Saturday, 2 February 2008

Sandy Naiman -1

Sandy Naiman, former veteran Toronto Sun Lifestyle staffer, left the Sun last year along with Maryanna Lewyckyj, Bill Brioux and many others. She updates her post-Sun year:

"I was reading TSF this morning and chanced upon Maryanna's note of a few days ago. I'm thrilled to see how she has surfaced since we both left the Toronto Sun a year ago. She seems to be working in a mini-TO Sun "newsroom" at the Ontario Ministry. Good for her.

I thought I'd weigh in with a few thoughts of my own.

Last Saturday, I had brunch with Jim Jennings (former Sun editor-in-chief). He was in from Vancouver, where he is now headquartered as associate publisher of the Globe's B.C. and Alberta bureaus.

Jim is really enjoying the challenge of a new city and the new position. When he mentioned his new title to me in an email, he added: "Not too bad, for a photographer." So true. You never know what opportunities lay ahead, if you risk being open to them.

When Jim and I brunched at The Pickle Barrel last week, it happened to be the one-year anniversary of my last day at 333 King. I've been thinking and remembering how I felt leaving the building and the "family" I had spent more than half of my life working with, living with, laughing with and aching for as one by one, like me, they "left the building."

I remember being in a bit of shock, but thinking my "next chapter" would be as a full-time freelance magazine writer. Two days later, I filed a piece for the Seneca College Alumni Magazine - I graduated from Seneca's now-defunct Applied Communications Media program in 1971 before going to Queen's, then Ryerson and then the Sun.

I was dreaming. At $1 a word (if you are lucky, usually it is much less), you have to be a writing machine, if your pitches are accepted, in what is clearly a buyers' market.

Jim suggested it has taken me a year to grieve the loss of my second home.

Until now, I haven't been able wear my T.O. Sun 20th Anniversary ring, or make contact with people still there - Rita DeMontis, Kevin Hann and Linda Leatherdale, to name a few. There was so much pain. I am just beginning to be able to process it without hurting.

I've not done too badly, I guess. I had my settlement, though most of it is now gone. I knew I couldn't live on my freelancing. I do a little public speaking, when it comes my way. But then another opportunity came flying at me, out of the blue.

I happened to find my first journalism teacher, still at Seneca, and when we had lunch, he suggested I should be teaching there. Nice idea, but what? I'm no teacher and Seneca does not have a print journalism course.

Scott wasn't sure either, but he started sending my resume around and it caught the eye of the chair of the School of English and Liberal Studies.

On March 8 of last year, International Women's Day, I had an interview with Paula Gouveia, a 37-year-old whiz kid who heads the largest division at Seneca, more than 200 "professors" who teach all the electives every student must take, one per semester.

It is a grab bag of courses, including Women's Studies. Because I had finished half an M.A. in that discipline in the mid-1990s at York at night, she earmarked me to teach it during the last half of the summer semester.

Can you imagine? At 58, finding a new career? Well, anything is possible. (Remember, I met my fabulous husband at age 50.) Never let age be a barrier to trying new things. It doesn't matter, and I don't even colour my hair. I'm a happy member of the "Sexy Grey Brigade!"

I jumped at the challenge and taught three-hours a week last summer and I swear, I learned more than my eight students. Then, Paula asked me to teach the full-course during the fall term. What a trial by fire. I had 28 students, including three young men who were taking the course only because it fit into their timetable. I never knew how tough teaching is.

By mid-October, Paula offered me a brand new course to develop - Leadership in Society for College Students Who Want to Make a Difference.

You wouldn't believe it, but I resurrected my T.O. Sun column, People Who Make a Difference, and used it as a teaching tool for my 38 mostly international business students.

I am now teaching six hours a week and everything I learned at the Sun has been immensely useful in my teaching. All those years in Lifestyle interviewing leading feminists came into play when I redeveloped that Women's Studies course.

And what do I know about leadership?

I saw the greatest examples of leadership in full view at the Sun. All the editors I worked with were the kind of "leaders" that fit the empathetic leadership model I teach. I learned "worlds" from Doug Creighton to George Anthony, Kathy Brooks and J.D. MacFarlane. If it hadn't been for them, I would never have been hired in the first place.

The list goes on and on: Ed Monteith, Les Pyette, Gus Carlson, Linda Leatherdale (I worked in the business section for several years) then Marilyn Linton, Wayne Janes, Woody McGee, Gordy Walsh, Al Parker, Lorrie Goldstein, George Gross, Trudy Eagan, Lou Clancy and, of course, Jim Jennings.

There are so many people in leadership roles at the Sun and my experiences with them taught me life lessons I can now share in practice and in principle with my students.

What a privilege and an honour it was to know them and learn from them. And what I learned can be summed up in one word - humanity.

My year has been busy and exciting - and scary as hell. I'm still not making enough money to live on, but there is hope. And I've found a new post-journalistic calling as a teacher at Seneca that I could never have foreseen last February.

I'm happy to see (Sun Media chief) Michael Sifton, Jr. is reviving some Sun spirit after last year's devastation and that new hires of old faces is raising morale and infusing the place with energy and a sense of hope.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed, but to be honest, at 59, general assignment reporting is not what I want to be doing. I'll always miss the excitement of daily newspapering, but I do not miss the hour-long commute from Thornhill. (Seneca is 10 minutes away.)

Most of all, I miss the newsroom and all the people I worked with for close to 30 years. So many people at the Sun were like my immediate family - even closer.

Today, the future of the Toronto Sun is looking a lot brighter than it did a year ago. And I hope it grows brighter still, for all of us who have worked there and will always carry that spirit in our hearts, and for all of those still keeping the Sun bright.

Cheers to you all."

Thank you for your e-mail Sandy.

Sandy can be reached by e-mail.

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