Thursday 28 February 2008

The bank job

If any punks contemplating a bank robbery read Wednesday's Toronto Sun, chances are they were scared straight.

A 16-year-old suspect tackled by an off-duty undercover cop during a Toronto bank robbery is seen on the ground with several heavily-armed ETF officers towering over him.

The amount of heavy artillery pointed at the teen made us wince.

As Joe Warmington mentions in today's Sun, the series of stunning take-down photos snapped by Dave Abel are sure to be award winners down the road.

Those photos, tabloid fare for sure, say so much about the terror of a bank robbery, whether the bandits are armed or not. The tears, the look of terror on the faces of innocent bystanders, the no-nonsense approach by heavily armed cops.

Movies might make light of bank robberies, but Dave Abel's dramatic photos clearly show there's nothing more traumatic for all involved.

That's what we are talking about when commenting on the Sun as it should be.

Great job, Dave.

In this day of media conglomerates, it is refreshing to see a one-man independent Internet news agency catering to print and broadcast outlets in the GTA, the U.S. and beyond.

Pat Conroy's is based in the Barrie area and buyers of his freelance stories, photographs and video footage have included the Toronto Sun, the Star, the Globe, the Post, CFTO, 680 news etc.

Pat's Internet news agency was ahead of its time when launched in 2002 and he is still training news outlets to adapt to 21st century technology. CFTO was among the first to download video footage from his web site and commented on the ease of doing business.

Media outlets visit, check out available stories and arrange the purchase of content online. Pat launched the service with stories and photographs and expanded to video two years ago.

The video camera was handed down from his father, Pat Conroy Sr., a veteran newsman who freelanced for papers in Ireland for decades before retiring a few years ago.

Pat Jr. says he has fielded calls from media across North America for news events in the past 25 years as a freelancer and his Internet news agency is widening his audience.

The Sun and Star have cut back on the use of freelancers, but Pat says when a freelancer has something exclusive, it's business as usual.

"News is news," says Pat, a journalist since 1965. "All freelancers ask for is to be treated fairly by the media."

Pat says he has covered it all - from wild animals escaping from zoos to multiple murders.

In the Barrie area, Highway 400 has a life of its own as a news source year round, with winter pileups, wrong-way drivers and other newsworthy happenings.

Technology has taken Pat's freelancing from telephone calls and car trips to news outlets for delivery of film and video to full electronic Internet transfers.

An innovative David providing news for the media giants.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Tale of 2 papers

A photo taken by Francois Vachon in a Quebec City hospital waiting room tells the tale of two French-language newspapers.

The photo shows a copy of Sun Media's Journal de Quebec atop a copy of MediaMatin, a free paper published by 250-plus Journal employees since their lockout and strike began 10 months ago.

The photo is in Vachon's catalogue on his PhotoShelter web site.

Re Jason Miller

Toronto Sun readers were quick to comment on the refreshingly positive attitude of Jamaican-born guest columnist Jason Miller.

Two letters Tuesday praised the young black, and soon-to-be Sun intern, for his Monday op-ed column on doing the right thing while growing up black.

Jason's column highlighted black celebrities and athletes who grew up in tough, crime-plagued neighborhoods without resorting to crime.

"Yes, there was violence in my neighborhood ever day, but I didn't choose the route of a gangster," said the promising 20-year-old journalism student.

Our favourite comment in Jason's column: "Instead of being bitter, try to be better."

Compared to the pages and pages of oppressive news about blacks being involved in murders and mayhem, Jason's guest column was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Positive, very positive. And timely.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

QM Record profits

Marketwire has the most detailed summary of today's Quebecor Media 2007 performance figures, but in a nutshell, the sun is shining on the media giant.

The financial web site says Quebecor Media's net income totals a record $327.1 million, compared with $169.7 million net loss in 2006, a $496.8 million improvement.

"The newspapers segment's revenues rose by $99.9 million (10.8%) to $1.03 billion in 2007, mainly as a result of the acquisition of Osprey Media," it says.

Good news for shareholders, but no doubt bittersweet for Sun Media newspapers slowly making a comeback in employee numbers following major staff losses early in 2007.

The record profits should be more ammunition in SONG's negotiations for a second contract for Toronto Sun union members, which are ongoing.

As noted here recently, Edmonton Sun's non-union employees received a 4% hike and the Calgary Sun's employees received a 5% pay hike.

But back to the Marketwire report. The following is a recap of the 2007 performance of Quebecor's newspaper segment:

"The Newspapers segment's revenues rose by $99.9 million (10.8%) to $1.03 billion in 2007, mainly as a result of the acquisition of Osprey Media. Excluding the impact of the acquisition, revenues increased by $4.4 million in 2007. Commercial printing and other revenues combined increased by 12.9%. Advertising revenues grew by 1.2% while circulation revenues decreased by 5.8%. The revenues of the urban dailies declined by 1.5% in 2007. Excluding the acquisition of Osprey Media, the revenues of the community newspapers increased by 1.1% in 2007. Within the urban dailies group, revenues of the free dailies increased by 62.7% in 2007 due to excellent results posted by the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver dailies, and the launch of free dailies in Ottawa and Ottawa-Gatineau in November 2006, and in Calgary and Edmonton in February 2007.

The Newspapers segment's operating income totalled $225.9 million in 2007, an $18.3 million (8.8%) increase. The favourable impact of the acquisition of Osprey Media ($25.3 million) was partially offset by investments and one-time charges, including investments related to the launch of four new free dailies in Ottawa, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton and the launch of Quebecor MediaPages, the impact of the labour disputes at Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and variances in the charge for Quebecor Media's stock option plan. Excluding these items, operating income was $225.2 million in 2007, compared with $214.2 million in 2006. The $11.0 million (5.1%) increase mainly reflects lower newsprint costs, the impact of restructuring initiatives and the decrease in operating losses at the free dailies, on a comparable basis (i.e., at the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver dailies), which were partially offset by costs related to the implementation of certain projects. Operating income from the dailies in the Western Group increased by 13.8%. Osprey Media's operating income increased by 12.6% in 2007, on a comparable basis, testifying to the strategic value of the acquisition for Quebecor Media's Newspapers segment. Excluding the launch of the four new free dailies and the impact on results of the labour disputes at Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec, operating income increased by 5.5% at the urban dailies. Excluding the impact of the acquisition of Osprey Media, operating income increased by 6.3% at the community newspapers.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the Newspapers segment's revenues increased by $59.8 million (24.2%) to $306.5 million, mainly as a result of the impact of the acquisition of Osprey Media, which closed in August 2007. Excluding the impact of that acquisition, combined revenues from commercial printing and other sources increased by 29.5%, advertising revenues were flat, and circulation revenues decreased by 8.8%.

The Newspapers segment's operating income totalled $76.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, a $13.1 million (20.6%) increase attributable primarily to the impact of the acquisition of Osprey Media ($15.9 million). Excluding the acquisition of Osprey Media and investments and one-time charges, including investments related to the launch of four new free dailies (in Ottawa, Ottawa-Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton) and of Quebecor MediaPages, charges related to Quebecor Media's stock option plan, and the impact of the labour disputes at Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Quebec in 2006 and 2007 respectively, operating income was $70.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with $66.7 million in the same quarter of 2006. The $3.4 million (5.1%) increase was essentially due to the decrease in newsprint costs. Despite the labour dispute at Le Journal de Quebec, operating income increased by 6.9% in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with the same period of 2006.

Quebecor Media announced on October 11, 2007 the creation of a new subsidiary, Quebecor MediaPages, to consolidate all its print and online directory operations. Quebecor MediaPages plans to launch 30 new local directories under the MediaPages name in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta in 2007 and 2008."

Sunday 24 February 2008

Brioux in Sun

Bill Brioux returned to the Sun today, if only for a Jim Slotek review of his new Truth and Rumors book.

Bill and Jim, friends for 20 years, were colleagues when Quebecor cutbacks left Bill on the outside looking in last year.

We thought we'd never see Brioux's name in the Sun again because of the politics involved in his forced departure in January of 2007. Other papers, like the Star, but not the Sun.

But there it is in the Sunday Sun in an honest and not always flattering Slotek review of Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths.

Slotek describes Bill as "one the best television critics on the continent."

We'll second that emotion and say Ben Mulroney be damned, bring Bill Brioux back to Sun Media, where he belongs.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Blah Day update

Rob Lamberti, the Toronto Sun's senior crime writer and SONG unit chair, e-mailed to update our Family Day/Blah Day posting.

Rob says:

"I would like to make a clarification on Family Day.

"At this point in time, Family Day is a statutory holiday for Toronto Sun unionized editorial staff over and above the Blah Day created by Doug Creighton.

"That means they received 1 1/2 times if they worked it, or get another day in lieu if they were already scheduled off that day, like me.

"For non-union staff, they lost a floater holiday, which includes Blah Day, to make up for the creation of Family Day, thus meaning they have no net gain."

Thanks for the update, Rob.

It is comforting to know some Toronto Sun staffers are still enjoying Doug's generous Blah Day gesture.

Monday 18 February 2008

Good news day

It was a good news only day for the Calgary Sun today.

Nothing but positive news from front to back for Family Day in Alberta. The front page story was about a man being reunited with his lost dog.

The only violence reported was an NHL hockey brawl.

"Please rest assured that we are not cutting any corners by omitting news that is important to you," the tabloid told its readers. "That is something we would never do.

"We just figured that one day of the year, if all the puzzle pieces fell into place, we could do this."

Calgary's good news day takes us back to the early 1970s when the Richmond Review in B.C. published a good-news-only edition.

Michael "Mickey" Carlton, the managing editor, was ticked off about something before announcing to his staff the next edition would be all good news.

The "pink edition," in name and appearance, included a photo of a cow with its udders censored. All of the news stories were about "nice" things happening in the community.

All syrup, no sass.

Once the Review's pink edition was out of the way, it was back to cops, robbers and girlie photos and Mickey's hard-hitting Tattler gossip column.

Our pink edition received a lot of media coverage and is talked about occasionally almost four decades later.

United Press International has picked up the Calgary Sun's good news day, which is not shabby news exposure.

Tomorrow, it will be back to murder, mayhem and world conflicts.

Family Day blahs

So Happy (Legislated) Family Day.

Toronto Sun vets no doubt grin in remembering how Doug Creighton helped to introduce a voluntary February Blah Day in the 1980s.

The extra day off, to help staffers get through each and every cold and bleak February, came from the heart and could be used on a day of our choice.

Much like the Sun's voluntary move to a smoke-free working environment in the 1980s, Blah Day was a voluntary gesture and much appreciated by employees.

No legislation needed.

We're not sure, but we get the feeling the Sun's Blah Day is one of the post-Quebecor cutback casualties.

And Family Day won't mean much to Sun Media employees across the province. They will be putting out their newspapers today.

So February at the Sun is just February once again.

Saturday 16 February 2008

CalSun $ up

Calgary Sun staffers have received a 5% pay hike and a hefty increase in profit sharing payments, says a reliable source.

"Everyone here got 5% raises to reflect the fact we have the highest inflation rate in the country," says the tipster. "And profit sharing was massive. Up 50% from last year to reflect a record year out west."

The tipster says "morale in the newsroom is soaring since Sifton took over."

"It's like night and day since Sifton took over. We have hired a business reporter. Can you imagine not having a local business person in Calgary? Sports has hired people.
Things seem to have turned a corner."

Our thanks to the Edmonton and Calgary tipsters for providing some good news from Sun Media in Alberta.

Dusty C's sendoff

The Toronto Sun, past and present, had solid representation at Friday's sendoff for Dusty Cohl at the packed Elgin Winter Garden, as Jim Slotek reports in today's Sun.

Jim, Bruce Kirkland, Liz Braun, Lou Clancy, Eddie Greenspan (one of the Sun's new columnists) and former entertainment editor George Anthony were among the many friends and colleagues saying goodbye to the late co-founder of the Toronto Film Festival.

Cohl, who died of cancer Jan. 11, had a habit of packing theatres and the tributes paid Friday illustrates why.

Jim caps his story with Liz Braun quoting Christopher Wren in Latin: "If you seek his monument, look around you."

EdSun $ hikes?

A union drive launched at the profitable Edmonton Sun following cutbacks early last year was abandoned in September when CEP failed to attract sufficient employee support.

E-mail to TSF out of Edmonton has been minimal since last fall, but this e-mail received yesterday mentions more cash coming from Sun Media/Quebecor. It reads:

You might be interested to know the Sun has been slightly generous in Edmonton lately. After announcing everyone was getting 4% raises, they handed out our profit-sharing notices the other day. I don't know what others are getting, but it sure beats the 2% and tiny profit-sharing bonus last year.

And, they bumped up our mileage rates quite a bit last year. So, it seems Quebecor is loosening the belt a bit. The profit-sharing notices indicated the amounts were only for Edmonton, so I don't know what's happening at the other papers.

A Sun employee"

If the wage and mileage hikes mentioned in the e-mail are accurate, will that affect ongoing Toronto Sun negotiations for a second contract? SONG's contract renewals late in 2007 were in the 2% per year range. (Union members do not receive profit sharing.)

And if accurate, the unexpected "give" at the Edmonton Sun is another positive sign that Sun Media chief Mike Sifton is taking care of cutback-weary employees.

Friday 15 February 2008

Jim Bawden bash

Bill Brioux, the much-missed former Toronto Sun TV critic, gives Jim Bawden, the much-missed former Toronto Star TV critic, a royal sendoff in his TV Feeds My Family blog.

Media celebs lined Wednesday night to wish Bawden the best in his post-Star years, including Brioux, Peter Goddard, Peter Mansbridge, former Sun staffer Ron Base, the Star's Rob Salem, the Globe's John Doyle etc.

Brioux, turfed by the Sun in January of 2007, says Bawden was "not-so-gently persuaded to accept an early retirement late last year" after 28 years at the Star.

Hopefully, Bawden has some irons in the fire and will continue to share his wealth of experience as a TV writer at another venue. Brioux didn't waste any time getting back on the TV circuit after being canned by the Sun.

Brioux's blog and Canadian Press stories, John Doyle's columns in the Globe and Rob Salem's Hot Box: Television to talk about in the Star keep this lifetime couch potato up to date on TV news, but Bawden's absence is felt.

We need all of the experienced TV critics T.O. can handle, if only to answer the most important question in television today:

What the hell is going on in Lost?

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Love in the Sun

From day one in 1971, Toronto Sun Family members have been putting more than the paper to bed. Credit co-founders of the tabloid, who never felt the need to ban office romances.

Employees were always free to indulge, or not.

Reporting here that a whole lotta lovin' went on during the Eclipse Building years and in the subsequent decades at 333 King Street East is not news to Sun vets.

There were the one-nighters and assorted relationships - and the office gossip that came with the territory.

What was the pillow talk between the female Sun city editor and Sun police reporter after the latter moved to the Star?

And how did that amorous newsroom couple get away with making love in the women's washroom?

But enough gossip.

On the eve of Valentine's Day, TSF salutes the more lasting relationships spawned at the Tely and/or Sun, including:

Peter Worthington and Yvonne Crittenden.

Andy Donato and Diane Jackson.

Glen Woodcock and Connie Nicholson.

David Blizzard and Christina Smales.

Mike Patton and Kaarina Leinala.

Rob Lamberti and Siobhan Moore.

Jac Holland and Angie

(Sadly, other Sun unions ended too soon with deaths. Sam Ion and the late Cam Norton; Kathy Brooks and the late Bob Blackburn and the late Paul Heming; Sharon the receptionist and the late Mike McCabe, Doug Creighton's chauffer. And two men who had a lengthy and brave relationship during the Sun's more homophobic years.)

When TSF invited Sun vets to help mark Valentine's Day 2008 with office romance stories for a posting, we got e-mail:

Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park Bureau: "If you're talking about Sun romances, I think you should be looking at a book, rather than a posting!"

Gail Harvey, former photographer wrote: "My favourite romance is a sort of office romance. I set up a blind date for my friend Norma Woodward with Jerry Gladman. They fell in love at first sight, got married and were the happiest couple I knew - passionately in love until he died."

A shy former Sun vet wrote: "Despite rumours, I had only three office romances and married all three of them, at different times of course. None of them worked out, but had a lot of fun along the way. Loved them all, but my attention is somewhat short."

Ian Harvey, former reporter, found solace in an office romance after separating from his wife: "I was freshly separated - my lust for news probably had much to do with my wife's decision - and moping around.

About six to eight weeks after I split with the wife, I bumped into a columnist who asked if I wanted to go to an expo she was checking out down at the Royal York. I said sure, being between assignments and due for lunch anyway.

One thing led to another and we became an item, even though some of her colleagues suggested a newsroom romance wasn't smart and that I needed more time before getting involved with someone. As it turned out, we were good for each other. She stabilized me emotionally during a very rough period of my life and I like to think I returned the favour.

We both grew more confident and more rounded. She introduced me to some of the finer things in life, fine food, fine wines and travel, and I taught her about taking risks and chasing the story no matter what.

We lasted three years, on and off. She went on to buy her own house, meet a wonderful man and get married. We are still good friends and talk regularly. I've been through a couple of great relationships since and now I'm settled and living with someone.

I'll never forget the healing of those years. No one made an issue out of our relationship. I think of so many newsroom relationships over the years, some ended badly, some still sustain.

But there's nothing like a fellow journalist who understands the frustrations of the business and the demands it places on you and perhaps that's why so many (office romances) blossom and always will."

So, in addition to several successful decades of publishing a morning tabloid, Sun staffers have found love throughout the building, some lasting, some not.

As Ian Harvey said, finding romance off the job has always been a challenge for dedicated newspaper men and women - especially in the days of top drawer booze, press clubs and all-night parties.

For those who have found lasting love in the Sun, we salute you.

Do you have the names of other Sun couples, or a Sun office romance story to tell? E-mail TSF.

Saturday 9 February 2008

A four-daily town

People who live in one-newspaper communities across North America are being deprived of quality news coverage that is generated by competition.

And then there is Toronto.

Newspaper readers in the GTA and beyond are the most pampered readers in North America, with a choice of four major daily newspapers, all filling the need to read.

The scope of the news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle, auto and financial coverage in the four dailies leaves us giddy and feeling privileged. There is something for every appetite.

It would be a sad day for readers and journalism if Toronto lost any of its dailies, but you have to wonder how long the Globe, Post, Star and Sun can co-exist in the competitive market.

Pending quarterly ABC circulation figures for Toronto's print media should provide evidence of where the dailies are heading. Will the dip in the previous quarter be reversed, or will the downward trend in print media circulation figures continue?

Long live the four dailies and let's not take any of them for granted. As they say, you don't know what you've got until it's gone, i.e. the Toronto Telegram in 1971, the Montreal Star in 1979, the Ottawa Journal in 1980, the Winnipeg Tribune in 1980, the Washington Star in 1981, the Buffalo Courier-Express in 1982 etc.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Sun & The Paper

Columnists have been the cornerstone of the Toronto Sun since Day One in '71, but critics occasionally pipe up and say there are too many in the tabloid.

And every time we hear that, The Paper comes to mind. The 1994 movie isn't the most realistic newspaper flick ever made, but it has its moments.

A couple of quotes about columnists might have been written with the Sun in mind:

Bernie (Robert Duvall): I hate columnists! Why do I have all these columnists? I got political columnists, guest columnists . . . celebrity columnists. The only thing I don't have is a dead columnist. That's the kind I could really use.

Henry (Michael Keaton): Right. Listen . . .

Bernie: We reek of opinions. What every columnist at this paper needs to do is to shut the fuck up.

Another stab at columnists:

Michael McDougal (Randy Quaid): What's with all the grunt work? I'm a columnist.

Henry: You're not a columnist. You're a reporter who writes long.

The IMDB web site has a lengthy list of "memorable quotes" from The Paper and some sound like they were snatched from the life and times of the Little Paper That Grew.

Including this one:

Bernie: Where did you get this?

Henry: This? I stole it off Bladden's desk at The Sentinel.

Bernie: Jesus, Henry, I was kidding.

Henry: You know, they called us "cute", and I was right there and they were out of tote bags.

In 1977, Peter Young, a cocky young Australian hired by the Toronto Sun as a reporter, walked into the Toronto Star newsroom and left with a photo of a man involved in an ongoing hostage drama.

Much to the applause of colleagues and Sun city editor Les Pyette.

Perhaps The Paper had a source at the Sun providing real life newspaper antics.

Entertaining movies about newspapers are a rare breed. It's time for another newspaper movie - one based on the Toronto Sun.

There's certainly enough comedy and drama for a 90-minute flick.

And, hopefully, it will have a happy ending.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Eddie Greenspan

Congratulations to the Toronto Sun for landing celebrated Canadian criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan as a columnist, beginning next Monday.

If Greenspan can capture the attention of readers in the same persuasive way he holds the attention of judges, juries and courtroom spectators, Sun readers are in for a big treat.

But with all due respect to Editor Rob Granatstein, Greenspan is a natural for the Sunday Sun, not the Monday Sun. He would give the Sunday paper a much-needed boost in its bid to regain the No. 1 Sunday newspaper title.

Greenspan, who celebrates his 64th birthday on Feb. 28 and has been a Toronto-based lawyer since 1970, would certainly rev the Sunday Sun interest meter.

He is known and respected across North America and has numerous high-profile defendants on his resume - from Peter Demeter to Conrad Black.

And he's not big on big words, which bodes well for Sun readers. In a revealing 2005 profile for Canadian Business, Greenspan wrote:

"I don't use lawyer's words. Lawyers actually get up in court and use the word 'purport.' What the hell does that mean? I try to teach people that nobody in a bar or a beer hall uses the word, purport, you talk like an ordinary, regular person and people will like you a lot better. I never use the word vexatious in a courtroom. I don't even know how to spell it."

When this blogger was a Toronto Sun court reporter in the 1970s, it was always a brighter day when Eddie Greenspan entered a courtroom. Watching him at work left you in awe, a witness to perfection in the courtroom.

Always approachable, always a gentleman.

And always good for a quote.

Beginning next week, the man of a thousand cases will hold court in the Sun every other Monday and Rob Granatstein says Greenspan's column will cover a "wide range of issues and not restricted to law."

Great catch, but Greenspan should definitely be served up in the deflated Sunday Sun.

Sifton's agenda

Sun Media chief Michael Sifton has created a "set of values" designed to shape "the future course" of Canada's largest media chain.

If practiced, much of his stated agenda, outlined Monday in a memo to employees, will simply return Sun Media to the positive and prosperous mood of the first 21 years under the guidance of Doug Creighton et al.

Before the boardroom back-stabbers ousted Creighton a year before his scheduled retirement and before Quebecor's disastrous cutbacks at the successful tabloids.

Back to the days when the Toronto Sun was ranked as one of the Top 100 Canadian companies for employees.

A return to those proud and productive years can't come too soon, so let's hope the Sifton memo will continue the reversal of almost nine years of Quebecor disruption.

The Sifton release:

"Values, Purpose Shape Sun Media Culture

Sun Media President and CEO Mike Sifton has worked with managers to develop a Purpose and Values to shape the way the company operates.

Sun Media has a set of Values that will shape the present and future course of the company as it strives to realize its Purpose, which is to “help connect and build better communities.”

Besides agreeing on a Purpose for the company, senior managers, working with President and CEO Mike Sifton, whittled down a long list of concepts into five key Values for the organization: Integrity, Courage, Collaboration, Respect and Spirit.

“Values are the most important elements of a corporate culture because they truly shape everything else,” says Sifton. “Everyone needs to make sure that we reflect these in our daily activities, and in our plans for the years ahead.

"By applying the Values to everything we do, and by testing what we do against the values, we will have a successful organization that delivers the best possible results. For example, Sun Media will be recognized as an employer of choice for talented people.”

Based on input and discussion by scores of managers across the company, Sun Media’s Values are:

Integrity: This means honest and fair relationships among all employees of the company and in our dealings with customers and consumers.

Courage: Sun Media’s people must have the courage to make decisions, whether it means breaking with the established business model for a different approach, sticking to a controversial editorial position or following through on a commitment to other employees or our business partners.

Collaboration: Sun Media works best when people share their experience and knowledge to help one another and extend this concept to other parts of the organization, whether they are under the same roof or in another location.

Respect: People need and deserve respect for their integrity, their contributions to the business, and as individuals. Respect is manifested in many ways, from listening to the ideas of others to considering the effects on others of decisions or actions we take.

Spirit: The esprit de corps at Sun Media will reflect an attitude of confidence in our ability to succeed as well as pride and satisfaction in our achievements. It’s teamwork and a sense of fun in working together.

“I am committed to making these Values part of the way we do business,” says Sifton. “This is not an exercise in paying lip service to concepts that have no bearing on reality. We can and we will make the most practical application of these Values in everything we do.”

End of memo.

The Doug Creighton/Peter Worthington/Don Hunt method of running a newspaper didn't require a manifesto memo - it all came from the heart and from decades of newspaper experience.

But whatever works to make the Sun shine for decades to come.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Life With Ted

Ted Welch, a former Toronto Sun city hall columnist, died two weeks ago today in Victoria, B.C. Marj Welch, aka The Weasel, Ted's wife and best friend for 34 years, writes about Life With Ted:

"I have enjoyed and appreciated the memories of Ted from his many friends and colleagues. The stories tell a lot about the wonderful, talented man who anchored my life since I was 21 years old.

I met Ted in 1973 in Owen Sound when we were reporters at the Sun Times. He travelled light in those days - he had a suitcase, a 12-inch TV and a broken guitar. He lived in hotels and ate in restaurants. He moved almost every week so if he was late for work, we could never track him down.

He owned one suit in his life - his Dad bought it for Ted’s graduation from St. Clair College, but neglected to pay for it. When a sheriff visited the Sun Times newsroom years later to repossess it, Ted pointed out that there wasn’t a lot left to return so he paid for it.

I may have helped to ground Ted, but he gave me so much more. He taught me to laugh at myself and to stand up for my views. As anyone who spent any time with Ted knows, he loved to rail about everything - from politics to the Toronto Maple Leafs to the local cable service. He had strong opinions, but this wasn’t always necessary - often he just wanted a spirited debate.

And he wasn’t beyond taking liberties to make a point. At a memorable Welch family Christmas dinner in Essex, a heated argument arose about rutabaga farming in B.C. (I have no idea of the point or origin of the discussion, but it’s fair to say this might be a hint about why Ted developed into such a unique character). Ted watched from the sidelines, and then weighed in with choice points that suggested he had nailed the topic, knew all the answers and should not be challenged. The combatants listened, agreed, and shut up. Ted later took me aside and asked me what the heck a rutabaga was.

I was always intrigued by the fact that while Ted was honest to a fault, he wasn’t beyond little lies that were really not necessary. One December, he called me from the Toronto Press Club to announce he had cleaned up in the annual turkey roll - winning two Cornish hens and a bottle of wine. The next morning, I found two Cornish hens in the fridge but there was no wine in sight. “Someone stole it,” Ted explained when he arose. Fast forward one year and it was time for the turkey roll again: “I should go and see if I can repeat last year’s success,” says Ted. “And this time, I’ll try not to drop the bottle of wine.”

Ted inherited a family trait of taking pains to avoid physical work. He agreed that we could buy a house on the condition that I understood his idea of inside work was fluffing up his pillows and outside work meant going to the corner to get a coffee. Mind you, he soon learned there were benefits to having a house, like two bathrooms – with one a designated smoking area.

To understand why that is important, take a look at Ted’s Feb 13, 1984 column about a proposed smoking bylaw: “In the Welch household, my “filthy” habit has led to endless hours of spirited discussion with The Weasel - with time out for mandatory coughing breaks . . . Over the years, we have reached a truce of sorts. Half of our living space is weed-free, including (sob) the bathroom.”

The bathroom was Ted’s library, but then everywhere was Ted’s library. If you ever saw his desk in the Sun’s city hall office, you’ll understand - it was piled deep with papers. At home there were piles of newspapers and books everywhere; all of them well read.

Others have talked about Ted and his love of fishing. Our annual fishing trips were marathon adventures - up at dawn, fish all day in every kind of weather, pause for shore lunch, fish until the sun went down. We were once alone on a remote fly-in lake in northern Ontario and stayed out so late we almost couldn’t find our cabin in the dark.

In the late 1970s, we spent 18 months travelling across the country in a camper van – our plan was to find the best place in Canada to live, but we loved so many spots we wound up coming back to Toronto. Along the way, we caught mackerel in Quebec, cod in Newfoundland, pollack in Nova Scotia, trout in New Brunswick, perch in Alberta, pickerel in the Northwest Territories, lake trout in the Yukon, rock cod in B.C., and a lot more.

We also saw more bears than Ted appreciated, including some grizzlies up close. Ted was terrified of bears. During a fishing trip in northern Ontario, we were once driven to shore by a terrific lightning storm, only to discover fresh bear tracks in the sand. I had to convince Ted it was wiser to stay put than to go back out onto the lake and risk being electrocuted.

They say opposites attract. With Ted and me, this included the fact that he could read and watch TV all day, and I can’t sit still for a minute. When he did not have to report to work, he was sometimes still awake when I was getting up in the morning - and he had no trouble sleeping past noon. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but he would not suffer fools for an instant. He loved a T-shirt I found for him - “I’ll try to be nicer if you try to be smarter.”

I much preferred Ted sober but knew he would likely explode without some kind of release - the visits to the Press Club and poker games achieved this purpose wonderfully. At home, he seldom drank - to Ted’s horror, we’ve had beer go skunky in our fridge.

In Victoria, his release was through our dogs. Maggie, a collie-shepherd cross with an attitude, entertained us for seven years. When she died in 2006, Bobbie a magnificent black lab cross, took over. Just as he was always there for me, Ted could never do enough for Maggie or Bobbie. He took them for long walks in all kinds of weather, and loved to watch them play. He spent hours searching for the perfect squeeze toy or choice chew. They returned the love a million times over, making him laugh and play no matter what he was facing.

Then of course there is my nickname. Ted would tell you he called me The Weasel because I was good at getting my way. It probably surprised him to discover he was willing to give in so easily to someone after fighting the world all of his life. I have always loved the name. Our company is Ermine Communications only because Weasel Communications sounds shifty. But there is a white weasel on our business cards.

I have 30 years of Weasel T-shirts celebrating all occasions - birthdays (Weasel of 42, 44-Carrot Weasel), anniversaries (18-Wheel Weasel, 21-Weasel Salute), new jobs (Road Weasel) or clients (Beetle Weasel), events (Mortgage-Free Weasel), layoffs (Weasel Unplugged), dogs (Hounded Weasel), fishing trips (Wormweasel, Weedzel). I received the original Weasel T-shirt on my 26th birthday; the last one was Bobby Sock and Weasel 55.

A friend in Victoria says Ted’s world was made up of two parts, and the one that really mattered to him was populated by me and by Bobbie. I feel the same way - life with Ted was technicolour; life without him is black and white. I never fully understood why our partnership worked so well, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is we loved each other, and knew it.

When Ted was told he had cancer, we planned that I would care for him at home. Unfortunately, his health crashed too quickly, he became disoriented almost overnight and had to go to the hospice. It was a bumpy ride to the hospital and the paramedic in the back of the ambulance asked if I knew what Ted was trying to say. I did because I had heard it a lot in the last couple of months - they were the last words he spoke to me:

“Slow down, Weasel. The road’s too rough.”

Thank you for sharing your life with Ted, Marj.

In her e-mail, Marj said in writing about life with Ted, she was doing so without her safety net.

I didn't want it to be too long, yet I wanted to be sure to present a true picture of just how marvellous Ted was and what he meant to me. And I am working without my safety net. When faced with a tough assignment, I always turned to Ted for advice and he was always able to help."

Radio ads classy

We are not sure how many new Toronto Sun radio ads there are, but if they are as classy as the Joe Warmington toast to movie critic Liz Braun, keep 'em coming.

It is refreshing to hear one veteran Sun staffer praise the work of another veteran Sun staffer, instead of Sun celebs using airtime for self-promotion.

Kudos to the person who came up with that concept and if the Sun's promotions department wants to tell TSF who it was and how many radio ads are in the campaign, we are here to listen.

The ad we heard Friday left us wanting more, which was not the case with the ill-fated "Five Good Reasons to Read the Sun" ad campaign late in 2006.

That elaborate promotion had to be scrapped when two of those good reasons - Bill Brioux and Val Gibson - were axed during the Quebecor chainsaw massacre.

Meanwhile, Joe's radio salute to Liz is a nice touch and warranted. Her movie review leads are often more entertaining than the movies.

Over Her Dead Body: "Sometimes a movie is so richly, gloriously, flamboyantly stupid that it starts to become fun to watch."

Saved 12 bucks right there with 17 words, even if the flick does star Eva Longoria-Parker.

Strange Wilderness: "Strange Wilderness is a stoner comedy you might describe as 90 minutes of a joy buzzer to the penis."

Another laugh and 12 more bucks pocketed for future DVD rentals.

We are anxious to hear more Sun staffers toasting other Sun staffers. Talent on board could keep the ads on air for the remainder of 2008.

Saturday 2 February 2008

Sandy Naiman -1

Sandy Naiman, former veteran Toronto Sun Lifestyle staffer, left the Sun last year along with Maryanna Lewyckyj, Bill Brioux and many others. She updates her post-Sun year:

"I was reading TSF this morning and chanced upon Maryanna's note of a few days ago. I'm thrilled to see how she has surfaced since we both left the Toronto Sun a year ago. She seems to be working in a mini-TO Sun "newsroom" at the Ontario Ministry. Good for her.

I thought I'd weigh in with a few thoughts of my own.

Last Saturday, I had brunch with Jim Jennings (former Sun editor-in-chief). He was in from Vancouver, where he is now headquartered as associate publisher of the Globe's B.C. and Alberta bureaus.

Jim is really enjoying the challenge of a new city and the new position. When he mentioned his new title to me in an email, he added: "Not too bad, for a photographer." So true. You never know what opportunities lay ahead, if you risk being open to them.

When Jim and I brunched at The Pickle Barrel last week, it happened to be the one-year anniversary of my last day at 333 King. I've been thinking and remembering how I felt leaving the building and the "family" I had spent more than half of my life working with, living with, laughing with and aching for as one by one, like me, they "left the building."

I remember being in a bit of shock, but thinking my "next chapter" would be as a full-time freelance magazine writer. Two days later, I filed a piece for the Seneca College Alumni Magazine - I graduated from Seneca's now-defunct Applied Communications Media program in 1971 before going to Queen's, then Ryerson and then the Sun.

I was dreaming. At $1 a word (if you are lucky, usually it is much less), you have to be a writing machine, if your pitches are accepted, in what is clearly a buyers' market.

Jim suggested it has taken me a year to grieve the loss of my second home.

Until now, I haven't been able wear my T.O. Sun 20th Anniversary ring, or make contact with people still there - Rita DeMontis, Kevin Hann and Linda Leatherdale, to name a few. There was so much pain. I am just beginning to be able to process it without hurting.

I've not done too badly, I guess. I had my settlement, though most of it is now gone. I knew I couldn't live on my freelancing. I do a little public speaking, when it comes my way. But then another opportunity came flying at me, out of the blue.

I happened to find my first journalism teacher, still at Seneca, and when we had lunch, he suggested I should be teaching there. Nice idea, but what? I'm no teacher and Seneca does not have a print journalism course.

Scott wasn't sure either, but he started sending my resume around and it caught the eye of the chair of the School of English and Liberal Studies.

On March 8 of last year, International Women's Day, I had an interview with Paula Gouveia, a 37-year-old whiz kid who heads the largest division at Seneca, more than 200 "professors" who teach all the electives every student must take, one per semester.

It is a grab bag of courses, including Women's Studies. Because I had finished half an M.A. in that discipline in the mid-1990s at York at night, she earmarked me to teach it during the last half of the summer semester.

Can you imagine? At 58, finding a new career? Well, anything is possible. (Remember, I met my fabulous husband at age 50.) Never let age be a barrier to trying new things. It doesn't matter, and I don't even colour my hair. I'm a happy member of the "Sexy Grey Brigade!"

I jumped at the challenge and taught three-hours a week last summer and I swear, I learned more than my eight students. Then, Paula asked me to teach the full-course during the fall term. What a trial by fire. I had 28 students, including three young men who were taking the course only because it fit into their timetable. I never knew how tough teaching is.

By mid-October, Paula offered me a brand new course to develop - Leadership in Society for College Students Who Want to Make a Difference.

You wouldn't believe it, but I resurrected my T.O. Sun column, People Who Make a Difference, and used it as a teaching tool for my 38 mostly international business students.

I am now teaching six hours a week and everything I learned at the Sun has been immensely useful in my teaching. All those years in Lifestyle interviewing leading feminists came into play when I redeveloped that Women's Studies course.

And what do I know about leadership?

I saw the greatest examples of leadership in full view at the Sun. All the editors I worked with were the kind of "leaders" that fit the empathetic leadership model I teach. I learned "worlds" from Doug Creighton to George Anthony, Kathy Brooks and J.D. MacFarlane. If it hadn't been for them, I would never have been hired in the first place.

The list goes on and on: Ed Monteith, Les Pyette, Gus Carlson, Linda Leatherdale (I worked in the business section for several years) then Marilyn Linton, Wayne Janes, Woody McGee, Gordy Walsh, Al Parker, Lorrie Goldstein, George Gross, Trudy Eagan, Lou Clancy and, of course, Jim Jennings.

There are so many people in leadership roles at the Sun and my experiences with them taught me life lessons I can now share in practice and in principle with my students.

What a privilege and an honour it was to know them and learn from them. And what I learned can be summed up in one word - humanity.

My year has been busy and exciting - and scary as hell. I'm still not making enough money to live on, but there is hope. And I've found a new post-journalistic calling as a teacher at Seneca that I could never have foreseen last February.

I'm happy to see (Sun Media chief) Michael Sifton, Jr. is reviving some Sun spirit after last year's devastation and that new hires of old faces is raising morale and infusing the place with energy and a sense of hope.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed, but to be honest, at 59, general assignment reporting is not what I want to be doing. I'll always miss the excitement of daily newspapering, but I do not miss the hour-long commute from Thornhill. (Seneca is 10 minutes away.)

Most of all, I miss the newsroom and all the people I worked with for close to 30 years. So many people at the Sun were like my immediate family - even closer.

Today, the future of the Toronto Sun is looking a lot brighter than it did a year ago. And I hope it grows brighter still, for all of us who have worked there and will always carry that spirit in our hearts, and for all of those still keeping the Sun bright.

Cheers to you all."

Thank you for your e-mail Sandy.

Sandy can be reached by e-mail.

Friday 1 February 2008

Page 1: Rage

The dumping of an eight-month-old baby girl on cold concrete in a Toronto parking garage like an unwanted pet has no doubt enraged Canadians.

The Toronto Sun's front page photo of the unidentified baby Thursday was heartbreaking, but just what police and the community needed to launch the search for the infant's parents.

Rob Lamberti's online story includes a photo of the baby girl, much needed to expand the reach of the probe into Toronto's third child abandonment case since 2003.

It is a cruel and heartless way to begin a life, but the heart of the community is surely on her side all the way. Calls from people wanting to adopt the girl are already being received.

Here's hoping the life of Baby X never again sinks to such a horrific low. And who is the life-saving woman who heard the baby whimpering after being abandoned two hours earlier? She deserves public recognition and a loud round of applause.

Collectibles 2

A TSF reader named Ambra writes:

"Hi, I have a copy of the final Toronto Telegram and was wondering if it is worth anything, or is there a place where it can be donated? Please let me know."

Hello Ambra,

The final Telegram from Oct. 30, 1971, complete with all of the inserts, sells for about $5 to $10 in flea markets and other buy and sell outlets.

In 1971, people hoarded bundles of the final Tely and stored them in closets and basements over the years as souvenirs, so they are not a difficult find.

The first Toronto Sun from Nov. 1, 1971, is another matter. The tabloid's first press run was about 75,000 and all were sold across the GTA. It became an instant collector's item.

Today, that 48-page Toronto Sun, with the "A $10M Goof" headline, in good condition can fetch $25 and up.

The Toronto Telegram copy you have might be enjoyed by seniors in your family. Reading the news, sports and entertainment of the day can be quite a nostalgia trip.

If you are cleaning house and want to donate your final Telegram, give it to Goodwill or a Salvation Army outlet.

Thank you for your e-mail, Ambra.