Saturday, January 9, 2010

A symbolic icon for mediocrity

What makes a newspaper great? And being great is very important today as even great doesn't always cut it and mediocre quickly will be history.

It is the staff.

At the end of the month one of Canada's finest papers, at least it was once one of Canada's finest papers, is again suffering the loss of some excellent staff members - four from editorial and more from advertising. The ones in editorial took voluntary buyouts; the others got pink slips and separation payments to ease the financial pain.

Sue Bradnam, the paper's chief photographer, will be gone by the end of the month. She is a talented photographer and will do just fine but the paper will miss her. Behind the scenes, she was a constant, quiet fighter for her department.

In the new world of the Internet, Sue could have been an amazing addition to the team. She always has neat ideas and with the unlimited room offered by the Web, many of her ideas could have been put into practice. The reality of newsprint, with its set physical size, contained imaginative people like Sue. With the might of Sun Media and Quebecor behind her, pushing her on, supporting her, rather than pushing her out the door, she might have developed a unique but large following for her work. Just think of the ads that could have been attached to her work . . .

Speaking of ads, Jill Worthington of the Special Sections department has been dismissed. The work will be done off site, as I understand it. Now, if we had linked Jill and Sue together maybe we would have created a money machine. A coupling that might have been an Internet dream team, but we will never know.

Editors Tom Bogart and Ralph Bridgland are leaving the paper. Two more editors gone. Fire up the spell check. Reporter Joe Matyas is also leaving after decades covering the news for Londoners. Joe is such a keener about all things web-based that he has actually taken courses in writing code for the Web.

He uses his talents to run his church's website. At one time Joe's code was better than the code being used by The Free Press; I could load Joe's pages quicker than those of the mighty Free Press. The London Free Press is losing a forward looking talent in the loss of Joe.

There is a painting of a newsboy hanging on the wall at the paper. Paul Berton, editor-in-chief, uses it as the icon accompanying his online work. (Paul's unretouched icon at left.)

The painting originally had a rich, black background - not the grey and washed out look appearing on the Web. Maybe Berton is trying to tell us something with his symbolically fading icon. Are you Paul?

Just for fun, I set a black and a highlight for Paul's icon. It took but seconds to give it the rich, punchy look of the original art. What was it that I said about mediocrity at the beginning of this post?

[You don't want to be too much of a smart aleck when you write this stuff. This post corrects an error this old, blogging geezer would have thought impossible to make. A former editor at The Free Press alerted me to my error. Thank-you! I have always admitted that I needed an editor.  )-:  ]

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