Monday 30 April 2007

Bye: Peter Brewster

Remember when the Toronto Sun knew how to say its goodbyes to parting vets? A time when the tabloid had heart and an appreciation of the contributions made by its employees?

We do.

From January 2, 2003, Toronto Sun columnist
Mike Strobel bids farewell to veteran editor Peter Brewster.

By Mike Strobel
Peter "The Squire" Brewster will scan this paper, fresh off the press, and come to this page. He will look for typos in headlines or missed photo captions or other such gaffes and gremlins.

It may take him a second to realize this page is about him.

"What the...?" he will bark in that Manchester burr.

And the newsroom will grin, gather round, shake his hand, slap his back.

A dram or two of single-malt Scotch may cross his lips.

It's the least we can do.

Not likely you know of Peter Brewster, unless you are in this business or you peruse the fine print on mastheads.

But I dare say he has put more editions of the Sun to bed than anyone. He has held several titles, including managing editor and Sunday editor and is now associate managing editor.

Or at least he was until today, the first day of his retirement.

This page is a surprise tribute from us.

I've worked with Brewster a dozen years, mostly in my editor days. I've sweated over headlines with him, torn papers apart with him when big stories broke.

He's as steady a hand as I've known in this racket.

He is also a gourmet chef, an Arctic adventurer, an automotive writer, a new father at 60, a neat freak and a fashion plate.

The last two are partly why he's called The Squire in some quarters.

That and the fact that, given enough whisky, he breaks into a Scottish brogue and calls everyone Hughie. As in, 'Howzit goin' Heww-ey!?'

Michael Peake, 50, is a Sun photog and one of Brewster's portage-mates over 20 years of canoe treks to places like Coppermine, Baffin Island and Ungava Bay. They are part of the Hide-Away Canoe Club, whose other members include Peake's brothers and an Anglican priest.

"Peter is extremely good with his clothing," Mike tells me, dryly. "Perfectly neat."

Even surrounded by blackflies, ice floes and polar bears.

One of the Peake brothers does a wicked impersonation of Brewster taking a whiz in the tundra.

"Ten seconds of actual peeing, and three and half minutes of straightening and unbuckling and zipping and folding cuffs and rearranging his pockets," is how Mike describes it.

Brewster, by the by, is the fisherman in the group, keeping the pan full of lake trout and char.

Fishing, the outdoor life, drew Brewster to Canada 36 years ago. He's a Manchester butcher's son, but the newspaper bug bit. At 24 he was already a vet of the British press.

In Toronto, he worked at the Telegram, retreated to England just before that paper folded, then joined the infant Sun on Sept. 17, 1972.

He was Sunday editor the night tanker cars exploded in Mississauga, sparking the flight of 200,000 people.

Many of our best known headlines were Brewster's. I think he was the first to use Bastards! on the front page, when Saddam Hussein's thugs beat and paraded a British pilot.

We used the headline again when other bastards attacked the World Trade Center.

That front page is on the wall of his office. The tidiest office in the building.

The Squire turned 60 on Nov. 20, though you would look at him and say, oh, maybe 50.

The milestone came on a Sun sabbatical that included New Zealand and Australia.

New partner Christie and even-newer daughter Alison, 1 1/2, joined him for part of the trip. I suspect they are the main reasons he's retiring early.

New Zealand, of course, is Lord of the Rings country and has always been one of Brewster's favourite places.

Not just because he is Gimli-esque in stature: 5-foot-6 and built like a brick.I can see him paddling toward Mordor with the Fellowship of the Ring, a decade older than the rest, but just as fit.

As steady, as dependable a fellow as you could want with you in a canoe or in a scrap.

Or in a newsroom.

Video Clipped

Video Clips, a Sunday Sun TV guide feature since the early 1980s and written by Jim Thomson since 1994, has become a column.

It's a big Thumbs Down for that decision. The video column online gets lost among the ads and site promotions. It doesn't have the presence it had in Sun Television.

Sun Television, at 36 pages, is anemic and a poor excuse for a TV guide in a major Toronto daily newspaper. It is a shadow of the tabloid's 70 to 80-page guide packaged weekly by Gord Stimmell before he was axed in 1999 after 25 years at the Sun.

Gord was quickly picked up by the Toronto Star and is now editor of StarWeek, Canada's largest newspaper television magazine. The Sun guide, once his pride and joy, has been fading fast since his abrupt departure.

So what is next for Sun Television? Will it be axed in favour of the television guide and Sun readers be damned? Might as well. There has been little effort to beef up the thinning guide.

Update: A TSF reader says does have online TV listings, but once again, they are not as convenient as a TV guide in hand.

And online listings are useless for people who do not have computers, including seniors and low income earners who count on a weekend newspaper for their TV listings.

This tunnel vision rush to online everything ignores thousands of faithful Sun readers who are not Internet savvy.

Sunday 29 April 2007

Two Sun awards

Sun photographers in Ottawa and Edmonton have won awards in the News Photographers Association of Canada's first annual Pictures of the Year Awards.

Congrats to Blair Gable of the Ottawa Sun, first place winner in the General News photo category (the military funeral photo at left). Runners-up were Steve Russell at the Toronto Star and Ryan Remiorz at Canadian Press.

And to Darryl Dyck at the Edmonton Sun for his second place award for Sports Feature photo. First prize went to Ryan Remiorz at Canadian Press and third prize went to Darren Calabrese at the Guelph Mercury.

(If the Ottawa and Edmonton Sun photo editors e-mail us the photos taken by Blair and Darryl, we will post them here, or if they are online, please provide links to the photos.)

The 2006 award winners, announced Saturday night in Vancouver, were selected from more than 1,300 entries across Canada in 12 categories. There were no awards for the Toronto, Winnipeg or Calgary Suns.

A TSF reader has posted a comment to say Dan Riedlhuber, winner of two awards for his work at Reuters, was one of the Edmonton Sun staffers laid off in Sun Media cutbacks.

The 2006 winners, as listed by Canadian Press:

Photojournalist of the Year: Tyler Anderson, The National Post.

Photograph of the Year: Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters.

Spot News: 1st — Peter McCabe, The Canadian Press; 2nd — Jenna Hauck, Chilliwack Progress; 3rd — Jenelle Schneider, Calgary Herald.

Student Photographer of the Year: Daniel Hayduk, Loyalist College

General News
: 1st — Blair Gable, Ottawa Sun; 2nd — Steve Russell, Toronto Star; 3rd — Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press.

: 1st — Tara Walton, Toronto Star; 2nd — Ryan Jackson, freelance; 3rd — Tyler Anderson, National Post.

Sports Action: 1st — Dan Riedlhuber, Reuters; 2nd — Christopher Pike, Brandon Sun; 3rd — Emma Bennett, Medicine Hat News.

Sports Feature: 1st — Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press; 2nd — Darryl Dyck, Edmonton Sun; 3rd — Darren Calabrese, Guelph Mercury.

Portrait/Personality: 1st — Donald Weber, Atlas Press; 2nd — Ryan Carter, freelance; 3rd — Ashley Hutcheson, freelance.

Pictorial: 1st — Wendell Phillips, freelance; 2nd — Bernard Brault, La Presse; 3rd — John Lucas, Edmonton Journal.

Illustration/Fashion: 1st — Tobin Grimshaw, freelance; 2nd — Ryan Jackson, freelance; 3rd — Tobin Grimshaw, freelance.

Picture Story: 1st — Dustin Leader, Redline Photo Agency; 2nd — Donald Weber, Atlas Press Press; 3rd — Tory Zimmerman, freelance.

Congratulations to all.

Bono spreads wings


Toronto Sun readers who can't get enough of Mark Bonokoski's prose will be pleased to hear the veteran columnist is dabbling in freelance projects.

Mark has a four-page freelance story in the May 7 issue of Maclean's magazine, now on sale, and he is working on another freelance story for Reader's Digest.

"The Maclean's piece is the first (freelance article) in a long while," Mark told Toronto Sun Family. "I've also got a piece coming out in July in Readers Digest called Requiem for a Beaver. It (freelance writing) is not a new direction for me, just a change in pace.

"I no longer play sports because of my hectic driving schedule, have slowed down the life style, and find a bit of joy in doing freelance pieces that require no deadline and are long enough to allow me to spread my writing legs a bit."

Mark says he has never considered writing freelance full-time, but "I admire guys like (former Sun reporter) Ian Harvey who are able to do it."

Mark has also found a sideline in broadcasting.

"I am also doing commentary on the Haliburton Broadcasting Network out of Bracebridge. Three a week. I record them myself at Moose-FM in Bancroft. It's fun, and a bit on the edge. There are about a dozen stations in the north that pick them up - from Parry Sound to Bancroft, North Bay, Muskoka, Elliot Lake and the Kap etc."

Mark's Maclean's story, about a Toronto private school teacher who sexually abused his students at his Bancroft-area cottage, is not online at the Maclean's site, so look for the current issue, the one with a green-eyed Prime Minister Harper on the cover.

Update: This column by Mark tells of the reaction of the St. Catharines Standard in learning the convicted pedophile is now living in St. Catharines.

"According to the Standard, the Niagara Regional Police didn't issue warnings to neighbours because (John) Inglis' assaults were historic sexual assaults going back to the 1970s and 1980s, and that he was now considered a low risk to reoffend," Mark says in today's column.

Mark's Toronto Sun columns are published Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The word master is not slowing down and that is a big bonus for Bono fans.

Sun photo +2

Longtime Toronto Sun freelance photographer Dave Thomas, the hardest working photog in town, has been hired full time effective May 13.

And former Sun photographer Dave Abel is back on the job with a four-month summer stint, with hopes of an extended and more permanent stay at the tabloid.

The buzz about the photo desk's positive news began on the Eastern Canadian News Photographers Association message board on Friday.

"A little bird tells me that longtime (15 yr!) freelancer Dave Thomas was hired full time by the Toronto Sun yesterday," Jim Garnett, a former Sun freelance photographer, says in an ECNPA posting. "If so, many congratulations Dave. And I hope this is the changing tide for the little paper. . ."

Dave Abel, another former Sun photographer, writes:
". . . yes, the Sun was feeling a little bit "Dave" deficient after Dave Lucas (left recently for a job at the Globe and Mail.) Dave Thomas has been made a full timer, and I've been brought back as well. I started yesterday."

After months of negative news involving layoffs, firings, buyouts and resignations, any addition to the Toronto Sun's editorial department is most refreshing.

Dave Thomas has been a dedicated, productive and award-winning freelance ambulance chaser for 15 years, capturing spot news exclusives around the clock. He has also nabbed a few crooks in citizen arrests along the way.

Congrats on becoming a made man Dave.

Sources say the key to being a Sun Media photog in demand in 2007 is the ability to do it all - digital stills and videography, which provides product for the print and online Suns and for

One source says the Sun photo desk has
"embraced the new technologies" and while it means more work for the photographers, it also adds more job security.

"It seems multi-platform content providers have a future at the Sun - but we are still very short staffed city-side with summer vacations coming up."

With Dave Thomas coming aboard as a full-timer, the Toronto Sun photo full time desk staff climbs to nine -
Alex Urosevic, Michael Peake, Stan Behal, Veronica Henri, Mark O'Neill, Ernest Doroszuk, Craig Robertson, Greg Henkenhaf and Thomas.

"They (Sun Media/Quebecor) seem to have noticed that we can do a decent job with their beloved videos , so it is a big boost in morale," said another source. "When combined with the Sun's new home delivery, it makes it seem like there is a future here."

Is the bare bones newsroom next in line for a turnaround in staff numbers?

Stay tuned.

Saturday 28 April 2007

Re Michele Mandel

Should the Toronto Sun be bold enough to revive its "five reasons to read the Sun" commercials, Michele Mandel should be named along with Mike Strobel, Mark Bonokoski, Andy Donato and a sports writer, or op-ed columnist, of your choice.

OK, so Michele can't hold a tune long enough to win a T-shirt, but oh how the veteran columnist can make her copy sing. Just Google her name and you will find a long list of columns written from the heart. Start with her recent Sun columns.

Michele has matured like a fine wine since her early days at the keyboards in the 1980s and her Dying to Be Thin column Friday speaks volumes for her journalistic talents.

Dubbed by some media as the Sun's Sob Sister, that would be a badge of honour for most tabloid columnists. To touch the hearts of readers, you need to write from the heart and that she does.

Michele, an award-winning columnist, has travelled the world on assignments for the Sun. She writes about sports, about soldiers, about the down and out, all with equal passion.

Viewed by some as just another pretty face in the Sun newsroom in the 1980s, Michele quickly blossomed into a respected, talented colleague.

Marriage and motherhood contributed to her depth as a writer.

So Michele is not much of a singer. That's OK with us. The good news for readers is she is still at the Sun writing columns from the heart.

Friday 27 April 2007

Good News 2

The Toronto Sun is expanding its seven-day home delivery service to all of the 416 area beginning Monday.

Steve Angekevski, vice-president of corporate distribution for Sun Media, said the Sun will be delivered at 6 a.m. by adult carriers.

Seven-day delivery is already available in Durham and York regions and Peel is next.

From today's Sun:

Toronto Sun publisher Kin-Man Lee said many readers have been calling for the service.

"We are responding to our readers, many who want home delivery," Lee said. "We are responding to the needs of the marketplace.

"Our intention is for people to get their paper before they go to work," Lee said. "This is also more convenient for our readers.

"Our intention has always been to phase-in delivery service," Lee said. This is part of a natural phase-in process."

TSF would have phased in it in last fall for the convenience of readers during the cold and snow of winter rather than in the spring, but full Sun home delivery has finally arrived.

Good News 1

Press release from CCN Matthews:

Toronto, Ontario - (CCNMatthews - April 27, 2007) - The Toronto Sun has been voted Newspaper of the Year by the ethnocultural communities of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as determined by a survey conducted by Top Choice Awards Inc.

More than 5,600 business owners and consumers were polled by phone, online and at community events from January to March this year. The Toronto Sun won in the newspaper category with close to 50 per cent of the votes.

"We are delighted to see this validation of our community outreach efforts and commitment to the many cultures that make up this vibrant region," said Kin-Man Lee, Publisher and CEO of the Toronto Sun. "This award, based on a popular vote, confirms our strategy of increasing readership, particularly in the various communities in the GTA. We would like to thank our Sun readers, advertisers and staff for making the Sun the best newspaper."

Celebrating its third year of operations, Top Choice Awards Inc. conducts research and organizes events for the many cultural communities in the GTA, honouring local businesses and professionals that have, through high standards of quality, service, value and appearance, earned the trust and loyalty of their clients.

"Your outstanding performance has enhanced the living experience in the mega-city and for this there is no greater reward than the acknowledgement of the people," said Monica Couto, president of Top Choice Awards.

Bye: Hartley Steward

Remember when the Toronto Sun knew how to say its goodbyes to parting vets? A time when the tabloid had heart and an appreciation of the contributions made by its employees?

We do.

From July 7, 2006: Columnist Mark Bonokoski bids adieu to Hartley Steward, a 30-year Sun vet who quietly left the building weeks earlier without a word in the Sun. There hasn't been a farewell column like this salute to Hartley since then and that includes an absence of adequate words for Alison Downie, Gord Walsh, Bill Brioux, John Downing, Valerie Gibson, Sherry Johnston, Sandy Naiman, Len Fortune, Al Cairns, Maryanna Lewyckyj etc. etc.

By Mark Bonokoski
If Hartley Steward had been a professional athlete, they’d be retiring his number with great ceremony and hanging his jersey from the rafters.

But this doesn’t happen in the newspaper game.

In this business, especially in the day and age of convergence challenges and hypertensions over bottom-line “efficiencies,” the powers that be in virtually all newspaper organizations would ultimately prefer one to simply disappear from the pages when the final day comes.

Without a bang and, please, without a whimper.

Just quietly go.

Over the course of my career, and this goes back to the last days of the manual typewriter as it morphed into a word processor, I’ve had two front-line mentors to whom I owe much.

The first is Jim Bruce, then assistant city editor of the Windsor Star when I joined that newspaper back in the ’70s following a not-so-auspicious beginning as a summer intern at the Calgary Herald during my early post-graduation days from journalism studies at Ryerson.

The other is Hartley Steward.

His final column for this newspaper appeared on Father’s Day, and it spoke to the theory of how “nice” people finish last, and how Canada has been “had” in thinking that its politically correct posturing would provide enough distance to ward off antagonizing the radicals of the Muslim world.

But nothing about himself was written.

Not a single word of farewell.

To know that he had retired, one would have had to have read the addendum paragraph of editorial page editor Linda Williamson’s column in which she thanked him for hiring her — not once, but twice.

She also mentioned he had been publisher of both the Toronto Sun and Ottawa Sun — “among many other legendary journalistic contributions.”

Unmentioned, however, was that he was once publisher of the Calgary Sun as well, but at least a modicum of notice was given of his departure by someone with cachet.

Those who read the business pages will know that this newspaper, as well as others across the Sun Media chain, recently underwent some “downsizing” in order to “reposition itself into a multi-platform content provider.”

It was a dark day here when those cuts were announced because each cut carried a name and each name had a personal context that affected many.

But such is business in the multimedia 21st century. It cannot be helped and likely cannot be stopped.

It was the vision of Toronto Sun co-founder, the late J. Douglas Creighton, that there be other Sun newspapers rising in cities across this country, but it was Hartley Steward who was given the task of ensuring their birth in at least two of those cities — first in Calgary and later in Ottawa — and basically building those newspapers from scratch.

And this he did.

In fact, he made it look almost easy — much like Tiger Woods often makes it look easy to take a full-bore swing while standing in four-inch rough, hook a golf ball 235 yards around a small forest towards an unseen green, and then have it land like a butterfly a few inches short of the cup as if guided there by some global positioning mechanism.

Many jobs provided

But easy it’s not.

The Calgary Sun was launched in 1980, and the Ottawa Sun in 1988. Think of that “legendary accomplishment” by Hartley Steward, and then think of all the jobs provided, the families who have benefited over all those years, as well as the value added to Sun Media’s financial portfolio.

Yet he left here a few weeks ago without a bang, without a whimper, and certainly without any ceremony.

Hartley Steward was a senior editor when I joined the Sun after two years at the Windsor Star, still green behind the ears but willing to chase every fire truck and ambulance that drove by in case there was a story at the other end.

Over those first years here, he taught me many things, helped me organize a 12-part series, a first for this newspaper, on one of the last men in Canada to be declared a dangerous sexual offender — the word “sexual” later struck to create a larger umbrella — and then he taught me to sit back and write in a gentler fashion and not “attack” the typewriter keyboard as if the end of the world were nigh.

“Play it like a concert piano,” he said.

In 1977, I was tapped to be a columnist and, in 1988, I was tapped again to move to London to be Sun Media’s European bureau chief and replace the man who himself had been tapped to move again, this time to Ottawa, all to start up another Sun from the last gasps of a dying weekly.

And that man, of course, was Hartley Steward.

When that two-year-plus stint in Europe came to an end, and the Ottawa Sun was looking for a new editor to write its editorials and lay waste to politicians, that is where I landed, again at Hartley Steward’s doorstep.

If there has been a thread that has sewn a path through my tenure in this profession, he is that thread.

Up near the town of Creemore tomorrow, Hartley and wife, Mary, will host his sixth annual 60th birthday party, as well as his “retirement” from 45 years in journalism.

It was written long ago that it is not the years in one’s life that count, but the life in one’s years.

Hartley Steward’s long career in the newspaper and magazine game — as an award-winning writer, a passionate and compassionate editor, and twice a founding publisher of newspapers which today have staffs in the hundreds — provided a lot of life to a lot of years for many, with my life certainly being no exception.

If there is one name that needs to be included in the Canadian News Hall of Fame, it is Hartley Steward’s.

Sadly, though, the hall does nothing today but gather dust.

It is, in fact, on the verge of quietly disappearing."

Thursday 26 April 2007

Len Fortune email

An e-mail from Len Fortune, veteran Toronto Sun graphics staffer who called it quits recently:

"Hi gang,
I agree whole-heartily with Wayne Janes' most recent e-mail.

The Toronto Sun Family site is needed and does a great service, but in the last few weeks it has taken on a "definite funereal air" as so eloquently put by Janes.

Although I am on the sidelines now, I still cheer and pray for those in the trenches at the Sun - and I still feel a responsibility both to all the friends I left behind and to the memory of Doug Creighton - I fret we'll never see his likes again. Let us not confuse Doug with Ol' Joe.

To (TSF), I humbly ask that the Sun site be tempered, balanced (whatever) with some of the good news from 333 - treat the site as a news story where balance, accuracy and fairness is the order of the day.

And before I forget, I would like to thank Lester Pyette, Tim Peckham and Linda Barnard for their kinds words published on this site.

To the brave souls of 333 King St. E.

Keep up the good fight.

Love, as always, Len Fortune"

Thank you for your e-mail Len.

We are always looking for good news from 333 King Street East, but when key people like you, Al Cairns, John Downing and others call it quits out of frustration, that is not good news.

When e-mail after e-mail from anonymous staffers arrive with negative comments about the direction of the Sun and the workplace environment, that is not good news.

Good news? Bring it on.

Looking into ENT

Cintara's POPwink page ponders the motivation of Sun Media in changing the name of the Sunday Sun Showcase section to ENT.

ENT's debut is this Sunday.

Lord of the Rings fans take note.

Wednesday 25 April 2007


On any given day in this new age of Sun Media/ convergence, there are 20 to 25 promos in the Toronto Sun directing readers to the Internet.

Fair enough.

But the flogging of in the Sun takes a new and frustrating direction this week with Thane Burnett's series on working with Habitat for Humanity on a project in Edmonton.

Sun readers only get a Page 2 capsule comment on the work Thane is doing. To get his complete daily reports, with photographs, you have to go to his Heroes in the House blog at, you guessed it,

Thane is among a handful or reporter/columnists at the Toronto Sun with writing skills guaranteed to make your daily investment in the tabloid pay off.

Shamelessly flogging and restricting access to Thane's full reports to people with computers is another display of disrespect for Sun readers.

It is also limiting the exposure of the invaluable work being done by Habitat for Humanity, a volunteer organization worthy of the widest possible publicity.

We can only hope the Toronto Sun is planning to provide ample space for a full replay of Thane Burnett's Habitat for Humanity experiences in a Sunday Sun feature. has been a hard sell, judging by the minimal responses to the large number of blogs online. Thane's Heroes in the House blog has received two comments to date.

This entire Quebecor Sun Media/ blueprint for print/Internet convergence does not factor in the large segment of Sun readers of all ages who either do not have a computer or are not interested in spending a lot of time on the Internet.

And as web sites go, the Heroes in the House site font is too small, there are typos and the layout is awkward.

The losers in this effort are Sun fans of Thane Burnett and Habitat for Humanity.

Wayne Janes email

Wayne Janes, a veteran Toronto Sun staffer now in entertainment, tells Toronto Sun Family in an e-mail:

"I have been reading this blog for several months now
and a picture has gradually taken shape in my mind: Several journalists gather round a bar table, reminiscing about Ol' Joe. They tell Ol' Joe stories, laugh about the days when Ol' Joe was around, shed a few tears for Ol' Joe . . . and sitting there at the table with them is Ol' Joe.

Wasn't it Mark Twain who said "the reports of my death
are greatly exaggerated," or something to that effect.

I think this blog is much needed, but there is a definite funereal air to much of what appears on it. While it's lost a lot of blood and may be short of breath, the Sun is still standing and still swinging.

There are many of us still "toiling in The Word Factory," trying hard to make something good out of the resources we're left with . . . and occasionally, to my mind, succeeding.

Everything changes, the Sun no exception. There can be disagreement over how it will change and how those changes might be achieved, but it makes no sense at this point to ask why or to spend too much time lamenting the past. What I'd like to see on this blog is a lot more from the people who are still at the Sun, working to keep the paper viable under Quebecor's direction and implementing their plans, such as we know them.

Can their plans work? I don't know, but, as Charles Greene said on this blog, they have a plan and they mean to execute it. We're on that train whether we like it or not. Unless we all get off — and I don't see that happening — there's a lot of work to do and it's being done every day, to my knowledge, by living, breathing Sun staffers.

The general belief is that morale is low. Well, it's beyond that. We've dispensed with morale altogether and moved whole hog into cynicism, which is better, for my money. Low morale makes you moan and hang your head; cynicism is a stance, and a stance calls for action.

As far as I'm concerned this is still OUR paper, meaning the paper of the people who put their sweat and creativity into it daily, who actually do the job, just as it always has been. That hasn't changed. It ain't over 'til it's over, it ain't dead 'til it's DEAD.

And just a little note . . . there are people all over this building, not just in Editorial, who made the Sun what it is: Classified, Prepress, Advertising, Special sections and most especially Sports, which gets little mention and deserves a huge amount of credit."

Wayne Janes

Thank you for your e-mail Wayne and thank you for not commenting anonymously.

We agree. The depleted Sun is still very much alive and kicking and all staffers in every department deserve credit for their efforts.

And yes, Sun employees throughout the building should be heard from in this blog. That is one of the reasons it exists. This blog is for all current and former employees, but we have heard from few current employees who are willing to be identified and quoted.

We are not here to bury the Sun, but to provide a venue for freedom of expression and perhaps 11th hour resuscitation.

Bye: Trudy Eagan

Remember when the Toronto Sun knew how to say its goodbyes to parting vets? A time when the tabloid had heart and an appreciation of the contributions made by its employees?

We do.

From June 26, 2002: Columnist Mike Strobel bids adieu to Trudy Eagan, a 28-year vet who rose from secretary to executive vice-president and chief administration officer.

By Mike Strobel
Maybe Trudy Eagan's crash through the "glass ceiling" has taken its toll, I think as I walk into her office.

Blood is oozing from the back of her head.

It is Trudy's last week at The Sun, after 28 years. She is our chain's executive vice-president and chief admin officer.

So indeed, she has busted that legendary ceiling, that barrier to women at work.

But blood?

Well, she took a tumble getting out of the shower an hour earlier and the wound has re-opened.

Our lawyer, Al Shanoff, tries to staunch the flow with paper towels. He's on the line to our doctor, Bernie Gosevitz.

"Cold and pressure," Al says, impressively.

Trudy's blond curls sport a new red streak. Dark stains creep over the collar of her turquoise pantsuit.

"Hiya," she grins at me.

Sheesh, I'm thinking. Tough broad. I'd be passed out.

"Ewww, you gonna go to the doctor?" asks Kerry Johnston, her assistant.

"Naw," Trudy says. "It'll stop."

Tough indeed.

We have written much lately about Trudy, 56. She won a Women of Distinction Award from the YWCA. She got an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia. There will be a Dr. Trudy Eagan lecture hall at St. FX.

And she's leaving us.

For two hours, we reminisce. She holds a compress to her head.

Back we go.

She joined as founding publisher Doug Creighton's secretary in 1974, one of 110 merry staffers in the Eclipse building on King St. W.

"It was just a wonderful adventure," she says. "Incredible excitement and spirit."

Doug knew talent and by 1983, she was on the board of directors.

"I proved that I was smart, that I knew the business, that I wasn't just brought along for decoration."

The day of the announcement, her dad cried. He owned a grocery store back in St. Stephen, N.B.

Doug and a few other guys on the board took her to dinner at Winston's. A cabbie strolled in with an envelope from her parents. In it was a cheque for $500. Spend it on yourself, said a note. Trudy still has the cheque.

Not that she needs it, now. The former $100-a-week secretary made millions when Quebecor bought the Sun chain in 1998.

It has not been a painless path.

Trudy was diagnosed with arthritis when she was 22. She was told her future was in a wheelchair. Not me, she said.

She gave up skiing only when she could no longer do up her boots. A new drug, Enbrel, has fixed the pain. But her tennis days are long over.

"It's made me really tough," she says. "I've always gone that extra mile to prove I can rise above my arthritis."

In her office is a sculpture by Andrew Benyei called Obstacle Course. It is a woman reaching for that ol' ceiling of glass.

Years ago, Trudy looked around the corporate table and saw only men. "I started by being loud, because I thought I had to be loud to be heard.

Cliche or not, that gives you a reputation as being strident, being a bitch.


"Then I learned that if you do your homework and you talk not just to talk, you quickly have your place at the table."

I saw Trudy at that table a few times in my editor days. She earned her reputation as "the conscience of The Sun." Staff actually use that phrase for her.

She's a beacon of the old Sun culture and spirit, too. One of the last, some around here say.

"I've had that conversation 100 times in the past month," says our departing conscience. "But we'll only be able to maintain that spirit if everyone believes we can.

"The worst thing that can happen is if we all sit around and lament that it'll never be the same, whoever we blame."

Her head stops bleeding.

Tonight, 50 suits will gather to fete Trudy Eagan. There's a staff farewell in the parking lot tomorrow.

Then, she will go off to chill out, crank up the country music, write a book and seek new chapters. She will do so with a long list of contributions to business, charities and academic institutions.

My favourite memory of her is a bit earthier.

It's a few years back. Senior staff are at a retreat at the Horseshoe Valley resort.

Things get out of hand one night. I find myself bare-chested and lying on my back on the stone patio.

In flickering light, I look up at a circle of colleagues' faces.

At the time, "body slams" were popular in certain circles. You licked salt off someone's neck, then downed a shot of tequila. I think a Madonna movie started the fad.

Anyway, there's the director of promotions, a demonic light in her eyes, shaking salt on my chest, then pouring tequila in my navel.

And there's vice-president Eagan, leaning over, big grin on her face. She holds a candle high, so all can see.

With growing fear, I watch the wax begin to spill . . .

The rest is a bit hazy.

But I know this: Few among you can say your V-P has dripped hot wax on your chest hairs.

Take care, Trudy."

Older goodbyes

The Toronto Sun once knew how to properly say its goodbyes to veteran employees making their exits for various reasons.

The goodbyes, sincere and warranted, were most often written by columnists for the benefit of former and current colleagues and Sun readers.

Those goodbyes for employees parting company after years or decades of dedicated, loyal service have dried up in the past year or so. It is puzzling and shows a lack of respect.

And that ain't right.

So we are going to dig up all of the published tributes we can find to show the heart the Sun had not so long ago. They will be posted as Goodbye: Trudy Eagan, Goodbye: Les Pyette etc.

Maybe we can shame Sun Media and Quebecor into honouring the departing old guard, and not so old guard, for their roles in making the tabloid a profitable newspaper.

Tuesday 24 April 2007

SONG prez e-mail

Brad Honywill, president of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild and former unit chair at the Toronto Sun, e-mailed TSF to update the guild's activities at the Sun since certification in 2004.

Brad was given a copy of an e-mail sent to TSF anonymously which questioned the effectiveness of SONG at the Sun and SONG's motivations in recruiting new members. TSF decided not to post the comments because they were anonymous and the sender did not respond to a request for attribution.

Brad writes:

"I am glad to have this opportunity to respond to the suggestions that the union at the Toronto Sun has not accomplished anything since certification in 2004.

We sometimes don't blow our own horn enough.

First, let's start with what was accomplished in the first contract. Prior to that contract, the Sun was in the process of systematically lowering wages and compensation in general. There was a large group of employees the company called freelancers who received no benefits, such as vacation and pension, and who had no employee rights.

A general sense of fear pervaded the editorial department. People went into work wondering if today would be the day they would be fired.
As a result, people were afraid to claim overtime and they lived in fear of their managers, who, to be fair, lived in fear of the people above them.

The first contract provided an average wage increase of 20% over four years. In fact, if the (TSF) letter writer was still at the Sun, he'd know that the unionized editorial department got a 2% wage increase on Jan. 1, will get another .5% increase on May 14 and another 1% on Dec. 31 for a total increase in 2007 of 3.5%. Plus we have a wage grid. No longer do we have to go to management begging for an increase as we become more experienced. It's set in stone.

Those increases, of course, are on top of the cost of living increases. How does this compare with the non-union staff at the Sun? Well, they've got nothing. Nada. Zero. That's right. Not a cent in cost of living increases.

People often forget about the increases they got when the union came in, and through the grid, and the annual increases which have followed, when they wonder what their union dues are doing for them.

The union isn't out there in all of their faces reminding them of this fact on a daily basis, but it's a fact, just the same.

The first contract got many of those freelancers jobs with full rights like the other employees. It also provided a wage grid for the part-time employees whose wage had been frozen for many years and it gave the part-timers a leg up on full time jobs when they became available.

Not all the part-time staff, however, were hired to full time jobs and that left some bitter. We wish we could have got all of them hired but, ultimately, the company has the right to hire people it can prove are superior.

The first contract also gave the employees the mechanism to object to arbitrary decisions by the company. For example, even before we had a contract in 2003, we successfully defended the photographers when the company arbitrarily decided to cut the them out of a longstanding practice of compensation for outside picture sales.

After we raised the spectre of a labour board challenge, the company agreed to give each of the full time photographers a cheque for $1,000 that Christmas in compensation for the missed revenue.

Issues like this continue to happen.

The first contract also achieved language protecting members from unjustified firing. For example, the union has spent several thousand dollars defending a veteran employee the company arbitrarily let go out of seniority as part of the downsizings last year. And we are confident that we will either get his job back or a fair buyout settlement.

And we've spent much time and money educating employees about pension plans, pointing them in the direction that is in their best interest, rather than the interests of the corporate bottom line.

There have been many, many grievances that we have filed and settled over the last four years - too many to list. And we have been very successful in defending members' rights. For confidentiality reasons, however, many of them can't be listed.

That being said, there's no doubt we have faced a difficult time at the Sun and there have been job losses which the union has been unable to prevent. Think, however, how the non-union departments have fared. The pressroom is being closed and circulation and classified have been virtually eliminated.

Non-union papers in Calgary and Edmonton have also been decimated. The difference is that the downsizing is done according to who a particular manager likes on any given day in the non-union environments - or according to who costs the most.

Layoff by seniority is a much fairer and humane system and I remain proud that we achieved that, if nothing else, in our first agreement.

Another point. The anonymous letter writer states that the organizers of the union "up and quit on us." As the leader of the organizing drive, and the first unit chair, I'd like to point out that I remain a Toronto Sun employee, even though I am on a leave of absence to serve as president of SONG, which services 28 various workplaces in Ontario.

Other members of the organizing committee still on staff include: Jim Slotek, Stan Behal, Wayne Janes, Bill Murray and Zen Ruryk. Val Gibson was laid off and Alan Findlay went to Sun Media corporate. Alan Cairns, Brodie Fenlon and Fred Thornhill, like many employees, found the decline of their beloved Sun too difficult and left to pursue other opportunities.

Finally, the writer states that SONG is seeking other newspaper members because it has lost so many existing members. Here's a fact for you: our membership peaked last fall at almost 3,500 and it continues to run very close to that. In fact, since we joined CEP in 1994, membership is up 50% and we've almost doubled the number of workplaces we cover from 16 to 28, several of those in the last four years.

Why are so many joining a union that's ineffective? They're not. They're joining a union that gives them a chance to stand up for themselves and fight back against heartless corporate greed and they are better off for it."

Brad Honywill
former Sun unit chair and now SONG president

Thank you for your e-mail, Brad.

Prepress comment

Charles Greene, TorSun ISPrepress, left this comment in response to our previous "SONG performance?" posting:

Dear Musically Challenged,

So, you are facing an "impending union environment." From your tone, I sense that you can’t see the point of paying into a union if you’re going to get screwed regardless. If you’re from Toronto Sun Prepress, you should seek out Murray. He’s gathering signatures towards decertification. Decertification is the most cost effective way of getting screwed.

Ultimately, you have a larger question to ask yourself. Do you want to work for the Toronto Sun regardless whether Prepress, (or your department) becomes unionized or not?

Sun Media has a business plan that they will execute. Do you see yourself fitting into that plan? If not, maybe it’s time to think of an exit strategy. I salute all those in Editorial who made the hard decision and left a job that they loved.

For most in Prepress, the writing is already on the wall. Most jobs in Prepress will no longer be around in less than a year from now. The ones who remain will face change and challenges. Are you ready for the new Sun Media? When the dust settles will you be one of the remaining team players?

On the odd chance that you don’t think that you are getting screwed, you should question why so many good people have chosen to leave Sun Media. If you’re happy with your work environment and your manager enjoys the services that you perform under his desk, then it goes to show that, as Dr. Phil says, “There is no reality, there is only perception.”

Make sure you do the right thing for your situation.

I’m not a Toronto Sun union staffer. I can’t speak to SONG. I am part of Prepress. I’m pleasantly surprised that the TorontoSunFamily BlogSpot posted your entry. I feel that your questions deserve an honest answer.

For me, I wanted an end to the secrecy and the favouritism. I wanted to know where I stood monetarily in relation to my peers. That’s why I was in favour of a union environment.

Is the dues/expense worth it? Funny, I ask the same question about Federal and Provincial Income Tax.

Try whistling while you work, ispcharles …

Showcase exits

Showcase, an entertaining and dependable Sunday Sun friend since the 1980s, is no more.

The ever-changing Toronto Sun is changing once again, this time with a new look and a new name for the Sunday Sun entertainment crew.


That is the new name for the Sunday Sun entertainment section. John Kryk, the national entertainment editor, promises Sun readers the old gang will all be in ENT.

Sun changes make us nervous these days, so here's hoping all of the regulars, including Bruce Kirkland, Jim Slotek, Liz Braun, Jane Stevenson, Steve Tilley and John Coulbourne, are still aboard when ENT makes its entrance this Sunday.

As names go, ENT doesn't grab us like Sunday Sun Toronto Magazine, a 1970s pullout that included entertainment, travel, The Young Sun and other features, and Sunday Sun Showcase, heavy on entertainment, with a small mix of lifestyle columns, since the 1980s.

In our books, renaming Showcase ENT is one more move by Quebecor to distance itself from the Sun of old, which once was the best newspaper buy in Ontario.

Sitting here is the Sunday Sun from October 25, 1992, with the World Champs front page and a memorable Stan Behal photo of the ecstatic Blue Jays.

When the hefty 328-page paper, with eight sections, was published, Doug Creighton, founding publisher, was 11 days from being ousted as chairman of the board and CEO

You could say the Aug. 25, 1992 Sunday Sun represents the finest hours for Doug's Toronto Sun - and the Toronto Blue Jays. Both were champs and both could boast about having an unbeatable team.

On Oct. 25, 1992:

Sunday Sun circulation was almost 450,000 and rising (325,000 today)

The Toronto Sun TV Magazine was a very healthy 82 pages (36 pages today)

Showcase had 24 pages of entertainment news and other features (20 pages today)

Travel had 28 pages (16 pages today)

Sports was yet to be a pullout section.

Columnists included Max Haines, Bob MacDonald, Joan Sutton Straus, Christie Blatchford, Allan Fotheringham, Eric Margolis, Diane Francis, Mike Filey, John Downing, Doug Fisher etc. Plus a grand slam team of reporters and photographers.

Last Sunday's Sun had 240 pages, compared to 328 pages in October 1992.

So Sunday Sun readers are getting less for their money in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail has hit a home run with its extreme makeover, introduced on Monday.

Paid $1.06 for a Sun and $1 for the Globe and Mail Monday and as newspaper reading goes, got more for my money with the Globe and that comes from a die hard Sun reader.

Those pages and pages of school test results in the Sun are not tabloid fare, so it was quickly back to the Globe.

The new Globe is easier to handle, easier to read with the new Globe and Mail fonts and there is something for every reader. Caught up to a couple of recent celebrity deaths on the Globe's obituaries page.

The hip new Globe even has a new Texas Hold 'Em poker feature on the games page. (The Sun's Friday poker column by Toronto-born pro Daniel Negreanu has been missing for a couple of weeks, but not sure why.)

So change can be exhilarating and productive.

We'll know Sunday if ENT is what the Sunday Sun needs to reverse its drastic slide in readership.

Monday 23 April 2007

Ottawa adds 2

Ottawa newspaper readers will have two more free newspapers to read, thanks to CanWest.

The Now EMC Ottawa East, serving downtown, and The Now EMC Ottawa-Orleans, covering eastern suburbs, will be introduced on Thursday.

CanWest said the weekly newspapers will be distributed with the daily paid-circulation Ottawa Citizen or through CanWest's Flyer Force flyer-distribution unit.

Canadian Press says the move involves a marketing and operating partnership between CanWest MediaWorks and the EMC Your Community Newspaper, published by Performance Printing, which has a network of 14 weekly papers in 12 communities.

Two other free Ottawa commuter newspapers already on the streets are Quebecor's 24 Hours and Torstar's Metro.

Lots of freebies, plus the daily Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen. That is one busy media market.

Sun checklist

Time for a little Toronto Sun bookkeeping:

Toronto Sun - pre-Quebecor and mostly pre-Doug Creighton ouster (1992):

1 - An innovative, unpredictable tabloid run by veteran newspaper people

2 - Hundreds of employees loyal to management and colleagues

3 - Morale to die for

4 - Freedom of expression, in columns and inter-office discussions

5 - Consistently in the running for local, provincial and national awards

6 - Ample, well-paid staff in all departments

7 - Sabbaticals after each 10 years of service

8 - Stock options

9 - Generous Christmas bonuses

10 - Profit sharing

11 - Parties and special mementos to celebrate anniversaries and circulation milestones

12 - Farewell columns and stories for Sun staffers leaving for whatever reasons

13 - Readership loyalty to die for

14 - A genuine respect for the lives and needs of employees and readers

15 - Frequent editorials on local issues that spoke for GTA readers

16 - Homegrown, girl-next-door SUNshine Girls

17 - A proven tabloid news and photo formula that kicked butt daily

18 - "Toronto Sun staff" bylines that generated newsroom pride

19 - Investigative reporters, columnists, photographers and editors to die for

20 - Heart.

Toronto Sun - post Quebecor

1 - Still profitable, but on the backs of employees who have been spared, so far, from eight years of cutbacks, layoffs and firings.

2 - No loyalty

3 - Morale in the basement

4 - Few benefits

5 - An estranged readership

6 - The dismantling of a proven tabloid formula in favour of centralized content

7 - "Sun Media" bylines and photo credits

8 - Point of View editorials that focus more on national issues than local issues

9 - No farewell tributes in the Sun for veteran employees making their exits

10 - SUNshine girls from across the country

11 - Freedom of expression non-existent (more paranoia than freedom of speech)

12 - Little respect for the handful of newsroom employees getting the job done daily

Al Cairns, an award-winning investigative reporter who called it quits recently, says it all for what the Sun was before Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999 in his e-mail to TSF.

Al writes not for the unsentimental bean counters in suits, but for all current and former Sun employees and readers who remember the glory days of the tabloid and what a fun ride it was for employees and readers.

Should the Sun eventually burn out, it will be a national media disgrace.

Saturday 21 April 2007

SONG performance?

An anonymous Toronto Sun Family blog reader who is facing an "impending union environment" wants to hear from members of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild.

"Hi there,

"I would love to hear comments from the Toronto Sun union staffers about SONG. It wasn’t that long ago when there wasn’t a union in place to protect the staff from Quebecor. It seems even though the union is in, Quebecor has been able to have their way with the newsroom, severing staff and resources at every turn.

"Do you feel that SONG has been able to protect you or your job? Has it made the newsroom environment less toxic? Has it helped secure some extras to make it more bearable? Is it more about cutting out bullying from management?

"To an outsider, it looks like union or no union a company like Quebecor will do what they wish.

"Has the expense been worth it to you?

"Facing impending union environment."

Replies from Sun staffers and SONG can be e-mailed to TSF or posted as a comment.

Al Cairns e-mail

Al Cairns, easily one of the finest investigative reporters to ever sit down at a desk in the Toronto Sun newsroom, recently took a voluntary buyout. It wasn't an easy decision for the award-winning reporter and author, but enough was enough. He writes:

"Excitement, energy, passion, undying loyalty!

All of these things were in the air when I first walked into the Toronto Sun newsroom in the spring of 1989.

Editors shouting out the latest developments to reporters; reporters arguing the merits of assignments and coverage with editors; telephones ringing non-stop; police scanners turned up full blast.

The place was buzzing!

Lorrie Goldstein could barely sit still, could barely contain his enthusiasm for the job, for the story, for the staff.

This, I thought to myself, is what journalism is all about; this is where I want to be, this is where I belong!

And for 15 years or more, I felt like I did belong.

When I asked for a voluntary buyout package some four or five months ago, I did not feel that I belonged at the Toronto Sun any more. Honestly, I felt betrayed at many different levels.

That said, I am on my way with a solid resume, great connections and fantastic memories. My years at the Toronto Sun were truly amazing years. And I will never forget the paper, nor anyone connected with it.

During my time at the Sun, I worked with some of the best journalists I have ever encountered. Time and time again, with the smallest staff in Toronto, we kicked butt. We kicked butt so many times on so many stories. Even in the later years, when staffing was cut and cut and cut again, the hardcore crew that remained still kicked butt.

My hat goes off to ALL the staff who remain at the Sun. Despite all odds, you guys still put out the paper day after day. Today's Toronto Sun truly is the Daily Miracle.

When I started in the newsroom in 1989, the daily news reporting and columnist staff consisted of: Antonella Artuso, Mike Bennett, Claire Bickley, Christie Blatchford, Mark Bonokoski, Christina Blizzard, Dick Chapman, Anne Dawson, Rashida Dhooma, Gretchen Drummie, Bill Dunphy, Anita Elash, Ciaran Ganley, Jerry Gladman, Lee-Ann Goodman, Kathleen Griffin, Kevin Hann, Ian Harvey, David Kendall, Rob Lamberti, Lee Lamothe, Sue-Ann Levy, Michelle Mandel, Elaine Moyle, Steve Payne, Sam Pazzano, Tony Poland, Ian Robertson, Zen Ruryk, John Schmied, Marjorie Sim, Jean Sonmor, Mark Stewart, Jane van der Voort, Jamie Wallace . . .

And that was just the writers in news. That's not even counting sports, photo, entertainment, lifestyles and money.

Count the numbers. Look at the talent.

It isn't until I compiled that list that I realized how far the Toronto Sun has slipped.

Then along came the likes of Rob Benzie, Thane Burnett, Scott Burnside, George Christopolous, Licia Corbella, Sarah Green, Jeff Harder, Brad Honywill, Jonathan Kingstone, Philip Lee-Shanock, Sharon Lem, Moira MacDonald, Scott Magnish, Dave Ryder, Ian Timberlake, Joe Warmington.

Later still, Laura Bobak, Jack Boland, Kim Bradley, Chris Doucette, Brodie Fenlon, Alan Findlay, Rob Granatstein, Brian Gray, Jonathan Jenkins, Lisa Lisle, Natalie Pona, Vivian Song and so on.

I worked with some great editors too.

I want to say here that Gord Walsh's leaving the Toronto Sun played a big part in my own decision to leave. I always trusted Gord. I always sought his advice. At his going away party, I looked around the crowded Crook's bar and thought to myself: The Toronto Sun, this crowd of great people, the kind of commitment they have continually given to a company and their fellow workers, will never, ever happen again.

I am a fan of Mike Strobel's column. But my fondest memory of Mike is not the Shaky Lady or anything like that, but what he said to once after I burst into his office one day screaming my anguish at another editor's terrible mistake.

Mike looked at me from his chair and waited for the smoke to stop pouring out of my ears. And then he said: "But Al, editors are your friends!"

While Steve Payne worked on city desk, I remember him bellowing out in his stark Cockney accent: "John Schmied, this isn't a story, it's a bleeding novel mate!"

Lou Clancy's feature editing was amazing. Mike Simpson is a true gentleman who inspires confidence. To steal John Kryk's words, Jim Jennings gave us hope when there wasn't any.

The overworked and under staffed guys on the city desk who every day find themselves in what I know from first-hand experience is a crap sandwich.

I wrote so many stories at the Toronto Sun in 17 years gone. I have so many to tell about the Toronto Sun in the years ahead.

I fondly remember Dick Chapman coming up to me with a smile on his face and saying: "Hey Al, when I leave the Sun, I think I'll get into journalism."

Tom Godfrey is the most amazing contact man I have ever worked with.

I'll fondly remember working with Joe "Scrawler" Warmington on some great scoops and watching him on other days as he worked his butt off trying to get unique stories. Joe is the hardest working, most dyed-in-the-wool journalist I have ever seen. It was such a delight to work with Joe on the Tie Domi story, which was essentially my last byline at the Sun.

I'll never forget Ray Smith and his never-ending stories about his days at the National Enquirer. How he was told to blame the Three Mile Island meltdown on Jane Fonda. How he and other tabloid guys used to goad Sean Penn into flipping his lid. I cannot remember how many times I picked Ray up from the floor after he fell asleep and slumped off his bar stool at Crooks, or Hogtown, and then delivered him back to home to his lovely, caring, understanding wife Lucille.

How can I ever forget my dear departed friend Bob MacDonald. A part of me - and a part of many others - passed on with him. While many in the business knew Bob as a crusty old news campaigner and complainer, I knew him as a kind and generous soul who always cared. In my darkest hours (and there have been a few) it was Bob who would come over to my desk and, with his bright blue eyes staring right into mine, ask "Wanna coffee?" No matter the obstacles, Bob always inspired me to soldier on.

While Ray and Bob have passed on, so many great friends and colleagues have moved on. Some by choice, others through no choice of their own.

I so much miss the cheery, red face and hair of Scott Burnside, my sidekick during the Paul Bernardo trial and co-author of Deadly Innocence. (Scott is now at ESPN.)

Bright-eyed Brodie Fenlon, who ultimately took over Scott's place and followed the Karla story with me, is now at the Globe and Mail. Brodie is not only one of the best reporters I have ever seen, but he genuinely is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my entire life.

Laura Bobak, whose tenacity helped track down Karla Homolka's lesbian lover in Montreal (she was seven months pregnant) is now at Canadian Press.

Christie Blatchford, a tenacious writer and wicked digger who absolutely has no match in the hard-hitting columnist world, is a top force at the Globe and Mail.

Everyone, it seems, has done pretty darn good after leaving the Toronto Sun.

Lou Clancy head's Osprey's editorial; Mike Simpson is Toronto Star sports editor; Lee-Ann Goodman is at Canadian Press; Natalie Pona is at the Hamilton Spectator; Kim Bradley, now news editor of News 66 Radio in Calgary; Jamie Wallace at Osprey; Ciaran Ganley and Mike Patton are helping keep our Ontario tax dollars work; Ian Timberlake is somewhere in deepest darkest Indonesia; George is with Toronto Police; David Kendall is a landlord; Steve Payne is coaching professional soccer in Brazil (true); Scott Magnish is living the surreal life and making up games; Himani is putting out a great magazine and having a blast; Philip Lee is at CBC; Harvey is having the time of his life freelancing and so on and so on.

Quebecor's massive loss, it seems, is everyone else's gain.

I will never forget the great times I had playing music (well, some kind of noise) with the Shrinking Newsholes: John Kryk, Jamie Wallace, Jonathan Jenkins, Ian Harvey, Alan Findlay. What a hoot.

Playing great rounds of golf on great courses with Jim Thomson and Al Maffei and Paul Ferguson and Art Roach and Andy Donato and Jim Tighe and Mike Strobel and Tim Fryer and John Cuthbert.

Pounding back Grand Marnier and pints at Betty's with Bob McConachie and Ciaran Ganley. Playing soccer with Ian Harvey and Steve Payne on the Sun team and against Jack Boland, Billy Dixon and Rob Seagraves on the Financial Post team.

Playing hockey with Les Pyette and company at Moss Park. Having Martini's with Doug Creighton at the SkyDome and talking about golf. Helping Rachel Sa figure out that she could get a job at the Toronto Sun. Talking with my great friends, Bob, Brad, Brodie, Joe, Tom, Himani . . .

As the saying goes: "You can take the boy out of the Sun, but you can never take the Sun out of the boy."

Today's Sun is but a skeleton of what it was back in 1989. What I saw on my first day is gone forever. Its demise truly is one of the great tragedies - perhaps the greatest ever tragedy - of Canadian journalism.

Good luck Pierre Karl Peladeau.

You will need it."

Thank you for your e-mail, Al.

Thursday 19 April 2007

Never ass-u-me

In 1960, while working as a copy boy for the Globe and Mail, veteran news editor Al Dawson handed me a brief note. The note, the aftermath of an error on my part, read:

"Never assume. It makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me."

Never forgot that timeless advice, as a copy boy and during my subsequent 30 years in newsrooms, including 19 at the Toronto Sun.

Assumptions in the media can be hurtful, damaging and life-changing. Ask members of the Duke lacrosse team falsely accused of rape. Ask Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused in the Atlanta Olympics bombing. And who came to mind immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing? Imported terrorists. Not.

Too many print and broadcast journalists take to heart two media joke lines: "Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story"and "Get it first, then get it right."

Which brings us to Thane Burnett, who should be applauded for his Page 4 Toronto Sun story about the media's assumption that Virginia Tech student Emily Hilsher and gunman Cho Seung-Hui were linked romantically.

Thane owns up to being a participant in that huge media assumption and apologizes. He writes:

"In most early stories - including my own for Sun Media - Emily was offhandedly referred to as a possible girlfriend to Cho. Or that they, at least, had a relationship.

"Sickening enough that a madman killed her. Now add the slur she was involved with him romantically," Thane writes.

"While the probable lack of any relationship has been amended and clarified deep inside news copy which has flowed out of here, I feel guilt that I had any part in drawing her into an embrace with a killer."

Thane, the pro that he is, offers a refreshing, upfront apology for following the media frenzy for a story and getting it wrong.

Do headline-hungry media learn from their mistakes? Obviously not, but a good start would be to take to heart Al Dawson's advice to not make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."