Monday, 31 March 2008

Newseum Suns

Updated 04/01/08
The Toronto Sun's celebrated front pages are being sent to Newseum- they just aren't showing up in the online media museum's archives.

Thanks to an "anonymous" TSF reader at the Sun, we stand corrected after using a more direct way to view daily front pages from across Canada. Start here.

If you start with a Front Pages archives search for "Toronto Sun," only one previous Sun front page from July of 2007 appears. The tipster assures us Sun fronts have been appearing more frequently, so it is Newseum's bad.

Go directly to the daily fronts by region (North America) option and up pops fronts from across the country. As always, Sun fronts stand out in a crowd. (Click on a front for larger, full frontal viewing.)

Today's Toronto Sun front is one 624 from 54 countries.

Newseum's new media museum in Washington, D.C., which opens April 11, will also display front pages from around the world.

It is a great way for competitive newspapers to boost their presence in the global media village - and do a little chest beating at the same time.

Time after time, since the Toronto Sun was launched in 1971, its front pages have been suitable for framing and Newseum provides a wider audience.

Looking down the electronic road, will there come a day when computer users will be clicking on front pages for pay-per-view reading of all of the pages?

A daily smorgasbord of world newspapers at your fingertips?

PKP & George

Was Pierre Karl Peladeau in awe of the outpouring of love and affection for George Gross after the Toronto Sun sports legend died of a heart attack on Good Friday?

What was the Quebecor chief thinking as he sat in Humber Valley United Church in Etobicoke surrounded by former and current Sun employees who have felt the wrath of his cutbacks?

Was he comfortable at George's funeral service and feeling a part of the Toronto Sun Family, or did he feel like an intruder?

Was it a lesson in humility for him?

All of the above questions came to mind while looking at a Sun photo of Peladeau sitting beside veteran Sun writers Michele Mandel and Steve Simmons.

Mandel, Simmons and many others at the funeral were witness to nine years of Quebecor cutbacks, from 1999 when it bought Sun Media to the first half of 2007. Many good people and most of the morale vanished along the way.

While the tide has turned with Michael Sifton as chief of Sun Media, Quebecor had taken the Suns to the brink. TSF couldn't post dozens of e-mails and comments from employees and former employees angered by Peladeau and his cutbacks to the point of obscenities.

But there he was at the funeral and we can only hope he was absorbing the benefits of what money can't buy - love and respect. The kind George earned from decades of being a professional journalist, a good listener, community motivated and always extending a hand instead of a fist.

That was George, who, like most Toronto Sun Family members, was cut from a different cloth than Peladeau.

When Peter Worthington, a Sun co-founder, eulogized his good friend at the funeral, the words came from the heart, not a prepared script, so we don't have a replay.

Said Simmons in a column "If I die, I want Peter Worthington doing the eulogy. No one has ever been eulogized with more dignity, humour and accuracy than our friend George Gross was on Thursday afternoon."

An old saying is you don't measure the wealth of a man by his bank balance, but by the number of his friends.

George was one wealthy guy.

Sherri Woodstock

Music was Sherri Wood's life, so why not celebrate the all-too-brief life of the Toronto Sun entertainment writer with a summer music festival in her name?

"That was one idea pitched today at services for Wood, who died last Monday after a brave battle with brain cancer. She was not yet 29 years old," Bill Brioux, former Sun TV writer, says in his TV Feeds My Family blog.

What Sherri Woodstock requires is all of the energy and resources Sherri would have contributed to such a project, so Brioux is asking for feedback ASAP re a venue, bands etc.

Brioux says the Sherri Woodstock idea was raised at an "after wake" following funeral services at Turner and Porter. (View the Sun's tribute page.)

"If you are involved in the Toronto music scene and would like to offer suggestions and advice on the best way to push this all forward, please leave a comment here or reach me at," says Brioux.

TSF wonders if media musicians abandoned when the plug was pulled on this year's Newzapalooza could make music in memory of one of their own and raise funds for cancer research while doing it.

It's a natural. TSF can already hear the Sherri Woodstock music and the celebration of her life.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

TorSun deal

Updated o3/31/08 re Windsor Star
Unionized Toronto Sun employees have a new contract.

A 95% vote by the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild members ratifies a second three-year contract, with 2% pay hikes each year, says SONG president Brad Honywill.

The new contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008, includes a $1,000 hike (spread over three years) in wages for reporters and photographers on top of the 2% increase in exchange for increased multi-media responsibilities.

Honywill says vision care will be increased to $200 from $150 and the kilometre rate goes to 45 cents, from 42 cents, over three years.

"We have 110 members in the Toronto Sun editorial unit and that number is expected to rise with the recent round of hiring announcements. Just under 60% voted. The vote was taken Saturday between 1 and 5 at the SONG office on Queen St."

Honywill says the $1,000 in addition to the 2% is spread over three years: $500, $250 and $250. There were also some lump sum payments (not included in wage) and some increases for individuals.

"Congratulations to staff rep Howard Law, bargaining team chair Rob Lamberti and his team of Stan Behal, Jim Slotek, Zen Ruryk and Wayne Janes," says Honywill.

The contract settlement was inked five days after both sides resumed negotiations following a two-week recess. The talks began in January with both sides agreeing not to comment on the status of the negotiations.

Pay hikes for additional multi-media duties have been an issue in contract talks across North America. Fair is fair. At the Sun, a reporter's words, photographs and video can appear in the print edition, on the Internet and on SUN TV.

(See the Windsor Star strike vote story re demands for compensation for increased duties to provide Canwest with online content. The paper's contract deadline for 240 CAW members is April 16.)

With a new Sun contract, additional staff, a return to local news and Lou Clancy in the newsroom, Sun staffers can concentrate on doing what they do best - kick butt by thinking tabloid, not broadsheet.

Congrats to all for what appears to have been an amicable contract negotiating process and for avoiding the roadblocks that 252 locked out and striking Journal de Quebec employees have experienced for 11 months.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Newseum countdown

The $450 million interactive Newseum in Washington, D.C., officially opens April 11, but if you can't get there, Newseum's popular web site should satisfy your curiosity.

The seven-level museum at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue has "14 major galleries, 15 theaters, two broadcast studios and a 4-D time-travel experience" that blend "five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and innovation."

Admission is free on opening day and ABC's Good Morning America will be there to give media-minded viewers a peak of the 250,000-square-foot media museum.

If print and broadcast media in Toronto, or Canada for that matter, can't get their media history act together for a museum, at least Newseum will have some Canadian content.

One of the many features, available since early last year on the Newseum web site, will be selected daily newspaper front pages from hundreds of newspapers around the world.

What a boost it has been for the global media village.

Today, for example, there are 570 front pages from 53 countries online, including 21 front pages from across Canada.

Newseum's FAQ explains how the front pages are selected:

"Every morning, more than 500 newspapers from around the world submit their front pages to the Newseum via the Internet to be part of Today's Front Pages.

"When the Newseum opens in 2008 in downtown Washington, D.C., the Today's Front Pages gallery will give visitors an up-close look at the day's news on up to 80 newspaper front pages from every state, the District of Columbia and countries around the world.

"The gallery — featuring a spectacular view of the U.S. Capitol — will provide the perfect setting for visitors contemplating the relationship between press and democracy.

"Until then, the full selection of front pages is available on each day by 9:30 a.m."

After opening day, admission to the museum will be $20 for adults (13 to 64); $18 for seniors (65 and older); $13 for yutes (7 to 12) and children six and under get in free.

(Newseum opens April 11? Hey, that's nice of them to open it on this blogger's birthday. Haven't been to D.C. since the '60s, but Newseum is definitely a motivator.)

Odds & ends

George Gross funeral - What a royal farewell for George in Friday's Sun, with words by Michele Mandel and photographs by Veronica Henri and Michael Peake. The full week of tribute columns speak volumes for his character and his talents.

Winnipeg Sun on air - Innovations at the Winnipeg Sun keep on coming. Sun Speaks allows web surfers to hear the daily banter of Sun sports and news columnists, including Laurie Mustard, Tom Brodeck, Ian Shanley, Paul Friesen and Kirk Penton. Says Mustard: "Just think of it as "newspaper radio" (or 'readio' perhaps.)"

Swimsuit ad - We were doing swimmingly well while turning the pages of Friday's Best of Swimsuit Special Edition 2008 - until Page 22. The illustrated ad for bald guys and people with skin conditions kinda dampened the mood of Alex Urosevic's bikini-clad beauties.

Mike Strobel got serious
there for a spell, or was writing about hockey. But he's back in stride as Sun Media's favourite offbeat columnist. Friday's column on Viagra is prime Strobel, the man who introduced Sun readers to the Shaky Lady in March of 2002.

Headline of the day - "Sorry for almost getting you killed, Diddy" re the Los Angeles Times apologizing for publishing a story that linked Sean "Diddy" Combs to the 1994 Tupac Shakur shooting. Credibility of The Smoking Gun web site moves up another notch.

Porter potty

Millions of words have been printed in the Toronto Sun since Day One in '71 and the majority of those words are difficult to find outside the tabloid's morgue.

Faithful longtime Sun readers who get a yearning for classic columns by the late greats Ted Reeve, Paul Rimstead, McKenzie Porter etc. are mostly out of luck.

There are exceptions, thanks to reprints and columns and stories written after the Sun was computerized, so TSF rounded up a selection for our new Sun Flashbacks sidebar.

Early finds include the work of Paul Rimstead, Max Haines, Bob MacDonald, Jim Hunt, Gary Dunford, Percy Rowe, Valerie Gibson, Christie Blatchford, Jerry Gladman etc.

We have also included a story written last April by Sherri Wood, the entertainment writer who died on Easter Monday, and a Variety Village column by George Gross, who died on Good Friday.

Plus this reprint of one of the Toronto Sun's most controversial columns, written by the late McKenzie Porter. It reads:

Body Hygiene
By McKenzie Porter
For more than 40 years I have wanted to write the column that follows. But I have refrained on the grounds of an old-fashioned sense of delicacy. Now that general attitudes toward bodily functions are more candid and wholesome, I think I may deplore, without being obnoxious, the washroom habits of some men.

The most depressing spectacle a man may see on entering a public washroom to urinate is that of the feet of another man who is seated behind the half-door of a water closet in the act of defecation. There is something wrong with a man who defecates in some washroom outside his home. He is either ill, ignorant or unclean.

The custom of reading the newspaper regularly in a water closet at one's place of employment is not merely a theft of one's employer's time but, often, an offence to the eyes, ears and nose of one's colleagues.

A healthy, intelligent, fastidious man defecates in his home or hotel bathroom in the morning before he takes his shower or tub. In this way he ensures that his body is immaculate before he dons his underwear. Defecation in any place where it is difficult to wash the anus is unhygienic. No matter how good is the quality of the toilet paper available it is never as effective as soap and water.

One of the most impressive ablutationary provisions I ever saw was a latrine for private soldiers of the Indian Army during World War II. Although it was a makeshift affair in range of enemy guns, it was equipped with a rudimentary shower made out of old gasoline cans. The private soldiers of this particular regiment, famous for their salubrious appearance, were not content in a latrine with paper. They expected, even in the front line, facilities for washing.

The celebrated freshness of the Indian Army is dependent to a large extent on the regularity of bowel movements. By developing the habit of excreting shortly after arising from sleep, a habit easily acquired by anybody else, the Indian Army soldiers are able to wash conveniently before they dress.

Taking a tip from the Indian Army, many years ago, the British Army introduced the seemingly incongruous barrack-room custom of serving morning tea to soldiers in bed. Such refreshment is called Gunfire. It promotes the routine of morning evacuation, use of the showers and higher standards of cleanliness and health.

Any doctor will tell you that washing with soap and water after excretion is a precaution against minor and major ailments of the rectum.

A common cause of so-called food poisoning is the handling of dishes by restaurant workers who have failed to wash their hands properly after defecation. All staff washrooms in restaurants should be equipped with bidets, or showers, and the use of such, after defecation, should be mandatory.

It is essential, of course, to provide water closets in all places of employment and public buildings for the use of persons who need them at odd times. But to encourage better habits in the general population each public water closet should carry on its half-door the notice: For Emergency.

On the inside of the door, for the edification of the user, the following notice should be posted: "This Water Closet Is Provided For Persons Suffering From Temporary Irregularity of the Bowels. Healthy Persons Use the Water Closet At Home Where It Is Possibly To Wash The Body Before Adjusting the Dress."

That was our Porter. He made his exit on Oct. 20, 2006 - his 95th birthday. By all accounts, he never defecated in a Sun washroom. Probably added 15 years to his life.

We'll continue our search for Sun columns and stories written over the decades. Reeve and Frayne columns would be welcomed. A Bob Vezina gardening column? Ted Welch? A Sun story by the Star's Joey Slinger? Or Brian Vallee? Bob Blackburn? Brian Linehan? A Barbara Amiel column? Joan Sutton? John Iaboni? Hartley Steward?

suggested to Peter Worthington a fitting 40th anniversary online project for 2011 would be a selection of words written by the best of the best since 1971.

For now, reprints and online links for the work of former Toronto Sun staffers can be e-mailed to TSF.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Doug & George

Andy Donato's editorial cartoon 03/25/08, from the heart

Doug Creighton, co-founder and founding publisher - 1928-2004

George Gross, founding sports editor - 1923-2008

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Whig woes

Jamie Swift, the author of 10 books, writes about "the decline of the Kingston Whig-Standard," on this week.

As a Sun Media newspaper, the Kingston author notes, it has a new editor who also serves on the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. That should give you the drift of the rest of her interesting story.

When the Whig was a family-owned newspaper way back when, budding journalist were in awe of its reputation and eyed it as a paper to work for on the way up if we be so fortunate.

But as Swift writes, the conglomerates have used it as a football for almost two decades and its reputation - and resources - have dwindled to new lows.

"Kingston's Whig-Standard once enjoyed a reputation as a quality newspaper," she writes in the independent online newspaper. "Owned locally, the Whig had a big newsroom and reporters could cover specific beats like the Ontario city's famous prisons. No more.

"The Whig-Standard was sold again last year. It may have been just before or just after the passing of a local car dealer made the front page news for two days running.

"In the 17 years since the paper fell into the hands of corporate chains, the Whig has been owned by Southam, Hollinger (Conrad Black and his fellow klepocrats), Osprey and now Sun Media, part of the Peladeau family's Quebecor empire."

Swift's article also includes this quote from Wayne Grady, local author, former magazine writer and incoming chair of the Writers' Union of Canada:

"When a newspaper's senior editorial staff are heading up the local Chamber of Commerce, any sense of independent news analysis goes out the window.

"Suddenly, what is perceived as being good for business automatically becomes good for the newspaper, whether it is good for the community or not. A journalist cannot run with the hares and hunt with the news hounds."

Sherri Sun site

Updated re visitations Sunday

Kudos to the Toronto Sun for setting up a Tributes to Sherri Wood site at following her death from brain cancer Monday.

"If you have a favourite memory of, or story written by, Sherri Wood please e-mail us at," Toronto Sun readers were advised yesterday.

Sherri, who was only 28, and had worked at the Sun for four years in the entertainment department, left her mark as a person and a writer as the numerous tributes already on the web site show.

The former Humber College intern is clearly missed.

(Visitations for Sherri will be Sunday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the Turner and Porter Chapel, 2357 Bloor St. W. (at Windermere Ave., just east of Jane St.)

Web site tributes are the perfect venue for colleagues, readers, family and friends to share the loss of Toronto Sun Family members. There are no distribution borders.

TSF readers in Europe, the United States and across Canada have sought information about Sherri's death.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Sandford & NNAs

Bill Sandford, former Toronto Sun photographer and the first Sun photog to win a National Newspaper Award, sounds off on Lorrie Goldstein's NNA column.

"Regarding Lorrie Goldstein's remarks on why the Sun has stopped winning National News Awards, he is right about one thing - no one outside the business gives a rat's ass.

As the first Sun photographer to win an NNA for a news photo, the only reason I can put forward for its fame is because the incident affected thousands of people in the GTA. I speak about the photo of the Mississauga derailment and the ensuing evacuation of the city.

If it hadn't been for that, not too many of the general public would have taken much notice.

In subsequent submissions to the NNAs, I've never won another one, despite the fact that my photos were unique, unposed, slices of life. No sense bitching that it's politics, because no one will be able to prove it, and no one involved in the process will agree.

I have cringed over the years when I see what was nominated, and what has won the various awards, wondering what the judges could possibly be thinking. Until the award categories were expanded, what should have been a feature shot could end up as a winner in the news category!

Papers like the Globe and the Star actually work on projects that are geared to do well in the NNAs. To my mind, it's rare when a news story, or series of stories, were "unplanned" and winners.

I was involved in breaking one of the biggest stories in Canada, the Walkerton water crisis, working with the reporter who first wrote about it. Once it became obvious it had far reaching repercussions, the Star freelance reporter and I were replaced by a team of "talent" from 1 Yonge St. The initial stories done by this reporter were submitted by the Star, and although nominated, never won. How can that be!

Someone brought up the Dunlop Awards, whereby Sun staffers shut out of the NNA gold, could still have their good work recognized internally. Again, over the years, I submitted something every year and never once won an award. Are we to blame the judging in that contest? Was politics at play when the same people won every year? Who can say.

All one can do is keep trying."

Re Nation River

Lusia Dion says the Nation River Lady "is a pet case of mine."

The Ottawa-area resident was responding to a TSF posting about Brian Gray's cyber sleuths story in Monday's Sun.

The Doe Network's area director for Ontario and keeper of her own Ontario Missing Adults web site has devoted considerable time to the 1975 cold case.

As the 33rd anniversary of the discovery of the nude, bound body in the Nation River near Casselman approaches, fresh eyes are needed. And a lot of contradictory details published since 1975 need to be clarified.

The Ottawa Sun and other Sun Media newspapers could do justice for the Nation River Lady by sitting down with police with a check list to confirm each and every detail of the cold case - her description, the evidence, police theories and her recent DNA profiling.

And did the OPP ever approach John Walsh with a request to profile the case on his popular and productive America's Most Wanted program? His viewers have solved John and Jane Doe cases with far fewer clues than available in the Nation River Lady case.

In November of 2005, OPP reopened the case and were hopeful a $50,000 reward "for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder of this unidentified victim" would produce new leads.

In November of 2006, 31 years after the discovery of the body, police disclosed the Nation River Lady had webbed feet. (See the detailed 2006 CBC News story and a 2007 CBC story.)

Sue Sgambati's 2007 Court TV update interview with OPP Det. Insp. Phil George is also online. Hearing the evidence directly from a police spokesman is most helpful.

The Nation River Lady case remains open.

Volunteer cyber sleuths interested in helping to give the Nation River Lady a name are invited to check out the Ontario Missing Adults web site page devoted to the case.

The web site contradicts descriptions published by the media in the 1980s and 1990s, so updated details, like the webbed feet and partial dentures, might help provide new leads.

NNAs feedback

Former Toronto Sun staffers Linda Williamson and Rob Paynter respond to Lorrie Goldstein's column about the National Newspaper Awards drought at Sun Media.

Linda Williamson, former editor, writes: "I applaud Lorrie's column because it accurately summed up the feeling of many at the Sun regarding the NNAs.

I remember the annual battle as an editor, trying to persuade some of the chain’s finest journalists to enter the NNAs, only to meet with the usual protest – “Why bother? Tabloids never win.”

For Sun papers, the NNAs are like the lottery: Sure, the preponderance of wins in certain quarters is sometimes suspicious, but the only sure thing is that if you don’t enter, you’ll never win.

True, the NNA bias seemed to be that tabloid journalists were good at taking photos, but not at stringing words together. Still, this perceived bias made the exceptions that much sweeter. Even the tiny, cash-strapped Ottawa Sun managed four NNA nominations – two for special project and two for feature writing – when I was there between 1992 and 1995.

It’s true that Sun papers have fared far worse in this lottery in recent years than in the past, and the decline seems to have accelerated in tandem with Quebecor cuts. Another factor may have been Quebecor’s plan to pull out of the Canadian Newspaper Association in recent years, to save money on the membership fees.

I’m not sure if it ever went through with this, and it’s not supposed to affect NNA entries in any case, but if it did, it might be another piece of this puzzle.

Enough speculation, however. Let’s at least get the numbers straight. TSF reported that since 1995, the Toronto Sun has had only two NNA nominations, both unsuccessful, in 2004.

Not so. From 1995 to present, the Toronto Sun had 12 NNA nominations (full disclosure – I was one of them, for editorial writing in 1997).

And the Sun chain (I’m talking the six major English dailies here, excluding Bowes and Osprey) had 24, including four wins – although there have been no wins since 1998.

Since 1995, there have been three years where the chain has been shut out: 2003, 2006 and 2007, which may or may not signal a trend. And in 2000, 2005 and 2001, the Toronto Sun was not among Sun Media’s nominees. Clearly, these have not been the best of times.

But for posterity’s sake, let’s give due credit to those who did manage to catch the eye of the NNA judges, including Lorrie himself, who was justly nominated for an NNA for editorial writing in 1994, (if memory serves, I was at the awards that year because the Ottawa Sun’s Rob Benzie was also nominated for feature writing – unfortunately, the CNA/NNA website only goes back to 1995).

Here’s an NNA list ’95 on (all are honourable mentions except where noted):

1995: Heather Mallick, Toronto Sun, Critical Writing; Andy Donato, Toronto Sun, Cartooning; Sarah Green, Ottawa Sun, Feature Writing.

1996: Fred Sherwin, Ottawa Sun, Spot News Photo (WIN); Heather Mallick, Toronto Sun, Feature Writing (WIN); Ottawa Sun team, Special Project; Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun, Sports Writing; Stan Behal, Toronto Sun, Sports Photo.

1997: Dave Chidley, Calgary Sun, Feature Photo (WIN); Linda Williamson, Toronto Sun, Editorial Writing.

1998: London Free Press team, Layout (WIN); London Free Press team, Spot News; Heather Mallick, Toronto Sun, Feature Writing.

1999: Fred Thornhill, Toronto Sun, Sport Photo; Thane Burnett, Toronto Sun, Enterprise Reporting.

2000: John Larter, Calgary Sun, Cartooning; Suzanne Bird, Ottawa Sun, Sports Photo.

2001: Walter Tychnowicz, Edmonton Sun, Spot News Photo; Suzanne Bird, Ottawa Sun, Feature Photo.

2002: Jack Boland, Toronto Sun, Sports Photo.

2004: Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun, News Photo; Mark Bonokoski, Toronto Sun, Columns.

2005: Derek Ruttan, London Free Press, Feature Photo; Earl McRae, Ottawa Sun, Sports Writing.


Rob Paynter writes: "Here's another take on the NNAs and Sun Media:

Awards while I was at the London Free Press (then a Sun Media newspaper):

National Newspaper Award winner, layout and design, 1998; NNA nominee, spot news reporting 1998; International Society of Newspaper Design breaking news award 2001; Canadian Photojournalist of the Year 1998;

And while at the Ottawa Sun with Hartley Steward, John Paton, Rick Van Sickle and Mike Therien, multiple NNA nominations for feature writing, 1992, 1993, 1996 and special project 1995.

I've been an NNA judge twice and I saw no hint of bias against Sun Media. Good journalism wins NNAs."

30 - Sherri Wood

Sherri Wood, a vibrant, effervescent young Toronto Sun entertainment writer, died from brain cancer last night.

George Gross gone on Good Friday at 85, Sherri Wood gone on Easter Monday at 28. A sad long weekend for Toronto Sun Family members.

"This is a horribly sad day for the Toronto Sun entertainment department," John Kryk, entertainment editor, says in today's Sun.

Sherri, born in Etobicoke, was two weeks shy of her 29th birthday.

John said Sherri's last Sun story, an April 15, 2007, review of a Kool Haus concert by Brooklyn indie-rock troupe Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, was filed just hours before she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

"Her brain was hemorrhaging - she'd unknowingly had tumours for years - and was fast dying. She was given last rites but, unsurprisingly to all who know her, she hung on. Within weeks, Sherri was on her feet, vowing to make a complete recovery."

The miracles - and her battle - ended last night.

Former Toronto Sun TV writer Bill Brioux, who sat across from Sherri "for a few short, wonderful years," writes so eloquently about a life cut short in his TV Feeds My Family blog.

"I was always more interested in reading her face than anything on my screen," says Bill. "Her vibrancy carried me through a trying time. It was the best seat in the house, and I always knew it.

"For those of us who were lucky enough to work beside her, her death is almost unimaginable. Sherri was a life force, a girl to watch."

Bill is pictured above with Sherri during her 11-month "courageous fight against a relentless disease."

He remembers the cocky young woman's entrance at the Sun as a Humber College intern in 2004.

"She embedded herself at the Sun, breaking into the entertainment department despite a strict hiring freeze. Wood took the floor as an intern and never left; she simply kept showing up for work and filing club columns, concert reviews and basically any cool event too noisy and rambunctious for the rest of us coots. We all fell in love with her."

Cyber sleuth

Brian Gray's fascinating full-page Sun piece Monday on amateur cyber sleuths solving missing persons and Doe cases revives hope that the baffling 1975 Nation River Lady case can be solved.

Brian's story focused on Jason, a 28-year-old Toronto volunteer cyber sleuth and part of a growing, world-wide amateur detective movement, who helped link a New York State family to a man found dead in Toronto in 1993.

The family of Russell Pensyl now know his fate, thanks to someone who cares.

We've never met Brian, but we like his style. Short, snappy tabloid leads and stories like this one that helped the Toronto Sun stand apart from the broadsheets in the '70s and '80s.

The Nation River Lady was the subject of one of those stories. The naked body of this Jane Doe, ankles and wrists bound with men's neckties, was found by a farmer face down in the slow-moving Nation River near Ottawa on May 3, 1975.

Long Sault OPP said she had been strangled with television coaxial cable and her body tossed into the river from a bridge on Highway 417. It was found downstream near Casselman. Although nude, she had not been sexually assaulted.

She was 25 to 50, with "typically Nordic" features, had web feet, partial dentures. A 1987 Toronto Star story by Cal Millar and Gwyn "Jocko" Thomas said she had never given birth, had an appendix scar, her shoulder-length hair, originally dark brown, was dyed reddish-blond and she was probably blue-eyed.

Police were hopeful they would quickly identify the attractive, 5-foot-3, 100-pound woman, but footwork in North America and extensive Interpol missing persons probes in Scandinavian countries proved fruitless.

Her body was kept in a Toronto morgue body storage freezer and might still be there if not for an electrical fire late in 1986. In January 1987, she was buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

(An updated sketch of the woman shown above was released by the OPP with renewed hopes of someone identifying her, but nothing new came to light. America's Most Wanted TV program was advised of the mystery woman, but her case has not been profiled.)

As this blogger wrote in a 20th anniversary update for an issue of the short-lived PublicEYE tabloid: "She is somebody nobody knows."

As the 33rd anniversary of the discovery of her body approaches, it still applies and that is a crime. There has been no justice for the Nation River Lady. Her family and friends do not know her fate and the killer(s) have not been caught.

If we are indeed a global village, cyber sleuth websites mentioned in Brian Gray's story can only help reduce the number of Jane and John Does being buried without family and friends to mourn.

TSF has e-mailed links to Brian's story and TSF's update to, a database of missing persons and unidentified bodies in North America, Europe and Australia.

If you want to read dozens of newspaper stories about Doe cold cases being solved decades later, check out the web site's News Center. It is remarkable testimony to the determination of police and the public to let no body go unnamed.

The News Center stories include a 2002 feature about the Doe Network, written by the Sun's Michele Mandel.

Eddie lite A+

Readers of Monday's Toronto Sun saw the lighter side of Eddie Greenspan for the first time since his op-ed column was launched in February - and it was priceless.

We were getting a little concerned that Canada's celebrity criminal lawyer would confine himself to the finer points of law, which can be a yawner for some Sun readers.

Then along comes yesterday's "Technology apology" column about Blackberries and how they should be for eating, not e-mailing, and his computer-free lifestyle.

Word for word, it is the most humorous and clever column we have read in the op-ed pages, which tend to be dominated by politics and gloomy world events.

Eddie says while he doesn't have a computer, he does have an e-mail address that his office assistant monitors. The same assistant who takes shorthand dictation because he doesn't use a computer.

(A top criminal lawyer representing some of the most famous names in North America and he doesn't use a computer? Sit-com material.)

If you don't laugh while reading his e-mail address, you are guilty of something.

We've always known Eddie has a sense of humor. Glad to see he is going to mix it up with his Sun column. Maybe in one of his future lighter columns he could write about how he views lawyers on TV and in the movies.

Eddie Greenspan and Alan Shanoff, two lawyers writing entertaining columns for the Sun.

Who knew?

Monday, 24 March 2008

Variety Village

Variety, a pet fundraising project for George Gross since the 1980s, has posted an In Memoriam for the Toronto Sun's founding sports editor.

"When George Gross put his name to a cause, he embraced it with a passion," says Variety. "Variety Village was a cause near to his heart and benefitted from the rewards of his generosity for over 24 years.

"George consistently used his position as a public figure not only to raise funds for Variety, but to spread the word of our mission. His support went beyond numbers and dollars raised; George Gross was a true champion of Variety."

George, whose annual Variety Village Christmas Fund via Sun readers helped raise more than $1.1 million, would be delighted to hear donations in his name are being made in lieu of flowers.

As would the late, great Doug Creighton, a Toronto Sun co-founder whose inspiration for the annual Christmas fund got the ball rolling in 1984.

Variety says "If you would like to make a memorial donation to Variety in honour of George Gross, please click here or call Allison Staffmann at 416-367-2828 ex 244.

Donald Duench, a Sun sports staffer, and his wife, Ruth, will be among the Variety Village donors, as noted in an e-mail to TSF:

"We lost a legend in George Gross on Friday, but so did the people at Variety Village," says Donald. "George has been a champion for them for many years. During the weekend, my wife Ruth and I were talking about the void that Variety Village will have in fundraising . . ."

What to do? Donald says his wife, a Tupperware saleswoman who lists George among her customers, will be donating her sales commissions for this full week in "remembrance of George Gross and in appreciation of his efforts to Variety Village."

Excellent. We are confident many others will be finding ways to honour George.

Len & NNAs

Len Fortune, the Toronto Sun's photo editor from 1983 to 1986 and 2006/07, responds to Lorrie Goldstein's column on the National Newspaper Awards:

"I agree with Lorrie, somewhat.

There has always been a degree of discrimination by the NNA judges over the years, but in the past, the Toronto Sun - pre Quebecor - was always able to compensate for that slight.

If you examine the photo side, the Sun (pre-Quebecor) actually had a travel budget that increased the potential of nailing down a NNA. The proof:

Veronica Henri's
1983 NNA - CF104 Starfighter in Germany; Stan Behal's 1988 NNA - Ben Johnson at the Seoul Olympics; Fred Thornhill's 1989 NNA - The Cocaine Trail in Bolivia and Craig Robertson's 1990 NNA - AIDS victim in Kenya.

These wins were complemented with Tim McKenna's 1990 NNA from the First Nation dust up in Oka. If the Oka uprising occurred today, a Journal de Montreal photographer would cover it.

In essence, when considering the potential of NNAs, at least from the Toronto Sun photo side, it's a matter of finance and the re-alignment of Sun Media priorities.

And I suspect someone at the Sun will say "rubbish" and note that the Toronto Sun had recently sent a photographer to Afghanistan. To counter that argument, I surmise that the embedded photographer was constrained by the safety-minded Canadian troops, making it impossible to secure award-winning images.

Over the years, I have confronted NNA's coordinator Bryan Cantley about the possibility of discrimination in NNA judging. He has always defended the honesty of the competition. If you know Bryan, then you know that he's a man of integrity.

Considering everything, I am surprised that Greg Henkenhaf's unique angle of a shooting victim was not nominated for Spot News Photography. Was it entered?

The one criteria that often editors forget or don't know: A winning NNA entry has to have the attractiveness to play seamlessly across the country from Stephenwille, Nfld. to Victoria, B.C.

My advice is to try harder, something has to give.

Len Fortune,

Toronto Sun photo editor, 1983-1988 and 2006-2007 and author of From See to See: 50 years of (NNA) Photojournalism and major contributor to Page 1: The Best of the National Newspaper Awards."

Lorrie & NNAs

Lorrie Goldstein
said what had to be said Sunday about the National Newspaper Awards and the Sun's long, dry run in nominations and wins.

The heading for his op-ed column: "Why this columnist has had it up to here with the National Newspaper Awards" said it all for Lorrie and a lot of disillusioned Sun Media reporters, columnists and photographers.

Lorrie wrote: "Today's column is a bit 'inside baseball,' but it's been bugging me for a long while and I promise this will be the only time I write about it.

"Earlier this month, the 63 finalists for the Canadian Newspaper Association's 59th annual National Newspaper Awards - Canada's highest journalism honour - were announced.

As usual, the judges collectively gave the back of their hand to the Toronto Sun.

Also, as usual, the Globe, Star and a few other perennially NNA-praised papers picked up their usual slew of nominations. That means their entries were judged to be in the top three of all those submitted in each of 21 categories, the winners to be announced in May. This year, the judges deemed not one entry, either from the Toronto Sun or our sister Suns, worthy of consideration. No surprise there. It's part of a shunning of the Sun that's been going on for many years."

Read all of Lorrie's column. It is not sour grapes. The numbers support his views.

The numbers: From 1971 through 1995, the Toronto Sun won 18 NNAs and received seven honourable mentions. Since 1995, two unsuccessful NNA nominations in 2004.

The lack of NNA wins and minimal nominations since 1995 suggests many talented people still at the Sun have either lost their edge - or NNA judges are biased.

The latter sounds more feasible when you consider previous NNA wins by people still at the Sun: op-ed columnist Peter Worthington (1972 and 1979), editorial columnist Andy Donato (1976), photographers Veronica Henri (1983), Michael Peake (1986) and Stan Behal (1988).

Christie Blatchford didn't win an NNA while at the Toronto Sun, but did at the National Post in 1999; the Sun's late, great Jerry Gladman never won an NNA; ditto for veteran columnists Mark Bonokoski (nominated in 2004), Michele Mandel and others.

And George Gross, considered a legend among North America's sports writers, had a dry run from the time of his 1974 NNA win through 2007? Give us a break.

Lorrie suggests perhaps the NNA thinks less of the tabloid because of the SUNshine Girl, but SUNshine Girls were bigger and bolder on Page 3 during those early winning years.

As Lorrie said in his column, some Sun staffers fed up with the frustration of NNA shutouts have given up trying and, like Lorrie, have stopped submitting NNA entries.

"Don't get me started on the NNAs," a veteran Toronto Sun staffer told TSF the other day.

Politics, elitism or whatever, something is amiss at the Canadian Newspaper Association and we're sure some of Sun Media's competitors, while gloating about their 2007 NNA nominations, agree.

Sun Media does have the Dunlop Awards, annual in-house awards introduced in the late 1980s by founding publisher Doug Creighton to boost morale, which they did and still do.

But on a level playing field, winning in a competition against journalists at major newspapers across Canada is the ultimate win.

We're sure Lorrie's column in the Sunday Sun won't win a 2008 NNA, even if he did enter the national competition for the first time in years. But he said what had to be said for his colleagues, Sun readers and Sun Media.


Updated 03/29/08

The funeral for George Gross was held March 27 at Humber Valley United Church in Toronto.

George's final Sun sports column was published March 20, a piece on world champion figure skater Kurt Browning. The Sun's founding sports editor died of a heart attack at his home on Good Friday at 85.

Newest Memories of George e-mails: Sean McCann, Evelyn Koop, Joan Sutton-Straus and Tom Godfrey.

Tribute columns and stories published since his death:

Toronto Sun: Mike Strobel - Bill Lankhof - Peter Worthington - Steve Simmons - Joe Warmington - Steve Buffery - Kevin Connor - Mike Strobel (March 27) - Scott Morrison - Michele Mandel

Ottawa Sun - Earl McRae - Cynthia Reason (March 25)

Editor Corbett's Dailies - Kaye Corbett blog (March 26)

Globe and Mail Obits - Tim Wharnsby

TV Feeds My Family - Bill Brioux

Toronto Star - Kevin McGran

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Odds & Ends

And so begins month 11 of the Journal de Quebec lockout and strike in Quebec City. The first anniversary for the 252 Sun Media employees on the outside looking in is April 22.

How did the Toronto Star become the "official newspaper" of the Toronto Blue Jays when the Jays' prez is a former Toronto Sun CEO? Talk about loyalties.

George Gross was a Sun trooper to the end, making his exit at a time of day that allowed reporters, columnists and editors ample time to package a most fitting farewell.

And then there were four. George's death leaves four of the original 62 Toronto Sun Day Oners on the job: Peter Worthington, Andy Donato, Christina Blizzard and Jim Thomson.

We've never seen a Sun ad for a "temporary assistant city editor" before but that is what a Saturday help wanted says. It is a one-year contract with union membership. Deadline is next Thursday.

That arrest last week in a 1974 murder cold case is another argument for one of the major Toronto dailies to launch a weekly, province-wide cold case review feature.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Memories of George 2

Updated 03/29/08
More memories of
George Gross:

Sean McCann
, former Toronto and Calgary Sun reporter/editor: "George never called me kiddo, and any conversations I had with him were totally gentlemanly. And he was that, a gentleman. I can say for sure when I joined the Sun and when I had the pleasure to talk with him, he never made me feel inferior. He was the ultimate journalist actually."

Evelyn Koop, Kalev Estienne rhythmic gymnastics team: "Many people have already expressed their love and admiration for this exceptional person, and I want to add my voice from the perspective of the sport of rhythmic gymnastics.

That George was a great supporter of this sport could easily be seen by any visitor to his office, because of the huge photo on his wall of a Kalev Estienne team, dating from 1968, the year I founded the first Canadian rhythmic gymnastics federation.

George worked with me from the very start in establishing and promoting, first, rhythmic gymnastics and, later, aesthetic group gymnastics (AGG). We had actually agreed that he would run the press conference for the AGG World Championships to be held in Toronto June 12-14, 2008.

Because we both worked unreasonable hours, he was easily available to me when I needed his advice and support, and he was there for me when I got rhythmic gymnastics performances to be part of the opening ceremonies at the Montreal Olympics and, later, to be included in the Olympic Games. He also helped get my team invited to do the half-time shows at soccer games and he wrote about many of our performances and competitions. And so much more.

George was one of the few sport commentators who staunchly supported rhythmic gymnastics as the beautiful but demanding sport it is. He loved it, wanted to promote it and was always concerned about its success.

And I need him, his advice and support right now in the face of the many local obstacles we are meeting when planning for the AGG World Championships to be held for the first time on this side of the Atlantic.

We can never thank you enough for all you did, but still… did you have to leave us so soon?"

Joan Sutton-Straus, former Toronto Sun Lifestyle editor/columnist: "Although I met George at the Telegram, we really became friends at the Eclipse building where we shared an office wall - with a hole in it, which was not unusual in that building.

I will leave it to others to talk about George as a journalist - he was certainly that. But he was also a good sport. Seat George at a table with the ugliest women in the room and he would dance with every one of them - and he was a fabulous dancer - and make every partner believe that she was not only also a great dancer, but beautiful.

George was also a very good friend. As it turned out, our houses on the Kingsway were near each other and when my first marriage broke up, George and Elizabeth were always "there" for me, and for my children.

When I needed professional advice, George could be counted on to speak the truth. When I met Oscar (Joan's second husband), George took him under his wing in Toronto, arranging tennis games, almost always with some beautiful girl on the other side of the net.

We shared many times together, happy and sad; none sadder than this final parting. I can't believe that I will never pick up the phone again to hear that distinctive voice."

Tom Godfrey
, veteran Toronto Sun reporter: "I just saw Gross last Thursday in the newsroom. Me, Mike Strobel and George were just standing around the reception area talking about how the business has changed and how much fun it was before.

We talked about his Ben Johnson exclusive, other big stories and things as they were before all-day news. I told George he's got to write a book about his life, his escape from Czech and all he had been through. Strobel urged him on. George said one of these days he'll write it and said it would be a good movie too.

We three shot the breeze for awhile around the news desk before he strolled back to his office . . .

Peace and Love, George."

John Iaboni
, one of five Day Oners in the Toronto Sun sports department, along with George, Kaye Corbett, Ken Adachi and Eaton Howitt: "To me, George Gross was - and is - Sun Sports. It was a privilege for me to have worked for and with George for 16 years - three at the Toronto Telegram and 13 at the Sun.

When I left the Sun in 1984, I was George's assistant and, needless to say, he was mighty upset that his protege and someone he'd mentored and taught so much decided to move on. He even implored publisher
Doug Creighton to speak to me but to no avail.

"You'll be back within a year," George told me. "No, I won't," I replied.

When I didn't come back, George sent me a note saying "I guess I was wrong." Over the years, I don't think George ever forgave me for leaving. Believe me, it was the toughest decision of my life. And here's why:

For the 16 years, when I was 17 through 33, George was like a second father to me. In fact, I spent much more time around him during those years than I did my Dad. George was a taskmaster, always pushing the buttons for our paper to kick butt and come up with the "scoop."

I truly believe George ran our sports department like
Punch Imlach ran his hockey teams . . . with an iron fist and intent on getting all of us to be loyal to the Sun and work hard for it.

No one could complain of all the long hours or the demands in trying to be the best in the business because it was George who put in the most time and was always trying to land the major stories before anyone else had them. He was a tough act . . . a tougher act to follow.

His list of contacts was incredible and there wasn't a place I'd go, or a person I'd meet, who wouldn't know George or say "give George my best." He knew everybody and everybody knew him.

As the hockey writer at the Sun, I often found myself in delicate situations since two of his best friends and closest allies were Punch Imlach and Alan Eagleson. But, to his credit, whenever I was critical of Punch and The Eagle, he never tried to influence my opinion. Deep down, I think he liked knowing I could get a rise out of his close friends, keeping them in check since The Baron was in their corner.

George's passing was shocking because my 40 years in the business have always had The Baron as a guiding light. When Sheila Chidley called to tell me the news, I thought back to all those great days at the Sun and all the people around George. He brought together a great team and he was the perfect leader for it.

Right from Day One of the Sun, sports was his department and it always will be."

Charles "Chick" McGregor, former Toronto Telegram sports staffer: "I worked with the Baron in sports at the Tely in the 60s as Doug Creighton's assistant and then as sports editor when Doug moved up to ME. George became my assistant sports editor.

It would be incorrect to say that I was George's boss. Nobody was George's boss, except his great wife, Elizabeth, that is. He had his own way of doing things and Doug had always given him free rein, so I did the same. And it paid off with one great story after another as he played his contacts like fiddles and worked the Rolodex like a junk bond salesman.

Sometimes, HE was the story.
Like the World Hockey or Figure Skating Championships (I forget which) being staged in one of the Communist countries in Europe. Maybe Prague, where George was still a wanted man for having escaped the Czech regime years before. The Tely wouldn't pony up the money to send him so he was right pissed. Then he discovered that his request for media credentials, sent in months before, had been denied.

He and Creighton went in to see Doug MacFarlane, the editor-in-chief, more or less asking "Are you going to let those lousy Commies keep the Tely from covering this event for Canadian readers?" MacFarlane no doubt saw through this scam but also knew he could convince John Bassett (a Major in WWII who served overseas) that they should take a stand against the Commies -- and George was on his way. He became the story.

Wearing his Canadian tartan fedora he bought tickets to all the events, sat in the stands and called press conferences to tell the world that nobody from an Iron Curtain country was going to stop him from filing copy to the Toronto Telegram. The story -- and George's photo in his tartan hat -- was in most major newspapers and on TV around the world. Game, Set and Match to the tennis playing sports writer.

The night the Toronto Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup (1967, in case you don't remember that far back), we gathered in the Tely sports department to sort out who was writing what for the next day's paper. As I recall it, along with the Baron, we had Bob Pennington, Paul Dulmage and Al Sokol doing the main stories and I was writing some colour stuff. George was a really great pal of the coach, Punch Imlach, but he didn't seem to have much in the way of quotes from him. Or so it seemed to me. So I suggested that George should bulk his copy up a bit.

He tried to get Punch on the phone, but the line was continually busy and he couldn't reach him. I then said maybe he should go to his house, a 30-minute ride away in Scarborough. Those of you who remember George well can imagine the fierce look I got - but he went. Eventually, it was closing on deadline and no word from the Baron. No cell phones to call him on and Imlach's phone was off the hook. We had space saved for his story and were getting ready to plug it with a couple of photos when he came in, hat on the back of his head, camel hair coat draped over his shoulders and a giant grin on his face.

George apologized for being so long, but he said he had a great story. Which he had. Punch had four bottles of champagne - one from each of his Stanley Cup victories, with the 1967 win being the fourth - and he was drinking them that night with his wife, Dodo and his close friends and George was welcome to join him. And so he did, giving the Tely one more story that the Star and the Globe didn't have but wished that they did."

Memories of George? E-mail them to TSF.

Memories of George

Memories of George "The Baron" Gross, the Toronto Sun's founding sports editor who died of a heart attack Friday at 85. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Mike Filey, Sunday Sun's The Way We Were columnist: "Like George, my wife Yarmila was born in what was then known as Czechoslovakia. Over the years, she taught me a few words and expressions in her native language and whenever I saw George, I would try a few on him. And while I struggled to get them out, George always seemed to appreciate my attempts, although I was never sure what he was saying back to me. From the both of us, Dobrou noc Jiri."

Andy Donato, award winning Day One editorial cartoonist: "The best memory is of George at the old Tely looking at Susan Swan, who was six feet tall and wearing a mini skirt, sitting with her feet up on a desk talking on the phone. George said: 'My grandfather always used to say the longer the tracks, the more luxurious the station.'

I went to George's home on Islington Ave. to a party celebrating his 75th birthday. His wife, Elizabeth, asked if I'd seen his gallery of cartoons in the basement hallway. I went down the stairs to a beautifully finished basement and found a whole wall full of George cartoons, most of which were mine. I'd remembered giving George at least two or three. I'd always wondered what had happened to the others. George would go into the comp room at night and walk off with them.

We'll miss the old Baron. I guess Doug now has a new lunch partner."

John Downing, a Day Oner and former editor/city hall columnist: "George Gross was a wonderful, frustrating mix of these words. Risque! Critical! Sexual! Obsessed! Loyal! Fierce! Twinkling! Mercurial! Thoughtful!

He was tough on enemies and tougher still on friends. If the Sun had had a gross of George Grosses, the Star would be a beaten second.

George was always parked near the door when most of us got to work. He would call you in on the way by and eviscerate quietly some stupid editor or reporter who had screwed up in that day's paper. We used to do it better, he said, and sadly he was often right.

George didn't shy away from committee work, unlike most journalists, realizing that these committees would sometimes give him an edge on getting the story, and that was the most important thing in his life, right up there with Elizabeth.

I served with with him on sports hall of fame boards and CNE committees and found him never bashful about ripping the guts out of the decisions. But he was a great connector. He got a new scoreboard for the ball diamond at the Ex for me out of Paul Beeston and major-league baseball and never got a word of thanks.

His Variety Village work is famous, and deservedly so, but he had friends like Linc Alexander, the former lieutenant-governor, whom he pressed into service in a dozen causes. I remember a party he threw for Linc. It was to be a garden party back of his comfortable Kingsway home, but it rained, a skunk took up light housekeeping in a window well, the fridge broke and most people showed up late, a no no when the Queen's rep is the guest.

So we stood in the mud of the backyard while George told filthy stories and we all laughed and had a wonderful time. Steve Stavro, who was uncomfortable with the press, showed up and George and him talked of the old failures in trying to start pro soccer in Toronto, and probably George reminded us of his record of scoring nine goals in one soccer game. None of us minded because none of us had ever come close. Typical Gross party. Fun with a cross section of people.

His relationship with his pal/boss Doug Creighton was affectionate and stormy. Doug once asked at a black-tie dinner how come George had never followed him out the door when Doug was fired. Doug said that George had always promised that he would leave if Doug ran afoul of the board. I was sitting beside George as his friend sank his bitter spear into his chest. George never blinked and he never explained.

We all knew the answer, and so did Doug. George loved being a reporter and editor too much. He loved being at the centre. He would strut like a peacock with a scoop. So he couldn't quit because his job was his life. And in the end, he got fired from his beloved work by the only force in the world that really matters."

Mark Bonokoski, veteran Toronto Sun columnist: "How rare is it to express shock at the death of someone who is 85? Very rare, I would think. Except for when it comes to George Gross, the Baron.

The shock of his sudden passing is real, because his death was wholly unexpected. He was not ailing, at least not publicly. His energy was to be envied, his love of the newspaper game (and those who played it well) was still intense, his mind was as keen as ever, and his sartorial elegance had never lowered itself a single notch. He was not 85, but he was.

His 85th birthday party in the Sun's sports department in January - cake, etc. - embarrassed him somewhat. He didn't want to be 85, but he was.

So much has already been written about George. So much has already been well said. There is little more I can add except my sadness.

We both arrived at the office early. In fact, on most days, the first person I greet is George. “Good morning, Baron,” I'd say as he strolls past my office. “Good morning, kiddo,” he'd reply.

We were all kiddos to George Gross.

I will miss saying hello on Monday morning, and for many, many mornings to come. But I will hardly be alone.

The newspaper business tends to have the optics of being a young person's game, sometimes to its detriment. The young bucks, rightly eager to move up, sometimes wrongly see the sages of the newsroom standing in their way, forgetting that the old sage didn't get there by fluke or by accident, but by an ability that only got better with each day's experience.

George Gross's abilities had not yet begun to wane.

No one wanted George Gross to move over, or get out of the way. Who else but George Gross, at 85, got the “scoop” that Mats Sundin was staying put with the Leafs?" And it was not a one-off.

That tattered contact booklet that George famously carried in his jacket pocket, the one with every important phone number in the sports world, and in politics and beyond, should be treasured and treated as a treasure.

It should also be enshrined in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, as part of the exhibit already honouring this remarkable man and human being.

But copied, first.

Len Fortune, former Sun graphics whiz vet: "I loved George - I have known him for more than three decades.

He always had a way of making me feel good about myself. He was extremely supportive during my stay at the Sun. Yes, there were times in the early days, when the fur flew, but nothing ever lingered. Differences with George were always settled quickly and fairly.

He always called me "Handsome," which I imagined he called every other male staffer in editorial, but all the same, I appreciated the handle.

It's a ironic that just last week, I was talking to ex-Tely great Chic MacGregor and George's name came up. I told Chic about the day that George and I drove far into the country for the funeral of our good friend, Mike McCabe. As it turned out, George and I were editorial's only representatives. That was a shame, Mike was an excellent man.

For some of you who didn't know Mike, he was Doug Creighton's chauffeur and confidant.

Throughout the drive, George recounted one great story after another of the twists and turns of his amazing life, and we both could see the possibility of an exciting book.

Well, we buried our friend Mike that day and neither of us ever mentioned the prospect of a book again. And that was another shame.

I send my respects to Elizabeth, a brave woman and Sheila Chidley, George's right hand in the sports department, who for years, made certain that The Baron could continue to contribute effectively.

And hats off to the newsroom for today's paper. A fitting and perfect front!"

Les Pyette, former Toronto Sun city editor to CEO: "George was a winner, tons of scoops for the Tely and Sun, a major contributor to the success of the Sun.

The Baron had a great sense of timing and flair. He was fun to travel with because everyone knew him, from the waiter to the president. We had a lot of fun lunches over the year and at breakfast just a short month ago, he was in top form.

It is a shock to see him go, but he would have preferred it that way and I guess we all can't stop what's coming.

Proud to have worked with and have known George for the past 35 years. The Sun has lost of of its original treasures."

Kaye Corbett, a Day Oner and former sports desk vet: The most unforgettable 'teacher' in my life.

George Gross was one of a kind. He was wise sometimes. He was humourous sometimes. He was even hard driving at other times. And I can say all these things, for I was his right-hand man at the very beginning of the Toronto Sun in November 1971.

Actually, I learned from this debonair man of the world during my days with the late and great Toronto Telegram. And what a learning experience that was.

When the Tely went the way of the dodo bird, George Gross was an integral member of the team which began working on wooden crates in that early Canadian foundry - the Eclipse Whitewear Building. And I was the fortunate one, being named the first assistant sports editor under his leadership.

Those days were filled with apprehension and wonderment at the Little Paper That Grew as it blossomed into a newspaper, which actually hit the streets every day. It was a miracle. There were nights at his home, planning the look and essence of those sports pages. It was like looking over the shoulder of a master at work.

Then there were the "chats," if his right-man man stepped out of line and words such as "okay, kiddo," which always seemed to conclude every so-called "lecture."

In those days, we were family, so when I decided to leave to become sports editor of the Edmonton Sun and later its executive editor, this man I considered to be my father in the business realm was mildly annoyed. And the communication between us became somewhat strained.

A few years late, in the mid-80s, George Gross came back into my life after my relationship with the Edmonton Sun disintegrated. That's when the "real" George Gross came to the forefront and he welcomed me back into the Toronto Sun fold, for which I will be eternally grateful.

While I retired in 1994, this wise and generous man continued to be such an influence with his writings and his generous ways. When I heard of his passing Friday, I went into shock, for he definitely was one of a kind."

John Cosway, former reporter/rewrite guy: The Toronto Sun newsroom has never had a dress code, a freedom appreciated by most staffers. We felt comfortable in our casual attire - until George Gross walked in dressed for royalty. Then we felt like slobs.

But the shine on George's shoes and the neatness of his flawless attire reflected the way he ran his sports department from Day One in 1971. Spit and polish and a work ethic that would put most people to shame. He planted a seed of excellence on Day One that quickly set the Toronto Sun's sports department apart from most North American sports desks.

More than a few novice sports reporters and deskers would call George an SOB along the way, but those who were open to his no nonsense, nose-to-the-grindstone guidance reaped the benefits of his invaluable tutoring. He has numerous appreciative current and former staffers.

When you consider the parade of talent that worked in the sports department with George at the helm, you know he was the only man for the job as founding sports editor.

Ted Reeve, Jim Hunt, Trent Frayne, John Iaboni, Scott Morrison, Pat Grier, Rick Fraser, Jane O'Hara, Kaye Corbett and many others shared in his success.

As others have said, George was 85, but he wasn't. He was forever young."

Do you have memories of George? E-mail them to TSF.

30 - George Gross

George Gross, affectionately called The Baron, is dead at 85.

The Toronto Sun's founding sports editor died of a heart attack at his Etobicoke home Friday morning. On Thursday, he was where he has always been for almost four decades - on the job for a full day working on his next Sun sports column.

The Czech-born sports journalism legend turned 85 on Jan. 23, surrounded by well wishers in the newsroom and sharing birthday cake and refreshments.

So news of his death shocked current and former colleagues and the sports world. (The world wide contacts in George's sports book reads like a Who's Who.)

As word of his death spread, news agencies and other media began paying tribute to The Baron.

"It just stopped us cold when his son phoned in this morning," Lou Clancy, editor in chief, said Friday in an Associated Press story.

In a Canadian Press story, Clancy described Gross, the Sun's corporate sports editor, as one of "the last of the deans of sportswriting."

"Milt Dunnell, James Coleman, Scott Young, Ted Reeve and Jim Hunt, they were all legends," Clancy said. "And George certainly stands right with them."

Peter Worthington writes about his fellow Day Oner and longtime friend in the Saturday Sun, as do columnist Joe Warmington. and sports desk vet Bill Lankhof.

The Saturday Star has a lengthy tribute (not online) by Kevin McGran, accompanied by a 1992 photo of George with Milt Dunnell, the Star's sports legend who died recently at 102.

Many more words are anticipated as media reach some of the countless athletes George wrote about in his six decades as a Tely/Sun sports journalist.

Meanwhile, on the boss front . . .

George, a 1974 National Newspaper Award winner, molded the Sun's acclaimed sports desk team as sports editor from 1971 through 1986, training proteges and earning the respect of sports writers and editors on numerous fronts.

Dave Fuller, the current Sun sports editor, says in a Sun story George Gross was demanding but one who rewarded hard work.

"George hired me in 1977 and if you worked hard and broke stories, you'd be fine with him," said Fuller. "He liked guys who worked long hours and were really dedicated."

When George Gross wasn't writing columns and earning sports honours - he was a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame - he was a tireless fundraiser for Variety Village and numerous other charities.

The annual Variety Village Christmas Fund drive was George's baby, an idea inspired by founding publisher Doug Creighton in the 1980s. More than $1.1 million has been raised since its launch in 1983, thanks to George's efforts and the generosity of Sun readers.

Among the other honours for a man whose vocabulary did not include retirement: The Order of Ontario, the Olympic Order, an Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award presented by the Hockey Hall of Fame.

George was an athlete before he was a sportswriter and missed representing Czechoslovakia in the 1940 Olympics because of WW2. His post-war political writing would put him in jail.

In 1949, George fled his communist homeland, quickly honed his English and in the 1950s was hired by the Telegram. When the Tely folded on Oct. 30, 1971, he joined 61 other out-of-work Tely people and helped launch the Sun on Nov. 1, 1971.

(George wrote about his memories of the Sun's launch for a 30th anniversary edition special supplement in 2001.)

George, who is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, a son, George, and a daughter, Elizabeth, was always on the job, whether in his office, on the road chasing a story or travelling the globe.

The dapper sports journalism icon, an avid tennis player in his 80s and a soccer player in his younger days, always had a smile for colleagues while strolling the hallways of 333 King Street East. And the stories he had to tell.

George's legacy is filled to the brim - six decades of memorable sports stories and columns, tireless community service, a loving family, appreciative colleagues and readers and an OK backhand.

It was good knowing you Kiddo.

E-mail your Memories of George Gross to TSF.