Monday, 13 August 2007

John Downing e-mail

John Downing, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former Editor now busy catching fish at his cottage retreat, took time out to respond to Ted Gorsline's recent "always fluff" comments:

"I don't think the Sun family should over react when some eminently forgettable yahoo says the Sun was always just a puff pastry of a paper. Since neither the Day Oner who phoned me, or my memory, could recall just who this critic was and what exactly he did, then it's like water criticizing the glass when it was discarded.

Blatch, of course, was and is great. Bob Reguly, a friend, got us into a Greek tragedy of a libel suit, an embarrassment that spilled on me and other editors, and is forever seared into the Sun history of a debacle that blackens Reguly's name forever at the Sun after all those glorious and dogged triumphs for the opposition.

The curious thing about reading about the Sun past is that so many Sun-beams worked in silos, not knowing much of what was happening elsewhere in the paper. You could even say that about the brass. Alan Shanoff was writing about Sun editors and seemed to miss that the early Editors fancied themselves the Editor of the paper, not just of the editorial page.

Worthington went out back one night and changed his title to Editor-in-Chief just to make sure everyone knew he wasn't reporting to the legendary JDM. Amiel wouldn't have taken the job if it had just been Editorial Page Editor. When I was made Associate Editor, it was said to be for Municipal Affairs. When I raised hell with Doug Creighton about this, the asterisk to the title was dropped. When I was made Editor in 1985, I was listed third on the masthead, under the publisher and general manager, and was involved in all sorts of things beyond the editorial page, even the rules for the strip ads.

My point for this meandering trivia is that it was an insight into just how complicated a newspaper is, and how often the gossip in the office just didn't have much of a clue as to who the movers and shakers really were.

Creighton, of course, being so smart (and nice) as a boss, kept his editors on their toes by taking a bunch of writers on an informal basis to places like the Founders Club at the ball park and pumping them for gossip.

Then he would phone the next day and say 'Blatchford says that you have secretly got Don Hawkes back from Ottawa and put him on your staff when Pyette swears that Hawkes is working for him and I told Les and you that I didn't want Hawkes back working for Downing.'

And Les and I would run around and dream up some explanation to placate Doug. (By the way, this is a real anecdote, and just shows how quixotic the Sun could be in its staff relationships.)

The reason I'm going on about this is because I've always thought it was dangerous and dumb for a newspaper to be summed up, as it were, in the names of two or three "stars." In fact, I've always argued that give me a newsroom filled with solid, hard-working journeymen and we will scoop the ass off any newspaper that leans on several stars. (Same with baseball or hockey.)

So any person who wants to say that several decades of work by hundreds of staffers and freelancers, seven days a week over two fat shifts a day, can be ignored and only two people can be remembered is silly to the absurd.

Actually, I would like to hear more about, and from, the Sun-beams without the fancy credits. I would like to be told when the Sun rises up out of the gloom and sticks it to the opposition, as I'm sure must still happen.

Enough about Donato and Downing and let's hear more about what's happening in 2007.

Gee, maybe Peter Worthington could write a daily column for the Sun family blog since he's only writing one or two a day for the paper.


John Downing

(The fishing is great, but stay away. There are already boats 24 hours a day around my point.")

Thank you for your e-mail, John. Always a pleasure.

And should Peter Worthington, or any other Sun Media staffer, be motivated to post feedback or write a guest column for this blog, the door is always open.

FYI: TSF received a second e-mail from Ted Gorsline, which we will not be sharing. In fact, it makes us regret posting the contents of his first e-mail. Mostly vindictive cheap shots about Sun vets.

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