Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Downing re Fisher

An e-mail from John Downing, a Day Oner and former Toronto Sun editor, re the Day One status of Doug Fisher, retired Ottawa Bureau columnist:

"There is no doubt that Doug Fisher is a member of the stout little band known as Day Oners. Same with Lubor Zink.

I know this for two reasons. One is that after the stalwart leadership of Peter Worthington and the spluttering shooting star that was Babs Amiel, I became the Editor and inherited Fisher and Zink as part of the staff over which I had direct control and responsibility as to conditions.

They were considered staffers in every way. The second reason is for some strange reason, I was regarded as sort of an ombudsman for some of the staff right from the start and there were appeals to me to take various petitions to the boss, Doug Creighton.

I'm sure Don Hunt and Worthington had extensive personnel concerns hidden from the staff, but for me and many others, JDC was the guy who counted in salary and trips etc.

I discovered, from my heated reception when I argued the case for a senior person who had arrived several weeks after the start, that when it came to stock and other considerations of who was a Day Oner, Doug considered Day Oners to be, in his deepest soul, those there on the Sunday before the fateful Monday morning of the first delivery when we learned we really had a good chance to make it.

If you came in the first week, Doug kept his mouth shut but he made it plain to me in several animated discussions that it was the Sunday service that meant most to him, the people who were there, or who had committed their columns before the first paper came out on the street.

Doug Fisher gave us instant credibility in Ottawa. He was a national resource, good for the people, fantastic for the Sun. It would be improper for me to detail some of his dealings with the paper, since he is a private man, but Creighton made it plain to me that Doug was to be treated in all ways as a loyal, valuable staffer from before the Sun began.

Fisher was also a common sight on TV, and indeed had his own TV show for a couple of decades (at least) and it used to bug me that Fisher was never identified as being from the Toronto Sun. The CBC in particular hated to identify him that way. Fisher finally told one producer that either he was identified as being from the Sun or he would no longer appear.

Doug was wonderful to deal with despite the inevitable glitches of getting his column into the paper all those times without an occasional scrambled line. He didn't like competitions like the NNA, but I was so struck by one of his columns that I entered it as the Editor. So he won an NNA certificate and came to Toronto and accepted it and didn't grumble to me. I had to find out from a son how mortified he was. Same when he was inducted into the hall of fame. What a gentleman, never bitching that the Sun had pushed him into honours he just as soon not have had.

What a wonderful pro! What wonderful insight! What a wonderful man!

My problem with Lubor Zink is that he always regarded me, or anyone else who cut his column, as the devil, and he always wrote too long. I'm sure that Chris Blizzard, Glen Woodcock and I reside in Hades as far as Lubor is concerned. And Worthington only survived and won dour approval from Lubor because Peter knew about the commie threat.

Lubor was a Day Oner, but he was such a pain in the ass to me that I don't regard him with the same affection as all the others. (We few, we trusty few, we loyal band of brothers . . . King Henry the Fifth, I think.)

We once made a deal with CBC lawyers that Lubor would no longer say one of their vice-presidents was a commie. Lubor agreed with the deal. Then one of his attacks snuck into the paper around me and the CBC sued. I dropped in on a neighbour that night and asked him what gives. He said he had told the lawyers to go ahead because he was fed up with Lubor. Not as much as I am, I said. Really, he asked? Really, I said. So he dropped the suit and Lubor promised never to do it again. And he lived up to his promise, for one whole month. But we caught it in time.

This magic figure of 62 Day Oners may not stand the test of close analysis. Then there are those who were there for the important early years and then left, some times for years, before coming back. I think it is mean-spirited to do too much sorting and sifting, but I can assure you that the Day Oners know who they think is part of the group.

We treasure each other, while conceding that the nursery days were endless work, but we didn't then face the hassles of 2007 when the Sun struggles to come out from behind the French clouds.

Regards

John Downing"

Thank you for your e-mail, John.

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