Mike Strobel on stealing scoops

In a column for the “the enemy” Torontoist, the Toronto Sun’s Mike Strobel promotes his new book (Bad Girls and Other Perils, a collection of his columns) and remembers the good old days of stealing scoops from the Toronto Star.

Strobel has worked for the Sun as managing editor, editor-in-chief and now, columnist. He doesn’t think newspapers are dead quite yet, but admits the definition of “mainstream” is shifting towards Torontoist and their ilk. Of course, like any ol’ “newspaper hack” (his words, not mine), he has a few war stories.

“Used to be, this town’s newspapers waged constant war. The Sun and Star, especially. The Globe pretended to be above the fray. The Post came out slugging, then proved to have a glass jaw.”

He remembers one particular Sun scoop fondly (“Remember Ben Johnson? Bulky black guy? Really, really fast?”‘), the first interview with the runner after he disappeared post-drug test, the story that every paper in the world wanted on page 1.

“In those war-torn days, the Star sent a spy to our press docks each night to check the early papers. If we had anything juicy, the yobs at 1 Yonge could catch up for their later editions.

“So, that night, we put out a mock paper. No mention of Ben Johnson. The spy saw it, shrugged and left. The presses screeched to a halt and we slapped on the real plates.

“‘I’m Innocent!’ Ben proclaimed on page 1. ‘You bastards,’ they stormed at the Star.

“Quite a scoop. Yippee. Ben Johnson lied to us first.”

Strobel reminisces about how newspapers “fought to the death over every tip and photo and any story that moved. We swiped sources, snuck into enemy newsrooms to borrow photos, sweated bullets until the other guy’s paper arrived. Scoop or be scooped.

“The sounds of battle echo in our newsroom…and the bloodlust for a story lingers.

“But the internet has spoiled Toronto’s great newspaper wars. The Big Smoke’s media are so fragmented, so numerous, so diverse, we don’t even know where to aim our cannons.”