The Globe and Mail has replaced left-wing, freelance writer Rick Salutin as its regular Friday columnist with Irshad Manji, the feisty activist described by the New York Times as "Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare." The move is part of what's being described as a "radical redesign" of the paper set to be launched on Friday.
"It's a little bit painful for readers who are used to our columnists," says Judith McGill, assistant to Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse. "We're bringing in some new voices to the paper."
McGill acknowledges "there's a bit of a campaign" underway to get Salutin reinstated partly as a result of a blog written by Murray Dobbin which appears today on the website of the Vancouver Sun.
She adds, however, that "hopefully we will feature him as an occasional contributor" on Globe comment pages "from time to time."
Salutin himself said he was rushing out the door when reached by phone at his home in Toronto. He added he's in his 20th year writing the Globe column and has known for some time that the newspaper was dropping it. "I didn't make a big thing of it," he said.
A report in Toronto Life magazine says that the newly redesigned Globe, "at 12 inches wide by 21 inches deep, will be tighter and smaller, a bit narrower and shorter than a traditional broadsheet."
The article, by Jason McBride, says "the paper will be printed on a blend of stocks, including traditional newsprint, but also glossy and matte paper and, possibly, a bright white stock...Pages will often be devoted to a single news story, adorned with several ads."
McBride reports that information from focus groups in Toronto and Vancouver showed that "readers wanted the paper to have a 'friendlier' look. Friendlier apparently meant more white space, shorter stories, grabbier graphics and a lot more colour."
Meantime, to promote its new paper, the Globe has been trying to entice potential readers to a website called Canada: Our Time To Lead. It encourages visitors to create their own front page and to watch a 60-second TV commercial featuring a helmeted young woman riding a bicycle while urging Canadians to redefine the country.
According to Marketer News, the Globe, owned by the super-rich Thomson family, will kick off its redesign with a series on topics that define Canadians. The series will feature what the paper calls "deep coverage and online discussion and debate" of such topics as multiculturalism, powerful women, the future of the armed forces and how to strike a proper balance between work, home life and leisure.