of the Page One photo on December 9, 1980, front that informed Torontonians rock legend John Lennon was shot dead the night before, was put forth by me.

Peter O'Sullivan (not sure of his title at the time) was almost swayed by the rim to illustrate the tragedy with a John Lennon photo ala his psychedelic days. I was fortunate to convince Peter that the album cover of Double Fantasy, which I had in my locker, was the perfect fit.

The album cover depicted John and Yoko outside of the Dakota building where he was killed, but the most striking feature of the cover photo was it depicted a John Lennon who had underwent a 360 degree change in appearance - he had transformed his looks back into the Beatle image of the early '60s, clean shaved with the mopped-top hair.

O'Sullivan, a brilliant tabloid journalist, accepted my argument.

The best part of that Page One page was that it adhered to a simple design that I introduced in November of 1979 - the "Trudeau Quits" front.

The genesis of that design was initiated by Pyette (probably the best Canadian tabloid editor ever) who was always trying to get an edge on the competition. Les asked me to design something unique for the possibility of Pierre Trudeau stepping down. That request in retrospect was special remembering that in the '70s, I was the manager of the Colour Department.

Andy Donato, the best of the best, dropped out type on photos quite regularly on the Showcase and TV covers, but because of time constraints and the medieval technology, no one even considered doing the same for a news front.

To make a long story short, Trudeau finally quit and the Sun went with my front page design of one big image of Pierre and the words "Trudeau Quits" knocked out of the photo - a first for the Sun. The same front ran on another occasion, but that's another story.

Ed Monteith - managing editor at the time - and I were at the presses for the Trudeau run. His exact words as he picked up a copy of the historic paper were - "It looks like fucking MacLean's Magazine." That simple design has been a template in the Sun's design repertoire for nearly three decades.

I loved Ed. We'll never see his likes again. He always had a special way with words. When I was appointed AME photo in 1983, he didn't hold back when he told me I was a bad choice, and if it was up to him, I wouldn't have been promoted. All this amidst a congratulatory handshake.

And if someone asks who made the choice of front page for the George Harrison front page announcing his death, that was me too.

That black and white photo was also unique: Finding a photo of Harrison front and centre of the other three Beatles was rare, but I managed to come across one. Thomas Williams, an imaging wizard, hand-coloured Harrison leaving John, Paul and Ringo in their original black and white form - it was an amazing affect.

The headline "The World Gently Weeps" - courtesy of John Kyrk.

One last mention of the John Lennon front. There were two replates: The initial front carried a bathing beauty as main art. I'm guessing it ran three or four columns by 10 inches; it was replated with a smaller version of the girl and the news that Lennon was shot; the final replate was the poster page with the headline "John Lennon Shot Dead" and the kicker "New York cops holding 'local screwball' in slaying."

Sorry for being long-winded, but that's the way it was.

Toronto Sun Family, cherish this wonderful time of the year.

Loving myself,

Len Fortune"

Len, thank you for your Christmas greetings and for the insider info on the creation of those memorable Sun fronts.

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2008.

Rachel, Rachel

For Chapter 45 in the life and times of Rachel Marsden, we send you to the Toronto Star.

If the life of the former Toronto Sun op-ed columnist becomes a movie, would it be a drama or a comedy?

She is certainly in a groove where everybody knows her name.

9/11 front revisit

The mind behind the Toronto Sun's popular 9/11 "Bastards" front page makeup was not Les Pyette, so we're still looking for the mystery man to take a bow.

Les, who was CEO in 2001, tells TSF he went to the newsroom on 9/11 to ask what the desk was doing with the front page.

"A big fella on the desk, not Parker or Woody, suggested Bastards . . . actually showed me what he would like to see and I said print it," says Les in correcting the impression it was his work.

"Some of the folks upstairs and around the building tried to talk me out of it, but I believed it was the right choice. Dirty Bastards would have been better, but it wouldn't fit."

The front page, with a wrap-around 9/11 back page, topped TSF's recent fave Toronto Sun front page poll with 50% of the votes.

Les doesn't remember the name of the 9/11 desker, but agrees he should be recognized for the memorable Sun front page.

Thursday 20 December 2007

LFP's Ernie Miller

Jim Cressman's tribute to former London Free Press sports writer Ernie Miller should be required reading for Sun Media obit writers.

Miller died Wednesday following a brief battle with cancer and Cressman touches all of the bases in replaying his 70 years as a baseball hopeful, award-winning sports writer and family man.

His tribute includes quotes from Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins.

Cressman says Miller was the first to write about Jenkins, "a young Chatham ball player who would go on to a Hall of Fame pitching career."

Stories about the Miller they knew during his 22 years at the London Free Press will be told by friends and former colleagues at the London City Press Club on Saturday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"Miller didn't want a funeral service," writes Cressman. "He was never much for doom and gloom. But he always did enjoy a good party . . . "

An obit written from the heart.

Sifton's Xmas

Sun Media chief Michael Sifton's Christmas message to the troops:

Dear Sun Media Team,

This is the time of year when we enjoy family and friends and, as a Sun Media family, it is a time to reflect on the year past and look to the year ahead in the many communities we serve across the country.

For the past year, my thanks to you and the entire Sun Media team for your loyalty, hard work and helpful contributions. Thanks also for your commitment as the company made some significant changes to position us for the future. The experience and dedication from the many employees I have met is outstanding.

As for the future, we live in changing times. In the three months that I have had the pleasure of being part of the Sun Media team, I have been impressed with how everyone pulls together to adapt to evolving circumstances. That ability to adjust augurs well for our success in the years ahead.

We’ve begun reinvesting in editorial staff to create our core product. We’ve made good progress in implementing some of the other solid initiatives that were already underway, such as the Kanata Service Centre to support Reader Sales and Services and some Classified operations.

My New Year’s vision for Sun Media focuses on the fact that we play an important role in helping to connect and build better communities. Given your commitments to serve readers, business partners and the public, I am confident that we can promote and refine leadership that will make increasingly better use of all your skills and talents.

I have truly enjoyed meeting with members of the team during my visits so far to Sun Media offices.

In the months ahead, I plan to travel to as many more locations as possible to discuss our future directions. I want us to develop a business culture that will be defined by core values that include honesty, integrity, empowerment, collaborative efforts, respect and a positive spirit (a.k.a. fun).

I want to strengthen the Sun Media brand and ensure that we are using our talents to innovate and work together so that we succeed along with our communities across the country.

Most of all I want to wish you a very pleasant holiday season, especially to those of you who will be working over the holidays to serve our readers in various ways.

Enjoy family and friends and please accept my very best wishes for the New Year."

Sun sources tell TSF Sifton's message was positive and encouraging.

How approachable is Sifton? His Christmas message includes his e-mail address.

Odds & ends

Some odds and ends as another year winds down.

Saturday marks month eight in the Journal de Quebec lockout and strike, with little signs of a settlement. CUPE locals across Canada gave the 250 locked out Sun Media employees $100,00 last week to help boost morale and to continue publication of their free weekday MediaMatin tabloid. Another $320,000 was raised at a CUPE convention a few months ago.

The Winnipeg Sun site has added a link for its new "Virtual E-Edition" service, which provides the complete daily newspaper online for $4.99 a month. What would be ideal down the road is a Smart Card service, giving computer users the option of paying for single issues online when not able to get to a Sun box or store.

Police relations have been a priority at the Toronto Sun for most of its 36 years, so it was encouraging to see the tabloid pick up two Toronto Crime Stoppers awards last week. The awards were for best newspaper special reports and feature coverage. You can't beat focusing on the community and its police services.

Another lottery scam involving a $5 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot claimed by a Toronto store owner is yet another reason to have a year-round media watchdog. Tens of thousands of Ontario ticket buyers should have an outlet other than the OLG to turn to for information and complaints. A weekly column with a Q&A would give gamblers a much needed public forum.

Questions of the day: Should Quebecor Media be concerned about the ongoing debt woes of Quebecor World? Is there sufficient distance between the two Quebecor Inc. subsidiaries to avoid turbulence from Quebecor World? Selling off its once golden printing empire to focus on its media empire would be the Quebecor Inc. story of the year.

Conrad Black, Pierre Karl Peladeau, Brian Mulroney, George W, are all, thankfully, so distant from us common folk.

Monday 17 December 2007

Wallace dep ed

James Wallace, cherry-picked from Osprey Media after Quebecor purchased the newspaper chain in August, has been appointed deputy editor of the Toronto Sun, says a pending press release.

Wallace, who spent 10 years at the Sun before moving on in 1999, will have "specific responsibilities for the Sunday and Monday papers and special projects."

Lou Clancy, editor-in-chief, says Wallace "will be responsible for developing unique content to differentiate the Sun even more distinctly in the strongly competitive Toronto market."

One goal for Wallace, says Clancy, is to "develop a strategy to take the flagship Sunday paper to a dominant number one position."

That will be a difficult, but not impossible goal, considering Sunday Sun sales in the early 1990s peaked at 550,000 with the Jays' first World Series win, while sales are now below 350,000.

The most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures pegged Sunday Sun sales at 347,653, while the Sunday Star's ABC numbers were 410,566. That is 60,000-plus readers the Sunday Sun needs to gain for "We're No. 1" bragging rights.

Where did 200,000 members of the faithful flock go in the post Doug Creighton years? Okay, 150,000 to be fair because that 550,00 milestone in 1992 was Jays inspired.

The Sunday Sun is still a good read for local news, sports, entertainment, op-ed pieces, auto talk, travel, computer games and tech talk, but is has a lot of its edge.

The television guide is lethargic compared to the Gord Stimmell years; Max Haines is greatly missed; lottery and casino gamblers are largely being ignored; quirky, offbeat features have all but vanished etc.

How to bounce back, pick up 60,000 or so readers to top the Sunday Star? A few suggestions from this former staffer and a 32-year reader of the Sunday Sun:

1 - Beef up the television guide, or merge it with ENT, creating a meatier section comparable to the Globe's entertaining Friday film/TV section. We haven't seen the Edmonton Sun's new ENT section with the TV guide, but it has to be more appealing than a bare bones guide with token TV news and features.

2 - Sunday Sun readers have been deprived of a weekly crime column since the prolific Max Haines retired. We have been flogging this Sunday Sun idea for a couple of years: Have a dedicated crime reporter work his or her way across Ontario updating the province's most baffling cold cases. Invite all police forces to profile their most challenging unsolved crimes. Post rewards. It is a crime feature that would work across the Sun Media chain.

(Take Mark Bonokoski's annual revisit of an unsolved 1979 hit-and-run death in his column Sunday, add 51 other thorough and well-written cold case updates throughout the year and it's a no brainer for weekly reader appeal, public service and a boost in police relations.)

3 - The Sunday Sun needs a weekly gambling column to keep readers up to date on government and charity lotteries, casinos etc. We don't say this as the writer of the Luck of the Draw column that ended in 1994 with my exit, but as a gambler and a Sun reader. Billions are being spent on gambling and except for major lottery winners and the occasional OLG scandal, little space is devoted to gambling and all that comes with it, including casino shows and events.

4 - Provide more offbeat stories. Al Parker's Loch Ness feature a few months ago stands out as one of the few, word-for-word offbeat gems of the year. Where have all the Sasquatches, ghosts and UFOs gone? There was a time when readers never knew what to expect in their Sunday Sun. That edge has dissipated.

The Sunday Sun, if it wants to shine as it did in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, needs to provide content not found hourly on radio, television and the Internet. Dazzle readers with uniqueness - content found only in the Sunday Sun.

We're hoping Wallace, a political hound since the 1980s when lured from the Brandon Sun (no affiliation) to the Toronto Sun, doesn't think a heavier concentration of political columns and features are the answer. Not as a means of attracting 60,000 more readers.

Wallace covered a lot of bases at the Sun - city hall reporter, columnist, investigative reporter and Queen's Park reporter - before making his exit in 1999 after Quebecor bought Sun Media.

Two years with the National Post, two years with the Ontario solicitor-general's ministry as a senior communications adviser and four years as Osprey's Queen's Park columnist.

Then back to Quebecor and 333 King Street East. Full circle.

Who says you can't go home again?

We don't know if any feathers in the chain of command will be ruffled by Wallace's appointment, but the reporter once known as Jamie, is all smiles.

"It's great to be home at the Sun because it is an important paper in the city," he says in the press release.

Full WinSun site

The Winnipeg Sun, the relatively new kid on the Sun Media block, has announced it is going green this week by providing the full daily newspaper online.

Story for story, ad for ad - all for $4.99 a month.

It is the first Sun Media newspaper to provide complete daily content online, but not the first newspaper to test the waters.

At $4.99 a month, and with the depths of another Winnipeg winter approaching, the price sounds right.

"We're the test market," Sun publisher Kevin Klein said in a Winnipeg Sun story. "This allows us to provide a service to our advertisers and our subscribers, while also allowing us to be environmentally-friendly."

The story says "although the paper will appear on the screen just as it does in the print version, readers can zoom in on specific stories, ads and pictures for a closer look."

(The free, partial content web site will not be affected.)

Online subscriptions for five bucks a month will be warmly received by shut-ins, seniors and others who can't always get to a Sun box or a store.

But what makes TSF see red is the Winnipeg Sun's decision to use a green Sun logo for the "green site" instead of the red logo that has been a Sun trademark since 1971.

That sucks big time.

The Sun story says the green logo will be "in keeping with the idea of being environmentally aware."

Well, a green logo just isn't our Sun. We are surprised Sun Media would allow any changes to the widely recognized Sun logo.

Will full online Suns for a subscription fee expand to other Sun Media newspapers?

Probably, if the Winnipeg trial run is successful.

This Toronto Sun reader, housebound by Sunday's wicked storm, would have gladly paid $4.99 just for access to the full Sunday Sun online rather than miss it.

With newspaper sales and readership surveys changing to account for web site hits, those combined, advertiser-friendly numbers will be motivating.

Advertisers aside, full Sun web sites, if the subscription price is right, would open access to countless new Sun readers across Canada and around the globe.

TSF has readers from across the U.S., Europe and Australia who drop by to catch up to Sun Media news and no doubt use the Sun newspaper web sites.

It would make sense for the Toronto Sun to provide a full online subscription newspaper, if only to eliminate the need for trucking papers beyond the GTA.

Give GTA readers the option of daily purchases, home delivery, partial web content and a full online newspaper and Sun Media will definitely be keeping the customers satisfied.

Doug Creighton, the late, great Toronto Sun co-founder and founding publisher, would be excited by the prospect of unlimited exposure of his beloved Sun.

Sunday 16 December 2007

9/11 tops fronts

Updated 12/21/07
The Toronto Sun's 9/11 Bastards! front page from Sept. 12, 2001, topped our recent TSF poll with 50% of the votes.

The wrap-around front and back 9/11 photos topped a variety of other front pages in the Sun's 36 years.

If anyone has the name of the editor responsible for the 9/11 makeup, we'd be happy to ask him or her to take a bow.

Second among the 11 choices was "other," with 17% of the votes, which makes us wonder what fronts those voters had in mind.

A TSF reader e-mailed to say his "other" vote was for the controversial January 2002 Dave Lucas photo of Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman shaking hands with Tony Biancafiore, a Hells Angels biker gang member. Yes, indeed. That was an attention-grabbing front page.

Another TSF reader posted this comment: "Another gem, after Toronto police rousted squatters from a makeshift waterfront shantytown:


A breakdown of the votes can be found in our Poll Results posting.

The Sun's front pages have been winners with readers of the tabloid countless times since Day One in '71.

Saturday 15 December 2007

Re Pete Fisher

Kudos to Joe Warmington for profiling Pete Fisher in his Scrawler column today.

A few years ago, after moving to the Port Hope/Cobourg area, photos and stories by Pete Fisher in the local papers caught our eye.

"Who is this Pete Fisher?" we asked. "The guy is everywhere, day and night, snapping fires and accidents into the wee hours."

A tireless go-getter. A Toronto Sun kinda guy.

Must be single to be chasing ambulances and fire trucks all night long.

Nope. Married with an infant daughter.

The Toronto Sun picked up on the Cobourg lensman's talents and began publishing his freelance photos and stories.

Future full time Sun Media staffer, for sure.

The takeover of the Osprey papers where Pete calls home - the Cobourg Star and Port Hope Evening Guide - did just that in August.

One of Pete's more emotional assignments came on May 15, 2004, when veteran Cobourg Const. Chris Garrett was stabbed to death by a local teen bent on mass murder.

The dying 18-year police vet shot and wounded the fleeing teen, saving lives and enabling an arrest and conviction.

When Pete recently heard through the local grapevine that a Cross of Valour for Garrett's heroics was being denied, he broke the story.

Thanks to Pete, pictured in Joe's column today with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the battle for a medal for Garrett is now a national story.

Capping a very productive year for Pete Fisher - the birth of a second daughter on Wednesday.

The Toronto Sun grew rapidly in the 1970s and '80s thanks to go-getters like Pete. He is a welcomed addition to the Sun Family.

Friday 14 December 2007

Glimmer of hope?

Gloom and doom, the-sky-is-falling news about media trends in the past couple of years is contradicted in a new commissioned study.

It seems traditional media is not dying.

The poll, commissioned by the Information Technology Association of Canada and IDC Canada shows 95% of Canadians still consider radio, television and newspapers as their top choices for trusted news sources.

"A glimmer of hope?" ponders Ian Harvey, a former Toronto Sun vet who sent TSF this report on the new poll:

OTTAWA, ON - December 12, 2007 - The imminent death of traditional media has been greatly exaggerated.

The National Media Choice and Trust Poll commissioned by (ITAC) and conducted by IDC Canada reveals that despite our fascination and reliance on digital content, 95% of respondents continue to turn to traditional media (newspapers, radio and television) for general news and 82% for breaking news.

The report says traditional media has had decades to become part of Canadians' daily lives, and this familiarity still works in its favour.

"It's clear that Canadians are traditionalists, and overwhelmingly turn to television, newspapers, and radio for trusted news," said Bernard Courtois, president of ITAC. "But 65% cent of Canadian households have high speed Internet, and this high level of adoption is causing a shift in behaviour, as Internet news outlets begin to creep into the media mix."

Courtois says "As was the case when broadcast media came along to challenge print, any new news media is viewed with skepticism, and the Internet is no different. Once the industry begins to establish trusted checks and balances, and online news media becomes mainstream, this medium will become a more credible news source for the Canadian public."

According to the survey:

*42% of respondents access some form of online media for general news;

*21% of respondents turn to online sources for breaking news

*Larger families access and trust online more than smaller families

*French respondents trust online media more than their English counterparts

*Almost 50% Younger Canadians (18 - 24) are likely to get their information online

Credibility remains a major challenge for online news sources. Only 11.5% of survey respondents believe that online media is unbiased, and12% believe that online media is accurate.

Thursday 13 December 2007

Christmas party

When Toronto Sun staffers gather tonight for their Christmas party, they will no doubt be in a more positive mood than they were last Christmas.

The mood was grim last December, with bodies falling left and right and rumors of more staff cutbacks to come in the New Year. The rumors were true.

That downward spiral has ebbed, more bodies have been added to the newsroom and morale, reflected in the content of the flagship tab, is on the upswing.

"It's kind of like old times at the Sun again," a staffer told TSF in an e-mail congratulating us for turning a year old on Dec. 8.

"Well done," said the staffer. "You are right, Michele did a wonderful job (always does) at the Pickton trial, Strobel and Bono are must reads and Worthington and Gross show that older just means getting better."

And to top off the Toronto Sun's cream of the crop:

Popular columnist Joe "Scrawler" Warmington, cartoonist extraordinaire Andy Donato, city hall and Queen's Park bureau columnists, Jim Slotek, Bruce Kirkland, Liz Braun et al in the entertainment section, a sports department to die for, a tighter but always productive photo team, Linda Leatherdale and her Money team, Rita Demontis the bargain hunter, op-ed columnist Eric Margolis etc. etc.

And judging by Sun staffer comments to TSF, the jolly, bearded Christmas miracle this season is Lou Clancy, a newspaper vet who has helped restore newsroom morale as editor-in-chief.

TSF's only request to Santa - put a lifetime Frank and Ernest daily comic strip deal under the Sun tree. Those funny guys are sorely missed through the week.

A New Year's wish is for Sun Media chief Michael Sifton to recognize the Toronto Sun for what it is in 2008 and do his part to keep the good vibes flowing.

We'll see how appreciated the solid editorial team is when negotiations for a second three-year contract begin in mid-January.

"We were supposed to start talks at the beginning of this month, but Chris Harrison, the company's negotiator, left the Sun for Metroland," Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M, told TSF.

"It will be mid-January before we are ready to proceed again, depending on the availability of Chris' replacement," he said.

New Ed Sun pub

David Black
was a Toronto Sun ad sales rep in 1971. On Jan. 1, he will become CEO and publisher of Edmonton's Sun and 24 Hours.

It is an impressive 36-year newspaper career for the 57-year-old Sun vet - and his appointment marks a return to normalcy in management.

"I've got some very big shoes to fill," Black, who transferred to Edmonton as advertising director in 1985, said in an Edmonton Sun story.

Those shoes belong to Gordon Norrie, who in the crunch of unrelenting Quebecor cutbacks was assigned to double duty as publisher of the Edmonton and Calgary Suns. He returns to Calgary Jan. 1 as CEO and publisher of the Sun and 24 Hours.

Hopefully, Black, who has been general manager and advertising director since 2001, will have more troops to help him with the "record-breaking pace" of the Edmonton Sun.

In July, employees of the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Examiner launched a united union organizing drive, citing cutback gripes.

"We couldn't get the support we needed in Edmonton to proceed, so we called it off in September," Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M, told TSF today.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Greg, Ted & Bobbie

In fall of 1969, two editors of the St. Clair College student newspaper in Windsor were called up before the college president for publishing not-so-jolly sentiments.

Sentiments like the Vietnam war in one issue of St. Clair and a poem by Black Panther chairman Bobby Seale, peppered with four-letter words, in the next issue.

On the carpet before a visibly upset Dr. R.C. Quittenton, college president, were student editors Ted Welch and Greg Parent.

"The editors reported he (Quittenton) used the four-letter word meaning sexual intercourse several times in his monologue with them," said a Canadian University Press story.

To make a long story short, the student council fired Ted and Greg as editors and the paper went back to being jolly in fear of losing its funding, office space and equipment.

Ted and Greg, the two amigos, didn't despair. They later worked together and made waves together at the Toronto Sun in the 1970s and '80s.

While Ted didn't mince words as the Sun's well-read city hall columnist, he did hold back on the four-letter words and Black Panther poems.

Then Ted bid the Sun adieu and he and his wife, Marj, packed their bags and headed west to start a new life in scenic Victoria, B.C., setting up Ermine Communications, a writing and editing business.

Now, Sun vets know Ted for his writing, his conversations, his parties and his unique style of poker playing - but a man who dotes on a pup named Bobbie?

Sure enough, says Marj, who e-mailed us Exhibit A: A photo of Ted and Bobbie.

"She's managed to keep Ted busy for the last year and a half," says Marj. "He is always willing to meet her demands for walks and play."

John Duffy, Brian Vallee, Mike Rutsey, Sean McCann, Al Dickie and his other former poker buddies probably wouldn't believe Ted's puppy bond without the photo.

Thanks Marj.

So Ted has mellowed since his 1960s college newspaper days, when he and Greg tackled non-jolly stories like the Vietnam war and pissed off a college president.

Former colleagues, friends and readers who lost contact with Ted and Marj since they moved West can reach them by e-mail through Ermine Communications.

Marj says Ted is working on a book and she is writing forestry-related features for various government and industry organizations.

Our thoughts are with you both - and Bobbie.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Bill Brioux book

Bill Brioux, the much-missed former Toronto Sun TV writer, has added two more titles to his resume - author and blogster

Bill joins TSFers Ken Robertson, George Anthony, Christie Blatchford, Brian Vallee, Scott Morrison and Eric Margolis with 2007 book releases.

The new author and blogster e-mailed TSF to shamelessly plug his first book - Truth and Rumors: The Realty Behind TV's Most Famous Myths, a timely release if you are Christmas shopping for hard-to-please couch potatoes.

"Dear Toronto Sun Family,

Please add me to the short but ever growing list of former Sun staffers who have not only read a book, but have actually written one.

Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths is a collection of stories I have ripped off from Jim Bawden, who of course re-typed them from long forgotten Sun stories.

Actually, they are first hand accounts of rumors and urban legends collected from over 20 years on the TV beat. (That line was stolen from Bawden.)

Did Mikey from Life Cereal fame die from eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda? Did Charles Manson really audition to play one of The Monkees? Was Bruce Kirkland one of the original Little Rascals? Find out in Truth and Rumors: The Realty Behind TV's Most Famous Myths.

There's even a great Toronto Sun legend in the book that was 100% true: Lou Grant, aka Emmy-winning actor Ed Asner, was hired to be editor of the little paper that could - if only for a day.

When I asked Asner about this two years ago, he just looked at me and said, "Peter Worthington still owes me twenty bucks."

Ed described the whole experience as "pretty larky," which confirms he really did work at the Sun. (TSF note: Lou Grant did indeed work at the Sun - on March 23, 1979. He was fired by Doug Creighton the next day for being too disruptive in the newsroom.)

Many of the other stories in Truth and Rumors:
The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths should also be familiar to Sun readers.

Abe Vigoda, the cranky old coot from Barney Miller, isn't really dead. Neither is Adam Rich from Eight is Enough, Scott Baio from Happy Days or Ben Mulroney from Canadian Idol, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Over 150 rumors and urban legends are explored, including the real story behind that first interracial kiss on Star Trek, that infamous "in the butt, Bob" line from The Newlywed Game and dozens of racy Tonight Show rumors. There are also rumors about Batman, I Love Lucy, The Simpsons, even Westerns and sports shows.

Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths will be available at the end of the year from Greenwood Publishing in Connecticut or at

You can get more information at a little blog I just launched, TV Feeds My Family.

Thanks to Quebecor, hundreds of other Sun Media staffers will have all kinds of time to write books and stuff.

For now, there is
Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Buy three or four copies today!


Bill Brioux"

Thanks for the e-mail, Bill.

What was the name of the $39, 212-page hardcover book again? Oh yeah, Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths. Sounds like a winner, Bill.

Pre-release gift certificate orders for Christmas shoppers are being accepted at

Monday 10 December 2007

Michele Mandel

Kudos to veteran Toronto Sun columnist Michele Mandel for her coverage of the Robert Pickton summations and verdict, an assignment we wouldn't wish on anyone.

Hollywood gore flicks like Hostel and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were picnics compared to the reality of stomach churning evidence accumulated at Pickton's pig farm.

Journalists covering the trial also provided readers with profiles of the six victims, making them women with families and lives lived, not just detached names on a list of murder victims.

Readers had the option of not reading the gory details, but Michele, along with fellow journalists, jurors and others in the courtroom absorbed those horrific details day after day.

Police and court reporters witness more than they sometimes care to in their careers and while descriptions and images fade with time, they never leave you.

The chamber of horrors described during the lengthy Pickton trial and summations should earn all of the reporters involved a week or two of R 'n R on the beaches of Hawaii.

If 20 more charges in the Pickton pig farm casualty count go to trial, Canadian journalists will once again be called upon to witness more of the same depths of depravity.

All Canadians can hope for is Pickton will never again be a free man.

Sunday 9 December 2007

TSF Turns One

Happy first birthday to us.

Toronto Sun Family is now a year old, born from a seed planted during conversations at the remarkable reunion of 150 current and former Toronto Sun employees in November of 2006.

A trial TSF run on MySpace was short-lived due to space limitations. The move to Blogger on Dec. 8, 2006, was the start of a user-friendly relationship.

Some numbers: 365 days; 499 postings; 75,000 hits.

The numerous plaudits from readers are much appreciated, the anonymous cheap shots aimed at Sun staffers and TSF are not. The latter, thanks to moderated comments, haven't seen the light of day.

Anonymous comments and e-mails requesting anonymity are always welcomed when productive, but we are not here to provide a platform for anonymous Sun bashers.

TSF's favourite comments and e-mails are those from current and former staffers who identify themselves and expand the knowledge of readers with their Sun memories and experiences.

What fond memories Les Pyette, John Downing, Christina Blizzard, Joan Sutton-Straus, Joan Iaboni, Peter Worthington, Kaye Corbett, Ken Robertson, Matthew Fisher and others have shared with TSF readers.

The growing list of books written by Toronto Sun employees, the tributes to those who have left us and where-are-they-now links all reflect the high calibre of men and women who have walked our way.

When TSF was launched, the focus was the Toronto Sun. The flagship tabloid had been hammered by Quebecor cutbacks for years and was in desperate need of an alternate voice. Stickers at the Sun reunion read SOS: Save Our Sun.

Interest in the blog quickly expanded to include all of the Suns, peaking in April when the staff numbers and morale bottomed out at all of the tabloids thanks to nine years of relentless Quebecor cutbacks. The mood was bleak. Employees who weren't being fired, laid off and forced into buyouts abandoned ship voluntarily.

Paranoia replaced loyalty, laughter and dedication.

A lot of informative, but anonymous, comments TSF received have been from Sun employees fearful of losing their jobs for speaking out about working conditions at their Suns. What a foreign environment, compared to the pre-Quebecor glory years.

We are pleased to hear staff numbers and morale have rebounded at some of the Suns since Osprey's Michael Sifton was named Sun Media chief in September.

Toronto Sun newsroom staffers say the return of Lou Clancy as editor-in-chief has made a huge difference in direction and morale.

Unsigned editorials and a renewed focus on local news speak volumes for the Toronto Sun's intention to return to its roots.

The London Free Press is keeping its presses. The Ottawa Sun is regaining control of its press runs. The Toronto Sun's presses are still rolling.

The overall mood appears to be more positive than it was a year ago.

Is it the calm before another Quebecor-induced storm, or is the Toronto Sun back on track for employees and readers and poised to regain its reputation as a focused major daily newspaper?

TSF, where the Sun has resided in our hearts for more than three decades, wishes it only the best in 2008.

As 2007 winds down, we thank the many contributors for their e-mails and comments about all things Sun, from Day One in November of 1971 through 2007.

The rising of the Sun was one of North America's most remarkable media success stories. When Sun employees, past and present, talk about "family," it rings true.

Hopefully, Quebecor's respect for family will be fully restored.

Maybe Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again - for the benefit of the invaluable and talented employees and out of respect for Doug Creighton, the late Sun co-founder and founding publisher, and the 61 other Day Oners.

As Doug told the Canadian Press annual dinner after his ouster as chairman and CEO in November of 1992: "They (staff) are truly 'Sun family' and while I am no longer an official member, I am with them and will thank them forever."

Doug will be in our hearts forever.

Thank you Doug, thank you TSF readers.

Keep in touch.

Saturday 8 December 2007

Day Lennon died


It was Dec. 8, 1980, a quiet Monday night in the Toronto Sun newsroom. Deadlines had come and come and the presses at 333 King Street East were ready to roll.

Peter O'Sullivan was relaxing after putting the paper to bed, but there would be some odds and ends for a replate before the night was over.

In New York City, Beatles legend John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, were walking to the entrance of their Dakota apartment building just shy of 11 p.m.

Enter madman/gunman Mark David Chapman; four shots in the back; declared dead 20 minutes later in hospital; Lennon gone at 40.

The Sun always shines in a crunch and late on that December night, the newsroom quickly got into the groove when the news of Lennon's murder broke.

O'Sullivan, who was known to take a baseball bat to editorial meetings, didn't have to brow beat reporters and editors. Most were Beatles fans and all were stunned by the news.

A couple of off duty reporters returned to the Sun newsroom to work the phones for local and New York interviews. Dedicated and loyal Sun people did that more than once.

TSF doesn't know who suggested using the 1980 Double Fantasy album cover showing Lennon and his wife standing outside the Dakota, but it was a brilliant choice.

The packaging of the Lennon murder edition, with a mix of local and New York reaction, wire service reports and photos, was professional at every level.

Twenty-seven years later, that classic Toronto Sun front page ranks in the Top 10 favourite fronts for the tabloid.

And Mark David Chapman remains behind bars in Attica.

I read the news today oh boy

Friday 7 December 2007

McConnell re Star

The following is from Theresa Sawada (nee McConnell), who wrote a 1976 Toronto Sun story about Bobby Ash of CFTO's Uncle Bobby show.

Unattributed content from her 1976 story appeared in a Jim Bawden obit for Ash in the Toronto Star last May. Last week, the Star published a correction - six months after Bawden's obit was published and 31 years after the original story appeared in the Sun.

Theresa writes:

"Hello, my name is Theresa Sawada (nee McConnell). I am the author of a profile of Bobby Ash, which was published in the Sunday Sun in 1976. I was a first year journalism student at Ryerson when I interviewed Uncle Bobby for an assignment. Larry Perks suggested I take it to the Sun to see if they would buy it.

Thirty years later, I read the words and phrases I wrote in an obituary under Jim Bawden's byline in the Star. I don't know if you professional writers get the same feeling when you read something you wrote so long ago, but I remember the thoughts as they came into my head and went onto the paper.

I emailed Kathy English right away, but didn't get an immediate reply. Finally, over the summer, she reached me by phone. Only after I mailed a copy of my original article and Jim's article did she agree that he should have credited me properly for the information and quotes I obtained.

I am now a teacher-librarian in an elementary school and teach media literacy. We are very particular about getting students to cite their sources. I asked Kathy for an explanation of how Jim Bawden's article satisfied his obligation to credit his source. Also, although he may have blown the dust off an old clipping, anyone who Googled Bobby Ash would now find my material under his byline.

I have not heard Jim Bawden's side of the story. I have an appreciation of the pressures professional journalists face, and don't think I could keep up the pace myself. If I wasn't still such a news junkie, he would have gotten away with something you colleagues seem to be admitting is often glossed over in the race to deadlines in a competitive market.

Thank you for a chance to participate in your discussion. I wondered whether the Sun folk would question the Star's correction. I should have known!


Theresa Sawada"

Thank you for your comments, Theresa. Could you send TSF a copy of your 1976 story for a full comparison?

Meanwhile, sources say Bawden attributed the 1976 content to the Sun, but a Star editor deleted the attribution saying it wasn't "Star style."

One quote in the Star story does end with "Ash told an interviewer in 1976." The Star, it its correction, said attribution should have included McConnell and the Sun.

As mentioned in a previous posting, morgue stories are often used by reporters and columnists for research and rewrites and it is not uncommon to use "told reporters" or "said in an interview" without naming the source newspaper and/or journalist.

From our viewpoint, "Ash told an interviewer" is a distinct separation of a writer's new work and previous work by another journalist.

Reliable Star sources say Bawden was "screwed" and the veteran television columnist has taken a buyout ending his lengthy stint as a Toronto Star staffer.

TSF has heard from the McConnell side and the Bawden side. Dan Smith, the Star's editorial union shop steward, declined "public comment" from SONG's side.

Will the Star editor(s) who handled Bawden's Uncle Bobby copy in May stand up and be heard?

The Star's correction for lack of full Sun attribution for content written three decades ago has a distinct odour that we can't shake.

Sun pays blogger

Forever and a day, we thought the Toronto Sun was getting a free ride in using blog copy and photos for its Best of the Blogs blurbs.


Well, at least until they used a photo and an article from the Spacing magazine blog, written by Sean Marshall

A Canadian Magazines blog posting today says when Sean decided to bill the Sun for use of his words and photo, the Sun said OK.

"Marshall wrote, saying he would invoice them but needed to know what their standard freelance fee was," says Canadian Magazines. "Rob Granatstein, the editorial page editor of the Sun, wrote back and told Marshall to bill him $75 for the article and $25 for the pic."

Most bloggers would be content with seeing their words published in a major daily newspaper, including a throw to their web site.

Sean Marshall, says Canadian Magazines, is a blogger standing up for his rights.

TSF says kudos to Rob Granatstein for his ethical treatment of bloggers on behalf of the Sun.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Sun, Star, Bawden

We are beginning to grasp the Sun/Star/Bawden plot . . .

April 25, 1976: Theresa McConnell writes a Toronto Sun story about Bobby Ash of CFTO's Uncle Bobby show.

Theresa and Kathy English, who would also work for the Toronto Sun, know each other.

May 24, 2007: Jim Bawden, veteran Toronto Star television columnist, writes an obit for Bobby Ash, using content from McConnell's 1976 Sun story. Sources say Bawden attributed the Sun content, but it was deleted by an editor who said naming the Sun was not "Star style."

Also in May, Kathy English is appointed the Star's Public Editor, an ombudsman position requiring her to write about fairness and accuracy in the Star.

Sources say sometime between May and this month, McConnell tells Kathy English about the lack of Sun attribution in Bawden's May 24 story.

Meanwhile, the Star begins looking for senior staffers to take buyouts.

Last Saturday, the Star publishes a correction saying the Bobby Ash obit - published six months earlier - included "improperly attributed content" and the newspaper regrets the error.

Sources tell TSF Bawden, a respected television columnist and dedicated Star staffer, has decided to take a buyout.

Office politics, scapegoat, foul play, squeeze play, take your pick.

If an editor deleted Sun attribution in Bawden's story, which is more likely based on his newspaper experience, we agree with his colleagues who say Jim was "screwed."

Jim Bawden, meet Bill Brioux.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Worth repeating

TSF received this anonymous comment today for our "Licia's exit 2" posting and it is worth repeating:

"Licia (Corbella) will definitely be missed, but her departure is not surprising, as it fits with the pattern of departures of all the other people who did the same job.

In just over a year (starting with the cuts that began last fall and the system of "centres of excellence" that was then imposed), all six Comment editors from the Sun dailies have left, some via buyouts and some less voluntarily:

Licia (Calgary), Larry Cornies (London), Mike Jenkinson (Edmonton), Linda Williamson (Toronto), Geoff Matthews (Ottawa) and John Gleeson (Winnipeg).

Aside from Rob Granatstein in Toronto, who has taken over the job brilliantly, Quebecor doesn't seem to have done much to replace the rest, preferring to centralize operations under Paul Berton in London.

Editorials have returned on a regular basis in Toronto, but for the other Suns, a strong opinion section no longer seems to be a priority."

Licia's exit 2

Veteran Sun Media columnist Licia Corbella began looking elsewhere in Calgary earlier this year because of years of Quebecor cutbacks, sources say.

The layoffs, firings, buyouts and resignations throughout the Sun newspaper chain.

Colleagues say while there has been a turnaround in morale since Osprey's Michael Sifton was appointed chief of Sun Media a few months ago, Licia's job hunting momentum remained in full gear.

Licia, a Calgary Sun columnist for 10 years, was appointed head of the Calgary Herald's opinion and commentary pages, effective Monday.

One Sun source in Toronto said Licia and her national columns will be missed.

No word yet on a replacement.

More Osprey cuts

Word from Haliburton County is the 123-year-old Echo, one of Quebecor's recently acquired Osprey newspapers, felt the axe last week, losing a third of its staff.

"The bleeding begins," says a TSF tipster. "Four people in the production department (two of them with about 20 years service) were let go, as was the sales manager.

"Word to the wise: if someone in management asks you your start date and it was more than a decade ago, you might want to start looking for work with another company," said the tipster.

The Haliburton County Echo certainly has history. The weekly newspaper has been published since 1884, a great-great granddaddy compared to the young Sun pups.

It is the second Sun Media/Osprey round of cuts TSF has heard about since October, when the Wallaceburg News was shut down completely.

Quebecor and Sun media have been rather quiet about the future of Osprey's 20 dailies and 33 non-dailies since the $414 million takeover in August.

Little has been said since August about how the merging of Osprey and Sun Media will unfold.

Will all evidence of the Osprey trademark name be eliminated, with Osprey newspapers and web sites being branded Sun Media?

Word is the Osprey/Sun Media plan will become more visible in early 2008

Star correction 2

An open letter to Kathy English, former Toronto Sun reporter and the Toronto Star's Public Editor since May:

The Toronto Star, through your ombudsman columns and the newspaper's widely publicized editorial policy, promotes fairness and full disclosure.

Well, Kathy, your colleagues at the Star are saying the correction for a Jim Bawden/Uncle Bobby obit published on Saturday was not fair and calls for clarification.

In a nutshell, they say the Star has done Jim, a respected veteran television columnist, wrong.

"Jim Bawden was screwed," a Star staffer said in an e-mail to TSF. "It is a great shame that a guy who dedicated his life to his job was treated this way."

A brief replay:

On May 24, 2007, Bawden writes a Bobby Ash obit containing content from an April 25, 1976, Toronto Sun story written by Theresa McConnell.

On Dec. 1, 2007, more than six months after Bawden's obit was published, the Star publishes a Page 2 correction calling the Sun content "improperly attributed information."

(One source said Bawden's original copy included full Toronto Sun attribution, but it was deleted by an editor because it wasn't "Star style.")

Aside from attribution, the entire Star correction scenario just doesn't add up.

First, why did the Star decide to publish a correction six months after the obit was published?

Second, how did the unattributed content come to the attention of Star management?

Third, who would have noticed the lack of attribution 31 years after the Sun story was written?

Kathy, we'll settle for an answer to one of the 5 W's - Why?

Why a correction for this particular unattributed Sun content from a 1976 story?

If Bawden's colleagues say he has been wronged and fellow journalists in T.O. question the motive for the peculiar correction, a call for fairness and full disclosure is warranted.

After all, the Toronto Star is all about fairness and full disclosure.