Celebrity near-death experiences, smiling topless models and puns aplenty – Rupert Murdoch has a reason to wake up on Sundays again.
Less than a year ago, the News Corp. titan swiftly shuttered the world’s highest circulation Sunday paper, the News of the World, amid allegations of widespread phone hacking. But that was all so long ago (even if the 10 criminal cases, most relating to the payment of officials by journalists, will take years to resolve). And there are millions of readers without their Sunday News Corp. fix – some 2.7 million read the notorious News of the World.
But rather than dwell on the ethical breaches that were pervasive at the Sun’s sister paper, Mr. Murdoch has simply added an extra day of publication at the Sun to make up for the hole left in his UK publishing schedule.
And don’t worry about all that ethical stuff about hacking and bribing: the paper vowed in its introductory note on its website that it’s totally not going to break any laws.
“News International closed our sister paper the News of the World over the phone hacking scandal. Since then some of our own journalists have been arrested, though not charged, over allegations of payments to public officials for stories. We believe those individuals are innocent until proven guilty. It has been a sobering experience for our entire industry. But it is vital to remember that The Sun has been responsible for some truly outstanding, award-winning investigative and campaigning public interest journalism.”
See? Everyone has been sobered, so read on. And the note is being pretty modest – it didn’t even mention the thousands of Page 3 girls who have graced its pages wearing nothing but a smile (sometimes pants, too).
Here’s what else you would find if the paper landed on your doorstep today.
When the first pictures of the front cover began to leak on Twitter, rumours instantly began to circulate that the image was a fake. As interesting as Amanda Holden may be – and I have no idea if she is or not since she’s a judge on Britain’s Got Talent and has never been on my television – pundits were confused about why the “inside story” of the difficult birth of her daughter would merit a cover and five pages of inside coverage of the most anticipated newspaper launch in decades. Great headline, though since she’s alive to tell the story it loses a little oomph: “My heart stopped for 40 seconds.”
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First flash of skin
The Sun is famous for its smiling Page 3 girl, although she’s better known for her toplessness than her smile. The Sun on Sunday is apparently targeted toward women, so the paper toned it down. Sunday, the photo is of X Factor star and former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland. She’s naked, sure, but her arms are crossed over her chest.
First celebrity grandmother story
Adele’s Brit pain over nan: Adele bravely battled through the Brits after her doting gran was rushed to hospital following a heart attack.
First headline pun
“Someone likes cue” runs above the page three story about how Adele has THREE (caps theirs) snooker tables in her house.
First funny but confusing headline
“Mandelly Belly: Anti-apartheid hero Nelson has stomach surgery”
First use of giant, red EXCLUSIVE tag
Britain has a plan to invade Iran, the paper reports. Under a red headline that says “Army, subs and jets ready,” the story outlines that the army, subs and jets are indeed ready (according to anonymous sources).
Guest columnist with most to prove
Katie Price is one of the paper’s most famous Page 3 girls, and she said in a story Saturday that her new column will be a chance to prove she’s about more than “fake tans and boobs.” Her debut column tackles the question of “why are people always blaming failing schools for failing kids.” A full size body shot appears next to the column, but she’s clothed. The photo appears above a column outlining her thoughts about Whitney Houston’s death: “I know I’ve lived my life in front of the cameras,” she writes for some reason. “But death is different.”
First Canadian scoop
Ok, not really. But on Page 24, there’s a little ad for a Drake concert. It’s on July 7, by the way.
First ironic advertisement
Cellphone provider Three takes out a full page to advertise its new data plans. The ad comes a few pages after the editorial, which is titled “A new Sun rises today.” In it, the paper points out it had to point out the hacking scandal was “sobering.” But it vowed to obey the law, and added the paper has “always been a force for good.” So go ahead, get the extra-large voicemail inbox.
Here are a few other things the world now knows thanks to a Sunday publishing schedule at the Sun: David Beckham gives his daughter piggyback rides, Holly Willoughby “ditches her smart TV reporting clothes and turned herself into “a leather clad biker babe,” and an Arthur Dent-like tenant refused to “quit his flat overlooking the Olympics stadium,” which sits on the site of the future BBC broadcasting centre.
The founder and chief executive officer of Score Media Inc. doesn’t usually drink at lunch, and today is no exception. But after an hour of sporadic jokes about the liquid lunches of an earlier time, he’s reconsidering the merits of a midday martini as he passes the bar on his way to the coat check.
“What do you think?” he asks. “Is this lemon crap any good?”
The exchange wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, if not for the reaction of his considerably younger and slightly embarrassed chief operating officer, who suggests Mr. Levy step away from the bar. He does it with an eye-rolling exasperation that can only come from an aghast relative, and they are, indeed, father and son.
“You know this is going to end up in the newspaper, right?” Benjie Levy asks, not for the first time.
While the younger Mr. Levy might have a better handle on media relations, the older Mr. Levy’s irreverent attitude is what has defined the network since its inception in the ’90s. John Levy is the Score brand personified – humorous, outspoken and brash.
It’s a populist approach that has worked for the channel, which just came off its strongest year, with revenue up 14 per cent to $13.4-million from $11.8-million. The company’s mobile apps drew an average 3.3 million unique visitors a month in the quarter, a gain of 60 per cent from a year ago. Its website drew 1.2 million unique viewers, an increase of 140 per cent.
Anchored around a cable television station that specializes in offbeat commentary, Score and its Internet properties are among the first sites visited each morning by tens of thousands of fantasy sports enthusiasts from around the world, as well as other hard-core fans.
Score is an anomaly among Canadian sports broadcasters. With a market capitalization of $68-million, it’s tiny compared with its main competitors. TSN, owned by BCE Inc., has a market cap of $30-billion, while Sportsnet, owned by Rogers Communications, has a market cap of $20-billion. That David-and-Goliath relationship is something Mr. Levy says helps him attract bloggers who are leery of large corporations and are willing to write at a discount in exchange for exposure.
When it comes to on-air talent and an ever-growing pool of bloggers, Score is just as likely to find them toiling in obscurity on the Internet – such as the guys who now post to the Basketball Jones blog, which used to be filmed in their kitchen before they raced off to their day jobs – as it is to find them coming out of a journalism school.
“I was at a lunch years ago with a bunch of our guys from across different departments,” Mr. Levy says. “And these guys, who weren’t on-air reporters, were more informative and interesting than half the crappy professionals. I realized we could just turn the goddamn camera on them and let people hear them.”
It’s this kind of thinking Mr. Levy believes sets Score apart from its rivals. Where the country’s leading broadcasters have spent millions on rights to high-profile sporting events and the professional journalists to cover them relentlessly, Score has only a minor focus on live events (National Basketball Association games – excluding the Toronto Raptors – plus National Collegiate Athletic Association and WWE events are among the top offerings).
Rather than compete on games, Mr. Levy has decided to compete on the information and commentary surrounding games. The company’s mobile app was redesigned last year to allow users to customize which stats to follow, with a focus on fantasy sports enthusiasts who are able to track 15,000 players and 800 teams.
Its focus on digital offerings allows Mr. Levy to walk with the swagger of a confident underdog. The company’s mobile app is the most popular sports download in the world on BlackBerrys. It is in the Top Five for the iPhone, alongside industry giants such as ESPN.
And as the big Canadian sports broadcasters keep getting bigger – competitors Rogers and BCE recently partnered on a deal for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment – takeover talk is constantly swirling around the 300-person company. So, I couldn’t help but ask about a sale.
“Who have you been talking to?” he says with mock horror. “What have they told you? It wasn’t supposed to get out yet. I’ll have to talk to my people.”
If his attitude is any indication, he’s having too much fun to sell. He started the company in 1994, when he bought a station that simply displayed text-based sports tickers all day long. Several years later, he’d sell his family’s Hamilton-based cable company to focus on Score full time.
He set up in Toronto’s King Street entertainment district, before it was trendy. He wasn’t allowed to put any signs on his building, which he maintains is one of the ugliest in Toronto. But three years ago, he managed to get permission from his landlord to put a giant screen on the front of the building, along with street-level windows looking into the studio.
“It’s such an open environment now,” he says. “You’ll see there’s nothing formal about anything we do. That goes for on-air, with our talent, our programming. So the look and feel of our building has become very important to us, because it’s a reflection of our attitudes.”
With a head start on the apps front, he’s convinced the company can compete effectively with Rogers and Bell through the next wave of technology adoption. His executives have met with television manufacturers, and have proposed things such as interactive sports tickers that would sit in a corner of a television screen and let fantasy sports players know when one of their players has scored a point.
John Levy finds it all a little boring as his son explains the concept of an unobtrusive Score.ca ticker app running at the corner of every channel on the dial.
He’d like something a little more intrusive.
“We should make it so [Score radio host] Cam Stewart pops onto your screen and says ‘Why don’t you just stand up to your wife and tell her you don’t want to watch this shit because there’s a really good game going on,’” he says, pounding the table. “We’ll call it the Cam Alert.”
And with that, he surveys the table and what’s left of his meatball sandwich. The waitress offers a dessert menu, but the lean Mr. Levy, in his late 50s, decides he’s already strayed off script enough for one day.
“Bodies like this don’t come by accident,” he says, as Benjie sighs and rolls his eyes. “The two of us work out very hard. We pretend we are the competition and we just go at it. It’s actually quite effective.”
John Levy, founder and CEO of Score Media Inc.
Born May 21, 1953; raised in Hamilton.
Graduated from University of Toronto law school in 1978.
Lives in Hamilton, commuting to Toronto by car at least three days a week.
Married for 35 years; four children, aged 23 to 32.
Oldest son Benjie, a graduate of the University of Toronto with a finance degree, serves as Score Media’s chief operating officer.
Learned the cable business from his father, Cecil, owner of Hamilton’s Western Co-Axial (rebranded as Cableworks Communications in the late 1990s).
Bought Sportscope in 1994, a sports score ticker. Rebranded and relaunched as Headline Sports in 1997 after obtaining a broadcasting licence from the CRTC.
Sold the cable company in 1999 to focus on television broadcasting with Score Media.
“Our goal is to have people want to work with us. It’s about the approach to life and the way we run the business. We’ve never been that stuffy organization. It’s about the feel of being a family business – there is a different atmosphere at the Score, which is very unique.”
For me, it was a story I did in Peterborough within a few weeks of arriving in the city. I was a long way from home, didn’t know anybody and back at a daily for the first time in three years after a stint running a business weekly.
While it’s never a good idea to read something you wrote early in your career (or even something from yesterday), this story came up at a retirement party a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it. It’s innocent enough, a teddy bear picnic in a small town.
But the woman in the story complained. And she complained a lot. She complained that the story was on B2, and said that was because my tone was all wrong. She complained about having the venue Sin City in the lead. But mostly, she complained about the sentence: On its chest is stitched an imitation of the popular New York City slogan “I love New York,” where the word love is represented by a red heart. These bears say “I love Peterborough.”
That’s because she said she came up with the slogan, had never been to New York, had never seen the New York logo.
I had no idea how it would go down with my boss, who didn’t really talk to us a lot. I spent at least a week halfway convinced that I would get fired, because I thought she had some kind of pull in the community. I thought I had seriously misread the city.
It all blew over. But it made me dig this out of the archives. And now that I’m out of her reach, I can finally say that her complaints were ridiculous. I’ll even go so far as to say she was lying about having never seen the I Love NY logo.
So there. That feels good, even eight years later.
Headline: Teddies called to reunion Saturday
Source: STEVEN LADURANTAYE, THE EXAMINER
Section: City/region Page: B2
Date: Sunday, April 28, 2002
Rather than going with the more traditional picnic, the Teddy Bear is planning to celebrate its 100th birthday in the more clubbish atmosphere of Sin City next Saturday.
While there will no doubt be festivities the world over, the Peterborough Teddies suspect the party will be a little more exciting here thanks to the possible presence of the 23,399 bears the organization has handed out over the past 17 years.
“It’s our anniversary this week,” chairbear and founding member Judy Gibson said. “The bears have given me something to devote myself to and given me a sense of purpose and passion.”
While the party is a week away due to logistical considerations, Gibson said she expects to see a strong show of support from the region’s bear lovers.
Her organization is singularly responsible for handing out more than 23,000 bears by placing them in ambulances, fire trucks and police cars to be handed it to anyone in distress. The teddies are also delivered to dozens of organizations including Crossroads, Cameron House and the Children’s Aid Society.
“We’ll be taking donations at the party and we will have bears to buy for those who are bearless,” she said. “It promises to be a day of new experiences; I’ve never been to Sin City before.”
Not only will there be a party to mark the club’s anniversary, there is also a collector’s edition bear now available. For a donation of $10, you can pick up a small, brown, bow-tied bear. On its chest is stitched an imitation of the popular New York City slogan “I love New York,” where the word love is represented by a red heart. These bears say “I love Peterborough.”
So far only 100 of the bears are in town, but more are expected soon. The bears will be available at the party.
Lana Konopski has been volunteering with Teddies for four years. She sees a great deal of good come from the little bears.
“It’s such a comfort,” she said. “Something can happen and you are all upset and your mind is blank. Then someone gives you a Teddy Bear that you can hold and it makes you feel good.”
As for the origins of the 100-year-old Teddy Bear, the stuffed animal is usually traced back to a hunting trip then American president Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt took in 1902. He refused to shoot a small, black bear that was tethered to a tree, saying it was unsporting.
The Washington Post ran a cartoon on the front page poking fun at him, which caused a shopkeeper to put a stuffed bear in the window and called it a Teddy Bear. They were instantly popular.
The birthday party kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday and should run until 8 p.m. There will be entertainment for all ages, as well as plenty of cake and balloons.
The hot housing market that powered the country’s post-recession recovery is slowing to a crawl.
The Canadian Real Estate Association said sales dropped and prices moderated in January, with the weakness spread among more than half of the country’s cities. Sales in Vancouver and Toronto slowed to a crawl, with few houses available to would-be buyers.
The low number of listings means there could be a rush of sellers trying to capitalize on the spring market, keeping a lid on the bidding wars that have driven prices sharply higher in some of the country’s largest markets.
“There is really a lack of product,” said Phil Soper, president of Brookfield Residential Real Estate Services, which operates Royal LePage. “We expect that to pick up considerably, and by the end of March Break you’ll really be able to gauge the Canadian market’s health. Or lack of health.”
Canada’s sizzling property market has made headlines around the world, and so far defied some predictions that it’s a debt-fuelled bubble bound to pop. Forecasts for home prices for the next several years vary wildly – with economists and analysts predicting everything from a 25 per cent drop to modest gains.
The latest figures suggest a levelling off. Home sales across the country were down 4.5 per cent in January from December, the sharpest monthly decline since July, 2010.
Average prices were 2 per cent higher than a year ago at $348,178, the smallest year-over-year increase in the past year.
It’s not the first sign that the much-talked-about slowdown may have arrived.
The Teranet-National Bank index, an alternative measure of price gains that lags CREA by several months, showed prices dipped 0.2 per cent in November, marking the first drop since the fall of 2010.
In Toronto, the bidding wars have largely given way to a market where houses sit longer and sell for closer to their asking price, said Richard Silver, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board. But hot neighbourhoods continue to fetch top dollar, especially considering the lack of listings.
Matthew Slutsky, chief executive officer of real estate site BuzzBuzzHome.com, has been trying to buy a house in one downtown neighbourhood for months. Along with his wife Carlie Brand, he’s been popping letters in mailboxes imploring their owners to consider a sale.
“I really hope it’s the calm before the storm and more listings pop up,” he said. “Right now it feels like we are auditioning for a house, and I don’t know if I want to wait and see what happens in the spring.”
There’s been a sense of unease surrounding Canada’s housing market for more than a year. The federal government tightened its mortgage qualification requirements to try to prevent buyers from taking on too much debt in a low-interest-rate environment, and the Bank of Canada has issued a steady stream of warnings about high levels of household debt.
The fear is that rates will rise as the economy improves, and many people who could afford their house when interest rates were low may find those same houses unaffordable as rates rise. Financial turmoil in Europe also has many market watchers concerned, with any default in Greece expected to have ripple effects around the world.
Lenders such as Gerry Soloway, CEO of Home Capital Corp., have cautiously tightened their lending standards in recent months as the economy wobbled. But he doesn’t see prices crashing any time soon, even if things slow down considerably.
“I just don’t see the catalyst for a big price drop,” he said.
“We are finding if the home is priced right and a quality home, it is moving fairly quick,” he said. “Too many people who are listing are expecting prices well above the market. We are spending a lot of time with our agents to ensure we are only taking on listings at the right price.”