Tuesday 27 March 2007

Al, Len, Val - gone

The exodus from the Toronto Sun continues this week, with some of the five new departures being compared to body blows.

Al Cairns, Len Fortune, Valerie Gibson, Mike Patton and Mike Koreen are all leaving for various reasons.

Al Cairns, an award winning, high-profile veteran senior investigative reporter and author, has accepted a voluntary buyout. Al, who makes his exit this Friday after 17 years on the job, has covered just about every move Karla Homolka has made since her arrest. Deadly Innocence, a book on the Paul Bernardo-Karla Homolka multiple murder case he co-authored with Scott Burnside in 1995, was a best-seller. The investigative reporter's reassignment to general reporting duties and away from his award-winning investigative skills was apparently the final straw for Al. He will be missed by colleagues and readers.

Len Fortune, another veteran Sun staffer and an unsung Sun hero in the graphics department for almost three decades, has also taken a buyout. Len started at the Sun in the graphics department in the early 1980s and worked his way up to assistant managing editor. If you own a copy of 25 Years of Being There - A Pictorial History - a 304-page tribute to the celebrated Sun photographers and their photographs - you have a book Len compiled along with Wanda Goodwin in 1996. The book, a labour of love for Len, says a lot about his impact on the presentation of Sun graphics. Sources say Len, recently reassigned to photo editor duties, became disillusioned with Quebecor's cutbacks, including his daughter's layoff in the advertising department last month. We Googled for a photo of Len, without success. Did anyone ever turn the lens on Len?

Valerie Gibson, a colourful and controversial Lifestyle writer and author since the 1980s, introduced Sun readers to the "cougar" way of life for older women dating younger men. Valerie, a major contributor and reader favourite since 1983, was told today her Sun contract will not be renewed. Valerie's Sunday Sun column was suddenly axed recently, leaving her with S&M, the weekly Sex and Money feature Mondays, with Linda Leatherdale writing the Money half of the page, and her Friday advice column. Valerie, who is right up there with Dr. Ruth and Sue Johanson in the frank sex talk circles, will be missed by colleagues and Sun readers, but they will still be able to find her on the Internet and in future book and media ventures.

Mike Patton is leaving the chaos of the Sun and Sun TV in favour of a government job. Mike joined the Toronto Sun in 1986 as a news desk editor and also worked the foreign desk and city desk before becoming one of the many staffers laid off in May 2001. Without skipping a beat, Mike shifted to the National Post's news desk. He returned to the Sun news desk 2 1/2 years later and in 2006, he was appointed the Toronto Sun's convergence co-ordinator for the new Canoe Live TV show on Sun TV. The easy-going editor, who met and married Kaarina Leinala, a 25-year Sun news rim editor still on the job, is also a music man. He plays harmonica for the Rim Pigs, a group consisting of current and former Sun staffers. Here's hoping the boys in the band haven't lost his talents.

Mike Koreen, a news reporter and popular former Toronto Raptors columnist, is also leaving. He has accepted a public relations job at York University. Mike was considered a shining young star as a Raptors columnist and one of the "best young sports reporters" at 333 King Street East. If you Google Mike's name, you will find his Raptors columns and sports stories. Mike was slated for a layoff last fall in yet another round of cutbacks, but his job was saved by another employee's buyout. The cutbacks, however, shifted Mike, 26, from sports to general reporting. The move was a major loss to the sports department and to Raptors fans who admired his knowledge of the game and his writing style. Colleagues, both in sports and news, say losing the talented young reporter is a blow. They also say Mike is too talented to put down his pen and pad forever.

It is a draining experience for former and current staffers as they watch the life of the Toronto Sun newsroom slip away week by week, body by body.

Ian Harvey, a former Sun reporter and spokesperson for the Canadian Freelance Union, says the departures of Cairns and Koreen leave the Sun with six general news reporters, three bureau reporters and three cop desk reporters to cover the GTA 24/7

"Obviously, that's not possible anymore," says Ian, who wrote an open letter to Quebecor chief Pierre Karl Peladeau
in October.

Another cut announced this week:
Canoe Live on Sun TV is being cut to 30 minutes from an hour starting next Monday.


  1. Where is the open letter? I followed the link and it could not be found.

  2. Not all links survive four years of changes.