Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Rob Lamberti

Memories of the Toronto Sun - Rob Lamberti

I walked into the Toronto Sun newsroom Jan. 19, 1983, after spending 13 months and 5 days at the Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay, with a faux mohawk, black clothing and all the trappings of the punk sub-culture.

And 28 years later I still feel the same, except that I have a "normal" haircut.

The place was a riot, so much so that newcomers will never understand the enormity of the changes that have occurred since Quebecor bought the Sun (in 1999).  

Even the building has changed as 333 King St. E. isn't the same anymore. The company logo is slowing disappearing from the building that once housed six floors of presses, ad departments, creative departments, reporters and photographers, designers, a doctor and nurse, and about 1,000 people doing a bit of this and bit of that. The building was sold and we're now crammed into the second floor.

From almost 50 writers at the Toronto Sun to about a dozen, including columnists.

The logo is being replaced with that of banks, George Brown College, a discount food store, maybe a liquor store, maybe a dollar store.

What turned me onto the Sun was a brief conversation I overheard while an intern Humber College student for two weeks at the Sun in 1981. City Editor Bob Vezina bluntly told a reporter standing over him while he pulled a cigarette out of a pack: "I don't know why you people don't have a union." 

That showed me the place was absolutely crazy enough for me to want to work at: The boss telling an employee not to get stuffed, but to go get organized. Cool, comrade. Looking back, Bob was right. We should have, even back then.

I started with the overnight job at $250 a week, from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. I was promised by Lloyd Kemp that I'd get the first dayside opening that came available. Well, Sam Pazzano was hired, Mark Stewart was hired, Tom Godfrey was hired. Good reporters but, hey, someone bullshitted me. 

So I decided to finish something I started but didn't complete, my university education. I worked overnights while attending Glendon College during the day. Then Lloyd threw me a curve ball. A day shift on General Assignment.

I eventually finished university while continuing to work at the Sun, joining the cop desk after a year on G.A. The tipping point? A story about a shoe swap for women with different sized feet. Ken Kerr and I covered that gem of a story. Not one of the better moments in our careers.

I believe reporters never feel they are truly part of the operation until they work on a story that, by virtue of how they cover it, says, "I'm here." 

For me, it was the Toronto holdup squad shooting and killing Leander Chesterfield Savory - a name burned into my memory - during the armed heist of a gas station on Jane St. at Queens Dr. shortly after 2 a.m. on a cold wintry night. 

The Star was absent for hours. It wasn't until dawn that they showed up. I worked a triple shift. The city desk said the overtime was okay.

We worked hard, long and fast. It was a great feeling when I beat Jocko Thomas, the dean of Toronto crime reporters. He was the only reporter from the competition that I cared about beating.

It was an eye-opener life I lived. Walking the beat with cops, showing me where misery and fear intersected, taking me places I wouldn't go in daytime, let alone at night. Some even allowed me to sit in on interviews - all off the record of course.

The names of victims faded over time, but I must be edging towards covering 1,000 homicides in the GTA in some shape or form during my years. 

I talked to many victims, I've watched many tears fall and I've listened to too many politicians who think they have solutions but are in reality irrelevant. 

But the one thing about all this experience gave me is the ability to talk to anyone about anything. 

As my friend Kim Bradley said: "If I can talk to a mother whose son was murdered, I can talk to anyone."

Thanks Cos for taking on this huge task of running the blog.


Rob Lamberti
Chair, Toronto Sun Unit
Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild
Local/Section locale 87-M
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers of Canada/
Syndicat canadien des communications de l'énergie et du papier

If you are a Toronto Sun Day Oner and have a bio or memories to share, please email with a photo before Nov. 1.

If you are one of the hundreds of men and women in all departments who followed The 62 and want to share your memories of the Toronto Sun, email TSF.

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