Toronto Star

A brand like no other accepts the price of fame

- JIM COYLE

Atiny perfect tear rolled down my cheek the other day. I heard a friend had died. More than that, really. It was like a death in the family. Part of my past, a piece of my identity, was gone.

When I learned the (CP) logo of The Canadian Press was no more, it felt as if someone had torn down my childhood home. How many times, over a dozen years as a reporter for the national wire service, did I type that (CP)? More than I can count. I typed it, I guess — and fittingly enough — in every province and territory in the country.

Through the 20th century, that (CP) was a symbol as Canadian as grain elevators and fishing dorries, Great Lakes freighters and nickel mines. It was the stuff of Pierre Berton books filed in short takes.

Its brackets were like a national embrace, best known in parts of the land where the Eaton’s catalogue was big and the newspapers were small. That logo was a warranty of dependabil­ity, self-effacing and ego-free, a lot like the country itself.

To discerning eyes, that (CP) brand — No-Frills and No-Name before those terms were coined — meant news quicker than a Nike swoosh, was as ubiquitous as Canadian Tire, as fast and reliable (if perhaps as light on spice) as Tim Hortons.

Oh, I know. Branding is the name of the game these days. You can’t fight progress. To everything there is a season. Even national icons. No one need explain how well The Canadian Press was known in journalism (newspaper reporters always pleading to know what the wire was filing) but what a wellkept secret it was outside the world of ink and deadlines.

We got used to telling folks that, no, we didn’t work for a railway. We even developed a shtick for introducin­g ourselves.

“The Canadian Press. The wire service? Canada’s national newsgather­ing co-operative? You know, like Reuters and the AP?” At last producing the vague recognitio­n that we had something to do with news, not meat-packing.

In days gone by CP took a becoming pride in its anonymity, in virtues now gone out of style, satisfied to be judged on steak, not sizzle, caring little for bylines or who took credit so long as the story was told.

The CP reporter was usually the most interestin­g scribe at the bar, Kevin Doyle said, and the only one who wasn’t saying so. CP didn’t advertise itself, a history of the wireservic­e noted. “The name and the news must do its own advertisin­g.”

Quaint notion that. Now, celebrity is the religion, branding the watchword, technology has changed the game utterly, and the new economic order demands the wire raise both profile and revenue.

Still, the decision by The Canadian Press to answer modernity’s imperative and swap the (CP) for a stylized Canadian flag rendered in quote marks is the end of an era, another nail in Gutenberg’s coffin — the replacemen­t of a logo so unmistakab­ly a product of keyboards with a graphic.

The place that taught the essentials of the news racket better than anywhere — how to get it right, how to write it fast — might live, alas, to regret that.

There’s something enduring about the alphabet, a reason that NY of the Yankees is the bestknown cap in baseball. Some of the most famous people, places and things in the world are known by two initials. OJ. BC. UK. GM. VW. Even TO.

Five’ll get you 10 that flag-quotes thingy doesn’t last half as long as the (CP) did.

We shall not see its like again. Jim Coyle usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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