Ian Harvey & Jim Jennings Speak Out On Toronto Sun Family

4 days ago, this website offered a straightforward proposal to past and present employees of The Toronto Sun:  speak out about the sorry state of the 36-year-old tabloid newspaper by using The Writings Of Dennis Earl as your open forum.  Anonymity was offered for those too timid to attach their real names to their real views.  The offer is still on the table, by the way.
Although that article has been accessed numerous times over the last several days, there has not been one posted comment nor a single email addressed to me from any staffers willing to comment publicly on the pressing matter at hand.
However, people are speaking out, just not on this website.
A couple of hours after the original proposal was posted, John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog made a similiar plea to readers of his excellent site.  He made note of a comment left on another entry by Antonia Zerbisias, the well-informed media critic for The Toronto Star, who also wanted inside information about the state of the paper.  The following day, March 24th, the Fading To Black Blog made note of all of these public efforts to bring Sun employees, past and present, out of the shadows.  (The links to these sites are included in updates in my original story.  Just scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find them.)
Already, two ex-Sun staffers have left detailed comments on The Toronto Sun Family site.  Here’s hoping more are on the way.
First up, Ian Harvey, a 21-year veteran reporter for the tabloid who last worked there in 2000.  On March 25th, he offered some very strong criticisms:
“Readers want more than the same old same old wire stories about the current flavour of the month celeb in rehab.

They want news about their city and the people who live there.

With 24 [Hours, Quebecor’s free transit paper] looking more and more like the Sun and the Sun looking more and more like 24 almost everyone sees the writing on the wall…and it’s obscene.”

Harvey refers to Luc Lavoie, Quebecor’s spokesman, as Pierre Karl Peladeau’s “lapdog” – “PKP”, as Harvey calls him, is the CEO of the company -and further stated “if Quebecor is serious about the Toronto Sun, they need to put their money where their mouths are.”

He continues:  “All they seem to care about is seeing how few people they can actually get away with in putting out a paper, how they can farm out as much of the layout and news gathering responsibilities as possible so they can break the union.

Oh, and getting reporters and photographers to do two jobs and pay them as little as they can.”

On a roll, he continues to rip Quebecor a new one:
“Sadly Quebecor seems to believe the content component of a newspaper/website/TV channel is a secondary thought.

Instead of hiring the best in the business they go for cheap and few and invariably cover the same old ground.

Those talking head hosts on Sun TV are an embarrassing joke. I’ve seen sheets of toilet paper with more gravitas.

Even CITY TV wasn’t this weak when it launched back in the day with fewer resources.”

To read the complete comment (and it is a great one), click here.  He speaks for many.  Personally, he could’ve gone even further in his complaints.  This website has long maintained that The Sun’s two biggest problems, besides its horribly misguided treatment of its workforce, are the growing absences of accountability and credibility.
Earlier today, Cosway printed an email he received from The Sun’s former Editor-In-Chief Jim Jennings (now employed with The Globe & Mail).  (Check out the entirety of his remarks by clicking here.)
Jennings takes a more diplomatic view of the situation within Sun Media.  (He’s not nearly as critical of Peladeau, the man, and dismisses any unflattering assessments of him.)  But, like Harvey, he isn’t happy about the state of the newspaper.
Early on, he references the famous Benjamin Disraeli quote about there being lies, damn lies and statistics.  He correctly notes there should be a fourth category:  “newspaper [circulation] numbers”.
Recently, the results of the annual NADbank (Newspaper Audience Databank) survey were released.  As always, all the Toronto dailies proclaimed victory on some scale.  The Toronto Sun was no exception.  Jennings, however, isn’t buying the cheery news:
“I would argue that the only real barometer of a newspaper’s performance…is the fully ‘paid’ [circulation] number…This is a number that isn’t being touted…Could it be that overall performance continues to decline? You can argue, if you goes [sic] back to using the NADBank numbers that [new Toronto Sun EIC Glenn] Garnett selected, that overall readership of the Toronto Sun is off 30-plus percent since Quebecor took over. Paid circulation is off significantly over the period as well.

I wonder what effect the decrease in the number of journalists in the newsroom has had on these numbers? It would be interesting to overlay investment in content (i.e. journalists, news hole, etc.) with readership and circulation figures. My guess is the resulting graph could be used as a blueprint for the downhill ski run for the Vancouver Olympics.

I realize that there are times where adjustments in newsroom staffing levels are not only needed, but also required. That is a part of the evolutionary cycle of our business. Removing resources by replacing local content with mass produced generic content is hardly a recipe for growing the business.”
It’s only a matter of time before this reality hits Quebecor square in the face.  But is it too late to change direction, to retrieve what’s been lost?  Will the stubbornness of the company overrule common sense?

The growing evidence is not reassuring.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
10:47 p.m.
Published in: on March 27, 2007 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://dennisearl.wordpress.com/2007/03/27/ian-harvey-jim-jennings-speak-out-on-toronto-sun-family/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: