Thursday, 1 October 2009

You Said It 3

John Downing, a Toronto Sun Day Oner and former editor, responds to Ian Harvey's comments about the Sun:

"My old friend Ian Harvey has mixed BS in with his observations of the old Toronto Sun. I do recall seeing him around the newsroom, but he obviously wasn't paying attention.

Now that I have your attention, in the old Sun way, let me climb down from my hyperbole and explain. Ian, bless 'em, was a wacky passionate warrior in the daily newspaper wars.

I was, and am, a supporter, and recall running pieces that Ian couldn't sell to other fiefs. And I appreciate and support the basis for his rant. There is no doubt that the new Sun is eclipsed both by the memories and circulation of the old Sun.

But . . .

I suspect the new staff is bored and annoyed by the constant dwelling on the old Sun and the Day Oners. But it would do them and the bosses and the editors some valuable insights into the Toronto newspaper business if they did an analysis of what exactly was in the Sun when it sold around 300,000 weekdays and around 500,000 on Sundays, and was without dispute, the second largest newspaper in Canada.

Many were fooled by the racy and fun front page and the unabashed sexy SunShine girl on Page 3. Rather tame when you consider what is published and telecast today. No need to hide her. She not only became our symbol for the tabloid approach, but was also our Trojan horse.

It (the Page 3 SunShine Girl) attracted the readers inside. And inside were more political columnists than in either the Globe or Star. Inside were more general columnists than in either the Globe or Star. Inside were more sports and entertainment coverage than in the opposition.

And radio and TV paid attention to more than just the latest Sun prank.

The Sun was quoted often, even though it wasn't fashionable to read the paper. I remember a fighting front page in the Spanish fish wars (by Les Pyette) that made the news across the country and the Sun's tough stance and our editorial (by me) was quoted in the House of Lords as Britain was urged to help Canada's fishermen.

(Fisherpersons, or fisherfolk, or whatever the latest abomination never would appear in the old Sun, which didn't believe in being politically correct and sold tens of thousands of papers because of it.)

So many CEOs and assorted bosses "borrowed" their staff's Suns each morning that I tried to get Creighton to run a "turn in your boss" ad campaign where secretaries would get some Sun items if they squealed on their bosses for reading a tabloid.

The Toronto Sun was one of the pioneers in running many columns, not just one in news, one in politics, one or two in sports and one in Entertainment, the way the Globe and Star did. We copied the old Tely and expanded, and that was the reason for the early success.

Of course it helped that we were also rowdy and weird and sexy, as Ian says, but that's only half the reason."

Thank you for your comments, John.


  1. Just for the record, then editor-in-chief Peter O'Sullivan was in charge for the Spanish fish wars stories and it was Al Parker that came up with the classic headline "Now they're killing baby chickens" when the Spanish fishermen started tossing eggs.

  2. If the post is anonymous, how can it be "for the record?"
    For cryin' out loud, what is in that post that compels the poster to enter the Witness Protection Program?
    Can't anybody post under their own name? Try it. It feels gooood.
    Jim Slotek

  3. I think you'll find everyone posting under 'Anonymous' are current staffers. I'd love to post my name, but the simple fact remains that PKP would have us hung drawn and quartered before dawn the next day if we all just 'fessed up.

    I know for a fact that Welland, London, Brantford, Barrie, Sarnia and Woodstock are being port monitored by HQ. One would have to assume the rest are too.

    Are you that naive?