Merry Christmas, You’re Fired

Pierre Karl Peladeau is a heartless asshole.  What other conclusion can one make after his company, Quebecor, decided to ruin the lives of 600 of its employees nine days before Christmas?  You read that right.  600.
 
Toronto Sun Family blogger John Cosway has been tireless in putting names and, where possible, faces to the victims of these brutal firings.  (As this website noted recently, it’s an indispensible site for Sun Media workers, past & present, and readers.)  The first sign of doom was noted in a TSF posting on December 6.  Cosway commented on the recent dismissal of John Kerr, the longtime anglers and hunters columnist.  Kerr, a Sun veteran of nearly 30 years, noted in his December 4th column that it was to be his last for the tabloid.  Good luck finding the whole thing online.  Not only can’t you read it on torontosun.com, you won’t be able to locate past columns.  It’s like they couldn’t wait to get rid of this guy.  (The Ottawa Sun’s outdoors columnist Jeff Morrison wrote a brief tribute to Kerr on December 11.  It’s the second item.)
 
On December 9, Cosway announced six more departures from The Toronto Sun.  If you’re a fan of Ajit Jain and Nicholas Davis, two of The Sun’s regular columnists, you have two less reasons to read the paper now.  They’re out.  Also gone are a few security personnel.  I bet the remaining employees feel much safer now, especially those leaving the building at night.
 
That brings us to December 15.  The London Free Press announced it would no longer offer a Sunday edition.  And Cosway reported on TSF that December 16 was going to be a dark day for Sun Media.  In that entry, an anonymous source predicted that as many as 10% of the overall workforce would be axed.  That’s exactly the percentage media outlets have been using in their stories.  The Canadian Press reported that besides getting rid of so many employees, readers can also look forward to less original content.  The plan is to continue with more wire copy.  How inspiring.
 
Meanwhile, Cosway has been compiling a list of names of the victims in a growing list of pieces on TSF, thanks to numerous sources within the company.  Of the 22 unfortunate souls pushed out of The Calgary Sun, sports columnist Eric Francis and longtime photographer Jack Cusino are the most high profile.  Eleven more are gone from The Winnipeg Sun while three are departing The Ottawa SunFive others have been dropped from The Edmonton Sun including photographer Robert Taylor who’s been snapping pics since the paper started publishing.
 
As for the paper that started it all, 49 employees have been shown the door in Toronto.  A number of the names are surprising.  Linda Leatherdale, the business columnist; Jane Stevenson, the music & concert critic as well as occasional film reviewer; Jason McNeil, another music critic who took over the late Sherri Wood’s beat; Derek Tse, who had just returned to the paper after a brief stint with The Toronto Star; photographer Debbie Holloway.  The rest of the list is made up of reporters, librarians, editors, advertising people, managers and proofreaders, as well as a website part-timer and a video editor.
 
On April 2, 2007, I posted a commentary entitled Why The Toronto Sun Is Going To Die.  While mostly criticizing then-Sun columnist Rachel Marsden’s poor journalism and the foolishness of those supporting her hiring (I’m looking at you, Lorrie Goldstein and Rob Granatstein), the piece also pointed out the paper’s declining circulation, the number of employees Quebecor has fired over the years and the tiresome conservative bias in the opinion section.  While looking at it again, with the exception of the Marsden stuff, it’s startling to see how timeless it is.  Lines pop out at you:
 
“…there is no future.”
 
“Frustration is at an all-time high.  Morale is at an all-time low.”
 
“…circulation is way down.”
 
It could’ve been written today.  What’s so sad about these 600 dismissals isn’t just the awfully cruel timing (just days before Christmas and Hanukkah), it’s the senselessness of them.  (The Toronto Sun remains a profitable enterprise despite its credibility problems.)  Popular columnists with decades-long tenures are thrown away like garbage.  Photographers, whose work adds emotional visuals to news reports, particularly at the local level, are considered unnecessary.  Those who are paid to protect the staff from any kind of potential violence or nonsense are relieved of their duties, leaving behind a horrible sense of vulnerability.  And what about the behind-the-scenes employees who aren’t the high-profile writers and reporters?  What did they do to deserve such shoddy, disrespectful treatment?
 
It’s one of the most depressing stories of the last couple of years, the needless shriveling of the media business.  Lost in all the panic and devastation is the fact that despite lower circulation figures, inferior journalism and less profits, the corporations who own all of these publications are still making money off of them.  They just don’t believe they’re profitable enough.  As a result, a whole bunch of people are thrown overboard, left to fend for themselves with little to no assistance from their former bosses.  Some, like my friend Bill Brioux, quickly bounce back with a new gig and renewed enthusiasm for their work after years of corporate misery.  Others switch professions altogether while the rest struggle.  It’s incredibly unfair and incredibly indecent.
 
The worst part of all of this is that terminal imbeciles like Michael Coren and Salim Mansur never have to worry about scanning the want ads.  Despite their hateful, dishonest diatribes, their jobs are always secure.  It’s almost always the respected ones like Brioux and Val Gibson who are targetted for the dump heap.
 
What will it take for surviving employees of The Sun to collectively throw their hands in the air and walk out in unison never to return?  Honest to God, how much more corporate punishment can they take?  They are overworked, fed up, disillusioned and powerless.  How powerless?  Name me one columnist, just one, who is mad enough and brave enough to unleash such scorn against Quebecor in one column that the words ignite a sense of rebellion and a sense of purpose in every employee stuck working for this dead-end company. 
 
That’s right.  You can’t.
 
There are none.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
8:18 p.m.
 
 
“Words HAVE been written about the cutbacks and the lost colleagues – and those words have been spiked. So tone it back a bit – people are trying, but they do work for Quebecor. Remember who the villain is here and don’t attack those left behind.”
 
John Cosway replied, “Send us the spiked words and we’ll unspike them on TSF.”  As of this writing, they’ve not yet been posted.  Keep visiting Toronto Sun Family for all the latest developments on this terrible story.  Cosway is updating multiple times a day now.
 
Meanwhile, Bill Brioux over at The TV Feeds My Family Blog offers his condolences to the recent cutback victims.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, December 18, 2008
9:02 p.m.
 
UPDATE 2:  Cosway has posted the spiked column.  Joe Warmington authored it.  According to Cosway, it was not sent by The Night Scrawler himself but from an anonymous source.  Having read it, it’s hard to believe it was scrapped.  There’s not a single remotely offensive word in it.  (It’s not known who prevented its publication in the paper.)  Warmington pays tribute to Linda Leatherdale, the longtime business columnist, who reveals that the news of her firing came on her 55th birthday.  Without naming him directly, he also singles out some critical comments Cosway made on TSF about the utter lack of public commentary from Sun columnists on these devastating dismissals.  Disappointingly, Quebecor is spared from any scathing rants.  For a guy who claimed the media was giving President-Elect Barack Obama a free pass on all those awful (and false) Republican smears (they didn’t, by the way), it’s surprising to read this line:
 
“I don’t like what happened with the job cuts, but it’s not my place, or expertise, to comment on the business side of this newspaper, or its parent, on how they handle managing a company during a global recession.”
 
Warmington ends by promising to do a better job of keeping readers informed of the internal happenings at The Sun.  Unless he starts an independent blog, that won’t be happening.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 19, 2008
6:47 p.m. 
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Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 8:19 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Hi Dennis:

    Further to your comments on John Kerr and my tribute to him in the Ottawa SUN on December 11th…ironically, I too became another casualty of SUN Media cutbacks less than three-weeks after I penned that piece. My Outdoors Column ran in the Ottawa SUN for 7 years and built tremendous readership in eastern ON and western QC – the column was like one of my children so the cut was a great loss to me, and two outdoors columns disappearing in Ontario will be a great loss to the outdoor community as well. I fear bad things for SUN Media and wish everyone else the best of luck..

    Best regards
    Jeff Morrison


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