YOU HAVE TO FILL THE SPACE SOMEHOW
The Toronto Star goofed uniquely the other day. Now there's nothing unusual about the Star goofing but printing a complete page of sports stats that were nine months old is not something I have seen or heard about in half a century of journalism.
I might sympathize if the Star wasn't so uppity holier than thou, like the Liberals on a bad day.
After all, I have been in the trenches, in charge of getting a huge edition onto the presses and out in the street when the rewrite desk was manic, the editors helping me all seemed to be drunk and the press crew was smarting over imagined slights.
I don't devour sports stats like so many fans do but I did turn in my Sunday paper to check how far the Jays had fallen from their nest of superiority high above the division.
And what I found was NHL, NBA, NFL, skiing and curling results, in face so much from last winter that I looked out the window to see if this cold summer had ended and we were already launched into another frozen hell.
Oh yes, there were no baseball stats, and for some zealots, a day without arcane On Base Percentages or even ordinary averages is a day without sunshine.
The Star had a little correction the next day. I would have preferred a full story on what actually happened. It can be mysterious. I still remember the Grey Cup where the publisher asked me the next day in a roar why the special game edition came out with the stats story as the headline story and the main story on Page 3. But at least we were covering a game that had been played hours before.
I was once killing time at a formal dinner with Ted Rogers, the communications czar, and we were yarning about how difficult it was to run a new media outlet. In my case, it was the Sun, where the 62 of us were expected to do several job each in the early 1970s, in his case it was CHFI when FM was still so rare he practically had to give away FM radios in the early 1960s.
Rogers had no reporting resources at all, which he tried to deal with by hiring Larry Henderson, who had been the first national newsreader for CBC TV. Henderson cobbled together a summary of the news and delivered it on tape at 11 p.m.
It had been a long day. Rogers said he was short staffed and the guy in the control room was reeling with fatigue . So he took mercy on him, sent him home early, and said he would run Henderson's tape and then take the station off the air.
Except he ran the wrong tape. It was from the day before. No one noticed, including Rogers until the next day. No one phoned in.
That was when, Ted told me, he figured he desperately needed more listeners. Of course now the station says most days it is the largest in the country.
Ironically, the guy who would have been most upset would have been Larry Henderson. He was legendary for his temper, actually swearing or mumbling on camera if he was told to speed up. He had stalked off a set on live TV when a stagehand messed up. But apparently he was already sleeping, like too many of the potential audience, and missed his commentary twice.
At least the Star can content itself that it didn't goof on Saturday, when it is the largest edition in Canada, and perhaps in Hades too. Maybe they need to use some of the resources wasted on the dead mayor walking on actually checking that they are printing yesterday's news.