A brand like no other ac­cepts the price of fame

Toronto Star - - Greater Toronto - 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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