Friday 28 May 2010


What part of World Wide Web doesn't register with some governments, sports organizations, entertainment sites and news outlets?

The joy of the Internet when it crept slowly onto the global landscape in the 1990s was the anticipation of watching and listening to foreign content without limitations and barriers.

But those freedoms are fading with roadblocks.

Headphones on, we were able to do our work while listening to Blue Jays baseball loud and clear instead of the radio. MLB has deep-sixed that convenient experience.

This season, we found a Halifax station online that was streaming Jays games but not recently, so MBL probably ejected them from the game.

CBS Radio recently axed availability of all of its online content beyond U.S. borders, depriving late-nighters around the world access to the popular Boston talk show host Steve Leveille.

Canadians can't access Hula for its impressive television and movie content.

Governments are dabbling in geo-blocking, limiting access to external influences.

In October 2006, George W. approved a bill outlawing the use of banking services by millions of online poker players in the United States. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 bars online gambling businesses from accepting credit cards and electronic transfers.

The Act does not apply to state lotteries, horse racing or fantasy sports. Go figure.

Governments and big business being what they are, it was inevitable that the Internet was destined to become too commercial and controlled for self-interests.

It is becoming the not so World Wide Web - for a price and if you have the right citizenship papers.

Thursday 27 May 2010

PBS oil link

PBS is getting the job done when it comes to showing the world how much oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, if not the reluctant BP chiefs who cut the feed yesterday.

You can only weep for our friends in the Deep South. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and now this environmental catastrophe.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Odds & ends

A former Edmonton Sun political columnist is suing the Sun Media tabloid for $2.28 million, says the Edmonton Journal. The paper says Kerry Diotte claims he was demoted from his Alberta legislature reporting job following an argument with the paper's editor over coverage.

The Ottawa Sun has hired Tony Spears, a first-year intern at the Ottawa Citizen, to fill one of the newsroom vacancies. A TSF tipster says Spears, a McGill grad who has been at the Citizen for about eight months, becomes a general assignment reporter next Monday.

Sun Media has apparently created a new job requirement for GA reporters. In addition to their regular beats, they are assigned a "shadow beat." A tipster says when a reporter is on vacation or sick, the GA with the shadow beat covers for the reporter.

The Toronto Sun had another annoying false front the other day for a car ad, but this time you could remove it and toss it aside and not miss anything of editorial value front or back.

Monday 24 May 2010

Peter W's op

Toronto Sun readers who have read Peter Worthington's columns since Day 1 in 1971 should thank Toronto General Hospital for helping to keep his words in print.

As the tabloid's co-founder told readers yesterday following a recent four-hour heart implant operation, he has had two operations and 11 bypasses over 32 years.

The latest operation quickly cleared up his shortness of breath and he was soon back at the keyboards.

One comforting quote in his Sunday Sun story came from Dr. Heather Ross, a TGH cardiologist who told the veteran newsman: "You’ve got a lot of mileage left.”

You said it, Heather.

Poker vet Doyle Brunson, 76, sums it up for poker players - and journalists - when he says "You don't stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing."

Lefties probably would have preferred to see Peter retire at 65, but that would have short-changed readers who appreciate depth of experience in their newspaper columnists.

Peter, in his 80s, is far from being the oldest columnist in Canada.

Edgar Dunning, another former boss of this blogster, is still on the job at 100, writing columns for the Ladner Optimist in B.C.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Pbull petition

Critics around the world are signing a petition over Andy Donato's recent pit bull cartoon.

Donato probably hasn't received this much global exposure since he stuck a flag up an Iranian dictator's ass.

The joy of the Toronto Sun advertising boycott petition site is it includes a link to Andy's cartoon, providing Andy with wider global exposure.

Folks in France, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Israel, Belgium, the U.S. and Canada have signed the online petition.

It begins:

"We, the undersigned, will boycott the companies and businesses who advertise in the Toronto Sun until they demand fair and unbiased reporting in regards to Pit Bulls and their owners."

The target is 1,000 names. Early today, there were 206.

How many are in a position to actually boycott Sun advertisers is another story.

OttSun job

The Ottawa Sun is on the hunt for a "deputy city editor."

With at least three years newspaper experience - and a reliable car.

The job posting, brought to our attention by a TSF reader, is puzzling on a few fronts.

We've never heard of a "deputy" city editor before today. Deputy editors, perhaps, but assistant city editor has been the norm.

As the TSF tipster notes, three years newspaper experience for the city desk? So much for having the depth to mentor reporters.

Last, but not least, why does an ACE need a "reliable" car? Will he or she be expected to fill in as a reporter/photographer/videographer? Deliver papers?

Go-fer comes to mind.

The posting notes that the job is a "management" position, which today means non-union and if you don't work your butt off for the betterment of the corporate bottom line you're fired.

Sun Media job postings always appear positive, but reading between the lines should tell interested parties this job, at whatever pay, will not feel like management.

When we think management, we picture newsroom giants with resumes, mentoring skills and depth of character to die for, not relative novices with reliable cars.

Monday 17 May 2010

Odds & ends

Whatever the motive, the car bomb threat outside the Journal de Montreal on Monday highlights the personal, disruptive nature of layoffs and the prolonged 16-month lockout of 250 employees at the Quebecor paper. It's time to end the lockout, folks.

That was an entertaining
old one-two Sunday with Andy Donato critics and Mike Strobel's column reacting to Donato's pit bull cartoon. Donato has barely unpacked from his extended winter vacation and he is back in the doghouse. Excellent.

Rita DeMontis should get out of the kitchen section more often. Her front page story Sunday about Allison Dubois' link to the Tori Stafford abduction and murder in Woodstock last year was top-notch tabloid fare. That be Allison the true life Medium psychic.

The "Ns" have returned to the daily Toronto Sun television grids, but the new packagers don't quite have the drift. N stands for "new" and Seinfeld, for one, hasn't had a new episode since 1998. Also, N in bold after the program works better for readers.

Phil McLeod, who got out of the London Free Press before Quebecor got in, is running for a council seat in London's Ward 7. McLeod, 67, was editor in chief from 1987 to 1998. He later founded the weekly Londoner and hosted a talk show on Rogers.

Sunday 16 May 2010

CAJ noms

The Toronto Sun has a story about Elizabeth Thompson in Ottawa being nominated for a Canadian Association of Journalists award, but fails to mention two nominations for a Woodstock Sentinel-Review staffer.

Thompson, a Parliamentary Bureau reporter, is nominated in the "scoop" category for her stories about the feds accidentally selling historic silver on loan from Buckingham Palace in an online auction.

Overlooked in the Sun Media story is Elliot Ferguson, nominated in the photojournalism and community newspaper categories for his "Tori is Missing" entries.

The Sentinel-Review has a story about Ferguson's latest nominations for his work on the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford, but it doesn't mention Thompson's nomination.

So much for "family" when it comes to reporting on Sun Media nominations and awards.

The CAJ annual awards dinner will be held May 29 in Montreal. Click here for all of the 2009 nominations.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Getting paid

A TSF reader included this YouTube clip in a recent comment and, like the reader says, just think freelance writing and photography when Harlan Ellison speaks about getting paid.


London Free Press news team coverage of the Tori Stafford abduction and murder earned the newspaper a 2009 National Newspaper Award last night.

The Breaking News win was the only top award for Sun Media, but there were runners-up honours for five staffers at the Kingston Whig-Standard, Sault Ste. Marie Star and Woodstock Sentinel-Review.

The Globe and Mail took seven awards, the Toronto Star won six. The Sun tabloids in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg: 0 in all 22 categories.

Sun Media honours:

Sault Star photographer Rachele Labrecque was runner-up in Feature Photography for a June 25 photo of Kenadie Jourdin Bromley, 6, a tiny primordial dwarf snuggling with her mother. (No online photo that we could find)

Runners-up in Local Reporting were:

Rob Tripp and Paul Schliesmann of the Kingston Whig-Standard for stories of the mysterious death of four Montreal women in an alleged "honour" killing;

Elliot Ferguson and Bruce Urquhart of the Woodstock Sentinel-Review for coverage of the abduction and slaying of eight-year-old Tori Stafford.

Congrats to all.

And we urge Tripp and Schliesmann to follow the NNA honours with a book on the bizarre deaths of the four women in Kingston.

Friday 14 May 2010

Staff survey

A Sun Media staffer writes:

"TSF, can you do a posting asking how many Sun employees use their own laptop, Blackberry, cellphone etc.?

"Our boss seems to think we should be using our own equipment as he wants 'constant' Twitters and web page updates while out on assignment. I asked if we get compensated for it (insurance, damage, stolen, etc.) and all I got was a blank stare and a response. 'NO.'

"Why should I use my own equipment - my laptop is not cheap - and pay my own cell rates, etc. and not get compensated? Who else in this company does this?

"All we hear is 'web first' and get the news online first, yet they don't give us the tools to do so."

Over to TSF readers. Are you using your own phones, laptops and other tools of the trade and if so, are you being compensated?

Post a comment or e-mail TSF.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

TorSun hiring

A TSF tipster writes:

"Are you keeping an eye on the Sun Media Toronto job listings? One reporter, one part-time reporter and one associate editor, sports. Hmm."

No, but hmm, indeed. Positive manpower news out of 333 for a change.

The Toronto Sun is hiring one full-time reporter and a part-time reporter. Both jobs "involve shift work, including nights and weekends."

The ad reads:

"The Toronto Sun is seeking aggressive, multi-media reporters to cover general assignment news in one of North America’s most competitive media markets.

"Qualifications: We are looking for a reporter with a proven track record of generating exclusive content through dogged legwork, key contacts and who can demonstrate exceptional ability to write tabloid style quickly on a broad range of complex subjects.

"Candidates must also possess the skill set to meet our multi-platform demands filing stories, photographs and video for the web in addition to blogging and writing more traditional news stories and features."

Resumes to James Wallace, Interim Editor in Chief, The Toronto Sun, 333 King Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 3X5. Email: Ref: TOR-10-008 for the full-time position, TOR-10-010 for the part-time position.

Also wanted: A full-time associate sports editor to work with sports editor Bill Pierce and his team. Application deadline is May 26.

The Sun Media posting reads:

"Qualifications: Candidates will possess exceptional design as well as editing skills, have a rounded knowledge of sports and a passion to continue to build the best sports section in the city.

"This is a management position and requires flexible hours."

Resumes to: Bill Pierce, Sports Editor, The Toronto Sun, 333 King Street East, Toronto, ON M5A 3X5. Email: Reference number TOR-10-009.

Three hirings do not compensate for the large number of jobs lost in the past decade, but jobs are jobs.

Friday 7 May 2010

Downing on Sun

A recommended read: John Downing's most recent Downing's Views blog posting, in which he writes about print media columnists and the Toronto Sun's shift from a balanced newsroom.

"Now the Sun is setting in that area, and columnists are shouldering more of the hard news load. But there can be problem when you rely on your big columnists to always provide the major, and sometimes the only, coverage of big stories.

"One of the charms of being a columnist is the freedom to pontificate about whatever takes your interest. You don't, or shouldn't, assign columnists. If the editors keep calling up columnists and telling them to write on a specific event, then the columnist is just another feature writer and the job is no longer as attractive."


Downing, a former Toronto Sun vet, devotes most of his posting to the success of Sun columnists in the early years and life at the pre-Quebecor tabloid in general.

Thursday 6 May 2010

30 - Jocko Thomas

Updated re link to Globe and Mail obit
Gwyn "Jocko" Thomas
, one of the last of the true Toronto print media legends, died yesterday.

He was 96 and we're sure his fans will all be doing their best "from police headquarrrrrters" imitations in his honour.

Jocko, a Toronto Star reporter for 60 years, would broadcast his latest cop shop scoops on CFRB radio and end with that famous sign-off.

It was always a challenge for Sun cop deskers to scoop Jocko in the 70s and 80s. His impressive contacts and experience most often put him well in front of the competitors.

Star columnist Rosie DiManno gives Jocko a sentimental sendoff. Michael Posner at the Globe and Mail also gives Jocko a fitting sendoff.

She writes: "Gwyn “Jocko’’ Thomas was an institution in this business, a beloved elder statesman and mentor to Toronto Star journalists who followed in his award-winning footsteps, if never quite filling those shoes."

Nobody filled his shoes after he retired in 1989 at age 75, not even a high profile Toronto Sun cop desk vet snatched from the tabloid by the Star.

What is left of the old guard who were part of the decades-old newspaper wars in Toronto will be attending his funeral Saturday.

And the many journalists he mentored along the way.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Berton exits LFP

Paul Berton, a rudder at the London Free Press for 23 years, has resigned to become the Hamilton Spectator's editor in chief.

Berton leaves his London editor in chief job this week. Fellow employees are stunned by his departure notice.

"LFP in shock," writes a TSF reader. "E-i-c Paul Berton leaving after 22 years. He led/endured the paper through changes in ownership and all sorts of changes in direction.

"A gentleman, a journalist and a keen and committed member of the community," the TSF reader says of Berton.

Employees are concerned the late Pierre Berton's son will be replaced by a non-journalist.

A Hamilton Spectator story says Berton, with the Free Press since 1987, has held a variety of roles including:

Reporter, columnist, copy editor and editor of various news departments. Most recently, in addition to being editor-in-chief of the Free Press, he has also served as national comment editor for the Sun Media chain.

The story says Berton succeeds David Estok. who left the Spectator in February to work in a senior position at the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation in Toronto.

One more top Sun Media exec who is moving on, but this time it is not to a non-media job.

Another TSF reader writes:

"Also leaving the Free Press is Steve Groves, director of online media, who is returning to Goodlife Fitness.

"He is the third person to leave the Free Press online operation. "Blogger Dan Brown becomes a print copy editor. Multitasking manager P.J. Harston left months ago for 24 Hours Toronto."

Odds & ends

Peter Worthington has done it all during his lengthy media career, but was Tuesday's hockey column in the Toronto Sun's sports section a first for the tabloid's co-founder? If so, he looked right at home talking hockey.

Sandy Naiman, the Toronto Star's recently departed Coming Out Crazy columnist, has found a new home at PsycheCentral. The site intro reads: "The Toronto Star’s loss is our gain, and we are pleased and honored to host her blog . . . here on Psych Central."

Metro employees ratified a new contract Monday, leaving SONG with nine Sun Media spring contract negotiations at the Sarnia Observer, Chatham News, London Free Press, Simcoe Reformer, Stratford Beacon-Herald (advertising), Brantford Expositor, Niagara Falls Review, Belleville Intelligencer and Pembroke Observer.

With Torstar bidding for Canwest's newspapers, would success bring an end to the National Post and Toronto as home to four major paid dailies? A similar scenario was rumoured in 1998 when Torstar attempted to buy the Toronto Sun and the rest of Sun Media.

Fun in the Sun

What must the world be thinking of the Toronto Sun's offbeat Mike Strobel now that he is on YouTube?

Your morning smile:

We rest our case.

BTW: Is Mike's Sun tattoo on YouTube? It would be mature audiences only, of course.

Monday 3 May 2010

"N" not DOA

The absence of "Ns" in the Toronto Sun's daily TV grid is temporary, Rob Granatstein, editorial page editor, tells TSF in an e-mail.

"Had you asked, you would have been told the (N) will be coming back," he writes. "It's a hiccup with our new provider. We're working to get it back ASAP."

TSF: Good, but were readers told of the new provider and the hiccup?

Rob also writes:

"No change to Strobel and Bono. Both still going strong."

TSF: More applause.

"Sue-Ann goes to the news pages three times a week, still in Comment on Sundays, but that does equal an extra column from our beloved City Hall columnist, too."

TSF: Howard Moscoe will be pleased.

"And we said the guide was revamped.

"We didn't want to change, but we have a new listings provider now. And we were one of the very last holdouts in North America to still run the vertical listings. Until today."

TSF: We would comment on the new look, but store-bought Sunday Suns don't include the guide.

"Finally, news isn't being used as column content. Our columnists also happen to be our senior reporters - Warmington, Bonokoski, Levy, Mandel, Strobel, Blizzard - to name a few. Our columnists are generating news. In newspapers in this era, we don't have the luxury of sending a team to every story. We wish it was still 1978, but it's not."

TSF: Damn fine talent in any decade, but when columns read like news stories, they are news stories.

"You may have seen the headlines about papers being in trouble, laying off people, going bankrupt, seeking protection. We wish we had the staff of days gone by. We don't. But our reporters and columnists are working harder than ever, producing more, while our editors are sweating every decision on what to cover and what we have to let go."

TSF: Quebecor is the only reason Sun Media employees are working harder than ever to produce more with less and PKP'a grand centralization plan that led to massive layoffs and cutbacks was hatched long before the recession and downturn in advertising. Sun Media is profitable, but unlike 1978, it is all take and no give and that is a travesty.

"We want the paper to be as good as possible."

TSF: People outside of 333 who believe in the Toronto Sun and want the tabloid to be as good as possible applaud what you are managing to do daily with depleted troops and resources. You do it because you are proud journalists, not to impress detached bean counters up the corporate ladder who couldn't care less about employee rewards and awards.

"We'll get that (N) back as soon as we can."

TSF: Thank you on behalf of couch potatoes everywhere. And kudos to the daily TV page editors for the perfect page. Adding daytime talk shows was brilliant.

And one more bouquet while we are at it. The Daily Dish is far more entertaining now with a variety of wire and staff offerings, sans WENN.

Sunday 2 May 2010

TorSun changes

Several Toronto Sun columnists are on the move.

Editor Rob Granatstein has announced changes in columnist duties that affect the schedules of:

Michele Mandel, who is going to be covering courts full-time;

Queen's Park columnist Christina Blizzard to four times a week;

Bob Elliott’s Bob’s Your Uncle column moves to the Sunday Sun;

City hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy to the front pages.

Hopefully more for others does not mean less for Mark Bonokoski and Mike Strobel.

One thing we have noticed since manpower at 333 was eviscerated is news is being used as column content, a trend that should be reversed.

Meanwhile, Granatstein also announced Sunday Sun TV guide improvements, but the only people who care about that are the home subscribers who still get the guide.

Non-subscribers are out of luck.

Speaking of television, packagers of the Toronto Sun's daily TV grid have abandoned any attempt to let readers know if episodes of their favourite shows are new.

Adding "N" for the convenience of readers takes time and overworked staff are no doubt taking the line of least resistance on that front.

It is another Sun reader service snuffed out.

The other dailies know readers programming their PVRs and VCRs appreciate the "N" to avoid missing new episodes of their shows.

As for weekend guides, the Toronto Star's Starweek, available to all readers, not just subscribers, and recently beefed up in pages and features, is the only game in town now for fans of convenient print guides.

Gord Stimmell, who packaged the Sunday Sun's guide for for 25 years before shown the door in 1999, knows the power of the "N" in TV grid listings and Star readers are most appreciative.

Another big draw for Starweek are cover stories by Bill Brioux, who was also shown the door by the Sun.

CalSun P6 signoff

Kelly Doody, the Calgary Sun's Page 6 columnist for three years, has called it quits.

No word on whether her exit, in favour of devoting more time to Daily Ink, her communications, public relations and social media business, is the end of Calgary's Page 6.

Speaking of Page 6, the Toronto Sun's Joe Warmington held court there Saturday with his Scrawler column and it was all it should be - fascinating, informative tidbits.

Gary Dunford held court on Page 6 for years before banished to the back pages by an unknown editor before making his exit in 2005 after 7,000 columns.

The joint hasn't been the same since.

Saturday 1 May 2010

9 SMs win ONAs

Updated re links to winning newspapers
Nine Sun Media newspapers were represented in the winners' circle tonight at the Ontario Newspaper Awards gala in Waterloo.

The Niagara Falls Review won three awards, the Woodstock Sentinel-Review netted two. The London Free Press, Ottawa Sun, Kingston Whig-Standard, Simcoe Reformer, St. Catharines Standard, Sudbury Star and Owen Sound Sun Times each picked up one award.

Not too shabby for employees of a newspaper chain that cancelled its own Dunlop Awards and frowns on entering media awards competitions.

Big congrats to:

London Free Press news team - Spot News Writing (over 25,000 circulation);

Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun - Gene Florcyk Memorial Award for Sports Writing (over 25,000 circulation);

Corey Laroque
, Niagara Falls Review - Spot News Writing (under 25,000 circulation);

John Law, Niagara Falls Review - Robert J. Hanley Award for Sports Writing (under 25,000 circulation);

John Law, Niagara Falls Review - James Bruce Award for Excellence in Coverage of Entertainment and the Arts;

Rob Tripp and Paul Schliesmann, Kingston Whig-Standard - London Free Press Award for Excellence in News Feature Writing;

Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer - K.J. Strachan Award for Editorials, Opinion and Analysis (under 25,000 circulation);

Julie Jocsak, St. Catharines Standard - Spot News Photography (over 25,000 circulation);

Elliott Ferguson, Woodstock Sentinel-Review - Jack Bowman Memorial Award for Spot News Photography (under 25,000 circulation);

Hugo Rodrigues
, Woodstock Sentinel-Review - Municipal Affairs Reporting (under 25,000 circulation);

John Lappa, Sudbury Star - Sports Photography (under 25,000 circulation);

Owen Sound Sun Times - John E. Motz memorial Award for Excellence in Layout and Design.

The Hamilton Spectator and Guelph Mercury tied at six awards each. The Waterloo Record and Windsor Star each won four awards.

For the complete list of winners, see the Canada News Wire release.

The CNW story says more than 240 journalists, managing editors, publishers and sponsors attended the gala. There were 450 entries for 32 categories, 10 fewer than last year.

Bono's word count

Today's Mark Bonokoski column about going home again comes in a just shy of 700 words.

More than the 650-word limit imposed on columnists last fall, but not near what should have been allowed for the nostalgic trip to his childhood homestead in Lyn, Ontario.

Some column topics need breathing space and Bono's column today is one of those columns. More would have been better.

And why the lack of an online photo of his childhood house?

Buildings 4 Sale

The Great Sun Media Real Estate Sale continues with the Peterborough Examiner building up for grabs, says a TSF tipster.

"In further Sun Media cuts, the Peterborough Examiner building went up for sale this week," says the tipster. "Looking for a smaller building for the third of the staff that are left."

Down Niagara way, more sales, says another TSF tipster.

"FYI, the Niagara Falls Review building has a buyer interested, but no offer yet; the Review's Fort Erie office has been sold and cleared out."

The tipster said Review publisher David Martineau, liked and respected by staff, likely "felt the need to jump ship before the ship sinks."

He's going into the service station business, while other Review staffers who have been laid off or quit have left media for retail work, call centres, tourism etc.

That is where Quebecor has taken newspapers - to the diving board.

With more to come once the cash flow from the sale of buildings across the chain ebbs and more employee cuts are needed to feed the insatiable corporate bottom line.

Sad times for readers and their communities and for journalists, especially young men and women looking forward to lengthy careers in media.