Brioux’s Final Sun Column

It’s yet another dark day for Sun Media.  Another batch of loyal employees are officially out of work today.
Late last year, Quebecor announced 31 more layoffs at Sun Media’s flagship newspaper, The Toronto Sun.  Readers of the longtime tabloid remain in the dark about the turbulent atmosphere within the newsroom.  For instance, many will be perplexed by the tone of TV Critic Bill Brioux’s final column which appeared in today’s paper.
Brioux has been in California the last little while covering the annual American TV winter press tour where critics from across the continent spend much of their time firing off questions to various stars and network weasels hoping to capture some juicy quotes and inform their readers back home about what’s to come on Television this season. 
In a piece entitled “Standing Together”, the normally acerbic Brioux opens with this uncharacteristically wistful observation:
“Solidarity and hope can sneak up on you just as fast as abandonment and despair. Sometimes it arrives in the strangest of places, like a crowded room in the middle of a press tour.”
Brioux (pronounced “bree-o”) goes on to describe an unusual scene.  Imagine a room full of North American TV Critics being convinced to rise from their seats and accompany soul singers Solomon Burke & Ben E. King, and songwriters Jerry Stoller & Mike Lieber in an impromptu singing of the golden oldie, Stand By Me.  The performance was unexpected, according to Brioux, coming on the heels of “a very cool press conference” where the foursome were in attendance to plug the upcoming PBS special on recently deceased Atlantic Records co-founder, Ahmet Ertegun.
“In over 20 years of covering press tours, I can’t recall anyone cracking through our crusty critics’ shield,” Brioux remarked of the spontaneous moment.
The final 3 paragraphs of the piece are the most noteworthy:
“Many [critics] in the room had been coming to press tour for years. Friends, rivals, colleagues. Tour tenure measured not in years or seasons but in network presidents. Some dating back to Bud Grant and Brandon Tartikoff, others to [NBC President Jeff] Zucker and [CBS President Leslie] Moonves. Add it all up and some had spent a year, even two, in this Pasadena hotel.
Many knew, or sensed, they would never be back. It has been a tough year in the newspaper business. Each month brings more layoffs as traditional dailies struggle in the face of Internet and free competition. Last week it was Time, before that, the New York Times, a little farther back, TV Guide Canada. Toronto hasn’t been immune. You may have already read about it — on-line.
So it was a scared room that got to its feet at the urging of King and Burke, Stoller and Lieber. These grand old men brought courage, but they also brought a sense of urgency. You want to use your voice while you still can. You want to sing before you are silenced. You want to be heard, even if all you are saying can be summed up in three little words: Stand By Me.”
Without remarking directly on his unjustified dismissal, Brioux lets his readers know in his own surprising way that his decade-long tenure with The Sun is over.  He correctly observes that a number of these exits have not been mentioned in The Sun.  The Internet has been an invaluable resource for learning the truth about this startling trend in news media, a trend that is more than likely to continue to wreak havoc on a once proud business in the many months to come.
According to the Toronto Sun Family blog, a special “sendoff party” took place last night for those recently excised from the newspaper, a nice gesture that I’m sure was highly appreciated.
It never occurred to Quebecor to do something that classy.  Then again, for them, it’s all about money, hence all these unnecessary layoffs.  I guess annual revenues exceeding 200 million is just not good enough.  What a disgrace.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 26, 2007
4:56 p.m.
CORRECTION:  This piece originally claimed that Bill Brioux’s last name is pronounced “bricks”.  That is wrong.  Bill informed me by email that it’s actually “brio”.  Just so there’s no confusion, I’ve changed that to “bree-o” in the article.  My apologies to Bill for the mistake.  I also apologize to blogger Fading To Black who told me the correct pronunciation which I didn’t believe at the time.  FTB was indeed correct and I was wrong.  Special thanks to Bill for clearing it all up. 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
11:10 p.m.
Published in: on January 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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