Thursday 29 October 2009

The day after

No words from TSF tipsters following yesterday's rumoured Sun Media circulation and distribution employee conference, so it appears the sky has not fallen on them.

With the 38th anniversary of the Toronto Sun's Nov. 1, 1971, launch coming up Sunday, no news is good news when it comes to cutbacks.

Monday 26 October 2009

Barrie to T.O.

One thing you can count on several times a year is traffic chaos on Highway 400 south of Barrie, bad weather of not.

So you have to wonder, with the printing of the Barrie Examiner moving to Quebecor's printing presses in Toronto this week, how often will Examiner residents be readers in waiting.

Examiner readers were told today the good news is later deadlines at the new plant will mean more late-breaking news and sports.

The paper will also look better, the Examiner tells its readers in announcing its move from Georgian Web to the Toronto plant.

On the downside, deliveries to homes and stores "will be a few hours later."

The Barrie Examiner's memo to readers:

Growth means change. And that’s exactly what’s happening at The Barrie Examiner.

Starting today, the Examiner will no longer be using the printing services of Georgian Web. Georgian Web and its staff have served us well for the past 10 years or so, but we have outgrown the company’s limited capacity.

Just as the City of Barrie is quickly changing, so must we. In order to accommodate the growing needs of the community we proudly serve, we had to find a new printing facility. It was touch and go for awhile, but we’ve secured a spot at our parent company Sun Media’s new $250 million state-of-the-art printing facility in Etobicoke. As a result, our paper will change overnight.

It will feature vibrant colour on every page for our readers - offsetting colour availability to meet our growing advertisers requirements.

Besides colour, not to mention a vegetable-based, environmentally-friendlier ink that won’t come off on your hands, the switch means our press time will be later. This will allow us more flexibility when it comes to covering latebreaking local news.

Morning delivery to stores and subscribers will continue, but will be a few hours later. We apologize for that.

However, the switch will not affect our online content, which means those of you who can’t seem to find the time in your busy morning schedules to enjoy the paper, can still check out the latest local headlines before you head out the door at www.thebarrieexaminer.

As for the large portion of the space previously rented to Georgian Web, it will be utilized to facilitate the current expansion happening at the Examiner.

End of memo.

A TSF tipster notes:

"The problem is they are are dumping Georgian Web, a local company that was renting space for their presses, doing all the surrounding papers, and commercial jobs like flyers and magazines.

"Local news loses, local firm loses. Thank you Quebecor. The center of excellence up here does about 20 newspapers, as far north as Kirkland Lake and as far west as Sault Ste. Marie."

OT: Blades

CBC Television's ongoing Battle of the Blades scores on several fronts.

At the top of the list is the opportunity to see the inside of the landmark Maple Leaf Gardens after a tenuous 10 years of Loblaw ownership.

The return of ice, lights, performances, laughter, applause.

And the transition of former NHL hockey greats from hard-hitting players to more graceful, competitive figure skaters is oh, so sweet. Who knew?

Once upon a time, the measure of a man's testosterone during the deep freeze of a Toronto winter was determined by his TV viewing preference - NHL games or figure skating.

Battle of the Blades is blurring that line once drawn in the ice.

Macho men are admitting they are watching Battle of the Blades and that is a huge credit to the production team that made it all happened.

Drawing Tie Domi and seven other retired NHL players into the figure skating arena and making them look good with their female partners is creative television programming.

The players are doing it all for charity, but their competitive spirit clearly isn't allowing them to soft-pedal the challenge. They are in it to win.

Cheering them on are other retired hockey players, including Red Kelly, who was on Maple Leaf Gardens ice in the 1960s when Stanley Cups were being won.

Question of the day: Pay top dollar for tickets to see the embarrassing, low-flying 0-8 Maple Leafs at the ACC, or five bucks to watch a gathering of good-spirited former NHLers doing loops at the Gardens?

Same here.

But back to the use of Maple Leaf Gardens, where we watched Elvis Presley perform in 1957, saw the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the 1960s, and attended Leafs games that involved Stanley Cup winners.

Glad to see the Gardens hanging in there. Hopefully, Battle of the Blades is just the first of many new ventures for the building.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Black Wednesday?

A TSF tipster says a recent e-mail to Sun Media circulation and distribution employees advises them to attend a meeting at the Toronto Sun on Wednesday.

That is raising concern, says the tipster.

It could be for a friendly pep talk, but at this time of the year, with rumours about another round of pre-Christmas cuts, who knows.

Could the axe be falling on some distribution routes? Is there an agreement with another Toronto newspaper to share distribution routes, which has been done by papers elsewhere?

We've always wondered if print editions in communities well beyond the GTA are an endangered species.

While most people beyond the GTA probably take the daily trucking of the Sun to smaller villages, towns and cities for granted, we don't.

Even at $1.58, and aside from all of our bitching about the changing of the tabloid, having the Sun in corner stores seven days a week is a convenience that has always been appreciated.

Chopping distribution areas and pushing readers beyond the GTA to use the Sun's online e-Edition at five bucks a month would be a setback in our daily routine, but not a surprise move by the bean counters.

We have no idea what Wednesday will bring. In PKP's world, what was does not mean what will always be.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Lew & Balloon Boy

The Toronto Sun's initial decision to bury the Balloon Boy story last Friday was "moronic," says Lew Fournier, a highly-respected former copy desk vet and headline writer extraordinaire.

Fournier, responding to a comment that the Sun was correct in burying the story, writes:

"The first poster is stupid beyond belief. This is the kind of dimwit who would dismiss Clifford Irving's hoax because he really didn't write a book about Howard Hughes.

"It's this kind of provincial thinking that has sent Sun circulation dipping over the horizon.

"Sure the story was fake, but not the millions of eyes, both American and Canadian, that were glued to the unfolding drama, real or not.

"The Denver airport was closed; millions of dollars were spent on policing; every parent on the continent held his or her breath as the story played out.

"And played out it did.

"The story had legs - good and bad - and the decision to bury it was nothing short of moronic.

"Lew (what in hell are you guys smoking?) Fournier

"By the way, how are the Leafs doing?"

Thank you for your signed comment, Lew.

Lew was part of the 333 newsroom team that oozed tabloid competence for several decades - with front page pizzazz, clever headlines and a nose for tabloid news.

The departure of Lew, along with other vets taking buyouts last spring, siphoned much of the Sun's remaining tab talent.

The Balloon Boy miscue was the most recent of several slow starts for the Sun. Two other notables: the abduction of eight-year-old Victoria "Tori" Stafford in Woodstock in April, and Jaycee Dugard being found alive in California in August - 18 years after her abduction.

There are tabloid stories and there are broadsheet stories. The Sun worked its magic daily for decades by hiring people who knew the difference.

With today's crew, there is no consistency. It is hit and miss.

The departures of Fournier and his desk colleagues, the recent departure of Mike Burke-Gaffney as managing editor, and the upcoming departure of Lou Clancy as editor-in-chief, are clearly felt in the newsroom.

Currell book 2

Harvey Currell's new Byways and Bylines softcover book recounting his lifetime relationship with print media is his fifth book.

The 380-page book, published by Trafford Publishing, includes 32 of his favourite columns about Ontario communities and their inhabitants living beyond the province's major highways.

As the book's liner notes read: Every week he distilled his adventures into a Trips column—from 1958 to 1971 for the Toronto Telegram and from 1971 to 2007 for the Toronto Sun.

Currell, 87, also writes about his early life and his army years.

His other books are Where The Alders Grow, and The Mimico Story, both about west-end urban history, Thirty Trips Around Ontario and More Trips Around Ontario.

If you can't find Byways and Bylines in your local bookstore, it can be ordered at

BTW: His 1967 book, The Mimico Story, can be read online.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Sudbury Star -1

Denis St. Pierre signed off as a Sudbury Star political reporter yesterday in a published farewell to his hometown audience.

St. Pierre says he is leaving "the world's best job" after almost 25 years at the Star to join his wife and children in Toronto.

"So, the fact I'm leaving The Star is by no means an indication that I've lost my enthusiasm and appreciation for the job, or my affection for and ties to this wonderful city in which I was born and raised," he writes.

"At the risk of making this column more syrupy or banal than it's already become, it's a matter of following your heart and seizing golden opportunities when they arise."

That opportunity was a job in Toronto as a communications officer with the Canadian office of the United Steelworkers.

Star colleagues bid him farewell at a gathering last night.

"Sudbury will miss him," says a TSF reader.

Monday 19 October 2009

New Sud pub

Bruce Cowan, the Sudbury Star's new publisher, will temporarily double as publisher of the Timmins Daily Press, says a Star story.

Cowan, 49, Daily Press publisher for six years, replaces David Kilgour, who quit Sun Media to join Metroland's Guelph Mercury.

The Star story says except for a brief stint at the Welland Tribune, Cowan's newspaper years have all been in Northern Ontario.

Other stops for the Ryerson grad, who hails from Niagara Falls, were the Sault Star and the North Bay Nugget.

"It is a great opportunity," Cowan says of the Sudbury Star.

The Star story says for the time being, the father of two "will be commuting back and forth to Timmins to help oversee the operation of the Daily Press."

Sound familiar?

Re Harvey Currell

Harvey Currell, one of the many Sun vets who have quietly been put to pasture, ended his paid Tely/Sun country travels two years ago after 49 years on the road.

Fans of his popular Wednesday Sun columns still ask whatever became of Harvey Currell?

Well, John Downing tells us today in his latest Downing's Views blog posting - and the update is all positive.

Currell, at 87, is the author of a new book called Byways and Bylines.

"I just visited my past," says Downing. "And Harvey Currell's book Byways and Bylines also gave me some ideas for weekend jaunts, which he did for many Torontonians for 49 years.

"Of course I'm prejudiced, having worked and yarned with Harvey since 1958, when I was a kid reporter and he was the Suburban Editor of the Toronto Telegram who didn't think I had done that great a job transcribing a story from one of his staffers."

Currell had a strong connect with Sun readers as he wrote about Ontario's small towns and villages, well off the main highways. You never knew where he would surface.

Fading clippings of Currell's columns can be found on the walls of country bakeries and other businesses he wrote about and proprietors still talk about his visit in great detail.

Downing wrote the liner notes for the back of Currell's new book, repeating what he wrote in 2003, when he and Currell were Toronto Sun "columnist colleagues."

He notes that Currell's first column appeared in the Toronto Telegram in 1958, making his book a journey just over half a century in the making.

The book includes 32 updated travel stories, memories of his army years and other tales from his 87 eventful years.

Downing's blog has much more to say on the book and Currell's newspaper years, from Toronto Star and Telegram delivery boy to veteran columnist/author.

Meanwhile, the $20 book would be the perfect stocking stuffer for armchair travellers.

Downing says you can find the book at The Bookmark, 2964 Bloor St. W. (416-233-2191), or you can phone Harvey at 416-621-2451, if he's not on the road to somewhere.

(Photo courtesy of John Macfie, North Star Publishing, Parry Sound)

Sifton's new job

Beringer Capital has dashed the hopes of Michael Sifton fans that he might return to newspaper management.

The former Osprey Media/Sun Media chief has been hired by Beringer as a managing partner, says Steve Ladurantaye in the Globe and Mail's Streetwise blog.

Beringer Capital plans to “significantly” expand its investment activities in the marketing and media sectors, adding the former CEO of Sun Media as a managing partner, says today's Streetwise posting.

Sifton's new position involves the media, just not in the newsroom arena.

One TSF comment poster said today there are many former Sun Media employees who would gladly work for Sifton and Lou Clancy, outgoing Toronto Sun editor-in-chief.

Sifton, former Osprey chief, was a brief ray of hope when appointed Sun Media chief in 2007. That optimism quickly faded when Sifton quit in 2008 and PKP became Sun Media chief.

More Sun cuts?

With the first anniversary of Black Tuesday approaching, word is there are more jobs cuts in the wind for the Toronto Sun, say TSF tipsters.

One tipster says the voluntary departure of Lou Clancy as editor-in-chief at the end of the month has more to do with another round of pink slips in the works than retirement plans.

"Rumours abound that more cuts are coming after the quarter (read: end of the month) and that Clancy wanted no part of it," says the tipster.

Clancy, a newsman's newsman with decades of newsroom experience at major dailies in Ontario, wept in announcing Black Tuesday's job cuts last December.

The Toronto Sun lost a couple of dozen employees last December, the Sun Media chain lost a total of 600. How many jobs can be squeezed from the ranks by the Grinch this Christmas?

If more Toronto Sun cuts are coming, we fear for the Toronto Sun's newsroom. The fixation on upfront sports this year, especially the pathetic losing Toronto Maple Leafs, tells us news coverage is expendable.

PKP's father wanted to turn the successful Toronto Sun into a sports and entertainment paper in the 1970s during his thankfully unsuccessful bid to buy into the tabloid. Like father, like son, Sun Media newspapers are being encouraged to use upfront news slots for sports.

Stay tuned.

Friday 16 October 2009

Balloon boy

Kudos to the Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg Suns for getting it right today in that heart-stopping story about a wayward UFO balloon and the six-year-old boy thought to be inside.

The three tabloids had front page photos of the helium-filled balloon in flight over Colorado and the boy, with Page 3 stories.

Friday's Toronto Sun?

Another front page photo of the losing Toronto Maple Leafs. Yawn. The widely talked about balloon chase story? Five paragraphs by Thane Burnett on Page 36.

The losing Leafs vs the balloon story? Another example of poor tabloid news judgment at 333.

The heart-stopping story that kept people glued to their television sets, computers and radios was tabloid fare from the start and the story continued to unfold today.

We're certain Thane did the story justice yesterday before his work was chopped and squeezed into a small news hole at 333.

It is the latest of several major tabloid stories lost on the layout editors.

Want to talk "churn?" Start with the loss of editors who once blessed the Toronto Sun newsroom with their front page tabloid layout magic.

Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg left the flagship Sun at the starting gate in recognizing the balloon boy as obvious front page fare. Well done.

Ottawa? A hockey front - but for the Senators, a winning team.

Brant News print

The first print edition of the Brant News was distributed in Brantford yesterday, with readers posting warm reviews online.

Employees of the new and independent weekly include several former Brantford Expositor staffers.

The online Brant News story says the paper's motto is “community first.”

"Brant News’ all-local team of reporters, columnists and photographers invite readers to explore the pages of our informative and colourful new weekly newspaper."

Early comments posted online include:

"Well this should be exciting for Brantford; competition in the print media," said one post. "Even roused the old paper into doing something to compete. Good luck to you Brant News, long may you wave!"

Another reads: "Just saw the first edition. It's a great read and a great look!"

TSF would say the same about the Brant News website. It puts a lot of the cloned Sun Media community newspaper sites to shame.

The launching of several independent print newspapers in Sun Media communities across Canada this year, and the commitment to print by advertisers, employees and readers, is encouraging.

We see it being repeated in 2010.

It is a loud retort to the Quebecor Media nonsense we have witnessed in recent years.

Community print newspapers are not dead, they just need to be liberated from neglectful conglomerates.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Expositor forever

The building housing the 157-year-old Brantford Expositor has been sold, but the days of the daily newspaper are not numbered, publisher Mike Walsh told readers today.

Walsh says "The Expositor building has been sold and we will be relocating to a brand new facility that will better meet the needs of our advertisers, our readers and our staff.

"Unfortunately, at this time, I cannot share further details about our new location as the plans have yet to be finalized. We will be revealing the plans soon," he says in his "setting the record straight" comments to readers.

TSF tipsters who have been posting comments about the pending sale of the building and staff cutbacks, have wondered about the future of the Sun Media daily.

Walsh says while the building has been sold and "we have had to say goodbye to tremendous employees who have enriched The Expositor for a number of years," the paper has a future.

"No, your Expositor is not closing. Your Expositor is alive and well, and we look forward to continuing to serve the needs of our community like only we can, like only we have, for another 157 years."

Write on, Mike.

Sun & seniors

There are no demographics when it comes to Toronto Sun news, as the tabloid showed with style these past few days.

As Bill Sandford, former award-winning Sun photographer puts it:

"The weekend Sun story on the seniors being harassed by the City of Toronto bylaw officer is a classic rant from the days when it was a great newspaper.

"It takes the old slogan of newspapers, the Star specifically, 'comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable' to a new level.

"It’s great to see Sue-Ann Levy pick up where she left off.

"If these are tax-paying citizens of the city, then their tab has already been paid, several times over.

"I’m glad to see in today’s edition, that the city Nazis have backed down. Councilors Doug Holyday and Rob Ford also deserve some credit for coming to the defense of the seniors.

"It’s also nice to see the other papers chasing after the issue two days later."

Thanks for your e-mail, Bill, and we second that emotion.

The initial story did sound like a belated April Fool's hoax. First they fill Toronto's prized, green parks with garbage, then they want to charge seniors for walking in them.

Definitely one for the 2009 wacky news roundup.

Lou Clancy out?

Lou Clancy, a die-hard newsman and editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun since October 2007, is apparently close to retiring, says a TSF tipster.

If accurate, Lou would be the second high profile management team member to make his exit from 333 this year. Mike Burke-Gaffney, a 29-year Sun vet, retired as managing editor in March at age 59. His key position hasn't been filled.

As big city daily newsmen go, Lou has been a gem, at the Sun on and off a couple of times, and at the Toronto Star, where he began his journalistic journey as a copy boy more than 30 years ago.

Lou, always the first to praise Sun vets as they prepared to exit, is the kind of newsman you expect to find in a big city daily. Friendly, but focused. Professional and proud of the product.

He would be missed.

When Lou returned to the Sun in 2007, outgoing EIC Glenn Garnett said: "I cannot think of a journalist more qualified for the role of Toronto Sun EIC than Lou Clancy, who took the reins today.

"The former Toronto Star ME, KW Record EIC and VP of Editorial for both Sun Media and Osprey is the perfect guy to take the paper where it needs to go. I'm looking forward to working with him again."

Where it "needs" to go is not where it went, although it looked promising for a while.

Michael Sifton, former Osprey Media boss, was Sun Media chief when Lou returned in 2007 and newsroom morale improved considerably in the following months.

But Michael's departure in 2008 - with PKP taking over as Sun Media chief - and the continuing carnage at 333 must have been a heavy burden for a pro like Lou.

It was Lou who wept during interviews on Black Tuesday last December when asked about the latest round of major layoffs at the tabloid. That is a newsman who cares about people.

Lou has been out of the spotlight in recent months and if word of his retirement later this month is accurate, few media watchdogs will begrudge him early retirement.

We have a feeling if he goes, he will not be out of print media for long. Back to the Star, perhaps? It has been cherry picking top Sun talent for years.

The ever-shrinking Toronto Sun newsroom has been without a managing editor since March. Could it function without an editor-in-chief? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, TSF needs a head and shoulder shot of a smiling Lou Clancy, should he soon make it official.

Leafs laughs

Same old, same old for Toronto Maple Leafs jokes, but we can't resist as another NHL hockey season begins with a gasp and not a cheer.

Can we say "next year" yet? Can we ask the Sun not to waste front page space on the Leafs until they win a game?

But, on the positive side, the losing Leafs have provided fodder for comics. To add your Leafs' one-liners, e-mail TSF.

What do the Leafs and the Titanic have in common?
A: They both look good until they hit the ice.

What's the difference between the Leafs and a cigarette vending machine?
A: The vending machine has Players!

What do the Leafs and whales have in common?
A: They both get totally confused when surrounded by ice.

Why are the Leafs like Canada Post?
A: They both wear uniforms and don't deliver.

Why doesn't Hamilton have an NHL team?
A: Because then Toronto would want one.

What do the Leafs, Argonauts and the Blue Jays all have in common besides being based in Toronto?
A. None of them can play hockey.

What do you call 30 millionaires around a TV watching the Stanley Cup playoffs?
A. The Toronto Maple Leafs.

What do the Leafs and Billy Graham have in common?
A. They both can make 20,000 people stand up and yell 'Jesus Christ!"

How do you keep the Leafs out of your yard?
A. Put up a goal net.

What do you call a Leaf player with a Stanley Cup ring?
A. A thief.

What do the Leafs and possums have in common?
A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road.

How many Leafs does it take to win a Stanley Cup?
A. Nobody knows . . . and we may never find out.

What do the Montreal Canadians have that the Leafs don't?
A. Colour pictures of a Stanley Cup win.

This guy says to the bartender, "Can my dog and I watch the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game here? My cable is out, and my dog and I always watch the game together."

The bartender agrees, and the guy and his dog start watching the game. Pretty soon, the Leafs manage to score a goal and the excited dog jumps up on the bar, barks loudly, does a back flip and runs over to the bartender and gives him a high-five.

The bartender says, "Wow, that's pretty cool! What does he do when they win a game ?"

The guys answers, "No Idea, I've only had him for 10 years."

And . . .

The last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup most of their fans were in diapers.

Coincidentally, the next time they win it . . . those fans will be back in diapers.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Short shorts

Gas Watch: Regular gas at the Ultramar station in Cobourg tonight - 77.5. GTA - 90-plus. Where's Linda Leatherdale to protest gas gouging? Or are GTA motorists content to pay whatever as long as it is under $1?

Martha Perkins has been the award winning editor of the Haliburton County Echo for 20 of her 25 years at the paper, now owned by Sun Media. But she's moving on to B.C., with her husband. She has been hired as editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent, north of Vancouver.

Joan Sutton Straus, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former Lifestyle editor, says from New York: "Houston snobbery wasn't always so. When I went to a party in Houston and met the then-mayor, he was very happy that the Sun had bought the paper. When I expressed surprise that he was so pleased about a foreign owner, he said, 'Better you than one of those Easterners.'"

Drove by 333 the other night and noticed the former main floor smoking room, visible from the street, is now a conference room filled with chairs. Now that is progress. To the left during the drive-by, Betty's, the Sun's unofficial press club where many a farewell toast has been raised.

Just like old times: The Saturday Sun, with Joe Warmington's Scrawler column on Page 6 commenting on T.O. radio popularity positioning, just like Page 6 vet Gary Dunford would do occasionally. And yes, CFRB has paid the price for its snooze-inducing gabfest format.

Not that the editors would listen, but Sun readers should petition for the return of a daily Page 6er. Warmington would fit the bill, with his multi-item Scrawler style. Bumping Dunford off Page 6 a couple of decades ago was a huge mistake, as was sending the SUNshine Girl to the rafters. Sun Media execs concerned about the "churn" should focus on tabloid faves.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Vintage clips

The Internet Archive website has a couple of vintage gems for advocates of print media and journalism.

Seventeen Days: The Story of Newspaper History in the Making is a 20-minute replay of the June 30, 1945, strike by 1,700 New York newspaper delivery workers that halted delivery of eight daily newspapers to 14,000 newsstands.

On day one of the 17-day strike, circulation plummeted. But when readers learned their favourite morning and evening newspapers were still being published, they came by foot, car, cab, subway and bus to purchase papers daily at the newspaper plants.

Tens of thousands of readers in long lineups braved threats by strikers, the heat of the sun and occasional downpours to buy papers at the plants. A remarkable 10,628,000 papers were sold over the counter during the strike.

As the narrator says, the New York Times, the News, Sun, Post, Journal-American, Herald Tribune, Mirror, World Telegram learned that "if the newspapers could not go to the public, the public would come to the papers."

What loyalty.

For another 1945 flashback, you can watch Journalism here.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Survey memo

A memo sent to TSF explains the current survey requests popping up on Sun Media's daily and weekly community newspaper websites.

Read closely, take notes. Some people have not been reading employee and reader feedback on TSF. They are puzzled by "heightened customer churn and circulation erosion."

As for design options in the survey:

"Identify the optimal content organization to adopt – currently community dailies all have a varied approach to paper layout."

"OBJECTIVE: Determine the optimal design to adopt for all English Community Weekly products."

It is called cloning, AKA cookie cutter journalism.

Content? Two complaints we hear most often - reduced local content and content in the tabloids being repeated in community papers.

The memo:


Local publishers have experienced heightened customer churn and circulation erosion in recent months. Sun Media needs to determine the cause of this loss to determine its root cause and whether it is due to internal or external variables

Determine current satisfaction and value for the money perception among readers of local community newspapers. Investigate drivers of poor satisfaction – lack of local content, inclusion of Sun Media content, timeliness of delivery, redesign elements, etc.

Determine content elements that connect with readers – content importance, satisfaction with content, etc.

Identify the optimal content organization to adopt – currently community dailies all have a varied approach to paper layout.

Determine improvement opportunities to increase reader satisfaction

1M impressions secured through all Sun Media English Community Dailies websites

Combination of 200K voken ads and 800K banner impressions

Online visitors who click on these ads are redirected into the Your News Views panel where they can participate in a 15 minute survey

Sept 30th to Oct 14th
Can be extended if required completions are not achieved


Community weeklies currently have varied product designs that need to become aligned through a common design (similar to Hebdos initiative in the Quebec market)

Competing designs will be shown to readers and they will be asked to rate the design elements that are appealing

Determine the optimal design to adopt for all English Community Weekly products

Investigate content elements – importance, satisfaction, product organization, etc. – to ensure our weeklies are appealing to the communities they serve

1M impressions secured through all Sun Media English Community Dailies websites

Combination of 200K voken ads and 800K banner impressions

Online visitors who click on these ads are redirected into the Your News Views panel where they can participate in a 15 minute survey

Oct 2nd to Oct 16th
Can be extended if required completions are not achieved

Friday 9 October 2009

PMO photo credit

One of our observant TSF tipsters in Welland did a double take while reading a story about a ground breaking at Niagara College with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on site.

The assigned story Friday was written by Trib staffer Wayne Campbell.

The photo credit reads "Prime Minister's Office photo."

The tipster says there are no full-time photographers at the Trib these days, where once it had two, plus two freelancers.

Who needs paid photographers when you have citizen photogs who work for free and you can lean on government agencies for free photos.

"What next, the story will be written by the government?" says the tipster.

As the song goes, and cheap is how we feel . . .

Early phone listings

This is a Where Are They Now? posting.

Found a couple of pages from a late 1970s or early 1980s Toronto Sun telephone booklet while sorting a box of clippings recently.

The pages are for Sports, Sunday Sun, Circulation, Real Estate, Travel, Lifestyle, Entertainment, Photo, Colour Department and Darkroom.

Few of the employees listed remain on the job at 333, so let's try a Where Are They Now? appeal for the departments, beginning with 30 names listed for Circulation.

If you are listed, let us know if you are still on the job or provide brief details of your post-Sun years in an e-mail to TSF.

Carl O'Byrne, director

Barbara Owen, secretary to director

Joe King, assistant director

Vena Banks, secretary to H.D. manager

John Bass, single copy supervisor

Randy Billinghurst, promotion clerk

Harry Brohm, assistant to single copy sales manager

Russ Burnham, circulation marketing manager

Sue Carrington, secretary to S.C. sales manager

Toni Cosentino, computer clerk

Desiree D'Ornellas, cashier

Peter Fournier, assistant home delivery manager

Jim Gibbison, single copy supervisor

Lloyd Gloster, single copy supervisor

Graham Henrickson, single copy sales manager

Paul Jensen, training and devekopment supervisor

Marj Kinsella, switchboard operator

Noreen Kitchen, customer service rep

Don Law, promotions manager

Angela Lloyd, single copy supervisor

Jennifer Marks, mail subscriptions/advance pay

Frank Marostega, home delivery manager

Brian Martel, telephone sales

Betty Nohay, senior clerk

Doug Pell, senior single copy supervisor

Laila Rintamaki, accountant

Paul Tugwell, traffic supervisor


Margaret Bethune, customer service

Lucy Gomes, mail subscriptions/advance pay

Trudy Stanford, customer service

The list reflects a time when readers were on a pedestal and adequate manpower was provided to keep them satisfied.

Down the road - the impressive Sports Department lineup.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Tab-less Sun

The Toronto Sun's news pages are as far from "tabloid" as they have ever been, with frequent multiple pages devoted to single topics.

Eight pages for Dave Miller's recent decision not to seek re-election as mayor of Toronto.

And eight pages today for the eHealth Ontario scandal.

Plus other news stories spread over two or three pages.

Are these decisions being made locally, or is PKP directly responsible for abandoning the successful "tight and bright" tabloid style in favour of "loose as a goose" to fill space?

Eight pages for one topic is broadsheet journalism, not the successful "tight and bright" tabloid formula that Sun readers favoured for several decades.

No news story was continued on another page and rarely did a major news event devour more than a page or two, let alone seven or eight, elections being an exception.

But with a bare bones newsroom at 333, the line of least resistance seems to have called for an end to "tight and bright" and have remaining bodies write until the cows come home.

Whatever, the Sun's tight tabloid style, which filled a niche envied by major dailies across North America, is being ignored.

Its sports and entertainment sections are, as always, top notch. They are consistently meaty in content, with numerous stories catering to readers with varied interests.

It is the news pages that have lost their tabloid appeal.

Audits showing a steady decline in readership should be signalling management that the news direction is not what readers want in their daily tabloid.

The Internet has an abundance of free broadsheet journalism. Why would tabloid readers want to pay for more of the same?

A return to tighter tabloid news fare might renew the interest of former Sun readers. Give them their quick read back and leave lengthy news analysis to the Star and Globe.

One problem at the Sun is just about every editor who had true tabloid front page and layout skills has left the building, including those in the 1970s and 1980s British invasion.

Niagara -1

The sports editor at the Niagara Falls review is leaving the paper, says a TSF tipster.

"He not only writes, but takes a lot of photos used by the Sun Media dailies in Niagara," says the tipster.

"This is a sign of employees leaving before they lose their jobs in cuts. This will leave a big gap in sports coverage in Niagara."

Moore & papers

Catching up: Michael Moore talks about the downturn of American newspapers during the Toronto film fest, but some comments mirror Canada's conglomerate media mess.

Readers come first, advertisers second, in some countries? Fancy that.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

New Iaboni book

Prolific former Toronto Sun sports write John Iaboni's latest book is a co-authored effort called Football Now! Second Edition.

Published by Firefly Books, the 176-page book by Iaboni and Mike Leonetti is an update of their popular 2006 Football Now! book.

The Firefly website has more details. At $24.95, the perfect stocking stuffer for NFL football fans.

Most books written by Toronto Sun Family members can be found here.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

New print paper

The print edition of Brantford's new and independent Brant News will hit the streets Oct. 15, says a TSF tipster.

And Sun Media's Brantford Expositor is about to launch a new weekly newspaper.

There's nothing like a little competition to get the creative juices flowing again.

"We're canning our old Weekender, which was filled with recycled news, and doing something the same but better," says the tipster.

The tipster also comments on the sale of Sun Media buildings.

"I notice a lot of people on your site are wondering why the Sun is selling off properties. I've been told the new mentality is that they don't want to be property owners.

"In the case of The Expositor, owning the property meant we ended up with a building far too big for us and way too expensive for us.

"They only want to be tenants from now on. Our building's been sold. We're moving to the north end with all the elitists."

Thank you for the updates.

Law Times opening

Law Times, no stranger to former Toronto Sun staffers, has an opening for an associate editor/reporter.

"We are looking for an associate editor/reporter with 1-2 years reporting experience to work at Law Times, the newspaper for Ontario's legal profession," says Gail Cohen.

"The job includes writing for 40K year print publication, plus weekly online. including video and photography."

Deadline for applications is Oct. 19.

More details can be found here.

Monday 5 October 2009

Houston snobs

An American blogger notes a Houston TV station's recent replay of the Houston Post's history fails to mention it was once owned by the Toronto Sun Publishing Corp.

Says The Brazasport News:

"Channel 55 in Houston aired a story about The Houston Post on Sept. 27 during its Sunday program called Postcards From Texas, which apparently is attempting to reprise the old, long-running KPRC-TV show that was called The Eyes of Texas.

"Each of the two embedded videos posted below run around 5 minutes, but if you don't want to invest 10 minutes of your time watching them, here's some of the things that caught my eye:"

Included in the observations:

"The Hobbys sold the newspaper in 1983, but for some screwball reason Postcards didn't mention that it was first sold to The Toronto Sun (that's in Canada) before William Dean Singleton and his MediaNews outfit took the reins to ride the old girl to the glue factory (officially termed an "asset sale" to the Houston Chronicle in the Postcards script.)

"EDITORIAL ASIDE: This de-Canadization of Post history is duplicated on Bill Hobby's Wikipedia page. Yes, I suspect skulduggery on the part of some wily public relations genius. But why? Because it looks bad that the Hobbys sold out to a Canadian company that published tabloid papers that include photos of scantily clad Sunshine Girls? What the . . . nevermind."

Even the text of the Postcards online replay avoids mention of the Sun purchase.

"The Hobbys sold the Post in 1983. Eventually, William Dean Singleton of the Media News group bought the paper and closed it down, selling assets to the Chronicle. The newspaper that had had Walter Cronkite as a college correspondent and Nolan Ryan as a strong armed paper boy ceased to exist in April 1995. Former employees, known to each other as the Post Toasties, were heartbroken."

We heard some folks in Houston had a problem with the Sun takeover, but 26 years later?

The anti-tabloid snobbery in Houston was apparently repeated in London, Ontario, when the Sun landed the London Free Press. The locals in Houston and London feared tabloidization of their longtime broadsheets.

Today, the Post is defunct and the Free Press is a shell of what it used to be.

Sunday 4 October 2009

OT: PM & Beatles

Updated re Richard Nixon, Carla Bruni

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
at the keyboards Oct. 3, 2009

Will it make the charts?

Shades of former U.S. Prez Bill Clinton circa 1994

And the late Richard Nixon on piano circa 1963

Plus Carla Bruni, the first lady of France

How about a World Leaders (and their mates) Idol?

Our motto: Make music, not mayhem.

Friday 2 October 2009

Office hours 2

Updated 05/10/09 re Sault Ste. Marie

TSF tipsters in North Bay (Nugget), Brantford (Expositor) and Sault Ste. Marie (Star) say their office hours have also been cut back.

Are earlier office closures alienating subscribers and advertisers? The Brantford tipster says you betcha.

The tipster writes:

"Same in Brantford. You should see how many people stand yanking at the door, while we all look on and shrug.

"It's truly awful. Even worse, when you leave to grab a coffee, then have to use your key to get in and quickly shut the door before a customer can scuttle by you.

"I've been ranted at countless times by some aged member of the general public who managed to get a friend or family member to drive them down to the office to pay their subscription, only to find us closed.

"It usually starts with 'The Expositor hasn't been closed on Mondays in. . . .' and ends with ' . . . what is this newspaper coming to? Why am I still a subscriber? I can't even pay my damn subscription!'

"We just nod and take the abuse now. How can we defend ourselves? They're absolutely right."

The Soo tipster says:

"Sault Ste Marie Star cut their hours in March. It's horrible and hard to justify you're a business in the community that doesn't keep business hours."

Thank you for your comments.

Now if a Quebecor exec could explain the logic of earlier office hours, locking front doors while employees are inside looking out at frustrated subscribers and potential advertisers who want to add funds to Sun Media's coffers . . .

From "Anonymous"

An anonymous TSF reader explains why his/her comments are anonymous:

"If there were other jobs out there - in any field - I'd be happy to put my name here. Since jobs are few and far between and I like to pay rent, put gas in my car and have some food every now then, I'll keep my name out and keep my pay cheque.

"I am sure you'll find most people that post anonymously are in the same boat.

"Try and tell a manager, publisher or anyone else high up in the chain that closing offices, cutting back hours, cutting staff, etc. is hurting the paper and you'll get blank stares, outright hostility, or someone who sticks to the company mantra that 'it's happening everywhere and we have to live it.'

"You're right, we shouldn't be fearful, but we are. I'm vocal as hell and I count myself lucky that they have not targeted me as yet. I'd love to work for a company that understood newspapers, but I'm stuck at one that doesn't.

"Clearly this company doesn't get the fact that the changes it is making are hurting the papers. When circulation numbers start to drop, they'll lay off more people and the paper will hurt more. And numbers will drop more and they'll lay off more.

"Quebecor doesn't think there is a correlation between less staff, dumb office hours, piss-poor customer service and declining circulation.

"PKP is killing papers because he can, because he is a dictator, because he listens to the ass kissers that surround him and to the voices in his head that tell him he's on the right track.

"Someone in the past at a paper somewhere must have really pissed him off. Or he just wants to drain what money he can for a future failed attempt at a hockey team, or for his future failed cellphone network in one province."

Thank you for your comments, Anonymous.

You Said It 4

Wayne Janes, a Toronto Sun vet, comments on John Downing's views on the early days of the tabloid:

"I agree with John Downing, on a number of points.

"It can get pretty boring and annoying for those of us (Old Sun and New) still putting out a paper every day to hear about 'the good old days' and about how great the paper used to be. That was then, this is now. Things change. How long can you bemoan changes before you move on?

"Downing is right, it was faces that made the Sun great, faces with opinions, with attitude, faces in News, Sports, Entertainment, Money. Some of those faces are gone, some are still there, and some are new, but they all still have opinions and attitude.

"And given the bodies available, it still kicks the crap out of some of the bigger, lumbering behemoths.

"Another way to look at it is we ARE back in the ’70s, in the sense that we're a little paper again, staff-wise, battling the big guys and holding our own with no where to go but up.

"Maybe that's whistling in the graveyard, maybe not, but it sure beats the 'in the good old days' stuff I read a lot of here."

Thank you for your comments, Wayne.

New QMI boss

Quebecor Media today announced the appointment of two business-oriented types to key positions, including Hugues Simard as head of the QMI Agency.

QMI is PKP's dream national news agency that will be operating sans the Canadian Press next June if all goes well in the transition.

Quebecor Media's press release says:

"No stranger to strategic challenges, Hugues Simard has often been called upon to lead major corporate projects at Quebecor. He will now oversee the next stages in the development of the QMI Agency, a vitally important initiative for Quebecor Media designed to exploit the distinctive content produced by the Company's media properties across different media platforms."

His resume does not include newsroom experience, which might have been an asset as chief of a national news service.

Philippe Guay has been elevated to Quebecor Media's vice president,, national sales Toronto.

Perhaps something is lost in translation, but PKP's following comments leave us wanting to speed dial the rewrite desk:

"The responsibilities entrusted to Messrs. Guay and Simard confirm Quebecor Media's determination to continue consolidating its operations and resources to meet its customers' new expectations by capitalizing on its teams' complementary areas of expertise and combining their strengths," said Pierre Karl Peladeau.

"Changing consumer habits and new marketing approaches call for the development of novel business models that can more effectively address our customers' needs. With a solid and agile management team, we will continue building our position as a fully integrated multimedia, multiplatform company in order to offer consumers and advertisers superior value by providing comprehensive solutions."

Say what?

New office hrs

The separation of Sun Media newspapers and its readers continues, this time with new office hours advising Welland Tribune customers they will have to get there by 1 p.m. to do business.

A TSF tipster provided a photo of a sign outlining the new hours for the Welland Tribune, effective Monday. Is it just Welland, or are hours at other Sun Media newspapers being cut?

The tipster writes:

"The following news item was posted on the Welland Tribune web site on October 2. A sign on the front door went up recently to let customers know of the changes.

"I snapped this picture on my cell phone yesterday.

"Are office hours being cut at all Sun Media locations? The only phone number on the sign is for the classifieds call centre.

"It seems they are trying to limit personal contact with their customers."

Another tipster says "they don''t want to meet the public anymore."

The news story reads:

New office hours for Tribune

WELLAND — Office hours at The Tribune are changing next week.

As of Monday, Oct. 5, The Tribune office at 228 East Main St. will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. These hours will apply each weekday, Monday to Friday.

Reporters and advertising representatives will continue to be available to customers throughout the day, but those readers wishing to deal with circulation issues should call 1-866-318-5062 while classified inquiries should be made to 1-866-541-6757.

The newsroom can be reached at any time during the day by dialing 905-732-2414 ext 2.

Are the hours at other Sun Media newspaper offices being cut? Send us an e-mail.

Good names day

Yesterday was what you would call a good day for TSF blogging, with six - count 'em - six readers providing names to go with their comments.

John Downing, Jim Slotek, Ian Harvey, Rob Lamberti, Bill Sandford and Butch McLarty all included their names in contrast to the usual sea of "anonymous" comments.

Slotek and Lamberti are still on the job; Downing, Harvey and Sandford are former Toronto Sun staffers and McLarty is a vocal non-Sun Media blogger in London.

As we've said before, there are no doubt legitimate reasons for some TSF readers still on the job to withhold their names, but not all staffers.

And why former Sun Media employees and people who have never worked for Sun Media?

Slotek, a veteran Toronto Sun entertainment writer, is equally perturbed by the abundance of anonymous comments.

His latest reaction to an anonymous comment yesterday reads:

"If the post is anonymous, how can it be 'for the record?'

"For cryin' out loud, what is in that post that compels the poster to enter the Witness Protection Program?

"Can't anybody post under their own name? Try it. It feels gooood."

We second that emotion.

Journalists should not be fearful of losing their jobs for speaking their mind about legitimate workplace issues.

And if you are targeted and lose your job for being vocal, is that an employer you want to work for in the first place?

Life is too short to be a neutered pawn in the workplace.

Take a stand, speak your mind, toss shoes, whatever. You are not living and working in a third world dictatorship, even though Quebecor's work environment might mirror the experience.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Blog use fees?

Butch McLarty over at London's has a thing or to to say about the Best of the Blogs roundup mentioned in our Dan Brown newspaper clipping posting:

He writes:

"Speaking of Dan Brown's method of finding the 'Best of the Blogs' in Saturday's LFP (London Free Press). Local bloggers need to tell the LFP sweat shop to either pay up or go pound salt.

Every Saturday, the el cheapo Freep runs a cheesy little feature called the Best of the Blogs in its rinky-dink Comment section.

Not only do they not pay the respective writers for using their copyrighted material, they don't even ask the author if they can use it. Outrageous!

By filling up the paper with as much free editorial content as humanly possible, they generate more black ink for newspaper butcher Quebecor's bottom line.

The sad part of it is that most local bloggers being used/exploited by the LFP appear to like it for the so-called free exposure. Pitiful!

Show some jam-tart folks and tell the LFP sweat shop to either pay up or go pound salt."

Thank you for your comments, Butch.

Online clipping?

Dan Brown, senior online editor at the London Free Press, has a touch of irony in his latest posting - he has been an avid print newspaper clipper for 25 years.

"I’ve cut out pieces from the Toronto Star and GQ and the Detroit Free Press and countless other publications," Brown writes.

If, as some pundits predict, print media will be no more down the road, will computer printouts be all that is found in future scrapbooks, between the pages of books and in boxes in the attic?

Brown says he is adapting.

"When the Internet took over, I kept up the habit, only now I have to take the extra step of printing off a hard copy before squirreling the story away in a shoebox (the antiquated filing system has remained the same). It’s my own personal way of finding the best of the blogs."

Somehow, aging computer printouts pale when compared to the intrigue of finding faded old newspapers and newspaper clippings in stored boxes or at flea markets and estate sales

There are print newspapers in museums that are more than 200 years old. They tell the story of change in newspaper publishing, lifestyles and local history.

Finding complete copies of the Star or Telegram from the 1940s, '50s and '60s is, for baby boomers, a nostalgic delight. Most have two pages of illustrated movie theatre ads. Plus the news, entertainment and sports stories of the day, car ads, comics etc.

Call us nostalgic old farts, but life without print media would be too sterile on several fronts.

So Dan Brown can keep his bland computer printouts.

We'll keep on collecting vintage newspapers and clipping favourite Donato cartoons, memorable columns and other assorted published works until print media's big "30" arrives many moons from now.

You Said It 3

John Downing, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former editor, responds to Ian Harvey's comments about the Sun:

"My old friend Ian Harvey has mixed BS in with his observations of the old Toronto Sun. I do recall seeing him around the newsroom, but he obviously wasn't paying attention.

Now that I have your attention, in the old Sun way, let me climb down from my hyperbole and explain. Ian, bless 'em, was a wacky passionate warrior in the daily newspaper wars.

I was, and am, a supporter, and recall running pieces that Ian couldn't sell to other fiefs. And I appreciate and support the basis for his rant. There is no doubt that the new Sun is eclipsed both by the memories and circulation of the old Sun.

But . . .

I suspect the new staff is bored and annoyed by the constant dwelling on the old Sun and the Day Oners. But it would do them and the bosses and the editors some valuable insights into the Toronto newspaper business if they did an analysis of what exactly was in the Sun when it sold around 300,000 weekdays and around 500,000 on Sundays, and was without dispute, the second largest newspaper in Canada.

Many were fooled by the racy and fun front page and the unabashed sexy SunShine girl on Page 3. Rather tame when you consider what is published and telecast today. No need to hide her. She not only became our symbol for the tabloid approach, but was also our Trojan horse.

It (the Page 3 SunShine Girl) attracted the readers inside. And inside were more political columnists than in either the Globe or Star. Inside were more general columnists than in either the Globe or Star. Inside were more sports and entertainment coverage than in the opposition.

And radio and TV paid attention to more than just the latest Sun prank.

The Sun was quoted often, even though it wasn't fashionable to read the paper. I remember a fighting front page in the Spanish fish wars (by Les Pyette) that made the news across the country and the Sun's tough stance and our editorial (by me) was quoted in the House of Lords as Britain was urged to help Canada's fishermen.

(Fisherpersons, or fisherfolk, or whatever the latest abomination never would appear in the old Sun, which didn't believe in being politically correct and sold tens of thousands of papers because of it.)

So many CEOs and assorted bosses "borrowed" their staff's Suns each morning that I tried to get Creighton to run a "turn in your boss" ad campaign where secretaries would get some Sun items if they squealed on their bosses for reading a tabloid.

The Toronto Sun was one of the pioneers in running many columns, not just one in news, one in politics, one or two in sports and one in Entertainment, the way the Globe and Star did. We copied the old Tely and expanded, and that was the reason for the early success.

Of course it helped that we were also rowdy and weird and sexy, as Ian says, but that's only half the reason."

Thank you for your comments, John.

You Said It 2

Ian Harvey, a former Toronto Sun newsroom vet, speaks his mind about the direction of the once unpredictable tabloid:

"The Sun was always and will always be a tits and ass, sports and celebrity tabloid.


It's the one thing that competitively differentiates it from the broadsheets, especially the Star.

These days, there's little to choose from between Metro, 24 and the Sun. In a crowded market, you have to stand out. Everyone knows - or used to know as the poster points out - that the front page is the single biggest sales trigger.

Back in the day, wholesalers would bump or drop their buy at the dock based on the front page. While weather, TTC strikes and the like all had an effect on sales, the biggest pull was always shock value.

Love it or hate it, you picked it up because you never knew what you were going to see or read when you turned the page.

The Sun broke stories, it pumped stories into issues which others ignored. And then, it started to become the little broadsheet that couldn't. Not because of the staff, but because of dumb executives who saw numbers and wanted a larger market share.

The Sun cannot, will not and will never draw from the larger pool. It has a core base of appeal and it's very hard as we've seen to grow it past that.

Trying to appeal to more women, trying to cut into other demographics, just hasn't worked and along the way they've pissed off the core by cutting the (upfront) SSG, scaling back the sex ads, toning down the sensationalism, making it more bland, more corporate and McPapering the damn thing.

Take a page from the Red Tops PKP, let the paper be what it has always been - an in your face, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead kick ass tab.

Say the unsayable, think the unthinkable, do the outrageous. Have fun and tilt at those windmills.

Leave blandville to the Star, Post and Globe.

But noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. You won't, will you PKP, because you want that sameness even as the ship sinks around your feet.

A fully saturated segment is worth more than a slice of a multifaceted segment. You still make money and you can do it with fewer resources, though not as few as you've left in place at 333 King East.

Ahh well. Tried."

Thank you for your comments, Ian.