Wednesday, 19 November 2014

At 30 - Don Hunt, last of three Toronto Sun co-founders

Updated Nov. 20 re Celebration of Life 
Don Hunt, the last of the Toronto Sun's three co-founders, died yesterday in Toronto from leukaemia. He was 85.

A Celebration of Life will be held Monday, Nov. 24 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, 1668 Islington Avenue in Etobicoke.

The last time we remember Don and fellow co-founders Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington, standing shoulder to shoulder was during the Toronto Sun's memorable 20th anniversary shindig at SkyDome, complete with a midway and fireworks.

That thank you party - and earlier parties and gestures - said it all for their respect for employees who made the tabloid a huge success in the first two decades. A year later, the party ended with Doug's ouster from the board.

Don left the Toronto Sun in 1988 to work at the Houston Post after it was purchased by the Sun and then the Denver Post, but returned to Toronto in 1991 for the 20th anniversary party.

There were a few sets of brothers working at the Sun in the early years, including Don and his brother, Jim, a celebrated sports writer. Their smiles and laughter were contagious.

So, at 30 the last of three men who led the charge at 222 King Street West, in a factory setting, and 333 King Street West, in a new building four years later.

Don Hunt, founding general manager.

Doug Creighton, founding publisher, died from Parkinson's disease at 75 on Jan. 7, 2004.

Peter Worthington, founding editor, died from staph infection complications at 86 on May 13, 2013,     

We are forever indebted to Doug, Peter and Don.

Memories of Don can be posted here or emailed to thecos@the-wire.com 
      
Fellow Day Oner Christina Blizzard wrote Don's obit for today's Sun:

TORONTO - He was a gentle giant of a guy — a newspaper legend who had printer’s ink in his veins and a brilliant business mind that guided the Toronto Sun through its financially perilous early years.

Don Hunt, the paper’s first general manager, died Tuesday at Toronto General Hospital of leukaemia.

He was 85.

While former colleagues at the Sun remembered him for his business smarts, his daughter, Patricia, is mourning him as a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

At 6-foot-6, he was a big guy with a big heart, who liked nothing more than to take his grandkids to the beach.

“It was his childhood dream to start a newspaper,” she said in an interview. “He wrote for his high school newspaper when he was 12.”

Hunt was one of the triumvirate that founded the Sun. The late Doug Creighton was the publisher. Peter Worthington, who died last year, was the editor.

Hunt was the third leg in the stool, so to speak, the calm business voice who kept a steady control over the paper’s finances, while Creighton and Worthington focused on the editorial side of the business.

An avid sports enthusiast, Hunt always insisted sports be given prominence in the Sun.

“He loved the Detroit Tigers and loved to go to games at Tiger Stadium,” Patricia recalled.

He leaves his wife of 59 years, Helen, as well as five children, Patricia, Cameron, Andrea Fennessey, Ian and Paula.

He also had 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“He loved to go to Florida and play on the beach with them,” she said.

Hunt grew up in Sarnia and was in the fourth graduating year of the University of Western Ontario’s journalism program. He had two brothers, Jack and Jim “Shakey” Hunt, also a sports writer.

He started working for the Montreal Star when he was 17 and later moved to Toronto, where he joined the now-defunct Toronto Telegram. When the Tely folded, he moved to the Sun.

His storied journalism career included meetings with Fidel Castro and Che Guevera when he covered the winter league baseball in Cuba. He’d met many U.S. presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

He had drinks in the White House with Ronald Reagan.

“He was a great father and he was always the life of the party,” Patricia recalled.

Hunt loved to play golf and baseball, and in his teens played basketball against the Harlem Globetrotters.

He was also instrumental in starting Can-Am Racing, a predecessor of what is now the Honda Indy and he promoted F1 racing at Mosport.

Hunt quit the Sun in 1988 to go to the Houston Post. He later moved to the Denver Post.

Glen Woodcock, who was the Sun’s first production manager, recalled the fledgling Sun could not have survived without Hunt’s firm hand on the tiller.

“Without Don, we wouldn’t have had any success,” said Woodcock, who now writes an auto column for the Sun.

He remembered a guy who would always watching the dollars.

“He was the guy who kept us on the straight and narrow when it came to spending money in the early days,” Woodcock said.

“Doug was a spender. I think without Don Hunt we would probably have gone broke in the first couple of months - or maybe the first couple of weeks.”

Hunt had ran the Tely’s syndicate department, and brought the rights to many features to the Sun.

Woodcock remembers he always wanted to run the Peanuts cartoon in the Sun — but Hunt balked.

“He wouldn’t let me have Peanuts because we could make $200 a week from the Star,” he said. “And I understood. He was absolutely right.”

While he was careful with cash, Hunt would loosen the purse strings if he saw a good idea.

Woodcock pitched the idea of running a Day in the Life of Toronto - and asked for an unheard-of 28 clear pages to run photographs from all the Sun photographers.

“I went upstairs to Don and said, ‘Two weeks from Sunday, I’d like to have 28 extra clear pages.’ He looked at me and said, ‘What for.’”

When Woodcock explained, Hunt didn’t hesitate: “You’ve got them,” he said.

He also remembers Hunt okaying putting a pop machine in the darkroom - except instead of ginger ale, it was stocked with beer.

“It lasted for a week until there was a drunken brawl between the circulation department and the composing room,” Woodcock recalled.

“Don told me to get rid of it - and out it went.”

Cartoonist Andy Donato remembers Hunt as the quiet guy who was always working in his corner office and who stayed away from office politics.

“Peter and Doug were the ones out front. He was never the kind of guy who wanted the limelight,” Donato recalled.

“He was just a damned good general manager. He was a journalist, a sports writer, who became the general manager of a big, successful company.”

After Hunt moved to the Houston Post, he wanted to stay on the board of the Toronto Sun. When the Sun balked, he sold his stock and stayed in the U.S.

“He was the steady guy in the middle who kept Doug and Peter apart - the voice of sanity,” Donato said.

Sun Media’s v-p of editorial, Glenn Garnett, recalled that Hunt was a good sport who at one legendary event dressed up as General George Patton for an advertising department motivational party.

Garnett, who edited the Sun’s official history, The Little Paper That Grew, by Jean Sonmor, said there was a great deal of tension between Hunt and Creighton in Hunt’s latter years with the company.

“We got the impression he was very much the hard-driving, hard-as-nails businessman behind two very outgoing, affable guys,” he said. “I’d describe him as the steel spine of the Sun.”

The last time the three Sun founders got together was at a lavish party at SkyDome, now Rogers Centre.

In 1991, Creighton had laid out a massive celebration, complete with a merry-go-round.

The last picture of them together, they’re on that merry-go-round.

In his book, Looking For Trouble, Worthington remembered Hunt as the guy affectionately dubbed “Dr. No.” He was the guy who told everyone we couldn’t afford big expenses and had to live within our means.

“For all his blunt, sometimes insensitive exterior, Hunt was kind, scrupulously honest and competent,” Worthington wrote in his book.

Long-time Sun editor John Downing recalled that Hunt lived near him in Etobicoke and one of the paper’s first carriers in that area was one of Hunt’s sons. Downing’s son took over when he quit.

Downing said Hunt rarely got into political discussions, but would simply sit on the side as Worthington and Creighton quibbled about which politicians they’d support.

He recalled Hunt as a calm presence in a business where tempers could often flare.

He also remembered him as the guy who was very much his own man - and wouldn’t listen to what others were telling him.

“When the Tely folded, Don sued (Tely owner) John Bassett - and won,” Downing recalled. Downing had been advised not to sue — and regrets not having collected money he was owed.

A Celebration of Hunt’s life will take place 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, 1668 Islington Avenue in Etobicoke.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

New start-up independents survey


The Toronto Sun turned 43 on Nov. 1, 2014, prompting this invite to former Sun Media staffers who have launched independent newspapers across Canada to share their experiences.

Independents spawned by Sun Media's downsizing have been popping up in the past decade and we often wonder how they are being received by readers and advertisers.

Former Sun Media staffers publishing independent newspapers in the shadows of the conglomerates can describe the experiences in unlimited words.

Post here or email your start-up experiences to thecos@the-wire.com

Meanwhile, Toronto Sun Day Oners continue to relish the choice they made in going with the tabloid start-up after the demise of the Toronto Telegram days earlier. 


The photos in this blog posting were snapped in the early years of the Toronto Sun in the Eclipse Building factory environment. 

Christina Blizzard and Andy Donato are the lone Day Oners still on the job. 

Other surviving Day Oners, including Don Hunt, George Anthony, Jim Thomson, Jac Holland, Norm Betts, Dave Cooper, John Iaboni, Cal Millar, Linda Bone, John Downing, Joan Sutton, Ann Rankin, Kaye Corbett, Kathy Brooks, Glen Woodcock, Mary Zelezinksy and Bob McMillan, remember seeing a dream become a reality on Nov. 1, 1971.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Postmedia $316M purchase forum

Today, a Toronto Star headline reads: Postmedia buys 175-paper Sun Media for $316m

http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/10/06/postmedia_buys_175paper_sun_media_for_316m.html

If the sale is approved, what will it mean for survivors of the 15-year downsizing by Quebecor?

Postmedia is Paul Godfrey and Paul Godfrey et al pocketed millions in selling Sun Media to Quebecor in 1999.

We would prefer to think positive, but if it comes to a choice of shuttering the National Post or the Toronto Sun the folks working at the remains of 333 King Street East should be prepared to vacate.
 
What is it they say about the light at the end of the tunnel is usually an oncoming train?

Have your say.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Fall 2014 open forum

The countdown to the end of 2014 has begun and you know what that means at Sun Media.

Keep in touch via the Toronto Sun Family blog forum.

Summer 2014 open forum

Spring 2014 open forum 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

At 30 - Diane Creamer

The Toronto Sun Family has lost another former longtime staffer with the June 3, 2014, death of Diane Creamer. 

Diane, a coordinator in the Toronto Sun's classified automotive section, died from breast cancer. She was 71.

Randy Miller, friend and former colleague, says Diane's true calling at the Sun was "cheerleader and events coordinator.

"She saw to the golf weekends, ski weekends anniversary and events and Christmas parties. She knew how to call in IOUs and there were many owing her."

Randy says Diane developed breast cancer "and like any curve ball, she dealt with it with courage and optimism."

Diane left the Sun on her own terms when her late husband, Murray Thompson, was not well and embarked on a dream cruise to the Orient, he said.

Randy said they retired to Balm Beach "where her enthusiasm never wavered and she was into gardening and community involvement. 

"Diane is one reason I loved to work at the Toronto Sun. She was fiercely proud of her family I'm sorry for their loss."

Memories of Diane can be emailed to thecos@the-wire.com

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Memories of Jean

Updated Aug. 25, 2014 

Jean Osborne was a very special in the hearts of former Toronto Sun colleagues. They remember her smile, her calming personality and her contribution to the smooth operations at the switchboard.

More memories of Jean, a Day Oner who died Aug. 19, 2014, from Alzheimer's: 

Sharon Stott, former Toronto Sun reporter: "Jean was one of the kindest people at the Sun when I was there. My fondest memory was of being deathly ill with bronchitis and Jean coming up the stairs of my falling-down top-floor squat, bringing me a huge vat of creamed chicken and biscuits. Such kindness. She was also a sergeant major of the phones, knowing which ones to let through and which ones to send to the ozone. Hugs to her dear family." 

Andy Donato, cartoonist and fellow Day Oner: "Jean was was just one lovely lady. Her  and Mrs. K were a such a great duo at the switchboard. I loved the way they would track down people who were being sought after by our reporters."

Les Pyette, former city editor and CEO:  "So sorry to hear of Jean's passing. She was always calm in the middle of a nutsy newsroom, always a true professional. When we were stressed in those early days, she always had a quiet, sensible word. Sincere sympathy to her family and friends." 

Hugh Wesley, photographer and former photo desk chief: "In a chaotic environment, charged with fiery frustrations, demands and opinions, I remember Jean as unflappable, without a mean word, a very occasional raised eyebrow, but most often a sweet, gentle and obliging demeanour and a ready smile. Definitely one of the good ones. RIP."  

John Iaboni, former sports writer: "We're saddened to learn of Jeanie's passing ... a classy lady who always made my day with her great smile and upbeat manner. Jeanie, Mrs. K. and Marj were so gifted at their switchboard (sleuth) duties that often times they were deserving of a shared byline for tracking down the newsmakers (around the globe) that we couldn't find! We've now said farewell to Mrs. K. and Jeanie and are blessed to still catch up to Marj on occasion. Our condolences to Jeanie's family ... rest assured we won't forget her."  

Email your memories of Jean to thecos@the-wire.com  

At 30 - Jean Osborne


The Toronto Sun Family has lost another member of The 62.

Jean Osborne, a much-loved Day One switchboard operator, died in her 80s on Aug. 19, 2014, from the ravages of Alzheimer's. 

Jean, remembered for her smile and kindly disposition, was one of the 62 former Toronto Telegram staffers to take a gamble on the upstart Sun in the old Eclipse Building at King St. W. and John Street after the Tely folded.

From the first day of the Toronto Sun - Nov. 1, 1971 - to her retirement, Jean was part of a switchboard team that was integral to the tabloid's success.

On Day One, she was joined on the switchboard in the factory environment by Margaret Kmiciewicz, aka Mrs. K., who died at 87 on Dec. 13, 2008. Memories of Margaret

Over the years, Margaret and Jean welcomed and nurtured new switchboard operators before and after the Sun's move to 333 King Street East, including Marjorie, Mary, Dawne etc.

While some businesses hide their switchboards in back rooms and basements, Jean, Margaret et al were positioned in the heart of the newsroom at 333. They were, after all, a conduit to world leaders, politicians, personalities, thousands of readers etc.  

During quiet times, they were fascinating conversationalists and story tellers. 

Reaction to Jean's death at Hillsdale Terraces in Oshawa on the Toronto Sun Family Facebook page was swift:

Joan Sutton Straus: "I am so sorry to hear of her battle with Alzheimer's, and send my love and sympathy to her family who will mourn her absence but not, in this case. her death. Jean was a graceful presence at the Sun, totally professional in her work, always ready with a smile. I will never forget her." 

Cal Millar: "Very sad news about Jean. The switchboard was always the hub of the paper. She will be missed by many."

Dawne Blackwood: "Over the years I have thought of Jean many times. She was a wonderful lady and even better was a wonderful boss."

Siobhan Moore: "Jean was a sweetheart, a very gentle lady who handled the boisterous newsroom with style."

Sheila Chidley-Bilicki: Always a pleasant and such a nice person. Sad to hear of her battle with Alzheimer's and of her passing. RIP, Jean."

Moira MacDonald"I am so sorry to hear about this. I will always remember her smile. Another one of those switchboard ladies who made me a top Brownie cookie seller for years!"

Linda Barnard: "Sorry to hear this. What a lovely person Jean was. She and Mrs. K were the voices of the Sun back in the day. May the good Lord not put her on hold and put all her calls through. RIP, Jean."

Linda A. Fox: "That Sun switchboard was our first line of defence... and Jean did a great job!"

Rashida Jeeva: "Jean was a lovely person. She made a quilt - by hand - when my first daughter was born. I still have it."

Lorrie Goldstein: "Simply one of the nicest people in the Sun newsroom. So sorry to hear of her passing. Sincere condolences to her family and friends."

Memories of Jean Osborne can be emailed to thecos@the-wire.com


Sunday, 17 August 2014

At 30 - Bob Olver

Some former colleagues would say family, journalism and cats comfortably filled the life and times of Robert Henry Olver, who died recently at 80 in Peterborough.

His media life covered a lot of bases, including a stint on the Toronto Sun sports desk during the glory years of the tabloid.  

Bob's blog and a series of postings called Songs of the Catkin Cats captured his feelings for felines. It can be read here.

Bob's children prepared the following obit:

OLVER, Robert Henry - (1934-2014) Our dad, Bob, died peacefully on July 27th at the age of 80 in Peterborough with his family at his side. He is lovingly remembered by his wife, Kathy; his children Robert, Heather, Matthew (Lisa), Chris (Vanessa) and Peter (Shannon); his grandchildren Ryan, Erin, Juliette, Owen and Jesse; and by great-grandchildren Breanne and Owen. Bob was also a loving father to Mark, who passed away in 2008.

A retired journalist, newspaper editor and author who recently completed his memoir, "Catness", Bob is also remembered as a tireless champion of the cat community, working with his wife Kathy to save the lives of countless animals over the years.

A memorial service will be held in his honour on Sunday, August 17th from 2 - 4 pm at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, 106 Trinity Street in Toronto (King St. and Parliament St.). In lieu of flowers, donations to Bob and Kathy's beloved Catkin Cat Farm would be gratefully accepted at any TD branch account number 255-5173241282615

A book promotion for the award-winning author reads:

Robert Olver has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist and author, writing for major news organizations such as The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun, Reuter News Agency  in London, and The Sun of London.

Olver's first novel, The Bicycle Tree, was published by McClelland and Stewart and his non-fiction work, The Making of Champions, was published by Penguin-Viking in 1991. His freelance work, fiction and non-fiction, has appeared in many publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, Vanity Fair, Maclean's magazine and Chatelaine.

Awards include The Macmillan-Bloedel Award for Excellence for a series on drug addiction and two Dunlop Awards for news features on social issues related to sports. Olver and his wife, Kathy, are dedicated gardeners.

Their garden, known as The Cat Garden, was started in 1991 and has several times been featured on The Discovery Channel's TV series The Guerrilla Gardener, on CTV's Mark Cullen Gardening and in many newspaper and magazine articles.

In 1990, the Olvers founded The Catkin Willow Fund for Stray Cats, which mission is to rehabilitate abused and abandoned cats and to work with feral and even wild cats as well.

Our permanent feline community is limited to 30 at present, but we have helped hundreds of cats since Catkin Willow began.

Memories of Bob can be shared here by emailing thecos@the-wire.com

John Iaboni, former sports writer: "When Bob Olver first walked into the Sun's sports department and started editing copy, my first impression was: What the heck is this non-sports type who seemed more like an English professor doing here? Fact was he was a terrific editor.

"When he wasn't sure of what we were trying to say, he would actually ask us what we meant instead of putting pencil to type and ignoring our styles, writing skills and, yes, feelings. If the explanation made sense to him and beamed with enlightenment over some sporting phrase of fact he didn't know or comprehend, he'd leave it; if not, he'd recommend a way to write it so that the he and the reader would clearly get the picture.

"Bob's way would invariably be the right way. He was a great guy to work with and helped me become a better writer. My condolences to Bob's family."

Monday, 23 June 2014

Summer 2014 open forum

Keep your fellow Sun Media colleagues and former staffers up to date on happenings at your newspaper and the Sun Media chain.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Another honour for Les Pyette


Congrats to Les Pyette, pictured with daughter Kaydi.
From the Sault Ste. Marie Star

SAULT STE. MARIE - Les Pyette was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, where he began his long and productive newspaper career as a sports reporter at his hometown paper when he was still in high school.

He was bitten so hard by the journalism bug in those early days that he quit school to take a full-time job at the Sault Daily Star in 1963 for $65 a week, at the tender age of 17.

Pyette worked his way up to top executive positions at several newspapers in Canada and was founding editor-in-chief of the Calgary Sun in 1980.

He has travelled much of the world as a news man, but he never forgot about the people back home. He made regular trips back to the Sault to visit with family, which never seem far from his heart.

Pyette spent 41 years in the news business, 29 of them with Sun papers.

His efforts have led him into newsrooms across the country, to Taiwan, Japan, South Africa and many cities in the U.S., and distinguished him as one of the top news men in the nation.

Last fall he took his place in the Canadian News Hall of Fame among other greats in the industry.

On Saturday afternoon he was under the big tent on the Sault waterfront at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion to receive an honorary degree from Algoma University, and also deliver the commencement speech at the school's convocation ceremony.

“Who would have thunk that I would be standing here (now), when I was chasing all those sports stories around the Sault 50 years ago,” said Pyette, 69, who lives in London, Ont., but still calls the Sault “home.”

The Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) Degree is awarded by AU to recognize outstanding achievement by a person outside the university, said academic dean Arthur Perlini during his introduction of Pyette.

“Mr. Pyette's achievements in Canadian journalism are outstanding and have been acknowledged so by his peers, as well as the readership of many of the newspapers he has spearheaded,” said the dean.

“His career contributions and achievements ... are recognized today as those of a newspaper legend,” Perlini added.

Pyette was soft spoken and most when he took his turn at the microphone.

“Thank you so much for bestowing this honour on a poor kid from Connaught Avenue — Korah Road and Second Line. (It's) hard to believe,” he said.

Pyette tipped his hat to his mother and father from the podium.

“Both are long gone now ... They raised five boys and two girls in a little war-time house on Connaught Avenue. The morals and the values that they taught us still hold dear with us today,” he said.

He made special mention of his brothers, Norris, Nellie, Ron and Al, who were in the audience.

Pyette said his father wasn't home much when he was growing up because he worked two jobs. It was oldest brother Norris who drove the boys to hockey games and taught them to drive.

“(He) taught us not to take any BS from anybody ... I owe a lot to older brother Norris.”

Pyette became a bit emotional while recognizing Nellie, Ron and Al, “For all their love and support over the years.”

He said he didn't know what to make of university president Richard Myers when he called to tell him the school wanted to present him with the honorary degree. He thought one of his old friends from the Sault was putting him on.

“I'm humbled and honoured to be standing here,” he told the crowd of nearly 1,000 that filled the tent. “Thank you so much from the bottom of my Sault Ste. Marie heart for this wonderful honour. I will cherish it forever.”

Although he was still playing hockey and baseball when he began working for the Sault Star in 1963, Pyette's duties took him to local ball diamonds, soccer fields and the former Memorial Gardens to also gather game statistics and talk to coaches.

He provided the information to reporters at the Star who wrote the stories. He didn't actually get a byline until he had been on the job for six months.

After playing in a hockey game in Sudbury late in 1963 he called the Star to provide details and comments about the game.

“A guy named Greg Douglas took it (the information) and he made a story,” Pyette said during an interview after convocation.

He was shocked to see the story across the top of the sports page the next day — with his byline on it. It was one of those indelible moments.

“I was bitten hard. I was turned on right there” to the newspaper business.

Pyette worked at the Sault Star until 1967 when he applied for a job at a small paper in Illinois,“as a lark.”

To his surprise he got the job and worked three years in the U.S. before returning to Canada to continue his trade, later becoming editor at the Toronto Sun, then founding editor-in-chief of the Calgary Sun, publisher and CEO of both Sun papers and the London Free Press.

Through his career he also served as executive editor of the Toronto Sun, general manager at the Calgary Sun and vice-president of Sun Media before retiring in 2003.

He returned briefly to the news business in 2004 as publisher and CEO of the National Post for one year.

Pyette's advice to the 2014 graduating class was terse and simple.

“Believe in yourself, don't take no for an answer,” he told the more than 200 students in attendance.

Back in the '70s when the “upstart” Toronto Sun opened its doors, the so-called media experts predicted the paper wouldn't last six months, he said.

“But as you know, it's 43 years later and it's still going.”

It takes a lot of hard work to be successful, he told the students. There were many late nights and early mornings during his 40-plus years in the news business.

And he took some chances along the way, he said, such as leaving a secure job to begin a new venture.

“I can tell you students, no one is going to give you anything, you have to stick to your principles and work your butt off to gain a measure of success in this working world,” he said.

“Buckle down and concentrate and listen to your instincts, listen to your gut. If you're lucky you'll find something that you like. And if the door of opportunity opens, walk right through it and don't look back.”