Friday, 6 February 2009

Joan & Dunlops

Joan Sutton Straus, the Day One Toronto Sun Lifestyle editor and former Dunlop Awards judge, laments the cancellation of the 2008 awards and their apparent demise.

"Doug Creighton was very proud of the Sun, and very proud of the people responsible for its success. He believed the Sun staff was being overlooked by the judges of the National Newspaper Awards. No, not overlooked - snubbed. He was angry about that, and so created the Dunlop Awards.

"(There may have been others involved in its creation. I don't mean to overlook them, but I was living in New York at the time and my only contact was with Doug, who asked me to be a judge, and then Trudy, who sent me all the entries. Batch after batch of papers would be delivered to our New York apartment.)

"The awards were named after Edward Dunlop, the chairman of the Sun board at the time. Handsome, elegant, erudite, a World War 2 hero, Dunlop was blind, but his very beautiful wife, Dorie, read him the paper every day. Edward had highly developed senses - he could recognize you by your step, the air you moved, and he always knew what you had written that day.

"I was very pleased to be asked to be a judge as I was suffering from a little bit of loneliness for the closeness of life with my Sun friends. Plus, what a crew of judges we had; Arnold Agnew, who had been editor in chief of the Telegram, JDM.

"Like Doug, I had always been proud of the Sun and I knew there were very good journalists at the paper. But it is one thing to read the paper every day and recognize that this was a good column, that was a good piece of investigative reporting, there was a stunning photograph - and quite another to sit down for days on end and read the body of work that was being turned out over a year.

"It was an impressive eye opener: what a depth of talent there was, in every department. We took the judging very seriously and it was difficult. Once in a while something leaped out to be a sure winner - the Norm Betts photo of Princess Diana welcoming her children to the yacht Britannia comes to mind, but most of the time the competition was fierce and the judges debated, first on the phone and then in person for hours and hours. Towards the end of the final judging session, held in the Sun offices, Trudy would be pacing outside, waiting for our decisions.

"Several times, I was asked to represent the judges and speak at the awards dinner. Now, I'm a pretty good public speaker and audiences don't bother me, but it is a daunting task indeed, to get up in front of your peers and explain why some won and others didn't. The truth was there truly were no losers. And it was very clear that the staff took the awards as seriously as the judges did. Having excellence recognized mattered.

"I can't begin to tell you how saddened I am by the decision to end these awards. I have watched attempts to dismantle the spirit of the Sun, beginning with the firing of Creighton, and more recently, the ending of careers without any recognition of contributions made, or concern for the heart of a newspaper.

"I am very glad that Doug isn't around to see it. It would break his heart."

Thank you for your comments, Joan.

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