Sun Media Blows It Again

The Fading To Black blog is reporting that Sun Media has quietly fired Alison Downie.  She was The Toronto Sun’s only Readership Editor in its 36-year history.  According to FTB, the termination happened Friday, January 5 without any public explanation.  Furthermore, it appears the job itself has been eliminated as well.  This is not a surprise to anyone who’s been closely monitoring the situation at Sun Media.
 
Downie’s last column appeared in The Sunday Sun on November 5th and addressed the “Belinda Stronach is a bitch” controversy.  It can still be viewed on The Sun’s website (along with more pieces going back to August 2006) and Downie’s old contact information (phone number and email address) still appear at the bottom of her piece.  (Her old readership email address can also be seen when your cursor highlights her by-line.)  Her name still appears among the list of Toronto Sun columnists on torontosun.com but is absent from a similiar list on canoe.ca. 
 
The position was established in June 2005 during the tenure of Jim Jennings.  He was the Editor-In-Chief who suddenly resigned September 20th, 2006 after only 2 years on the job.  The loss of Jennings was a huge blow for the beleaguered newsroom (who had his support and vice versa during his brief tenure) and now with Downie no longer affiliated with the newspaper, there is no doubt that morale will continue to plummet.
 
This mysterious firing follows a recent announcement by longtime Intimacies columnist Valerie Gibson that The Sun won’t be publishing her thoughts on Sundays anymore.  She noted in her December 31st column that Sun Media wanted to go in a different direction and she proceeded to thank readers for all their support and criticisms during the past decade.  The eternally youthful Gibson will continue to write her Advice column every Friday and the Sex half of the Sex & Money (S&M) columns that appear on Mondays.  (Linda Leatherdale, The Sun’s Business Editor, writes the Money column.)
 
As Fading To Black has pointed out in a couple of terrific pieces (here and here) this is a dark time for readership editors, public editors and ombudsmen.  As consolidation continues to destroy the integrity of newsrooms across the continent, the need for intense secrecy dramatically increases and that can only mean more bad times ahead for North American media, and fewer jobs for readership editors.
 
I liked reading Alison Downie’s columns even though she was not critical enough about her paper’s numerous shortcomings.  I can only remember reading one severely harsh column during her entire stint.  In a piece that appeared on January 29th, 2006, she criticized The Toronto Sun’s cover story on the number of reasons voters should turf the then-ruling Federal Liberals.  She felt, correctly, that it was an opinion piece, not a news item, and it shouldn’t have been showcased on the front of that particular edition of the newspaper.  In fact, she wrote that it should’ve surfaced “in the Comment section.  A month ago.”
 
Her ousting is incredibly unfair and it already spells more bad news for Sun Media so early in the new year.  As for Gibson, I think it stinks that she won’t be writing on Sundays anymore.  The good-natured Brit has always been an insightful charmer and is a typical old school Toronto Sun columnist, the kind that has a special relationship with her readers.  I’m glad she will continue to appear in The Sun twice a week.  But cutting down her workload is bullshit.  She is one of the few columnists I remain loyal to in the paper.
 
What’s most outrageous about all this is the fact that Sun readers are continually being kept in the dark about these controversial changes.  Why the lack of respect?  Surely, the few of us who stubbornly remain devoted to the paper, flaws and all, have to wonder how much longer it will be before we look for our news elsewhere. 
 
I remain very upset that Bill Brioux and Maryanna Lewyckyj, the TV Critic and Associate Money Editor/Newsroom Union Leader, respectively, will be leaving the paper at the end of the month (along with all the other recent, unjustified dismissals).  If you click on “Contact Us” on torontosun.com and scroll down to the list of Entertainment Critics, you’ll notice something strange about Brioux’s contact information.  The last number of his Sun phone number is missing.  I remember when he was sold as being one of the best reasons to read The Sun.  Now it looks like Sun Media can’t wait to evict him from the building.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, January 8, 2007
8:58 p.m. 
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Published in: on January 8, 2007 at 9:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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