Thursday, 29 November 2007

Sun nightmare

Five Help Wanted ads for Ottawa Sun pressroom jobs were in the papers Thursday as Ottawa prepares to regain control of its press runs.

While encouraging, we can't forget Sun employees in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary hurt by Quebecor's chainsaws from 1999 through last spring.

Hundreds of once loyal Sun employees with roots and families in the original four tabloid cities - Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary - had their lives disrupted.

Many gifted Sun newspaper men and women in all departments found themselves on the outside looking in after being fired, laid off or forced into buyouts and resignations.

What ifs are seldom productive, but what if Quebecor had embraced the proven and profitable Sun tabloid formula, nurtured for almost three decades?

What if Quebecor hadn't forced centralization down the throats of editors and readers and slashed newsrooms to embarrassingly thin numbers?

It was all so sad to watch the fruit from decades of success shrivel thanks to tunnel vision strategies.

The Suns in Toronto and Ottawa are rebounding, with job postings and a renewed focus on local news.

But a lot of great talent has been lost, thanks to misguided boys with their toys.

Mr. P? 24 Hours

Question of the day: Did 24 Hours refer to PKP as "Mr. Peladeau" in Thursday's story about the new out of reverence, or was it just sloppy cut and paste journalism?

We're thinking cut and paste, line of least resistance journalism.

Sun Media's style for names has always been first and last name for first mention and last name only thereafter. Globe style is Mr. Smith, Sun, Star and Post style is Smith.

"It's bad enough they run the press release verbatim, doesn't anyone at least edit it for style?" a 24 Hours reader asks TSF in an e-mail.

Critics of free newspapers say they tend to lower the quality of journalism. Publishing press releases with little, if any, editing is Exhibit A for their argument.

Right, Peladeau?

Ottawa presses

The Ottawa Sun is regaining control of its press runs - a year after the "disastrous" move to Quebecor's printing plant in Mirabel, Que.

Sun Media ads for an Ottawa Sun "mailroom supervisor" in Wednesday's papers confirmed recent rumours that presses at the Ottawa Press Hall would be rolling again early in 2008.

Numerous Help Wanted ads for long-term jobs at the Ottawa Press Hall, located in an industrial park about 10 km east of the Sun building, will be posted in the next week or so.

Having the Ottawa Sun printed two hours away in Mirabel was a "disastrous experiment" which played havoc with news and sports deadlines and distribution in bad weather, a source told TSF.

Sources say part of management's explanation is expansion plans at Mirabel "require production of the Ottawa Sun, Ottawa Pennysaver and some other papers to be relocated."

Whatever the reason, it is good news for the Sun and subscribers who want their paper on time.

Nothing makes the editors of daily newspapers feel more complete than having full control of the presses. Founders of the Toronto Sun knew that from the start.

With the printing of the Ottawa Sun and the Pennysaver returning to Ottawa, there is talk of expanding the press facilities or constructing a new facility. Some Ottawa-area Osprey newspapers now owned by Quebecor could be added to the print job portfolio.

So Quebecor's newspaper plans for its two new printing plants have proven to be misguided. The London Free Press and Toronto Sun were to be printed at the new plant in Toronto. The London decision was later reversed and chances are the Sun presses at 333 King Street East will be given a full reprieve following chaotic press run attempts at the new plant.

Those glittering new printing plants in Mirabel and Toronto apparently will stick to Quebecor's prime targets - telephone directories and other commercial products.

Meanwhile, Ottawa Sun employees await the return of pressroom workers who transferred to Mirabel last fall.

We are sure they will be welcomed back with open arms.

What a difference a year makes. Sanity is returning to the Sun newspaper chain and it feels like the rising of the Phoenix.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Maddie's dream

Few Toronto Sun news stories bring us to tears, but tears there were while reading about Maddie Babineau's dream in Tuesday's paper.

Properly played on Page 3 - ahead of two pages of more mindless murder and mayhem - Maddie's dream to build a much-needed school and a well in Africa was bittersweet.

Brian Gray's story about Maddie, diagnosed at 12 and dead at 15 from bone cancer - 10 years after her father died from ALS - clearly shows this selfless teen made a difference on this earth.

Maddie, like Terry Fox, should become a poster girl for paying it forward under duress. She put politicians on all levels to shame with her determination to get a job done.

The online Maddie's Wish Project continues to publicize her cause, with her mother, Sharon, working on other projects in memory of her daughter.

What a heartwarming, positive Sun story, the type of community spirit stories that has always set the tabloid apart from the competition.

The CBC will profile Maddie's story tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Bureau has muscle

The federal Competition Bureau does have muscle.

Readers of the Toronto Sun, Toronto Star and Ottawa Citizen will soon be viewing Premier Fitness Clubs ads correcting several misleading ads.

A Canadian Press story says the fitness chain has also agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty as part of a settlement with the Competition Bureau.

The chain will also have to "display a corrective notice in its clubs and on its website."

"The agency says Premier Fitness Clubs did not adequately disclose additional fees that consumers would have to pay in some of its advertising of membership offers on the radio, billboards, storefront signs, newspapers and flyers from 1999 to 2004," says CP.

Health club members who have ever felt duped by fine print and misleading ads will no doubt do handstands over that news.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Fantino book pricing

What is it with the Sun Media News Research Centre when it comes to mail order book prices?

Duty - The Life of a Cop, the new Julian Fantino biography co-authored by former Toronto Sun justice columnist Jerry Amernic, is priced by Sun Media at $46.99, postage and taxes included.

Meanwhile, at the online web site, you can buy it new for $29.95, postage and taxes included and delivered to your door within a day or two.

That $17 difference is significant for people buying books as Christmas gifts.

There will no doubt be keen interest in a book about the life and times of Fantino, so why is Sun Media gouging loyal Sun readers?

It should be competing with other book sellers to give readers a break in book pricing.

What do you think, Julian Fantino, is price policing required?

The presses mess

Toronto Sun pressmen were facing a long, cold winter among the unemployed until Quebecor's new printing plant in Islington fumbled the ball.

Now, sources say, they are keeping the presses running at 333 King Street East as professionally as ever - and receiving bonus pay for their services.

Observers wonder with Quebecor World's commercial printing empire now in "total freefall," will the future of the new printing plant in Toronto Sun terms be a non-event?

"It (the new plant) may be a white elephant," one source told TSF. "PKP is certainly in a crisis situation - entirely of his own making."

All of the Sun's pressroom employees deserve a huge amount of credit for keeping the presses running despite the pink slip treatment they received from Quebecor.

Rather than transfer all of the Sun pressmen, some with 30-plus years of experience, to the new plant, Quebecor was prepared to show them all the door.

These pressmen are dedicated professionals, indeed. The kind of Sun employees co-founder Doug Creighton cherished daily and never took for granted.

You can have all of the reporters, columnists, editors and chiefs you need, but it is the pressmen who make it all happen on the street.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

We love wingnuts

If Harry Belafonte is a wingnut, as tagged by Toronto Sun columnist Mike Strobel in his Friday column, then we adore wingnuts.

Mike sat down with the unapologetic 80-year-old African American singer, actor, activist, humanitarian and socialist who has called George W. "the greatest terrorist in the world."

Heck, as a black man in America for eight decades, no apologies are needed for his views. So Harry loves Fidel, so did our Pierre and Fidel returned the affection by attending Trudeau's funeral.

The dapper Calypso singer was in T.O. to receive the first International Diversity Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. It was awarded for his humanitarian efforts.

Mike's always fascinating prose sounds like he admires the man and his music, but not his politics, but then he does write for the Sun.

As Mike would say about his column, "this is my island in the Sun." (We couldn't resist.)

We don't know when Mike sat down with Harry for the interview, but another song that comes to mind when talking about life in America is Abraham, Martin and John.

Belafonte's 1960s version is as vivid as ever in this 44th anniversary week of JFK's assassination:

Has anybody here,
Seen my old friend John,
Can you tell me, where he's gone,
He freed a lotta people,
But it seems the good die young,
I just looked around,
And he's gone,

Has anybody here,
Seen my old friend Martin,
Can you tell me, where he's gone,
He freed a lotta people,
But it seems the good die young,
I just looked around,
And he's gone,

Didn't you love the things they stood for,
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me,
And we'll be free,
Someday soon it's gonna be one day,

Has anybody here,
Seen my old friend Bobby,
Can you tell me, where he's gone,
I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill,
With Abraham, Martin and Joh

Our thanks to Harry Belafonte for the music, the movies and the messages.

And to Mike for interviewing him, even if he is a socialist wingnut.

New Fantino bio

Jerry Amernic, a 1980s justice columnist for the Toronto Sun, has written a biography for Julian Fantino, former Toronto police chief and now OPP commissioner.

Duty - The Life of a Cop recaps Fantino's 40 years in police work and will be one to read if it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This is Amernic's fifth book and he couldn't have picked a more controversial top cop to profile.

The Sun set up a weekly Justice For All column for Amernic following the publication of his first book, Victims: The Orphans of Justice, a 1984 Bantam release.

The Scarborough writer found a fan in Fantino (then a homicide detective) while writing the Sun columns and when a bio came to mind, Amernic got the call.

Key Porter Books held the book launching in downtown Toronto Friday night.

Another Sun alumni to add to the growing Toronto Sun Family authors list.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Donato busy man

Andy Donato is one busy guy.

The award-winning Toronto Sun editorial cartoonist and artist has paintings in a multi-artist exhibit in Woodbridge; was the auctioneer last night at a Toronto School of Art fundraiser and has another multi-artist show coming up in early December.

Andy, wife/artist Dianne Jackson and nine other artists will be sharing exhibit space during a large show and sale of small paintings, opening Dec. 2 at the Gallery Wall in west-end Toronto.

The gallery, at 2892 Bloor Street West, will host the opening reception Dec. 2 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with the show and sale running Tuesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 12.

Taser vs taser

Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, National Post - Taser.

Globe and Mail - taser.

Newspaper style for the registered trade name seems irrelevant, with stun gun-related deaths across North America mounting each year.

The folks at Taser International, promoting their products for use by police, military and citizens, have an unsettling Santa Claus ad on their web site.

Ah, the perfect gift for Christmas. The neighbors get out of hand - zap 'em. Somebody cuts in front of you at the grocery store cash register - zap 'em. They will live, or not.

(You can be sure stun guns for citizens were not on Lorrie Goldstein's much talked about Christmas wish list in Thursday's Sun.)

Just as well because it is illegal for Canadians to own personal stun guns for pocket and purse. Only in the U.S.A., you say? Good, let's keep it that way.

How many deaths will it take before Canadian and American governments call for moratoriums until the deaths of tasered men and women are clarified?

Last year, Amnesty International Canada called for a moratorium on the use of all stun guns, while other sources were quoting there had been 160 deaths in the U.S. and Canada in five years.

Legal sources say there have been about 20 taser-related deaths in Canada.

So our newspaper style preference would be "taser" until the body count ebbs.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Re Warren Gerard

If you believe print media mentors are all older people who have paid their dues, you didn't work in the Globe and Mail newsroom in the 1960s.

The Globe boasted a large gathering of selfless young reporters and editors who were mentors to copy boys and office workers interested in becoming journalists.

Warren Gerard, who died of cancer Tuesday at 70, was among them. He was 23 when hired by the Globe in 1960 and within five years had won a National Newspaper Award.

Busy as newsrooms get, Warren, along with Robert Turnbull, Barry Zwicker, Dave Spurgeon, Geoff Stevens, Jim Knack, Joan Hollobon, Eldon Stonehouse, Jack Marks and others always had time for questions and helpful advice.

They are the selfless people you meet along the rocky road to confidence who can never be thanked enough for their guidance.

We are confident young Toronto Star staffers who shared Warren's company in his latter years are better people for having known him.

Peter W. & Oswald

Toronto Sun employees sharing the newsroom with Peter Worthington over the decades have always been in awe of him for where he was the day Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald.

A few feet away.

The Toronto Telegram reporter, who can be seen in news clips reacting to the shooting of Oswald, was the only Canadian journalist in the underground garage of the Dallas police station that morning.

Peter occasionally writes about the John Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, and the murder of Oswald, 24, two days later, as he did in a 2005 column.

Today being the 44th anniversary of JFK's assassination, Peter will no doubt be asked to replay his eyewitness account of the shooting of Oswald.

We never tire of hearing about that bizarre moment in history, viewed live by millions of NBC television viewers.

Peter has never bought into the JFK conspiracy theories.

But believing JFK, his brother, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were all slain in the 1960s by lone gunmen motivated by their own beliefs is still a stretch four decades later.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Mi casa su casa

Now that Sun Media and Osprey are under the same Quebecor umbrella, word is experienced Osprey people are being moved to Sun newspapers.

Sources say Christina Spencer, longtime Osprey editorial employee (Ottawa Citizen, Kingston Whig-Standard) will join the Ottawa Sun's Parliamentary Bureau on Jan. 2.

Meanwhile, Terri Saunders, a reporter of note at the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder is also moving to the Ottawa Sun to bolster a newsroom depleted by Quebecor cutbacks.

While the Ottawa Sun newsroom needs new troops, observers wonder if established Osprey newspapers will continue to be cherry picked for the benefit of the Suns.

"It would be sad and ironic if they rob Peter to pay Paul," said one source.

The next few months should provide a clearer picture of the future of Osprey newspapers under Quebecor/Sun Media control.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Dave Lucas update

Dave Lucas, the former award-winning Toronto Sun photographer who left the tabloid in April, has been promoted to permanent assistant photo editor of the Globe and Mail's Review section.

Dave quit the turbulent Sun last April after six years to accept a newsroom desk job at the Globe. But you can't keep a good man from doing what he does best and for Dave, that be photography.

An in-house Globe posting announcing Dave's promotion says: "David joined us earlier this year as an imaging technician but with his many years of experience as a photographer and desk editor, he was quickly called upon to fill various photo editor vacancies. Since then, David has established excellent working relationships in all sections and was key in handling this year’s massive TIFF photo coverage."

Congrats Dave. The Globe's photo desk has a long history of excellence so you have some big shoes to fill, but former Sun colleagues believe you have what it takes.

Recent Globe promotions for Jim Jennings, former Sun editor-in-chief, and Dave Lucas, former award winning Sun photographer, highlight once again the talent lost due to Quebecor's gutting of the tabloid.

Jack gets zapped

Sun reporters have volunteered for a wide variety of first person adventures over the decades to the delight of readers, but Jack Boland's tasering tops them all.

Claire Bickley's winter walk with a lion down a city street seems tame compared to Jack volunteering to have Toronto police taser him - twice.

Jan Lounder's ride atop an elephant must have been a breeze compared to Jack's zaps, which had to be repeated because the assigned photographer's flash didn't work the first time.

Michael Peake and a lady model working with a tiger at a High Park photo session escape injury when the tiger had a tantrum and had to be subdued by its trainer.

Risky business, some of those Sun assignments, but to volunteer to be tasered when tasered people are dying, that is taking one for the team to a whole new level.

Toronto police held the invitational media taser session while the world was watching yet another video of a fatal tasering, this time a Polish tourist in a Vancouver, B.C., airport.

A smiling Jack replayed his experience during an interview on Canoe Live yesterday.

Jack said after signing a waver and with paramedics standing by, Toronto police gave him a taste of a taser, a controlling device police argue is needed in the city to save lives.

Jack didn't say during the interview if the police demonstration was tasering at its normal output, but what he did get was effective.

"It is pretty debilitating," says Jack. "You cannot move."

When told by the photog he had to shoot it again, Jack got zapped again.

You da man, Jack. You da man.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Forum: re benefits

An e-mail from Brad Honywill, president of CEP Local 87-M:

"I've got good news on the lost benefits.

They aren't lost, they just took a different route home.

Knowing that perks such as sabbaticals, Christmas bonuses and profit sharing were in Quebecor's gun sights, we (the Editorial union members) successfully converted them into a format, ie wages and additional time off, that couldn't be taken away from us at the whim of someone in Montreal.

People who were around at the time of the first contract negotiations in 2004 remember this was one of the last items on table. We went to the members for a strike vote, got 92% support, and won compensation from the company in the last hours of bargaining for the loss of bonuses, profit sharing and sabbaticals.

My recollection is that we added another 2.5% to the wage gains we'd already won in negotiations, plus an additional day off (birthdays). In fact, we'll be getting the last installment on that compensation on Dec. 31 when everyone gets a 1% wage increase on top of the 2.5% increase received earlier this year (plus any grid advancements).

That additional 1% will bring a senior Toronto Sun reporter/photographer's annual wage to $76,202, just $11 per week less than the wages at Canada's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star.

That compares with a typical senior reporter at the non-union Edmonton and Calgary Suns, who make about $50,000 per year.

And with profit sharing and bonuses built into the wage, it's not as vulnerable to the ups and downs of Quebecor fortunes. What's more, the company pays pension contributions on it.

It was a great deal for the members."

Brad Honywill
CEP Local 87-M

Thank you for your e-mail, Brad.

Lost benefits

Where have all the employee benefits gone? Long time passing.

That comes to mind as SONG union reps count down to negotiations for a second Toronto Sun newsroom contract.

Sun employees have surrendered all of the comfortable benefits gained during the glory years of the tabloid and lost since Quebecor came a knocking in 1999.

Sabbaticals - gone.

Profit sharing - gone.

Stock options - gone.

Christmas bonuses - gone.

Axing those benefits improved the bottom line for Quebecor and its shareholders, but it has deprived employees at the profitable tabloid of well-deserved rewards.

Recent news that Quebecor Media had its best quarter ever must have felt like a slap in the face for veteran Sun staffers who remember Doug Creighton's annual letter outlining the Sun's performance and the allotted share of profits.

And the share of profits for veteran staffers wasn't chicken feed.

Doug, Peter and Don also played Santa each year, handing out envelopes stuffed with cash amounting to a full week's pay.

Sabbaticals - two months paid leave after each 10 years of service - were the envy of employees at the other Toronto dailies.

And after the Sun went public, Doug et al allowed us to buy shares using a payroll deduction plan.

The benefits put extra cash in our bank accounts and, over the years, helped buy houses, pay off mortgages, purchase new cars and generally improved our lifestyles.

(Doug encouraged employees to use their sabbaticals to travel and experience new adventures, but some stayed home and banked the eight weeks of pay.)

Gone, along with the sabbaticals, profit sharing, stock options and Christmas bonuses - loyalty and a great amount of morale.

In a nutshell, Doug Creighton et al were newspaper people to the core and believed the good fortunes of the Sun should be shared with the people who helped make it a huge success

And then there is Quebecor.

There is little left to surrender at the flagship tabloid, but good luck during contract negotiations.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Jennings to B.C.

Toronto Sun newsroom employees knew they were losing a good man when Jim Jennings bowed out as editor-in-chief in September of 2006.

The Sun's loss was the Globe and Mail's gain - and the going for Jim just got better with his appointment yesterday to the head of the Globe's operations in Vancouver.

Globe sources say Jim is the man to help bolster the national newspaper's presence in British Columbia and boost the circulation, readership and revenue of its B.C. edition.

And Jim, 58, is moving into the Vancouver bureau just in time for the countdown to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Congrats, Jim. Give our regards to the snow capped mountains, Stanley Park, Gastown and all the other Vancouver attractions.

The Globe was quick to hire Jim after his abrupt departure from the Sun and if you enjoy the 2007 redesigned Globe and Mail, as we do, Jim played a key role in creating the new look.

People who worked with Jim at the Sun say he is a newspaperman with heart and decades of experience gained in senior media positions in the U.K., the United States and Canada.

As we said, the Sun's loss, another one that got away due to Quebecor's savaging of the Sun.

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.


John Downing"

Thank you for your e-mail, John.

Monday, 12 November 2007

George's cause

When George Gross, the Toronto Sun's corporate sports editor, puts his name to a cause, he embraces it with a passion.

The Sun's annual Variety Village Christmas Fund has been George's passion for 24 years, with annual appeals to Sun readers raising more than $1.1 million.

The fund, the inspiration of Sun co-founder Doug Creighton, helped build the Variety Village Sports Centre in Scarborough and continues to support events for challenged youngsters.

"Today, we begin our 2007 campaign and again we'll give our readers/contributors an opportunity to win some valuable prizes, including a Don Cherry personal package, Canada's parade uniform from the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, autographed jerseys from the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC, a Blue Jays jacket, a Queen's Plate lunch for two, four gold tickets for the 2008 Rogers Cup tennis championships and many more," George said in a Sunday Sun column.

It is a worthy cause, with Sun readers using published donation coupons to contribute to the fund.

A note to George: Is there an online site for direct donations to your Christmas fund using credit cards, PayPal etc? If so, please provide the link and we will post in on TSF.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Day

They are fewer in numbers, but war vets who ventured into journalism before and after conflicts forever deserve our thanks on both fronts.

Numerous Toronto media legends were in WW1, WW2, the Korean War and other conflicts and came home to share their experiences with readers.

Perhaps it was maturity gained from military training, but several generations of war vets made damn fine reporters, columnists and editors.

Most of all, these veterans who inhabited newsrooms at the Star, Globe and Tely/Sun were also selfless mentors for younger journalists.

The Toronto Sun's Peter Worthington, a Korean War vet, is one of many Toronto Telegram/Sun war veterans who made the newsrooms they inhabited better places.

Others include Ken Robertson, a former Sun city editor and author, columnist Harvey Currell and the late, great Ted Reeve, Edward Dunlop, J. Douglas MacFarlane (best known as JDM), Bob Vezina, Percy Rowe, Bob Pennington, McKenzie Porter, Lois Maxwell, Lubor J. Zink and others.

Most of the newsroom war vet mentors are gone, but not forgotten. Their contributions to country and journalism can't be denied.

Our thanks to all.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Judi & Rachel show

Judi McLeod, who with her husband John was a Toronto Sun fixture so many years ago, has quickly taken fired Sun Media columnist Rachel Marsden to her bosom.

Judi, publisher of the Canada Free Press web site, posted a previous Marsden article in October, but the coupling now seems more permanent with Rachel's photo and bio on the site.

Rachel's topic for her CFP column today? War and how to play it. And yes, she replays the Sun's reaction to her torture column that got her fired and Lou Clancy's Liberal conspiracy.

As David Letterman would say: "Who cares?"

The Sun is a better place without her.

Ed Sun needs pub

The Edmonton Sun is searching for a full-time publisher.

Gord Norrie, who has been doing double duty as publisher of the Edmonton and Calgary Suns for months, will become publisher and CEO of the Calgary Sun and 24 Hours in Calgary on Jan. 1.

He will also be senior group publisher of Sun Media group community publications in southern Alberta.

That leaves the Sun/24 Hours publisher's chair in Edmonton up for grabs.

"I have mixed feelings because I live in Calgary now and that's where my family is," Norrie, 49, told Daniel MacIsaac in a Sun Media story.

"But on the flip side, the Edmonton Sun is the Crown jewel of Sun Media - the most profitable, the most-efficient and the best-managed newspaper. So to leave those people and that opportunity behind is difficult."

Norrie told MacIsaac he has mixed feelings about the move while knowing, professionally, it's in the best interests of Sun Media and its readership.

"The Edmonton Sun deserves a full-time publisher. So, I'm happy for Edmontonians."

Friday, 9 November 2007

Andy Donato art

Andy Donato, the multi-talented Toronto Sun editorial cartoonist and artist, is one of numerous artists participating in a Mondo Italiano - Italy Rediscovered exhibit in Woodbridge.

The internationally recognized, three-time National Newspaper Award nominee and winner is half of the Donato/Dianne Jackson artist team and a Toronto Sun Day Oner.

The free Mondo Italiano exhibit of more than 70 paintings with an Italian theme opened last weekend and runs through Nov. 24 at Kipling Gallery, 7938 Kipling Ave.

Andy has six paintings on display.

Other artists represented: Italo Scelza, Christopher Webb, Peter Kolacz, Joseph Capicotto, Nick Biagini, Stefania Novelli, Renato Canini, Anthony Mazzone, Doris Pontieri, Sam Paonessa, Pietro Codazzo, Giovanna Peel, Bill Conly and Francesca DiCarlo.

Everything Italian - including the imported pastries served at the opening.

Random thoughts

Some random Sun thoughts on a quiet, post-Marsden evening:

- When did the murders of Canadian policemen stop being front page news in the Toronto Sun? Are their deaths less newsworthy than Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan?

- Have newspapers that publish weighty weekend editions considered alternate "lite" editions to save on paper and costs. Charge the same price, but accommodate readers who just want the basics: news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle and business. Half of our Saturday Star goes directly to the recycle box. Trim the fat for "lite" editions. Save trees.

- Should the 250 locked out and striking Le Journal de Quebec employees in Quebec City forget about trying to get Quebecor back to the table after six months and take their MediaMatin strike tabloid to a new and more professional level? Blogger Fagstein says it is time to go for it.

- One day you are playing poker at a stag for Kevin Hann, a young Toronto Sun reporter, and before you know it he is the city editor with a 14-year-old daughter, Niki, interested in photography and visiting the Sun during Take Out Kids to Work Day.

- What became of the Toronto Sun's popular annual reader surveys? Readers were provided with separate published surveys for rating daily and Sunday Sun content and the results were published. Who are today's big Sun guns in the eyes of readers? It's time to ask.

- If the Toronto Sun has opted out of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, why not say so? If not, is it going to sit back and wait for favourable numbers to spin?

- Has the profitable, ad-packed Toronto Sun considered dropping the street price to a quarter to boost sales? Would it make a difference? The New York Post is a quarter.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Marsden update

Rachel Marsden updated her Sun Media statement on her web site today to say:

"And yes (to respond to some of your queries), after more than 2 years of writing weekly for the Sun, I've been under a new Editor-in-Chief, since October 5th, who comes from Canada's most liberal newspaper: The Toronto Star. My column about Islam was spiked on his first day at the job. Best of luck to any principled conservatives who remain."

She would be speaking of Lou Clancy, who has been credited with lifting the morale of the newsroom since his arrival.

One Sun columnist tells TSF: "You may also want to note on Sun Family that Marsden actually alleges some sort of Liberal conspiracy headed by Lou Clancy as the reason for her firing. WOW - I was always taught to leave a job graciously."

Another TSF reader says: "Thank you, this has re-affirmed my faith in Canadian decency and the rejection of US style divisive/wedge issue politics being accepted here.

Kudos to the Sun for standing up for decency and Canada by not assisting in the degradation and polarization of our national political discourse."

TSF also received these "anonymous" comments and we'll leave it to our readers to judge their merit:

"Be real. This blog has never liked Marsden because she's not a "day one-er" and shows up the old-timers. Warmington, Granatstein, Goldstein, Williamson, Jennings, Pyette, and everyone who has actually worked with her has always liked her and have nothing but good things to say about her.

And she didn't get "thrown out" of Fox. She left a variety show to do politics with CNN and got escorted out, as did Paula Zahn and Kiran Chetry when they left Fox.

You're making stuff up that doesn't exist. And your seething jealousy and hatred are all too evident."

(TSF: Jealousy and hatred? We have barely mentioned Rachel since we launched this blog. Toronto Sun readers repulsed by her flippant attitude about torture have said more about her in two days than we have in the past year. Good luck in her new ventures.)


"Marsden always lands on her feet, at CNN for example. Controversy sells, she'll do just fine, as usual. You have to applaud those who stand by their principles, as she does."

Well, TSF does applaud Toronto Sun management for standing by their principles, siding with readers and showing Marsden the door. They will most likely avoid Ann Coulter-style writing in the future.

So Rachel Marsden is history at Sun Media. Check out TSF's latest for asking: "How should the Sun fill her Monday column slot."

Rachel Marsden gone

Controversial Sun Media columnist Rachel Marsden is history.

Axing her column comes none too soon for a large segment of Toronto Sun readers who protested her pro torture comments Oct. 31 during Wolf Blitzer's CNN show and in her column on Monday.

As blogger Dennis Earl noted Wednesday afternoon, most Sun Media online traces of Rachel's Monday column were gone, although it could still be read on

So we put it to Sun sources - is she toast?

"It's true, Rachel will no longer be writing for the Sun," a source told TSF last night.

Late last night, Rachel, 31, made the following statement on her official web site:

"Sun Media Column Statement

Attention terrorists and Islamofascists: You can now read the Toronto Sun without having your delicate sensibilities offended, as my weekly column is no longer with Sun Media. I am exploring US syndication and other venues for the column. In the meantime, you can continue to read it here at every Monday. - Rachel, November 7/07."

Literally turfed out of Fox News and her Red Eye show in May, asked to leave Sun Media in November. Good luck with U.S. syndication, Rachel.

The Sun has some fence mending to do with irate readers deeply offended by her pro torture comments. Critics have been wondering why Sun Media stuck with Vancouver-born Marsden after her widely publicised Fox News firing in May, when she had to be escorted from the New York office.

Reaction to her Monday column by Sun readers and bloggers was swift and a line in the sand was quickly drawn by Sun management.

But anti-Marsden sentiment is not new.

In 2005, Counterblog said: "Rachel Marsden, Canada's most worthless political columnist."

And that was when she was writing for the National Post.

The Toronto Sun is in an upswing mood, with new bosses, a renewed focus on local news, GA reporters are being hired etc., so Marsden's exit is perfect timing.

It will just take some time for the Sun's black eye to heal.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Solid news day

So the Toronto Sun didn't post its circulation figures for ABC and its employees won't be getting a share of the record quarterly Quebecor Media profits.

At least newsroom employees - reporters, columnists, photographers and editors - are due more kudos for publishing another solid edition on Tuesday.

From the disturbing front page photo of a bespectacled lawyer in a suit fleeing teargas-throwing soldiers on the streets of Lahore, Pakistan;

To Joe Warmington's Page 2 column reacting incredulously to pleas to have the body of murdered deported career criminal O'Neil Grant returned to Toronto from Jamaica for burial;

To Mark Bonokoski's Page 6 three-part series finale about a brutal double rape 25 years ago, tracking down and interviewing the crackhead culprit in east-end Toronto;

To Thane Burnett's Page 8 launch of his one-week Great Lakes adventure aboard the Canadian Enterprise, a trek readers can follow using Thane's online log;

To Peter Worthington's Page 9 story about a Vancouver Federal Court of Appeal ruling that puts the citizenship of thousands of World War II war brides and their children in doubt;

To an unsigned "Let's get Toronto moving" editorial that truly represents the Sun's motto: Toronto's Other Voice;

To Donna Casey's Page 24 Right To Die article, the third in a series of five taking us where Canadian writers seldom venture;

To the always dependable 20-page sports section and its Maple Leafs coverage;

To the almost flawless TV Extra page etc.

Leave the depleted newsroom to the news vets and Toronto Sun readers will still get their money's worth. It is not called loyalty these days, it is called journalistic integrity and pride.

Exhibit A: Tuesday's Sun.

Sun was pro NDP?

A favourite past time for Toronto Sun readers with too much time on their hands is Googling Sun-related news stories and blog postings.

Rachel Marsden's "torture" comments in her column Monday have produced Google results that contain angry, anti-Sun sentiments far from the normal blog fare.

But The Galloping Beaver's posting on Marsden's column includes the following comment from a Toronto resident that caught our eye:

"As a longtime Toronto resident I can tell you a bit about the Sun's past - It used to be a pro NDP paper and really pushed itself as a pro union paper. Within the last 5-10 years while I wasn't watching it somehow became this Conservative Rag that you have noted. At one time the paper was owned by the employees - I guess they sold out!"

TSF note: We must have been napping during the Sun's pro NDP, pro union period.

But back on the Marsden front . . .

The Creative Revolution blog is promoting a letter writing campaign that includes Toronto Sun e-mail addresses and extends to YouTube.

And more from The Carpetbagger Report following her torture comments on CNN.

Among the numerous blog comments is a suggestion Rachel Marsden volunteer for a waterboarding session and write a first person account of the interrogation tactic.

A "swimmingly good" idea, eh?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Part time GA

The Toronto Sun posted an ad Monday for a part time general assignment reporter, with a Nov. 15 application deadline.

Other than summer interns, we haven't heard of part time GAs being hired, but a job is a job and it is positive news for the newsroom.

The successful applicant will be multi-tasking - print and audio/video for

"Shift and weekend work involved with some overtime," says the ad.

Applications to:

Angela Zito,
Human Resources,
Toronto Sun,
333 King Street East,
Toronto M5A 3X5

Or e-mail

Monday, 5 November 2007

New Vallee book

In the 1970s, Windsor import Brian Vallee was among the Toronto Sun newsroom employees who helped kick-start the Little Paper That Grew.

Brian moved on after three years to become an award-winning CBC producer and best-selling author (Life With Billy etc.), but more than 30 years later, he still talks fondly about his Sun years.

Sun vets who fondly remember Life With Brian will be applauding the piano-playing author on the release this month of his latest book - The War On Women: Elly Armour, Jane Hurshman, and Criminal Violence in Canadian Homes.

Published by Key Porter Books, the 376-page non-fiction book includes a foreword by Stephen Lewis, internationally acclaimed humanitarian and "one of Canada's most respected commentators on social affairs, international development and human rights."

Says Key Porter:

"Twenty years ago, in an international bestselling book entitled Life with Billy, investigative journalist and documentary producer Brian Vallée shone a spotlight on the dirty little secret of what was then known as “domestic abuse.”

In The War on Women Vallée revisits the domestic battlefield, revealing that the War on Women by the intimate men in their lives continues; that the fallen in this War are more likely to be ignored than honoured; that the refugee camps of this War are called “shelters”; and that the number of men being killed by their spouses has dropped by more than 70 percent since the inception of shelters, while the number of women being killed has dropped by less than 25 percent. That’s right, shelters save men’s lives!

Vallée was compelled to revisit the domestic battlefield when he was contacted by Calgary music promoter Elly Armour, who harboured a dark secret. She had once been a battered wife. In Nova Scotia in 1951, her husband brutally beat her and forced his way into a locked room where she was trying to hide. A teenaged mother of two with a third on the way, Elly shot her husband dead with his own hunting rifle. She was charged with the capital murder of Vernon Ince.

Through the years, Elly never talked about the shooting or the abuse. Not until more than half a century later when, her health failing and upset at the number of women still being murdered and abused by their intimate partners, Miss Elly contacted Brian Vallee and asked him to reveal her secrets."

Brian's new book goes on sale Nov. 30. All the best with The War On Women, Brian.

It has been a productive year in the book department for former Sun staffers, with George Anthony, Day One entertainment editor, writing a book about celebrity interviewer Brian Linehan, and Ken Robertson, Day Oner and former city editor, writing a book about life at Windcharm, his Barrie-area retreat.

Numerous Toronto Sun writers and editors have authored books on a wide range of topics. TSF's list includes 32 authors from the ranks of the Toronto Sun.

Sun Family authors not on the TSF list or are soon to be published can drop us a line.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Forum: Matthew Fisher

An e-mail to TSF from Matthew Fisher, son of Douglas Fisher (see photo):

"A surprising omission from this list of Day Oners is Douglas Fisher, who may have written more copy for the Sun than any other writer.

Mr. Creighton recruited Doug as the lead political columnist after his 10-year old column with the Tely ended when it folded.

Despite many offers to join the Globe and the Star, Doug remained a fixture on the Sun's editorial pages from 1971 to 2006, writing more than 5,000 columns for the chain before retiring two weeks shy of his 87th birthday.

Now in his 89th year and living just outside Ottawa, he remains an avid reader and keen follower of politics. He is working on his memoirs as a soldier, librarian, teacher, Member of Parliament, television host, journalist and Hockey Canada co-founder.

Perhaps his name was forgotten because although he worked for the Sun, he never worked for the Sun in Toronto, having always been the newspaper's voice on Parliament Hill.

This squib has been contributed by his son, Matthew, who also was a columnist for the Sun for 10 years."

Thank you for your e-mail, Matthew. We certainly haven't forgotten your father, but you raise a 36-year-old Toronto Sun puzzle. What constitutes a Day Oner?

The "official" count of Toronto Sun Day Oners is elusive, but in all of the lists and counts (62, 64, 68 and 69) we have seen there are omissions. They include op-ed writers Doug Fisher and Lubor J. Zink, two Tely staffers who didn't hesitate when asked to write for the Sun.

You would think every man and woman on the payroll Nov. 1, 1971, would be recognized as a Day Oner, but the most quoted figure these days is 62 and that does not include a few correspondents.

If there is an accurate Day One payroll document, it is probably under lock and key because of the very generous stock gift in the early 1980s. Every Day Oner received 1,200 free Sun shares, a handsome - and well-deserved - bonus. But there were rumours of discontent. Some people thought they should have been on that list.

The question is, did Fisher and Zink receive 1,200 free shares as Day Oners, or did the fine print exclude bureau correspondents? If excluded, why? What constitutes a Day Oner - only the bodies who were working at the Toronto Sun 35 hours a week?

So, Matthew, your father does, indeed, appear in the first Toronto Sun on Nov. 1, 1971. His Page 7 op-ed column is about Robert Stanfield and his concern for the future of the Ottawa Tely men and for his own future as PC leader.

Doug wrote:

"Last week, Robert Stanfield had the Tely men who covered Ottawa in for lunch. It was not a wake. The invitation came out of the conservative leader's nicest personal quality, a sensitivity to the individual problems of others.

"The luncheon conversation didn't rest long with the Telegram's closing and in regrets. Mr. Stanfield got a sketch of each man's destination: Peter Thomson to the Montreal Star; Peter Ward to freelancing in Ottawa; Rick Mackie to the Montreal Express; Brian Upton to a federal post with CIDA and Lubor Zink and myself to the Sun. All of us then, carrying on in Ottawa."

The column ends:

"Mr. Stanfield as Prime Minister is a credible thought."

Two seats kept Stanfield from doing just that in the 1972 federal election.

We look forward to reading Doug Fisher's memoirs.

Day 1: George Gross

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

George Gross, sports editor:

George "The Baron" Gross decided to hold onto his memories of Oct. 31, 1971, and share them with his Sunday Sun readers.

A good read, especially his memories of the newsroom atmosphere and the eyewitness reaction of those who trekked to Mississauga in the wee hours of Nov. 1, 1971, to watch the first Suns roll off the presses.

The newsroom chaos:

"Only the founding publisher, Douglas Creighton, and general manager Don Hunt had desks," George said. "The rest of us had to be satisfied with orange crates serving as typewriter desks."

Watching the first Toronto Suns roll off the presses:

"Tears rolled down the cheeks of most of the assembled Sun directors, their wives and practically all staffers who made it to the printing plant."

George, who also wrote about the Sun's launch for the 30th anniversary edition in 2001, says he still enjoys that moment 36 years later.

Earlier Day Oner postings by Christina Blizzard, Kaye Corbett, John Downing, John Iaboni and Ken Robertson.

Speaking of Day Oners, the Toronto Sun published a photo of 20-year staffers today, but we haven't seen a photo of the five surviving Day Oners: Peter Worthington, Andy Donato, George Gross, Christina Blizzard and Jim Thompson.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Front page sellout

How much does it cost car companies to take control of the Toronto Sun's front page - the tabloid's greatest asset when it comes to street sales?

What amount of money is so irresistible to Quebecor that it is willing to disrupt the news flow of the first three pages of the Sun, as it did again today?

Here we were elated about the Toronto Sun moving into its 37th year with more optimism than in the previous year and WOMP there it is - Big Blue.

Interesting juxtaposition: the "1,100 Auto Jobs Axed" headline re Chrysler job losses in Brampton to the left and a Hyundai Sonata horoscope ad to the right. Talk about irony.

The Toronto Sun being a Scorpio, here's our own horoscope slant:

"It is time for you to take a step back and look at the big picture. Analyze this. Ask yourself if this is the right path. Is this what you want to do with your widely praised tabloid image?"

The Toronto Sun is not destitute. No need for garage sales. So why sell out the front page?

Ottawa GA job

A Help Wanted ad has been posted for a general assignment reporter at the Ottawa Sun, with a Nov. 6 application deadline.

Today's MediaJobSearch Canada posting says "this is a full-time position and a bargaining unit position." Resumes should be addressed to:

Don Ermen, City Editor
6 Antares Drive, Phase III
P.O. Box 9729, Station T
Ottawa, ON
K1G 5H7


Thursday, 1 November 2007

Tor Sun says thanks

The Toronto Sun marked its 36th anniversary today with a "thank you readers" column by veteran staffer Lorrie Goldstein, who has always held the tabloid close to his heart.

Lorrie, while not a Day Oner, knows what the once feisty, unpredictable newspaper used to be and what it could be again if given the staff and freedom to do so.

Since Nov. 1, 1971, there have been more journalistic thrills and spills at the Sun than at your average broadsheet newspaper, and as Day Oners have told TSF, it has been quite the ride.

(TSF doesn't have all of the e-mail addresses for surviving Day Oners, so if you didn't get an invite to share your thoughts about putting out that first edition, please e-mail us.)

There is more optimism about the future of the Toronto Sun today than 365 days ago, when most of the in-house news had to do with cutbacks, firings, layoffs, buyouts and resignations.

It quickly became a dark and gloomy Sun as Quebecor savaged 333 King Street East. Armchair pundits were suddenly talking about the Toronto Sun likely to be the first of the four major Toronto dailies to bite the dust.

But feedback from the newsroom in recent weeks has been more optimistic, with good feelings about Lou Clancy returning as editor-in-chief and the appointment of Michael Sifton, former Osprey chief, as Sun Media's CEO.

Several reporters are being hired; there has been a call from Sifton for more local news; unsigned editorials have returned to speak to readers as a unified voice; the quality of writing by most of the columnists who hang out in the newsroom has been stellar.

Other ideas to rejuvenate the Sun:

Lure Max Haines out of retirement (or hire a clone) for that much-missed Sunday Sun crime fare; return Page 6 to an offbeat news and gossip hound; revive the rewrite desk and staff it with journalists who know 40-plus word leads are not tab fare.

In a nutshell, provide readers with stories and columns that are not common Internet fare. Make them want to buy the Sun for its original, well-researched stories and columns and exclusive photographs.

So Happy 36th from TSF. We hope to see you out and about for years to come.

Forum: Dave Chidley

A TSF Open Forum e-mail from Dave Chidley, a former veteran Sun photographer:

"I have thought about writing the TSF blog many times. I try to follow a "24 hour rule" where I won't write while I'm still angry. Well, it took exactly a year. I am over the anger, but one year ago (Oct. 31, 2006), I left Sun Media. I took a buy out because I was facing a certain layoff, so I made the act easy for them.

You see, despite 23 1/2 years with The Toronto Sun Publishing Corp/Sun Media/Quebecor, I was still the junior union member in the London Free Press photo department. It was the photo department's turn for a layoff.

Some of you from Toronto will remember me as a very young summer intern in 1982. Apparently, I was the first photo intern at the paper. From there, I went to Calgary for 17 years before my six- plus at the London Free Press.

I was hired as a full-timer in Calgary with hearts and love in the air on Valentine's Day 1984, and of course the most fitting day to meet the employer Grim Reaper, I left on Halloween Day. That day, an army of long serving, talented and dedicated staff were sent on their way, trick or treat.

Hundreds of years of experience vanished like spirits in the air that day. I was one of the "younger" ones taking my experience out the door.

I truly miss my colleagues at the Free Press and, of course, the Calgary Sun. They were and still are a tremendously talented group of professionals. That's where my anger comes from. It is such a waste, such a shame that the once mighty and highly respected Free Press has been, like the other papers in the chain, scaled back, and back and back.

Arghhh, I just hope the trend doesn't continue and the money to do good journalism is re-invested in the papers. It really can't get much worse, or so I hope.

I have been very fortunate to have landed on my feet. Ron Polling and Graeme Roy at The Canadian Press called me the day I was given my Freedom. I work a regular freelance gig for them. THANKS! I also get hired often by the Post, Globe, CanWest National and Star.

I cover the southwestern Ontario region, from Hamilton/Kitchener to Windsor and Sarnia and beyond. It was strange, at a recent Argo game in Toronto I was shooting for CP and ex-Sun man Freddy Thornhill was shooting for Reuters, and NO Toronto papers had shooters at the game. It was during the film festival, but it was still bizarre.

So I am all right, there has been life after the Sun for me. I know many of my colleagues that day have retired, and some gone on to other ventures. I hope their year has been fulfilling.

I enjoy reading TSF and check it often.

Take care.

PS, I accept freelance assignments! Tell your friends.

Dave Chidley


Thank you for your e-mail, Dave.