Thursday, May 01, 2003

Adventures with the BigWigs
(And the Shake-up at The Post)

Well, my summer in Toronto has got off to an incredibly exciting and somewhat surreal start.

I spoke this morning at the Canadian Newspaper Association’s conference, held at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. The panel went very well. (read above post) It was especially nice to be able to put a face to the name Lucinda Chodan. Lucinda is the readership development editor at The Gazette and has been involved in that paper’s attempts to reach allophones and francophones. And I found out today that she was responsible for the hiring of Basem Boshra, the paper’s television critic, who is one of the (too few) good reasons to read The Gazoo.

Anna - the kind and friendly president of CAN who had asked me to speak – was in attendance at the panel. Afterwards, she invited me to stay for lunch and attend any seminars that I liked in the afternoon.

The surreal portion of my day began at lunch. I entered the ballroom, spotted Anna near the stage, and headed over to ask her where I should sit. As I approached her, a congenial man at one of the front tables offered me a seat. I accepted the invitation from the man, who smiled a lot and reminded me of Mr. Hoskins, my school bus driver from Kindergarten.

The man turned out to be John Honderich, the publisher of the Toronto Star. My other tablemates were: Phillip Crawley, Publisher & CEO of The Globe and Mail; Michael Sifton, President and CEO of the Osprey Media Group; Timothy Balding, Director General of the World Association of Newspapers; John Forzani, Chairman of The Forzani Group, which owns Sports Experts and other sporting good stores; and Anna, who gave me the occasional reassuring glance from across the table. Quite the company!

Mr. Crawley – consummately British, and therefore more intimidating than the others at the table – soon introduced the topic of the recent firings and hiring at The National Post. This was news to me, and several of the others around the table. (Ken White is gone. David Asper is the new "chairman" of The National Post, and the position of publisher has been eliminated. Read the press release for all the deets.)

I shan't relate the lunchtime conversation betwixt the bigwigs, because it was all "off the record." (These are not the kind of sources that you burn...) I'm sure you can imagine what they were saying, though...

Anyway, I was made to feel slightly nervous for my new job, which I am starting tomorrow. (I've got a four-month contract working as a reporter for The Post.) But, I was later reassured by some of the people that I'll be working with. Actually, the shake-up at The Post today is probably making it safer to work there. The changes today do show that CanWest is making a commitment to the paper, and that it won't fade out any time soon.

It any case, it was a fascinating lunch. I was a bit out of my league, but I think I handled myself all right. In fact, I had quite a pleasant time with them all.

Tomorrow: more excitement! I'm speaking on another panel at 9 am, and then heading to work to start my new job... I'll keep y'all posted.

(Also, I apologize for using the term "y'all". I'm a little tired.)

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