Monday 28 February 2011

Max is back

Max Haines has been a stranger to the Toronto Sun since his retirement in 2006, so what a treat it was to pick up the Sunday Sun yesterday to find a cold case story by Mr. Crime Flashback himself.

The two-page story was right up Max's alley - the unsolved 1981 Toronto sex slaying of British nanny Christine Prince, whose naked body was found floating in the Rouge River near the Sewells Rd. bridge.

It hasn't been easy for Max Haines fans to break a 34-year addiction to his Sun columns, so yesterday's public appeal for new leads in the 30-year-old case has given them hope there will be more from Max.

Max could easily work his way across Ontario for weekly Sunday Sun crime flashback reports in hopes of readers cracking some cold cases along the way.

Years ago, when the Toronto Sun published annual reader surveys, Max's Crime Flashback was always above 80% readership, so his retirement in 2006 left a big hole in the Sunday Sun.

Mike Strobel said farewell to Max in a July 20, 2006 column.

Well, here's a sincere welcome back, Max.

As the song goes: 

It's so nice to have you back where you belong. 

Saturday 26 February 2011

It's over!!!!

Journal de Montreal's 764-day lockout of 253 employees is coming to an end following tonight's 64.1% vote to accept Quebecor's latest offer.

The Montreal Gazette says the deal will see 62 employees return to work, plus one part-time position. The rest will be given a severance package worth a combined $20 million.

The union is not happy with the outcome but media reports say it says it had to recommend acceptance due to the length of the lockout - the longest for journalists in Canadian history.

Overall, a sad slice of Canadian print media history.

News reports:

Online focus?

The heading for John Chambers' appointment two years ago as managing editor of Sun Media's Brantford Expositor read: New Expositor managing editor to put focus on online product

Perhaps the online focus is one reason for the lengthy apology to print readers this week for not one, but two major blunders. 

"Based on the number of phone calls and emails received this week, a good number of you saw that on Thursday we ran the exact same Comment page that we ran on Tuesday."  Chambers says in the apology. "Adding insult to injury, on Friday we had the exact same letters to the editor we had on Thursday."  

Chambers accepts the blame and concludes:

"Simply put, I'm sorry. To our readers, our advertisers, and to all of our staff who work hard everyday, I apologize for this week's egregious errors. It IS unacceptable."

Yes, indeed.

Judging by the minimal amount of advertising on most of Sun Media's cookie-cutter websites, print must still be the bread and butter for the chain. 

So do you think the suits should be focusing on print until the Internet can carry the ball?

Friday 25 February 2011

Bob Mac -5

Five years ago tomorrow, legendary Toronto Sun columnist Robert "Bob" MacDonald lost his 14-year battle with prostate cancer.

A fighter to the end, Bob was on the job for all but a short time before his death at age 76.

He was an award-winning, 55-year newspaper vet, a respected mentor to many, an AA advocate who never forgot his troubled roots, a loving father and a friend to many from all walks of life.

And he was an anchor in the Toronto Sun newsroom from Day One in November of 1971.

As Peter Worthington, a Sun co-founder, said in a Sun tribute: "If there's any individual who has had a presence throughout the Sun's history, it's been Bob. I miss the idea of him tremendously."

We'll be toasting Robert William MacDonald with a glass of orange juice tomorrow and thinking about his generation of newspaper men and women that made a huge difference as journalists and mentors.

These print media giants worked their magic in newsrooms for decades at the Telegram/Sun, Star and Globe and Mail and should never be forgotten.

Thank you Bob et al.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Crime sells

Cal Millar
Crime sells, whether true crime or fiction, a fact Toronto Sun editors have lost sight of along the way.

But not Cal Millar, who was the Sun's veteran cop desk reporter before he was lost to the Toronto Star's cop desk.

After retiring from the Star, he began researching unsolved murders across North America and in late 2009 saw his first book, Find My Killer, published. He is now working on a second book on missing persons cases, due this spring.

Find My Killer profiles 38 unsolved Canadian murders and more than 225 American cold cases and remains on's best sellers list - 39th to be exact.  

"There was a bit of a publicity push and I assume that had a bearing on increased sales," Cal says in an email to TSF. "Nice to see."

Cal, who has a new website, says the book has been experiencing steady sales on both sides of the border.

One case that Cal will profile in his next book is the 1975 daylight abduction of four-year-old Cameron March from outside his rural Burlington, Ontario, home.

Cameron, born March 31, 1971, vanished May 7, 1975, without a trace. He would be 39 today if the blond and curly-haired youngster was abducted and raised by another family.  

Veteran cop desk staffers will tell you there are certain stories that haunt them long after they have been published. Cameron's vanishing is one of those for this blogger.

One of Cal's is the Marianne Schuett case from his Telegram years.

Marianne, another Burlington missing persons cold case, was 10 when she vanished  April 27, 1967, while walking home from school.

"Marianne Schuett was one of the first missing person cases I ever worked on as a reporter," says Cal. "Definitely learned a lot since that time."

Cal is now one of 47 current and former Toronto Sun staffers listed on our TSF authors page, a reflection of the talent that has inhabited the newsroom since Nov. 1, 1971.

Monday 21 February 2011

Kalvin's farewell

Kalvin Reid, editorial page editor at the St. Catharines Standard, said his farewell to readers on the weekend after 12 years at the paper.

"Since word of my pending departure began to spread, the support and kind words from my colleagues, contacts, sources and the community have been both flattering and humbling," says Reid.

"I have met, and become friends with, too many people to list here. As I have said time and time again to anyone who would listen, it's the people who make this job great.

"That is what I am going to miss most."

Bono honours

Mark Bonokoski has been raking in media awards since he joined the Toronto Sun in 1974.

His latest honour is the Tema Conter Memorial Trust Media Award for his series on post traumatic stress disorder. 

The seven-part series, published in April 2010, focused on retired OPP Insp. Bruce Kruger and others with PTSD. All seven articles are online and can be read here.

Bonokoski received the award during a Tema gala in Woodbridge on the weekend.

Quote of 2011

Quote of the year:

"There is no school for publishers, but he understood who the reader was, and he wanted us to be as honest with them as possible. It was not so much about making money as serving the community well."

Murray Thomson, 82, former St. Catharines Standard managing editor, talking about his former boss, Henry Burgoyne, who died from cancer recently at 61.

Burgoyne was the last of the family-owned daily newspaper publishers in Ontario when he sold the newspaper to Southam in 1996. The family bought the paper for a dollar in 1892. 

Family, friends and former colleagues attended a celebration of life for Burgoyne on Saturday.

"When he gave me the job in 1980, he said there would be a fence around the newsroom," Thomson says in an affectionate story by John Nicol. "He didn't want us to be influenced by advertisers or the powerful."

Amen to that philosophy.

February blahs

Long before the legislated Family Day and the need for a union, Doug Creighton realized as short as the month of February was, it was still too long to go without a special day off.

So the Sun voluntarily introduced Blah Days, giving all employees a February day off of their choice - with pay and a clear nod of appreciation for a job well done.

Some employees who had weekends off, used their Blah Days to create a long weekend. Others saved their day for a mid-week break.

That was our Sun.  That was our Doug.

Blah Days were one of the casualties, along with sabbaticals, stock offers, profit sharing etc., of Quebecor's takeover and union negotiations, but then Family Day arrived in Ontario in 2008.

Family Day isn't as flexible as Blah Days were - strictly the third Monday in February - but an extra day off in the depths of winter is an extra day off.

Friday 18 February 2011

A Nick memory

A comment posted by Bill Bean re 30 - Nick Ibscher:

"Found this site belatedly. Often wondered how things were with Nick. We inherited a cat from him in Thunder Bay, and 'Jeff' aka 'Jethro de Bodine Bean,' became our daughter's best friend. 

"Nick, when bored between assignments at the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, would call the local radio phone-in show, and affecting different accents, would lead the host on a merry chase through nonsensical ideas, never letting him catch on that he was being had."

Thanks for the memory, Bill.

Thursday 17 February 2011

OT: Cowboys

Cowboy Junkies fans who missed their gig on Jimmy Fallon were pissed that online videos of their recent appearance were controlled by Hula and, yep, can't be viewed in Canada.

The geo-blockers struck again - and with footage of a widely popular Canadian group.

But Cowboy Junkies haven't disappointed their fans. Their official website includes links to two songs they performed on the late-night talk show. 

Both clips can be viewed here.

But a link to the complete NBC show provided by the Cowboy Junkies doesn't work. It is geo-blocked by NBC.

Again, it is the World Wide Web, folks, not WWW-EWMII (Except When Money Is Involved).

The Story Board

The 21st century hasn't been easy on Canadian freelancers, with mass layoffs flooding the market and citizen "journalists" willing to work for free. 

The Story Board, a welcomed website launched in November, is described as a meeting place for independent journalists and media freelancers across Canada.

The Canadian Media Guild and the Canadian Writers Group launched the site with the following introduction:

"The CMG and the CWG have formed an exciting new alliance to advance the interests of freelancers who provide content to Canadian media organizations. 

"CMG is a national union representing 6,000 media workers across Canada, including hundreds of freelancers. 

"CWG is an agency that represents individual writers in contract negotiations with publishers and works to expand the writers’ client base. 

"The alliance is also backed by CWA/SCA Canada, the parent union of the Canadian Media Guild."

We know freelancers who are hurting and anything designed to help them get a square deal in a highly competitive market gets our endorsement.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

It's a crime

The dramatic accident photo on Page 8 of Tuesday's Toronto Sun, snapped by award-winning photo vet Dave Thomas, took us back to the years when it would automatically have been front page material.

Back to the years when the Sun's crack team of photographers hustled with a spirit of pride to get their spot news photos on the front page.

Back to the years when front page editors knew more papers were sold with an eye-catching accident, fire or police takedown than any photo of a politician.

Reader surveys supported the argument that passive front pages don't sell papers and handed exclusive spot news photos almost daily, editors like Les Pyette, Peter Brewster, Mike Burke-Gaffney, Ed Monteith et al worked their magic.

Today's inconsistent front page editors, in most instances and for whatever reason, have lost that front page tabloid magic and because of that, photographers have no doubt lost their competitive edge. 

It appears the pols have too much say in the makeup of the Sun these days. Need we count the number of times front pages have been politically slanted or lampoonish in the past year?

We empathize with Sun photo vets who remember when fronts were theirs for the taking. 

But they'll always have the glory years to remember.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

15 new siblings

Contrary to rumour, Sun Media's print family is growing - in Quebec.

The Toronto Sun Family gained more than a dozen new siblings with the recent purchase of 15 weekly community newspapers in Quebec.

A press release says the newspapers, previously owned by Les Hebdos Montérégiens, will retain their names and continue publishing.

The release also notes "Sun Media launched eight new regional publications in Québec" last year.

Meanwhile, in Ontario and Alberta . . .

Monday 14 February 2011

It was written 3

The countdown to the Toronto Sun's 40th anniversary on Nov. 1 continues. 

So why was Toronto's first tabloid daily named the Sun? 

Ron Poulton provided the source in his 1976 book Life in a Word Factory, a 112-page history of the tabloid commissioned by co-founder Doug Creighton.  

He wrote:

The same lack of fussy deliberation was at work when the Sun was given its name. No committee was formed. No meetings were held. No polls were taken and nobody floundered around in debate.

John Bassett had denied everybody the luxury procrastination when he announced (on October 4, 1971) that the last edition of the Tely would appear October 30. The Sun group didn't have any time to ruminate about names.

The tabloid could just as easily have been called the News or the Times. Some sentimentalists even struggled briefly to hammer the word "Telegram" onto its masthead. No one took them seriously.

The matter landed in Andy Donato's lap, and he dusted off the dummy of a tabloid he had designed for Johnny Bassett in 1964. Its working title was the Sun; a name that survived when John Bassett published a newspaper called The Sunday Sun in Oakville in 1968.

When the subject came up, Don Hunt had more pressing things to think about than a name for the newspaper. He suggested only that its name be short, and he toyed briefly with the notion that some of the success of the New York Daily News might rub off if the tabloid was called the News. But he wasn't adamant, and neither was anyone else.

They didn't complain when Donato decided to call it the Sun without consulting anybody. 

Friday 11 February 2011

NFR -Joe Wallace

The student smoke bomb at Quebecor's HQ in Montreal was just clearing the building  yesterday when TSF was told of another Sun Media loss down Niagara way.

A TSF tipster says Joe Wallace, the much-respected city editor of the Niagara Falls Review, has called in quits in favour of a job with Post Media at its Hamilton location.

"When a guy like that moves on - wow," says the tipster. "He was/is a rock - a good solid guy who has done that job for years. He is from Niagara Falls and knows/knew everything going on.

"With the losses mounting, it seems just a matter of time of amalgamation of the three dailies’ news rooms."

The merging of the Niagara Falls Review (1879), St. Catharines Standard  (1891) and Welland Tribune (1887) does seem inevitable, with the siphoning of manpower and assets.

That's a whole lotta newspaper history just waiting to be crunched to improve the bottom line.

Quebecor did it in 2009 with the Corbourg Daily Star (1831), Port Hope Evening Guide (1878) and Colborne Chronicle  (1959) from the ashes of the Colborne Express (1866) and Colborne Enterprise (1886).

Today's three-in-one paper is called Northumberland Today and it is filled with a lot of recycled not-so-local QMI content and shopping flyers.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

The Daily What?

An international quest to find the world's weirdest newspaper names has added the Kingston Whig-Standard and the Casket to the list.

There are seven Canadian newspapers listed in a Guardian story, but Sun Media's Whig-Standard and the Casket in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where retired Toronto Sun crime writer Max Haines got his start, caught our eye. 

Other names listed include the Unterrified Democrat in Linn, Missouri; the Youngstown Vindicator in Ohio; Carlisle Mosquito in Massachusetts and the Sacramento Bee in California.

Monday 7 February 2011

Pain & gain

Sandra Lonar didn't fare well at the Toronto Sun, where she was laid off, and at the Financial Post, where she was laid off three months later.

But from the pain, there was gain - her husband of 11 years, Tony Luccisano.

Sandra tells TSF:

"Hi there - great blog - I just found it and am wasting much time reading it, lol.

"This page caught my eye. My husband worked at the Financial Post, first as a conference planner and then in circulation.

"I worked at the Sun (for Paul Godfrey), but was downsized in the second wave.  I was offered a position in the Post’s circulation department and took it.

"Despite being downsized from that job three months later, I have good memories of the department because I met Tony there. Still together and married now for over 11 years."

Now that is what you call a 333 bonus.

Thanks for the update, Sandra.  

Welland -18

Another Niagara Region Sun Media newspaper got hammered today with 18 pre-press employees at the Welland Tribune shown the door.

TSF tipsters say the work is being sent to Woodstock and Barrie centres.

"Another Black Monday today," says one of several TSF tipsters. "In addition to 4 creative people being laid off, the whole composing in Welland was let go. That's 18 people!" 

Another tipster writes:

"The work is being farmed out to Woodstock and Barrie, but in typical Sun Media fashion, the people in Woodstock (at the least) don't really know how this new process is going to work."

The Welland Tribune, St. Catharines Standard and Niagara Falls Review  have been cutback targets for several years now. 

As one tipster says: "Time to start picking a casket, these papers are done."

- Kalvin Reid

Updated 9/02/11
A recent comment posted by a TSF reader says it all: "I've never seen a company so uninterested in keeping its own talent."

Ain't that the truth.

Another dedicated Sun Media employee who is calling it quits is Kalvin Reid, editorial page editor at the St. Catharines Standard.

His signed editorials and op-ed pieces have been published in Sun Media newspapers across the chain. 

One TSF source says "the very hard working, dedicated editorial page editor" has resigned to take a job at Enterprise Canada, formerly the Ontario Editorial Board.

Reid, gone as of Feb. 18, was a student intern at the Brantford Expositor before moving on to the Simcoe Reformer (1997 to 1999). He was hired as a Standard reporter in June of 1999 and was promoted to editorial page editor in 2006.

He has won awards along the way.

The prolific editorial writer will be missed by colleagues and readers, including Carolyn Tytler, a senior who was mentored by Reid as an online guest writer.

She writes about his dedication to journalism here.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Re Ron Farmer

A comment to TSF from Ron Farmer, a former Sun Media vet:

"I was a Day One staffer at the start-up of the Edmonton Sun in 1978. I was later transferred to the Calgary Sun composing room as night foreman in 1986. 

"I left the Calgary Sun and moved, with my wife, to Des Moines, WA, where I went to work selling tools at Sears. Worked my way up to store manager at the Sears outlet store in Tacoma, Wa. 

"My wife Lee and I are now living back in Canada.

"I am currently serving a 3-year term as the councillor in the Village of Vilna, in Northern Alberta, and loving every minute of it.

"I was informed of Brian Whipp's passing last weekend, too late to attend the funeral.

"I found this blog page and after reading some of the stories, I am sure glad that I got out of the Sun Corporation when I did before the Quebecor takeover.

 "Thank you Doug Creighton, Peter (Worthington) and Don (Hunt) for 19 years of enjoyment at what was the greatest paper in the world."

Thank you for your comments, Ron.

Saturday 5 February 2011

EdSun -Hanon

Edmonton Sun columnist Andrew Hanon is the 11th newsroom staffer to exit the building in recent months, wrapping up a nine-year association with the tabloid yesterday.

"The Edmonton Sun's best reporter and columnist, Andrew Hanon, has quit and moved on to greener pastures and much better pay," says a TSF tipster. "He will be working for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. 

"Another devastating exit for the Edmonton Sun, as the exits continue and the number rises to -11 in less than a year."

Colleagues said farewell to Hanon at a gathering last night.

Hanon's final column yesterday includes his farewell to readers:

"SO LONG: This is my final column for the Edmonton Sun. I began as a freelance contributor back in 2002 and joined the Sun’s staff in 2005. For the past two years I’ve had the immense privilege of being the Page 2 city columnist. 

"It’s been an honour meeting so many of you, hearing your stories and then passing them along to our readers. Thanks for the opportunity and so many wonderful memories."

Thursday 3 February 2011

Tight with Mike

That Mariel Hemingway is such a name dropper.

She gave Toronto Sun columnist Mike Strobel a mention on her lifestyle website after he interviewed her for the Sunday Sun. 

Ernest's granddaughter, 49, also provides a link to a video of her Sun Media interview.

"You know, I think I've just met the quintessential celebrity Moonlight Lady," says Strobel.

You said it, Mike.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

30 - Brian Whipp

Brian Whipp
Brian John Whipp cared about Sun Media - even after he became one of the hundreds of Quebecor casualties after 27 years with the Edmonton and Calgary Suns.

No anonymity for Brian when he had something to say to Toronto Sun Family members in recent years. He put his name to comments and was an active contributor.

So we were sad to hear about his passing in an e-mail early today directing us to his online obit.

The Sarnia-born former newspaper techie died last week at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital in Alberta. He was 55. His funeral was Saturday. Condolences can be left online here or you can share your memories with TSF readers in an e-mail

Brian got his first newspaper experience as a printer at the Petrolia Advertiser-Topic in Ontario, which was owned by his father, Charles.  He was also production manager of the student newspaper at the University of Western Ontario.

His obit says Brian moved to Alberta in the 1970s to enhance his education as a computer technician and was later hired by the Edmonton Sun to set up the IT department for the fledgling Calgary Sun in 1980.

Brian was manager of the Calgary Sun's IT system's department when pink-slipped in 2007. He met his wife, Kim Bullock, a co-worker at the Calgary Sun, and they later set up their own business, the Freeman River RV Park in Fort Assiniboine, Alberta.

Busy as they were with the RV business, Brian always had time for TSF and we thank him for sharing his newspaper experiences in Petrolia, Edmonton and Calgary.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Storm day

A TSF reader wonders how Sun Media trucks will perform Wednesday if the overnight winter blast is as severe as predicted. 

Good question for thousands of readers depending on smooth delivery out of the Quebecor printing plant in Toronto.

Let us know.

Lockout casualties

While the merits of anti-scrab legislation are argued in a parliamentary hearing in Quebec this week, The Link looks at the human toll in the two-year Journal de Montreal lockout.  

It is a matter of dollars and sense, as in common sense. 

Derek Pyne retires

Derek Pyne, Sun Media's publisher of the year for 2005, has retired as publisher of the Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News in Alberta.

Pyne was with the News on and off since 1992, starting in sales. He was publisher of the Edson Leader from 1994 to 2007, when he returned to the News as publisher.

A lengthy News story says Pyne was at the helm when the weekly papers Strathcona County This Week and Sherwood Park News merged into a twice-weekly paper.

Pyne was a Nipawin, Saskatchewan, florist and hockey player before getting into the newspaper business and his approach to community news is credited for his success in print media.

"What I'll remember about Derek is the enthusiasm and joy he brought to the job every day," former colleague Tyler Waugh says in the story. "He loves community newspapers and his commitment and passion for the gig just had a way of rubbing off on those around him."

Sun Media says Stacey Proskiw, the News' first female publisher, is stepping in to fill Derek's shoes while retaining her job as the newspaper's sales manager.

OT: Ups, downs

Once upon a merry time, Canadians would buy a television set, plug it in and not have any additional costs until it was repair time. 

Then along came cable, satellite and all of the other home entertainment bells and whistles and "free" TV for all but antenna holdouts now costs $400 on up depending on consumer demands.

And the conglomerates that control the airwaves are forever nickel and diming consumers with the full support of the CRTC.

So what's new this week?

Bell has tacked on another $2 or so for its satellite customers, pushing the basic, plus one theme pack, to almost $50 per month - or $600 a year.

And, thanks to the CRTC, the Teksavvy Internet service we fled to in 2009 after three months of calls to India and other Bell Hell, announced it must reduce its cap to 25 gigs, down from 200, as of March 1.

Leave it to government control to corrupt the spirit of the Internet.

For the past couple of years, newspapers, TV networks, movie distributors, social networks, YouTube and other Internet draws have increased our access needs.

Teksavvy was a blessing after Bell, with its 24-hour service in fluent English direct from Chatham, Ontario, dependable service, the freedom of 200 gigs per month and a telephone/ISP package that trimmed $40 a month off the bill. 

In a nutshell, Teksavvy has been providing the kind of independent service all Canadians deserve but are not getting via the arrogant, fat cat conglomerates who have lost touch with their customers.

Teksavvy is not happy with the CRTC decision  to reduce the cap to 25 gigs and is encouraging its growing customer base to be vocal, sign petitions etc.

We salute Teksavvy.  

Meanwhile, Bell's attitude about its service, from our experience, is take it or leave it. 

The more they nickel and dime customers for inflexible TV channel choices and frustrating outsourced calls to India, chances are more people will leave it for an antenna, the Internet or TV-free environments.

Did we say the Internet? With the 25-gig cap at the basic rate, paying more to watch our weekly quota of television and movies on the Internet won't be economical.

Internet surfing and television viewing are becoming elitist pastimes in the 21st century.