No more Sundays

A note atop Page A1 on Sunday thanks readers

So that’s it, the last Sunday edition of the Gazette is on the newsstands now, just over two weeks after the stunning announcement that it would be stopped because of financial reasons.

The coverage

Other media gave brief mentions of the last Sunday section:

The Gazette itself certainly didn’t hide from this notable moment in the paper’s history. In addition to the giant note above and yet another reminder of how the paper and its contents will change, today’s paper has a retrospective from Walter Buchignani, who was one of many hired to launch the Sunday paper in 1988. He became “Action Man” – doing a different activity every week and writing about it. More recently, Buchignani has worked behind the scenes, supervising the paper’s production over the weekend as the night editor, in addition to his regular Formula One column. (His piece includes a humorous bit about having to call the Living Legend of Sports Journalism, Red Fisher, late at night to do an obit for Gump Worsley). Buchignani was in charge last night, too, as we toasted the final issue.

The Sunday tab

The last Gazette Sunday Sports tabloid

I, meanwhile, had the honour of putting together the last ever Sunday Sports tabloid section. It was a small section, and pretty short on news (no Habs game, no Alouettes game, no big tennis or golf tournaments). The biggest story was the Canadiens signing their first-round 2009 draft pick Louis Leblanc (and his announcement that he would play for the Montreal Juniors next season instead of staying at Harvard), and Pat Hickey pointing out how odd it is that they would release this news late on a Friday night.

There’s also a Stu Cowan column saying Andrei Markov should learn some French, which I’m sure will spark some debate.

The first Gazette Sunday sports tabloid, Feb. 26, 2006

The Sunday tab is young enough that I remember its origins (though I needed a bit of database help to remember the date). It began on Feb. 26, 2006, the day after the Gazette launched the new “Saturday Extra” section in a reorganization of the weekend papers.

The editor in chief at the time, Andrew Phillips, introduced it thusly:

Sunday Sports is now an easy-to-handle tabloid. We think that format is ideally suited to displaying our best sports writing and photographs on the biggest sports  news day of the week. Today, for example, the section opens with a dramatic poster-size photo from Turin of gold-medal skater Clara Hughes.

The poster – which celebrated Hughes’s gold medal in the women’s 5000-metre speed-skating event at Turin (it would be Canada’s last of seven golds at those games, the men’s hockey team having been humiliated in the quarterfinal by Russia) – actually formed both the front and back pages of the 36-page section, an experiment that wouldn’t be repeated. But I saw that particular cover many times over the following months – one Gazette staffer taped it up to the wall like an eight-year-old would do to a poster of their hero. Hughes had that effect on people.

The Gazette didn’t have much experience putting out tabloid sections at the time. The Books tabloid launched only the previous day, while the West Island section was put together as one file in QuarkXPress, something that wasn’t feasible on a three-person sports desk.

There were quite a few growing pains. At first, the section was split up into pairs (the plates were broadsheet-sized, so each tabloid page was paired with a mate as it was typeset), so a 20-page tabloid section (not including the 12 classified pages tucked into it) would have 10 Quark documents. And each document would have the full 32 pages in it (and not in sequential order either), only two of which would be used. After a couple of weeks they got each document down to the two live pages, and eventually managed to split those up so each editorial tabloid page would have its own Quark document (with the exception of the centre spread, which would be in one file).

The Sunday tab was a lot of work for two reasons: first, it was a lot of editorial space. The norm was 20 pages. Take away three for the scoreboard stats (which are done by Canwest Editorial Services in Hamilton), one for the full-page ad on the back and another for the full-page photo on the front, and that leaves 15 pages, or the equivalent of 7.5 broadsheet pages, a pretty large section.

Second, it was laid out in a different way than the section was the rest of the week. Unlike broadsheet pages which would have at least three or four stories, the tabloid pages would have one or two, and each page would have a photo, which meant a photo for almost every story. For the most part, each page would be devoted to one sport (multiple pages in the case of hockey, of course). To me, it always seemed more organized than the broadsheet section, not to mention easier to read.

I’ll miss the fun of laying that out. But I won’t miss the stress of putting it all together on deadline.

What’s changing

Taken from the note to readers, here’s what’s going to be changing next weekend, by section:

Finally, a new section is being added to the Saturday paper, called “Diversions”, which will take all the puzzles and comics pages from the two weekend papers and add a few extras.

It will include:

  • The black-and-white Saturday comics page
  • Three colour Sunday comics pages (previously, two of these pages would be in the Saturday paper and a third in the Sunday paper)
  • The Saturday and Sunday puzzles pages, which includes horoscopes, Wonderword, the Sunday New York Times crossword and cryptic crossword and those little Sunday puzzles
  • The L.A. Times Sunday crossword, which is being added for the benefit of those who objected to removing the Tribune Crossword a while back
  • A new page called “Looking Back”, which features John Kalbfleisch’s Second Draft column, as well as “feature photos from Gazette archives” and some other yet-to-be-announced historical stuff

The last Sunday paper left mixed emotions among some editors. It’s sad, but many of them will get their Saturday nights back now.

Not me, though, at least not at first. I’m back at work next Saturday night – on the online desk.

19 thoughts on “No more Sundays

  1. Ohara

    I will miss the Sunday edition. I enjoy the daily home delivery. But you answered my question. As long as Cul de Sac will be published in the Saturday comics section, I will deal.

    Reply
  2. AlexH

    I can’t help but thinking that this will help to return the Saturday paper into a bit more of a prominent position, giving people time to digest all that is in that paper in a more leisurely format.

    Reply
  3. Elsa

    Great post about this, I saw this news bit briefly on the STM today and wanted more info and your post gave me everything I needed. Very tragic though…

    Reply
  4. Maria Gatti

    How about Bronwyn Chester’s great tree column?

    Oh dear, not a day without the repulsive Doug Camilli.

    Yes, this is a very good post; much better explanation than I’ve seen in any local media.

    Reply
  5. wkh

    can you please remove that repulsive floating videotron ad at the bottom of the screen? No one wants that. And if videotron does tell them I am going to cancel service if they don’t remove it. Gross.

    Reply
  6. Stephane

    Sunday Gazette was always too lightweight and by looking at this morning’s paper looks like the Monday edition will have that new distinction. But I kept the last paper.

    At 44 I guess I’m old school, love newspapers, keep the editions that cover major events and hopefully my kid will look at it in 20 years and say “Cool!”. Not likely (I have a Montreal Herald edition from Friday, April 1 1892 3 cents per edition/$6 a year — also interesting to note businesses that lined Notre Dame back then advertising in the paper).

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The “digital edition only” scenario was contemplated, yes.

      The National Post tried that in the summer of 2009, having copy editors actually construct the pages and lay them out, but not printing them and just using it for the digital edition. But far too few people read the paper that way, and compared to the cost of putting it together (in the Sunday Gazette’s case, you’re talking about around seven copy editors, a designer and a clerk, minimum), it just didn’t make sense.

      And when you think about it, why create something that’s formatted for paper when it’s never going to be printed? Easier to just post stuff online directly. Much easier to read online than the digital edition.

      Reply
  7. mike

    I’ve been a subscriber for almost 60 yrs. I love computers & internet — but not for newspapers. However after only 22 years, a pittance of time, I’d be happy to see the money into bringing back a better Mon – Sat,ie news.Though we’ve never missed a Gazette by theft* in 30+ yrs – my wife insists on bringing in Gaz, asap.[* maybe that’s why? I doubt it]. So to be positive – I can now sleep in on Sundays. :)

    Reply
  8. MAWG

    I can’t remember the last time I read the Sunday edition. It usually goes straight to recycling. They should have stopped printing it years ago. I barely have time to read it daily and even reading Saturdays edition isn’t always possible while raising children and maintaining a home.

    Reply
  9. Jay

    I will not be lamenting the loss of the Sunday Gazette, which in my opinion has slowly declined in the quality of their stories. Much better to beef up the Saturday paper, which in my opinion, is one of the few strengths of the gazoo.

    Reply
  10. Jim

    I found the Sunday Gazette very useful in its early days, as I was a newscaster on college radio in Toronto Sundays at 6:00 p.m. in the late 80’s

    We could no longer afford a newswire at the station, so I would “adapt” stories from various print sources, including the Sunday Gazette. I especially used to like being able to slip in the Quebec perspective that way.

    I wonder why the Sunday editions of Canadian papers never seemed to have the impossible-to-lift qualities and depth of American ones?

    Reply
  11. ?

    I get the kindle edition of the Gazette. I noticed that the copyright on that is still Canwest. What is up with that?

    Reply
  12. mamahorton

    There will be no price reduction.
    I checked the website today, and they are planning on charging the EXACT same price, $13.69, for the Saturday paper as they did for both the Sat and Sun. But you know they’re not paying the carriers, so it’s straight profit. A very sneaky way of charging a $1.00+ increase to home delivery.

    Reply
    1. Huh

      Actually, at $14 a month, it’s actually cheaper to buy it off the newsstand every Saturday ($2 each) than it is to get home delivery. Real smart, Gazette.

      Reply

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