Winners & Losers Of 2007 (Part Six)

Winner:  Matt Damon
Ten years after breaking through with Good Will Hunting, this 37-year-old Massachusetts native is bigger than ever.  He was part of the ensemble cast of Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film, The Departed.  (The cast itself was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award.)  He reprised his role as Linus in Ocean’s Thirteen, the third consecutive critically acclaimed blockbuster in the franchise.  (That cast was nominated for a Teen Choice Award.)
Then came The Bourne Ultimatum.  It scored with the vast majority of critics who gave the three-quel overwhelmingly strong reviews.  Audiences couldn’t get enough of it, either.  The film made over 200 million domestically and an additional 200 million overseas.  The Bourne Identity, the first film in the series (and a remake, believe it or not), only made half that much overall.  The sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, made roughly 300 million altogether.  Not only is Ultimatum the most commerically successful film in the series, it’s garnered the best reviews, as well.  How often does that happen?
And to top it all off, People Magazine named him The Sexiest Man Alive.
Oh, it’s good to be Matt Damon.
Loser:  The Spears Family
Let’s start with eldest daughter, Britney.  When she’s not running over the feet of omnipresent photographers, failing court-ordered drug tests, behaving boorishly during a magazine photo shoot, attacking a parked vehicle with an umbrella, damaging another parked vehicle with her car, shaving her head bald in a hair salon, wearing wigs to cover the baldness (pink is so her colour), frolicing in the ocean wearing a mismatched bra and panties in front of ominpresent photographers whom, at other times, she openly insults, threatening Paris Hilton with blackmail and going out in public not always wearing underwear, this deeply troubled pop singer is also going in and out of rehab for drug and alcohol addictions, openly courting the attention of the media for all the wrong reasons and getting arrested for driving drunk.
As a result of her ongoing antics, she’s lost custody of the two kids she had with Kevin Federline, she can’t drive them in her car, she got banned from The Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and her former manager is taking her to civil court.  Her infamous appearance at the start of the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards was the subject of much comedic derision.  Appearing dazed and a bit out of shape, she halfheartedly lip synced her way through Gimme More, her first new single in 3 years.  MTV was so embarrassed they quickly removed the entire performance from its website which quickly made it one of the most sought after clips online.
She spends money like there’s no tomorrow, she skips important court dates in order to screw around (like driving in the middle of the night) and she’s even stolen a cheap lighter from a gas station.  But nothing tops the time she invited the media with her so they could shoot her handing her mother, Lynne, a restraining order which prevents her from seeing her grandchildren.  Classy.  Despite a brief reconciliation, they remain estranged as of this writing.
Speaking of the divorced Lynne, she’s been working on a “Christian parenting book”.  The project was put on hold, however, when her other daughter, Jamie-Lynn, suddenly announced her pregnancy to OK! Magazine.  She claimed in the interview to be in her 12th week but that’s a huge lie.  According to the website 2Snaps, The National Enquirer knew about her slip-up as far back as July and duly reported it on the 28th of that month.  Furthermore, the supermarket tabloid received a threatening letter from her lawyers who falsely claimed that they made up the story for the sole purpose of hurting “a morally upright 16-year-old girl” who “is a devout Christian with a spotless reputation, who lives in accordance with the highest moral and ethical standards in accordance with her faith.” 
Good one, guys.  
TMZ claims that OK! has offered Jamie-Lynn a million dollars after the birth of her baby for a photo shoot.  (Is she really that hard up for cash?)  They note that Spears is due to give birth sometime next spring.  I’m guessing late March, early April.
The young star of the TV program, Zoey 101, has been in a relationship with an older teen she met at church a few years ago.  Jamie-Lynn told OK! that he is the father.  (December 28 UPDATE:  That might be a lie as well, according to this.)  There have been conflicting reports about their status, though.  The Sunday Express in the UK reported that they’re planning a secret wedding while other papers and websites are claiming they’ve split.  Jamie-Lynn, herself, told OK!, “I kind of just keep my options open.  I have a bunch of friends that I always hang out with, a bunch of guy friends.”
Regardless, at this point, her regular TV gig is unaffected by her unplanned pregnancy.  (According to this, the fourth season of Zoey 101 is already in the can.  The third season wraps up in early January and the new season starts the following month.)   But by deciding to keep the baby, Jamie-Lynn has made things very difficult for herself in the long run.  One wonders what she’s been thinking this entire time.  As for mother Lynne, she’s stubbornly plowing ahead with her advice tome which, astoundingly, has not been cancelled.  (Its original April release has been delayed, however.)  The publisher of the book, who denies that Lynne’s memoir was ever about passing on wisdom to other parents, is selling it as a cautionary tale.  Entitled Pop Culture Mom (oh, the arrogance), it “will provide a window into the real-life world of fame, including the toll it extracts from some who aspire to it.  It will provide a much-needed corrective to a world obsessed with the wrong priorities.”.
And you thought The Kennedys were dysfunctional.
Winner:  Britney Spears
Despite making one stupid mistake after another this year, her latest album, Blackout, has been both a commercial and critical success.   Futhermore, the first single, Gimme More, peaked at number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart.  (It was number one in Canada.)  And she officially divorced Kevin Federline.
So it wasn’t all bad.
Loser:  Quebecor
In this space last year, Sun Media was singled out for having a particularly miserable 2006.  This year, it’s their shameless parent company’s turn.
In early January, The Toronto Sun’s Readership Editor Alison Downie was quietly fired after a two-year stint.  No reason was ever given for her dismissal.  In mid-January, former Editor-In-Chief Jim Jennings, a popular fixture in the Toronto newsroom who suddenly resigned in September 2006 in protest over last year’s seemingly endless rounds of layoffs, rebounded with a new gig at The Globe & Mail.  By the end of the month, TV Critic Bill Brioux, one of the most popular and respected writers at the tabloid, were among a small group of employees who were needlessly removed from their positions.  (Brioux quickly landed a gig the following month writing a weekly TV column for The Canadian Press which has greatly expanded his reach not only in Canada but worldwide as well, thanks to the Internet.  Check out his entertaining new blog here and look for his new book, Truth & Rumours, in the new year.)  On January 26, bylines were mysteriously removed for a day to simultaneously support the paper’s departing staffers and to protest Quebecor’s cutbacks.  As this website noted at the time:
“It’s a sad state of affairs when this is the way the newsroom publicly reacts to the latest round of job cuts.  Where are the angry columns from longtime pundits?  Why no special comment from the editors?  Where are those brave souls willing to spill their guts online?  In other newspapers?  On Television?  On the radio?  They are nowhere to be found.”
In early February, longtime Managing Editor Gord Walsh left The Toronto Sun.  Many within the paper credit him with keeping things afloat during this dark period, so it was another major loss.  (However, he would return eight months later to take on a temporary replacement gig.)  The day before Valentine’s Day, Sun Media’s longtime policy of unsigned editorials came to an end.  In its place were Point Of Views, signed opinions that represent the position of the paper, not the individual author.  (The Toronto Star and its sister papers have had the exact same editorial approach for years.)  Soon, identical POVs started appearing in all the Sun papers.  It was a blatant attempt to de-emphasize local editorial content.  This website criticized the decision at the time as did John Cosway of The Toronto Sun Family Blog.  By the end of the month, there were more staff cuts as a number of advertising sales employees were heartlessly shown the door.  It was particularly galling considering the fact that Quebecor’s newspaper revenues were up 2 per cent.
In March, all the Sun editorial boards and political columnists ignored The Walter Reed Scandal, The Winnipeg Sun offered buyouts to 45 of its employees hoping six would accept, The Ottawa Sun laid off five of its workers, The Calgary Sun dropped five of its own staffers (that paper’s Editor-In-Chief Chris Nelson abruptly resigned shortly before the firings and Publisher Guy Huntington departed at the end of the month), five more were dropped from The Toronto Sun (including popular Sex & Advice Columnist Val Gibson and highly regarded crime reporter Al Cairns), and Sun Media was shut out of the National Newspaper Award nominations.  Quebecor’s floundering hour-long, supper-time Sun TV news program, Canoe Live, was cut in half and moved a half hour earlier to 5:30 p.m.  The company’s decision to broadcast it in widescreen hasn’t changed anything.  Also, during this time, The Toronto Sun stopped publishing its Print Measurement Data statistics because of steep declines.
In April, Le Journal de Montreal, Quebecor’s French-language daily, locked out its workers for “refusing to extend their work week for the same pay”.  (Their colleagues in the press room walked out in solidarity soon after.)  The staffers ultimately decided to start up their own publication, a freebie called Media Matin.  Quebecor tried to shut it down in court but failed.  The lockout is now in its ninth month and MM is still being published, as is Le Journal, incredibly.  Meanwhile, The Edmonton Sun lost about a dozen more staffers, The Calgary Sun’s Sports Editor quit and there were a few more departures from the Toronto tabloid.  If all that weren’t bad enough, Sun Media papers were completely shut out of The Canadian Association of Journalists Awards.  Furthermore, The Toronto Sun Family Blog, an invaluable source for what’s happened to this company, reported the planned termination of hundreds of press workers (although, because of problems with Quebecor’s new printing press, they’ve been temporarily retained).  And finally, the Showcase section was renamed ENT.  What was wrong with “Showcase”, exactly?
In May, The London Free Press, The Simcoe Reformer and The Ottawa Sun all looked ready to hit the picket lines over contract disputes with Quebecor.  All three strikes were averted with last-minute deals.  Quebecor became the largest media conglomerate in Canada when it purchased Osprey Media.  How did it show its appreciation to Osprey staffers?  By extinguishing The Wallaceburg News, making cuts to The Haliburton County Echo and asking readers to do the work of professionally trained journalists.  Daniel Negreanu’s poker column was quietly axed, Calgary’s Page Six Columnist, Chris Gerritsen, left the paper and Ottawa Sun Columnist Geoff Matthews announced his departure in his final column.
In June, Quebecor was accused of union busting in Vancouver and they were shut out of a special media coalition formed for next year’s Olympics.  (They better have a hell of a plan regarding their own coverage.)  In August, after nearly two years of fruitless negotiations, The Canadian Media Guild officially stopped representing the embattled workers at Sun TV.  They had been attempting to secure their first collective bargaining agreement but without employee solidarity, in a work environment where the bosses have done everything in their power to slow this process down to an endlessly annoying and frustrating crawl, they reached their breaking point.
With autumn approaching, this website openly pondered the whereabouts of a number of inactive Sun columnists.  Thanks to personal emails I received as well as helpful messages sent to The Toronto Sun Family Blog, some people were accounted for, but others remain missing in action.  The fact that Quebecor hasn’t gone out of its way to inform its dwindling number of readers about these endless changes speaks volumes.  Rarely does a departing writer get a chance to say goodbye properly.  And forget about paying tribute to a recently deceased colleague, as Peter Worthington, The Sun’s founding editor, discovered.
In October, five months after averting a strike, The Ottawa Sun lost more staffers.  In November, The Toronto Sun “did not file circulation figures for the latest six-month Audit Bureau of Circulations report ending Sept. 30…”, which suggested more bad news.  (As John Cosway noted, “The Sun stopped quoting actual ABC circulation figures in its masthead in the fall of 2006.”)  And while notoriously inept columnist Rachel Marsden was finally canned after two years of continuous bullshit, she gracelessly whined and complained about her dismissal which no doubt embarrassed those who publicly and privately supported her uncaged madness.  (As an aside, you can add this to the list of reasons I gave for personally naming her a Loser Of The Year.  She never learns.)
Eventually, we all learned just how far The Toronto Sun has fallen.  Out of four papers competing for eyeballs in The Big Smoke, it’s dead last with weekday circulation under 200,000.  It’s dead last on Saturdays with 160,000 (The Star and The National Post are their only competitors that day) and, you guessed it, dead last on Sundays, too (almost 350,000 compared to The Star’s 430,000).
And that brings us to December.  More Sun writers like Licia Corbella and Sheila Copps left.  Another possible departure was noted on Toronto Sun Family.  And Quebecor’s financial troubles have been duly noted.
Throw in a specially taped Christmas message by Pierre Karl Peladeau, the much loathed Quebecor bigwig, that few employees could access and a plan to offer all your least favourite programming for free on Canoe and “bad” doesn’t sound like a strong enough word to describe this misguided company’s 2007.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
9:38 p.m.
Published in: on December 25, 2007 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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