Thursday, February 01, 2007

"A rebel yell in a sea of grey"

This item is related peripherally to magazines only because Quebecor, which owns the Sun chain of papers, also is one of the big players and printers in the magazine business. But it's interesting, nonetheless, that there's a lot of conversation in blogs about the spiralling decline of The Sun papers.

Some time ago I predicted that under Quebecor's rough handling, the Toronto Sun would dwindle, then be merged with 24 hours and become a giveaway; quite a comedown for the "little paper that grew". Hasn't happened yet, but in recent weeks, many people at the Suns (including Ottawa and Calgary) have been shown the door. One of them, the well-liked and respected TV columnist Bill Brioux (pron. brio) wrote what was probably a private e-mail to a blogger Dennis Earl, who promptly posted it. It was in response to Earl's postings about Sun firings (and particularly Brioux's) and the decline of the paper. Brioux's note, in part:
The Sun was the rebel yell in a sea of grey, the rock and roll paper in town. It was all elbows up, take no prisoners, tell the truth journalism.

Those were the days.

The saddest part about working there the last year or so was the fear in the eyes of almost everybody in the place. It had to be heartbreaking and tragic for the few Day Oners still on the floor. These men and women built The Sun out of nothing, out of the ashes of the Tely. They were not going to be silenced by a management that was no longer interested in the newspaper business. That took real courage and guts and fire in the belly. These people had plenty of spine and tremendous conviction.

Would that that same spirit were alive today. That generation that grew up with Watergate and which was going to get to the bottom of every story has been packaged out the door or simply retired or been downsized. An entire generation of real news people has been converged out of existence. The new generation seems content to become conscripted into the marketing machinery of whatever multinational has them by the throat.

This isn't the Sun I joined just seven short years ago. It was the place to be fearless. It was a place to tell it to the reader straight.

I'll always be grateful that the Sun gave me a voice and let me use it. What else could any writer want?

Now editors pore over copy, deathly afraid of any words that might offend one or two people at the top. Doug Creighton [founding, former Sun publisher] must be spinning in his grave.

Have to agree with you on the utter ineffectiveness of the union's little byline yanking scheme last week. What's next--stamping your feet? Holding your breath? I'm not holding mine anymore.

Wearing buttons or T-shirts is not going to change anything at The Sun. The survivors are going to have to stand up and take their paper back. It will be tough in an atmosphere where there is zero tolerance for dissent. Still, what is there left to lose? Bloody well go down fighting. Otherwise, as Edward R. Murrow invoked in his Shakespearean stare down of Joseph McCarthy, "Cassius was right. 'The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."


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