Wednesday 31 October 2007

Day 1: Kaye Corbett

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

Kaye Corbett, associate sports editor:

"Where's the Eclipse Whitewear Building?

Where's Farb's Car Wash?

And the little greasy spoon down the road?

Quick get Doc Feelgood on the phone.

Editor Corbett's been caught in a time warp.

The last time I was conscious, Paul Rimstead was trying to con Doug Creighton out of more monies for an ill-gotten "business trip" somewhere in Mexico and I was trying to re-arrange orange crates to plunk my large carcass on at that early-Canadian foundry on King Street in Toronto.

Someone called it the Toronto Sun.

Some 36 years ago, Ol' Man Bassett had pulled the plug on one of Canada's great newspapers, the Toronto Telegram, and a scrappy bunch of news hounds were left out in the cold with pocketfuls of dollars and far too much beverage to consume. Some drifted into politics; others just drifted, but three of them - Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt - decided to scrape enough dollars to put a down payment in birthing a tabloid that no one expected to be successful. Oh, it might last a week, if best.

So with money burning holes in my pocket, Montreal seemed enticing. The Telegram had been good to me; gaining experience as a sportswriter and giving me the chance to write about the Amazing Mets of 1969 when the former bunglers of the diamond proved there were, indeed, angels in the outfield.

Alright, Corbett, get on with this story.

However, when I returned from Montreal with a terrific job in my pocket, the "Baron," George Gross, was waiting. With little fanfare, he, Creighton, Worthington, Johnny F. and Doug of the Bassett family and myself squeezed into a car and stopped at the Eclipse Whitewear Building, which happened to be an Edifice to Ugliness.

Before the day was over, I had accepted the job as associate sports editor to Gross with something that hadn't even hit the street.

Even today, 36 years later, the memory of those first 48 hours with the new Toronto tab are still vivid in my mind; such as the sheer panic of trying to put the initial sports pages together under Gross' direction and finding that nothing fit, photos couldn't be found and also coping with a pounding headache from the preceding Tely farewell parties.

The deadline for the first edition passed and hours stretched past the midnight hour and as well-wishers gathered around, Don Hunt urged the haggard sports staff to "bust our %$#@^& buns." And we did.

Suddenly, the first edition of the Toronto Sun hit the streets, mistakes and all.

Thanks for asking about Day 1 with the Toronto Sun. It was a time of panic and fun.

Now, 36 years later, all I can remember is the laughter and the exhilaration we all felt.

The memory of that time still makes this Ol' Man smile and smile and smile."

Thanks for the memories, Kaye.

Day 1: John Downing

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions
in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

John Downing, municipal affairs reporter:

"I once got a hand-written note from Ted Rogers after I wrote a column about the early days of the Sun and how I always felt tired and acted as if I had a mild case of the flu.

Ted said he appreciated how I felt because he had felt the same anxieties with a new project and worrying about how the family would survive.

I put out the final edition of the Tely on the Saturday and when everyone went out and celebrated, I went home and went to sleep, exhausted. Then I got up and while a new son, Mark, who was only three months old, cried and cried and cried, I wrote my first Sun column on the need for a new stadium and, I hope, the need also not to stick the public with the bill. I can't recall if that message was in the first column, but it was sure in later ones.

Then I went to the battered Eclipse building, feeling awful, and met Doug Creighton coming out. He was bubbling. I told him how I felt and he took me off to the Walker House (I think) for a nice lunch and a few drinks. Felt better rather quickly, which was often Doug's effect.

The first official day, the Monday, I was at City Hall fighting to get an office. Harry Rogers, the property commissioner, wouldn't give us one, so I appealed to the mayor, Bill Dennison,who gave us one. Then I went up to Queen's Park and had the same fight there, this time with the press gallery.

I got a call from Don Hunt around 10:30 a.m. to say we were to stage our first promotion event, a balloon launch from Nathan Phillips Square, with some trip voucher or prize inside one of the balloons. Bert Petlock, an old Tely reporter and friend of most of us, had a balloon client, and showed up in the square with the balloons and helium.

Norm Betts, I think, showed up and demanded that I produce some celebrity to launch the balloons. So I went in and dragged out the mayor, an old friend, who said he was only doing this as a favour to me. So Dennison and I pulled a net from off the balloons and before they rose up into the air, some kids on bikes darted in and grabbed them AND raced off to the south. I phoned Hunt and described two of the kids so they wouldn't get the prizes. I then went in and covered a transportation meeting of Metro council and tried to stay awake.

It was fun. It was exhausting. It was chaos. And it worked.

Looking back, I still can't believe that I passed up a job as a ministry director of information in Ottawa and two jobs in Toronto, one with the board of trade, in order to take this gamble with the other 61.

In fact, Ray Biggart and I were trying to start our own paper at the same time as Doug and His Merrie Men. We had a chap with a press. We even had a former provincial Liberal leader with a million bucks (but we didn't want to start another Star). But it turned out we just didn't have any partners that dreamed as big as the big three behind the Sun."

Thanks for the memories, John.

Day 1: Chris Blizzard

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

Christina Blizzard (nee Smales), secretary (and future columnist):

"It's all a bit of a blur, but I remember Doug Creighton asking me if I'd "help out" for a few days. So I showed up the first morning at the fourth floor of the old Eclipse Whitewear Building. Everything was hopping.

You may remember Margaret K and Jean Osborne - those wonderful switchboard operators. They were going crazy trying to keep up with an old plug-in type switchboard. We were so swamped with calls that they just went straight through to extensions.

The back wall of the building had a big hole in it, so we were all frozen. The place was incredibly dirty - but we didn't notice, because we didn't have time.

People kept showing up at the door. There were flowers and cookies and cakes from people who really appreciated having a new newspaper.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the new Sun was its democratizing effect. Creighton and Peter Worthington shared a tiny office. Everyone did whatever needed to be done. If Worthington had to take a call from a reader looking for a Sun box, he did it. We had the most amazingly great collection of writers, deskers, circulation people, you name it, and they all just pitched in.

At one point, Creighton commented that the place "looked like Turner and Porter" because his office was full of flowers and Worthington was looking a bit gaunt from working so hard. He kept an old sweater in his office and lent it to anyone who was cold.

In short, it was chaotic. Yet we had all these amazingly talented people. Imagine how difficult it was for them (Creighton and Worthington) to bring order from that chaos and put out a newspaper. And a great paper, at that.

The first few days were mostly problem solving. How do you take a newspaper and cram it into 62 people and one floor of an office building? Everyone just did what needed to be done. We all had a single purpose - getting the paper off the floor. In short, it was hectic and challenging and rewarding - and one of the most fun adventures I've ever had."

Thanks for the memories, Christina.

Day 1: John Iaboni

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

John Iaboni, sports writer:

"News of The Tely’s demise was far more difficult for those with families or long-time employees in their later years than it was for a 20-year-old like me. But it was devastating nonetheless because I believed my newspaper career – a budding whirlwind ride that began in 1968 – was finally over and I’d simply get on with completing my education at the U of T’s St. Michael’s College, destined to become a teacher.

Then, one day in mid-October I called home during a break in studies and my mother told me George Gross had called and wanted me to reach him. Once I did, The Baron offered me a full-time opportunity with a fledgling paper to be called The Toronto Sun on conditions that included (a) Working as many hours per night as my school would allow, as long as I put in five days a week and (b) That my work would not impede me completing my B.A. at the U of T (graduation date 1973 – and I made it!)

George didn’t really have to put any of those conditions on the offer – I was in as soon as he said a small group of Tely staffers were going to start The Sun. It was a total leap of faith in people I loved, believed in and thought if we all worked hard we could make this “dream” come true.

On Halloween 1971 – a Sunday – I remember driving my 1969 metallic bronze Dodge Coronet down to the Eclipse Building for the first time. It was a drab day and the neighborhood was desolate, dreary and depressing … empty railway lands south of us, a parking lot on the east adjacent to our new home, Farb’s Car Wash to the west, the Kingsplate Open Kitchen (a greasy spoon that would be so vital to us) on the southwest corner … all closed as Toronto of that era slept on Sundays.

As soon as I stepped into the rickety elevator for the first time, I realized it was better to take the four flights of steps. Odds were strongly in favour of being trapped in the elevator at some point as some quickly learned.

Our offices? The outhouse compared to the penthouse at The Tely on Front Street. Boxes everywhere. And even though our sports department featured The Baron, Kaye Corbett and Ken Adachi in the building that day – with Eaton Howitt in New York covering the Leafs at the Rangers – there was no room for me there. So I was shuffled off to the back area, somewhere in the vicinity of the washroom. I remember the building being cold. The Argos hosted the Ticats that afternoon with freelancer Bob Frewin covering the game for us – and a crumpled Hamilton QB Joe Zuger making our first cover.

At some point, George asked me to get a “toilet roll” and I went to the washroom looking for one, only to see all the toilet rolls, well, on the toilet rolls. I remember tracking down Donnie Nixon, one of our maintenance guys, to ask him for a toilet roll and the look on his face told me he thought I was off my rocker, especially since he said he’d already put them in the washroom.

But I persisted, not wanting to fail. Donnie finally got me one though and when I brought it to George, he said at his perceptive journalistic best: “What’s this?” And I said, “the toilet roll you wanted.” At that point George, Kaye and Ken erupted in laughter because what he’d wanted me to get was the carbon-roll of copy paper for our typewriters, affectionately called “toilet roll” in the business. So very early on in my Sun career, I learned an all-important distinction between a “toilet” roll and a toilet “roll”, if you catch the drift.

What I remember most about that day – and it would define us as the days became months and the months years – was the unwavering spirit to succeed because we had “attitude” long before it became fashionable. Virtually every department knew each other because we were all falling over each other. And we pulled for each other because we knew it was the only way to make it.

Our news, our photography, our cartoonists, our Sunshine Girls, our Rimmer, our sports … we sure kicked ass, woke up the newspaper business in this town and shook up Toronto.

At around 11 that night, with the composing room on the basement floor still scurrying to put the pieces together for the run to the press room at Inland in Mississauga, George told me to go home because I had classes the next morning. But the pattern was set because I’d put in full days at school with full days at work. Hey, when you’re 20, you don’t think of rest, right?

As I went home that first night I was thoroughly exhausted, more mentally than physically, but feeling good that we were born … a proud moment for all of us."

Thanks for the memories, John.

Day 1: Ken Robertson

Memories of Day Oners, a unique group of 62 unemployed men and women from the defunct Toronto Telegram who spent Halloween of 1971 putting out that first 48-page Toronto Sun.

They succeeded despite Tely Wake hangovers, occasional blackouts and primitive working conditions in converted Eclipse Building factory space at 322 King Street West.

Ken Robertson, former city editor:

"Day one was a Sunday, barely five or six hours after the now infamous, humongous Tely Wake at the Toronto Press Club. Some thoughtful soul laid in a huge stock of aspirin to help us get through that memorable first day. Had that not been the case, it is doubtful there would have been a paper in the boxes Monday morning.

Mr. Bayer's name should have appeared on the masthead.

We took turns using the few available typewriters, trying to bang out stories with the machines wobbling this way and that on temporary cardboard box desks. As the day wore on, and the sun (old Sol, that is) began to sink, so did the lighting in the "newsroom."

A wonky kettle, salvaged from a back room, left on the floor by the previous occupants, kept blowing fuses and putting us in the dark. In desperation, the braver souls among us made periodic emergency dashes across King Street to a long-gone little corner diner (Kingsplate Open Kitchen) for something vaguely resembling coffee. Bob MacDonald used to say reporters should eat in such places at least once a week "just to keep our resistance up."

I went home about two a.m. and fell asleep on the livingroom couch. When I awoke, I looked out at the Sun box at my corner and, be gad, there were actually papers in it. The first of what I always called "the daily miracle."

There were also, much to my delight, a small lineup of buyers waiting their turn at the money slot."

Thanks for the memories, Ken.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Newsroom parade

The only reason Canoe Live is programmed on our PVR is the daily parade of familiar faces in the Toronto Sun newsroom during Jeanette Luu's live interviews.

We aren't talking about the regulars, Mike Strobel, Lorrie Goldstein, Christina Blizzard and Rob Granatstein, who sit down for interviews throughout the week.

We are talking about the not-so-subtle walk-bys of Ian Robertson, Tom Godfrey, Mark Bonokoski, Lou Clancy, Jim Thompson etc. during the interviews.

The length of the newsroom gives staffers ample time to show their good side to the cameras during their background cameos. At least they curb any desire to break into song and dance, or to stop and wave to mom.

Mike, Lorrie, Christina and Rob receive a small fee for their Canoe Live interviews. The unscripted walk-bys are non-paying appearances.

Seems like there is nothing more tempting to a print journalist than grabbing a little ad-lib live television exposure. Who knows, Hollywood could be watching.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Ottawa Sun SOS

The Toronto Sun marks its 36th anniversary on Thursday, with newsroom morale boosted slightly by the recent hiring of several reporters and a renewed focus on local news.

The same cannot be said for the deeply wounded Ottawa Sun, where key newsroom personnel continue to voluntarily jump ship in frustration over poor management and a lack of leadership.

Sources say the Ottawa Sun, still hemorrhaging after 18 months of layoffs, buyouts and firings subsided last spring, desperately needs a lifeline.

Recently announced voluntary departures from the “rapidly shrinking newsroom” in Ottawa:

Andy Tomec, assistant managing editor and computer whiz, to a software company as a trainer.

Rob Brodie, night sports editor and sports columnist, to the Ottawa Senators media department;

Sean McKibbon, court reporter, to a business wire service, where Geoff Matthews, former Ottawa Sun OpEd/Comment Editor and Money Editor, now works;

Sean Kilpatrick, photographer, to Canadian Press;

Dave Washburn, veteran sports copy editor, to CanWest sports;

Five key departures in the last two months.

Key newsroom employees continue to jump ship even after the Ottawa Sun newsroom achieved its first contract because they are "embittered and just can’t take it anymore," one source said.

“Some of the talent has fled to CanWest and the Ottawa Citizen and some have gone elsewhere. But they are now lost to Sun Media, along with so many others who have been hounded out in the race to the bottom.”

"One of the key, underlying reasons people can't stand it anymore is management," a source said. "Even in a hellhole, staff will be loyal to leaders who deserve it and have their respect. Not here."

As one source told TSF, the new Sun Media honchos (Michael Sifton et al) must be wondering what went wrong in Bytown.

“The Osprey types must have been shocked when they took over and are now busying themselves trying to patch a sinking a ship.”

The 30 remaining Ottawa Sun newsroom staffers (down from 60 before the cutbacks) are said to be cautiously optimistic that the new Sun Media leadership will remedy the weaknesses, show a “refreshing” new respect for staff and revive the tabloid's "journalistic values."

"They (Sun Media) know they cut too deep and swung too hard in one direction,” a source said. “Now we can barely get a paper out and people are still fleeing in droves as more local space is returned to shrinking newsrooms.”

The Ottawa Sun, launched Sept. 4, 1988, with great fanfare and enthusiasm, needs an extreme newsroom makeover if it wants to be around to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year.

Paper candles

The National Post, founded by Conrad Black and launched on Oct. 27, 1998, celebrated its ninth anniversary on Saturday.

The Toronto Sun, launched Nov. 1, 1971, by 62 employees from the defunct Toronto Telegram, turns 36 next Thursday.

Next Saturday, the Toronto Star, nee Evening Star, launched on Nov. 3, 1892, by 21 printers and four apprentices locked out at the Toronto News, turns 115.

And the Globe of Globe and Mail newspaper heritage, founded March 5, 1844, by George Brown, celebrated 163 years of publishing, with a merge here and there, last spring.

That's four major Toronto daily newspapers with more than 320 years of publishing experience between them.

A folded, paid-for newspaper tucked under one arm, with content worthy of the minimal daily investment, still reigns in Toronto.

So happy anniversaries to all - and many more.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Inside the Sun blog

When Glenn Garnett made his exit as editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun, he also signed off as the Inside the Sun blogger after posting items for six months.

The blog has been inactive since Oct. 1 and it has left a noticeable void in news being delivered from the management side.

We were thinking Lou Clancy, the veteran Toronto newsman who has returned to the Sun as EIC, would saddle up to the keyboard and continue the Inside the Sun blog.

There is nothing more accurate than news coming directly from an editor-in-chief and from what we've been hearing, newsroom staffers want to hear all that Lou has to say.

A Lou Clancy Inside the Sun debut on Nov. 1, the Toronto Sun's 36th anniversary, would be an ideal way for the respected EIC to begin sharing his feelings about the tabloid.

Should Lou continue the Inside the Sun blog?

That is the question in TSF's latest poll.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Canoe needs links

The most hyped Internet web site in Sun Media newspapers is, but when it comes to media awards, the online news service is completely in the dark.

The recent Dunlop Awards stories on are classic examples. There were no links from the online stories to the original award-winning Sun Media entries.

Mark Bonokoski's national Beyond Borders Media Award for his child sexual abuse feature in Maclean's is another online story that shouted for a link. His May, 2006, article is in the archives.

When the Internet became a refreshing new vehicle for information in the 1990s, we thought media would pounce on the opportunity to showcase original content when awards were won.

Like, we won this media award and, click, this is the winning entry.

It hasn't happened.

TSF goes out of its way to Google for stories and photographs behind the awards because the first thing we think of is a lot of people might not have viewed them first time around.

Jerry Gladman's award-winning Living and Dying With ALS, written in the final months before his death in 2004, has been the most active of all TSF awards links. Three years later, people are saying thanks for access to Jerry's heartbreaking series.

Sun readers are being urged daily to visit, but for unknown reasons, they are not being allowed to expand their knowledge with ease by clicking on links to other sources.

We can understand online news agencies being hesitant to direct readers to outside web sites via links, but most Sun Media awards content is on internal computers and not off site.

Links to winning entries are a free and easy way to toot your own horn and keep original content alive in the minds of readers, editors and recipients of the awards.

Monday 22 October 2007

Unsigned editorials

Traditional, unsigned editorials that speak on behalf of the Toronto Sun as an entity have quietly returned to the Sunday Sun.

Unsigned editorials - including yesterday's "Council's tough tax choice" - are the norm at most major daily newspapers across North America. But they were axed by Sun Media last February in favour of centralized, signed Point of View pieces.

The controversial signed POVs, giving individuals credit for opinions on local, provincial, national and international matters, put a dent in the credibility of the Toronto Sun as Toronto's Other Voice because relatively few POVs have focused on GTA issues.

Sunday's unsigned editorial, commenting on a local and vital Toronto tax issue, was the voice of the Toronto Sun and all felt right again in the Comment section after nine months of POVs.

As one observer noted, unsigned editorials indicate the Toronto Sun has not abandoned its roots, which in pre-Quebecor days were firmly planted in the GTA.

It sounds like a point of view Lou Clancy, the Toronto Sun's new editor-in-chief, shares as he actively resuscitates "local" as the newsroom's buzz word.

Local news, local editorials, local entertainment, local sports, local lifestyle features etc.

Our kind of Sun.

Bono wins award

When veteran Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski spread his wings last spring with an article in Maclean's magazine, the topic was justice denied in a child sexual abuse case.

That 3,000-word article about convicted pedophile John Inglis has earned Mark a prestigious national Beyond Borders Media Award, to be presented Nov. 20 in Winnipeg.

Inglis, 61, escaped media attention when he pleaded guilty at a preliminary hearing to 15 charges involving nine victims molested in a cabin on Baptiste Lake, near Bancroft, near Mark's home.

When Mark learned there were no reporters there for the 2006 plea bargain guilty pleas, he began researching the case, which involved boys aged 12 to 14. He wrote about Inglis for Maclean's and the Sun.

Deborah Zanke, Beyond Borders awards chair, said judges believe Mark's Maclean's article "provides further illumination of the issues and dynamics surrounding child sexual abuse."

Congrats, Mark.

Kim Bradley won the same award in 2003 and 2005 for Toronto Sun features on Internet luring and child pornography.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Nov. 1 anniversary

The countdown to the Toronto Sun's 36th anniversary is underway.

Sixty-two former Toronto Telegram employees launched the Sun on Nov. 1, 1971, but the only Day Oners remaining after one wild media ride are Peter Worthington, Andy Donato, George Gross, Christina Blizzard (nee Smales) and Jim Thomson.

So what to do for the 36th anniversary?

Perhaps Sun Media could pull a Paul Rimstead and invite Sun readers to a 36th birthday party at the Sun. You probably wouldn't draw 5,000 as Paul's invites used to do, but it could help revive the personal relationship the tabloid once had with its readers.

Sun Media could also do what the Toronto Star did recently and publish the names of current and former employees, a public thank you for their contributions dating back to 1971.

Michael Sifton, the new Sun Media chief, could write a guest column expressing his views about the future of the Toronto Sun and what the flagship tabloid means to him.

How about reviving Andy Donato's missing bird contest - the Sun's most popular contest - with attractive pre-Christmas cash prizes?

But for starters, there should be a published salute to Peter, Andy, George, Christina and Jim, the five remaining links to the big gamble on Nov. 1, 1971, that paid off handsomely.

Anniversaries are always special. With Michael Sifton and Lou Clancy, the Toronto Sun's new editor-in-chief, revealing they have some clout, we are becoming more optimistic about the Sun's chances of being around to celebrate its 40th birthday.

3 GAs wanted?

A couple of reliable sources say Sun Media is hiring three more general assignment reporters for the Toronto Sun newsroom.

Two additional GA jobs were posted after an ad appeared in the Toronto Sun last Wednesday, sources told TSF, although no GA jobs have appeared on the Sun Media Employment Listings web site.

News about the hiring of one new GA reporter after nine years of Toronto Sun staff reductions was refreshing. Three new GAs makes us downright giddy and cautiously optimistic that the tabloid's downsizing has touched bottom and is rebounding.

Will the other depleted Sun tabloids in Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary etc. also be hiring? Stay tuned.

We have also heard the transfer of the Toronto Sun's classified advertising department to a telephone sales centre in Kanata this month has been postponed.

Friday 19 October 2007

Sun crimebusters

Dave Thomas, meet Bob Holliday.

Bob, 65, a recently retired Winnipeg Sun crime reporter, was being served by a credit union teller Thursday when his instincts told him the person at the next teller wasn't quite right.

The cops and robbers vet saw the "customer," wearing a hat, sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt, pass a piece of paper to the teller, which was brought to the attention of a supervisor. He also saw an object in a pocket that appeared to be a weapon.

Bob slipped out of the Assiniboine Credit Union branch and called 911, , says Ross Romaniuk in a Winnipeg Sun story.

“I could have tackled the person or whatever, but I’m too old for that crap,” he said. “So I called 911.”

The suspect, a woman, got into a nearby car and fled, apparently with a bag of cash.

Police responded within three minutes but it was "about 20 seconds too late," Bob told the Sun.

Bob, who still writes a Once Upon a Crime column for the Winnipeg Sun, should meet Toronto Sun photographer Dave Thomas over a few brews.

Dave has witnessed several crimes and has helped capture a few suspects.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Local news edict

A new online edition of Quebecor's Phoenix newsletter announces Sun Media editors-in-chief will now "focus on local coverage."

In other words, focus and logic appear to be returning to Sun newsrooms, thanks to Michael Sifton, Sun Media's new president and CEO.

The Phoenix newsletter reads:

"Editors-in-Chief will be making adjustments to our overall approach to creating content that focuses increasingly on local coverage in the communities served by all our news gathering operations.

Sun Media President and CEO Mike Sifton discussed with EICs at a recent meeting in Toronto the need to better reflect local communities, while continuing to generate benefits from common content wherever possible.

Watch for changes to emerge soon as areas such as opinion comment on local issues are rebalanced with opportunities for national comment.

“Our comment pages must continue to be thoughtful but the important point is to ensure we are thought leaders in our respective communities,” Sifton told EICs.

“The fundamental directions are all right since change in our industry is a fact of life,” Sifton said. “Now we need to make sure we are adapting the concepts to local markets because that is where we will succeed, that’s what we do best and that’s where we distinguish ourselves from competitors.

“Some content works well across the entire organization, but not all content is right for every market. We need to have the flexibility to make the best use of the people in our organization who understand the local markets and interests.”

For Glenn Garnett, Executive Editor-in-Chief for Sun Media, that means “we need to make better use of centralized content while counting on editors to make decisions about how best to tell local stories and the best use of space and resources.

“We’re definitely ahead of our competitors generally in creating our own multimedia content, while others are just using CP and AP videos, for example,” says Garnett. “What we need to do now is refine the model and build cohesion in the broader team.”

Adjustments will be showing up soon in the way we encourage newspaper readers to check out online content, probably by integrating online links more thoroughly and in context within print reports. The regular online feature that has been appearing on page two of the urban dailies will be adjusted to make content more relevant and generate more cross promotion between our print and web markets.

Says Sifton: “We simply cannot succeed if we try to be all things to all people – that’s dangerous since our success everywhere depends on doing local coverage well, while providing the right balance of national news and features.”

Noting that the Sun’s urban dailies have a stronger male audience while 24hours has more of a female skew, Sifton says “we have to think about the roles of our paid and free newspapers to make sure we can offer advertisers the most complete reach of the key demographic groups.”

Hiring: GA reporter

The Toronto Sun has published a Help Wanted ad for a general assignment reporter.

Give yourself a minute or two to let the good news register.

Any new body in the newsroom is a welcomed body after nine years of Quebecor cutbacks.

Is it another feather in the caps of Michael Sifton, the new Sun Media chief, and Lou Clancy, the Sun's new editor-in-chief? We'd like to think so.

A GA job posting, positive feedback to TSF about Sifton and Clancy, an edict calling for more local news all reflect a boost in much needed optimism in the Sun newsroom.

One of three Toronto Sun job postings in the Wednesday paper is for a GA reporter. The two other job ads are for the circulation department. Applications are due by next Wednesday.

The GA posting reads: "The Toronto Sun is looking for a tenacious, experienced General Assignment Reporter to cover all manner of news events, produce exclusive stories and in-depth features.

"In addition to producing content for print, the successful candidate will be trained to gather video and audio material for"

Resumes can be e-mailed to Angela Zito, Human Resources, at

We're not sure if any of the newsroom staffers laid off last spring have first dibs for the GA job, but chances are they have all moved on.

McKlutz McToocruel?

Radio talk show hosts and hockey bloggers spent much of Wednesday commenting on the Toronto Sun's "Bryan McKlutz" front page.

"Toronto Sun reaches all time low," was the heading for Howard Berger's posting for his Fan 590 Nothing But Leafs blog.

"The idea and execution of the front-page layout/headline in today’s edition of the Toronto Sun was so astoundingly cruel and small-minded that it pains me to grace it with further attention," says Howard. "In so doing, I am deliberately playing into the hands of those whose decision it was to humiliate Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenceman Bryan McCabe. And, for that, I apologize in advance. But, I find it impossible to ignore such blatant idiocy."


An entry in the From Aj's Skybox reads: "It's been a couple of rough days for the Leaf defenceman, but the Toronto Sun made the entire situation worse by using the headline "Bryan McKlutz". Whomever's responsible should be fired. It was classless and downright disrespectful."


And some Leafs fans had their say in the HF Forum.

TSF feels the Sun's reverse psychology approach early in the season is an excellent idea. The "boys in blue can do no wrong" approach year after year for 40 cupless years has become a cliche.

The Leafs are highly paid grown men representing the GTA, not children to be coddled when they repeatedly do wrong.

Say you are a shareholder in a company that tanks year after year for decades. How long would you hold onto that stock before saying enough is enough?

The investors here are Leafs fans who invest their time, money and energy year after year after year. When is enough enough? Forty years without a Stanley Cup warrants drawing a line in the sand.

Fans who are tired of saying "next year" should thank the Sun for removing some of the gloss from its Leafs coverage.

Tough love - aimed at getting the Leafs back into the game and making the 2007/08 season a season to remember.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Bono on J students

Recommended reading for journalism students: Mark Bonokoski's column on Tuesday.

"Once upon a time, there was Watergate, and journalists of my generation dreamed of being the next Woodward or Bernstein," says Mark, a former editor of the Eyeopener and the Ryersonian, two Ryerson student newspapers.

"But not so much anymore, or so it seems."

His concern is the laziness of today's journalism students and he wonders if "the next generation of journalists want nothing more than the lowering of the bar so that quick hits and shallow reportage will rule the day."

For starters, says Mark, get the names right, including his last name. And don't conduct interviews via e-mail. Pick up the phone and talk to people.

Mark's column reminded TSF of a couple of e-mails we received from Ryerson students addressed to "J. Douglas Creighton," the late, great Toronto Sun co-founder.

Not a good start in the media research department.

The Boss blues

After plopping down $1.06 for the Toronto Sun out here in the boondocks Tuesday, thumbed through the paper looking for a review of Bruce Springsteen's ACC concert.

No Boss words, just a note telling readers to read Jane Stevenson's review online at the Sun's web site. No joy there for Boss fans reading the Sun on buses, subways and streetcars on their way to work, during coffee breaks etc. Sun readers who do not have computers were shut out completely.

The National Post, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star editions out this way had Springsteen concert reviews - the Post and Globe used reviews of Sunday's concert in Ottawa and the Star used an ACC intro, with a mix of Ottawa from Canadian Press.

Toronto Sun readers saw zilch in print from the Sunday and Monday concerts.

Bob Jelenic update

Bob Jelenic, former Toronto Sun accountant and a key player in the tabloid's glory years, has cancer and is stepping down as chairman and CEO of the Journal Register Corp.

Jelenic, 57, will step down Nov. 1 after 20 years with the New Jersey-based corporation. He has been on medical leave since June 8.

"My 32 years in the newspaper industry have been extremely gratifying and rewarding," Jelenic said in a JRC press release. "In terms of my personal situation, I intend to continue to focus all my energies on reaching a full recovery."

James Hall, 60, a longtime board member, will replace Jelenic. The corporation owns 22 daily and 346 weekly newspapers and 227 individual websites across the U.S.

In a JRC statement, Hall said Jelenic "leaves a legacy of a strong management team" to tackle the struggling industry.

During his 12 years at the Toronto Sun, Bob was considered a member of the A Team, working overtime on corporate figures as the Sun expanded to other cities, including Houston and Calgary.

Sudbury-born Bob is called the Sun's "golden boy" in Jean Sonmor's 1993 book, The Little Paper That Grew - Inside the Toronto Sun Publishing Corporation.

In the early 1990s, when reached by Sonmor, Jelenic spoke fondly of his years with the Sun chain, which included three turbulent years as general manager of the Houston Post.

"I think it's one of the best run news organizations in North America" the Toronto Sun's former general manager told Sonmor in 1992. "Every speech I give I mention that."

Times have changed since Bob last shared in the success of the rising Sun, but we are sure Sun vets wish him well.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Monday, Monday A+

Monday's Toronto Sun had the refreshing feel of a new ballgame - no front page banner ad and solid, ad-free local news on the first nine pages.

We can't recall the last time a weekday Toronto Sun did not have a front page car or music store banner ad across the bottom. It gave the photo room to breathe.

Page 2 was all local news, not a page of Internet news. (The webpage wisely has been reduced to a weekly feature beginning next Monday.)

The next eight pages were all news and features, including the Great Sun Media Sex Survey, two pages of the Toronto International Marathon coverage, a full page of world news etc.

Now that is putting the "news" back in "newspaper."

We'd like to think that is (Lou) Clancy lowering the boom as the new editor-in-chief and getting things done in the newsroom. It is called focus and Monday's Sun was focused.

We don't expect the lucrative and somewhat tolerable lower front page banner ads to be gone for long, but it was refreshing to see full play for a photo.

Hopefully, we have seen the last of the annoying car ads that cover half of the front page and disrupt the flow of the first few pages.

We have been wondering how Sun advertisers -, Honda, Music World etc. - who have been paying big bucks for front page banner ads reacted to being bumped for those obtrusive blue strip Hyundai car ads on two consecutive Fridays.

We'd be ticked.

Monday 15 October 2007

T.O. CUPE speakers

Four Journal de Quebec employees locked out by Quebecor since April will be guest speakers at the 2007 CUPE national convention in Toronto this week.

Lucie Butler, president of the clerical union, Jocelyne Martineau, president of the printing local and journalists Denis Bolduc and Daniel Paquet will address the 2,000 delegates Wednesday morning at the Metro Convention Centre.

Quebecor locked out editorial and office workers on April 22 and the Journal's pressroom employees launched a sympathy strike the same day. Management continued publishing the daily Journal and the locked out employees launched a free weekday MediaMatin tabloid.

The 150 locked out Sun Media employees say Quebecor has made little effort to resume negotiations.

"The lock-out is even more brutal when you consider that the members at the Journal were not threatening to strike, that they had never been on strike, and that not one day of work had been lost since the paper opened in 1967," Bolduc says in a Canada News Wire story.

The CUPE convention ends Friday.

Osprey cuts begin

And so it begins . . .

The Wallaceburg News is the first Osprey casualty following Quebecor's takeover of the Osprey Media newspaper chain.

So says the Courier Press, a Quebecor-owned Bowes weekly that becomes the only Wallaceburg-based newspaper as of this Friday.

The Wallaceburg News was published twice a week - Wednesday and Friday - up to October of 2006, when the Wednesday edition was axed.

What remains of the Friday edition will be merged with the weekly Chatham-Kent Citizen in the form of a "new advertising feature called Wallaceburg Marketplace," says the Courier.

Daryl Smith, publisher of the Wallaceburg News, said in a press release: "Although we have enjoyed high readership within the community and recognition from industry peers, The Wallaceburg News has not provided a sufficient return as a business for the resources invested."

How many jobs lost? Smith didn't say.


Dave Ellis is home

Toronto Sun ACE Dave Ellis is out of hospital and recuperating at home while the family prepares for a bicycle sale.

"Dave is home," says daughter Lara on the CarePages web site, where more than 120 positive messages to Dave were posted since his hard fall from his bike in September.

"We are all glad that it turned out this well, which is a testament to Dave's resiliency and health and the excellent care he received from the doctors and nurses at Toronto Western Hospital," she said Wednesday.

"Thanks to everyone for sending positive energy and messages to him and his family during what was an extremely difficult time. Keep an eye out in the weeks to come for a notice regarding the upcoming bicycle sale on Kenilworth!"

Family members say the positive vibes received via computer from relatives, friends and Dave's current and former newsroom colleagues meant a lot to Dave.

Gord Walsh, the Sun's old pro, is keeping Dave's city desk chair warm until he returns to work.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Front page challenge

Front pages: Andy Donato's post-election cartoon on Thursday and Michael Peake's heartbreaking baby casket photo on Saturday were perfect bookends to highlight Friday's abominable car ad.

Michael's photo of Robert Kinghorn carrying a casket with the remains of Baby Kintyre, the baby boy he found entombed in a wall and wrapped in a newspaper from 1925, is worth more than a thousand words and any amount of advertising dollars.

The photo and Michele Mandel's column on the funeral for Baby Kintyre are shining examples of the Toronto Sun at its best as a tabloid.

Saturday 13 October 2007

Dunlop Awards news

The 2006 Dunlop Awards, announced in May, were finally presented in Toronto Thursday night, but the flagship Toronto Sun was slow off the mark in publicizing the dinner.

We learned of the awards night at the Chelsea Hotel when the Calgary Sun posted an online story by Dave Dormer early Friday, which was updated later in the day.

Next came a Winnipeg Sun report early today recapping its sports awards.

The Edmonton Sun also posted its Dunlop Awards story on Saturday.

The Toronto Sun's awards story by Tom Godfrey was published in the Sunday Sun.

The in-house Sun Media awards have always been a boost for recipients.

Toronto Sun newsroom sources say having Michael Sifton and Lou Clancy cheering them on this year is lifting their morale.

Once again, congrats to all.

Speaking of awards, maybe under Lou Clancy, the new editor-in-chief, the Toronto Sun's long dry spell for National Newspaper Award nominations and wins will end.

Black armband time

Toronto Sun layout editors have taken great pride in packaging eye-catching front pages since Day One in '71.

But they must be in the black armband mood after viewing obtrusive front page car ads on two consecutive Fridays.

And what a difference a day makes.

From the brilliance of a post-election Andy Donato cartoon on the front page Thursday, to yet another wide blue Hyundai question ad - "Do I look fat in this? - covering half of Friday's front page.

The Sun's front page, the pride of reporters, photographers, graphics staff and layout editors for almost four decades, is being sold out by Quebecor for advertising revenue.

It is a vital selling point of the Sun being tampered with by bean counters.

As a reporter, it was always a thrill to have work chosen for the line story. Competitive photographers would always gloat when his or her photo was chosen.

After the presses at 333 King Street East rolled and the first copies arrived in the newsroom, the end results of a hard day's night was often a tabloid front page suitable for framing.

The front page makeup masters - including Les Pyette, Peter Brewster, Mike Burke-Gaffney - often beamed like proud poppas while viewing their front pages.

But these obtrusive and annoying car ads, being labelled by some as tabloid "abortions," prevent all involved from packaging the traditional Sun front pages.

Quebecor gets the extra bucks, dedicated newsroom staffers and readers who still care, once again get the shaft.

Can Quebecor's new multi-million printing plant not duplicate the wrap-around front page ads being printed at the Post and the Star? They are more tolerable. You remove the ads and the full front pages are there to read.

Well, actually, word from insiders is the new state of the art Quebecor printing plant in Toronto, with its new pressroom workers, is having a difficult time accommodating the demands of Sun press runs and the 333 King presses have apparently been used as backup.

Our guess is all of the papers last week with off-colour photos and faded text were courtesy of the new presses.

Transitional problems do occur - the National Post is advising readers problems at its new printing plant might delay deliveries - but sources say Quebecor's plant woes are "extremely serious problems."

Transferring all of the dedicated and loyal veteran Toronto Sun pressroom employees to the new plant, instead of pink slipping them, would have been a smoother ride.

So, week to week, there are signs of hope for the Sun - old faces, solid newspaper people, returning to the roost, the arrival of Michael Sifton and the Osprey influence etc. - followed by decisions that leave us incredulous.

An ideal scenario: Quebecor gets out of the newspaper business and concentrates on wireless systems and printing those millions and millions of telephone directories.

Leave newspapers to newspaper people.

Friday 12 October 2007

Just Googlin' around

Re Quebecor stacks up more
telephone directory print jobs

A CP story says Quebecor Media has created a new subsidiary to include all its print and online directory operations, with plans to expand the unit to 100 employees over the next year or so.

Quebecor said Thursday the new subsidiary will include 30 new print directories in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta to be published under the MediaPages name. An online directory will also be created under the name at the beginning of next year. Full CP story

Re Sun Media's new
front page ads

Mike Otto
, photo editor for The Gateway, the University of Alberta's student newspaper, sums up Sun Media front page layover ads as "totally bush league."

"Advertisements on the front page are nothing new: both the Journal and Sun have been running ads along the bottom of the cover for years. The act of covering up newspaper content, however, makes this practice of far greater concern." Mike's full Editorial

Re Danielle Crittenden's
first Barbara Amiel

Danielle Crittenden
, stepdaughter of Toronto Sun co-founder Peter Worthington, was 15 when she first met Barbara Amiel.

"My stepfather Peter Worthington, then editor of the Toronto Sun, called me into the living room. He and my mother were entertaining Barbara and her second husband, the Hungarian-born poet (and, now, National Post columnist) George Jonas.

"No teenager enjoys being frogmarched before their parents' friends; it only intensifies the already inflamed sense of awkwardness, and at that moment I was especially awkward," she writes in a recent Full Comment column in the National Post. "So you can imagine what it was like to be confronted with the most exotic parental friend I'd ever seen." Danielle's full column

Thursday 11 October 2007

Back page sports

We have always been a big fan of New York tabloids with front page news and back page sports, with the occasional wrap-around news and sports specials.

It is the best of both worlds for news and sports coverage, but the Toronto Sun, except for rare wrap-around editions (the 9/11 wrap-around was a classic), has never been committed to it as a permanent format.

Apparently, it was tossed around in the board room in the '70s and '80s, but rejected in favour of premium-priced, back page advertising.

The New York tabs came to mind Wednesday after seeing the third hockey photo on the front page within a week. Also saw a few New York tabs on a talk show after the fall of the Yankees to Cleveland - including an eye-catching back page "Indian Bummer" headline.

With local, regional, national and international news being what it is and the year round major sporting events in Canada, it wouldn't be difficult for Sun Media tabs to do daily.

But with Quebecor selling out the front page of the Sun to advertisers, back page sports coverage is destined to remain an appealing, but remote, possibility.

Besides, priorities in Quebecorland place news third behind sports and Hollywood fluff. Exhibit A: last Sunday's Sun, with a front page hockey photo at the expense of a double fatality involving high speed cars and the murder of an RCMP officer.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of the number of Toronto Sun front pages in the past year with (a) news (b) sports (c) Hollywood fluff.

TSF's latest online poll asks if you are a fan of front page news and back page sports.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

'84 Moneypenny col.

This one is for Kate Webster, a TSF reader who is looking for Moneypenny columns, written by Lois Maxwell and consistently a favourite among Toronto Sun readers for 15 years.

The Lifestyle page column is from Saturday, Jan. 28, 1984, a $1 "Special Variety Village Edition" in aid of the Variety Club of Ontario.

It reads:

Neighbors like mine
sweeter than wine
Ever since I moved into this funny house, I've been collecting empty wine bottles for my neighbors, Cherubino and Franco.

I've stashed them behind the furniture, under the washtubs and in the basement storage room. Every year I've promised myself I would present the vast collection of glass to the two men when I saw them pressing grapes to make wine, but for one reason or another I've never been in Toronto at that critical time.

This year was no exception. I was visiting Virginia.

When I returned and entered my little house, I smelled an unusual odor. I followed my nose to the source and found a cardboard box upside down in the storage room. It was covering something vast, draped in pink insulation.

The "something" was making a strange, rolling noise. I lifted the box and looked at a demijohn of fermenting wine. My kind neighbors had decided to utilize the grapes that clustered thickly in my arbor. That was three months ago.

Yesterday morning, there was a loud knock on my door and Cherubino was standing there smiling. "Ah, signora, it's time we bottled the wine." In his hand was a length of green rubber tubing.

"What's that for?" I asked.

"To siphon the wine into the bottles. Where are the bottles?"

I collected all the bottles and washed them well. When everything was ready, we cleared a space in the cluttered kitchen, unwrapped the pink insulation and eased the huge container to the doorway.

I took one handle and Cherubino took the other. We lifted together. My side didn't even budge from the floor.

"How many pounds does this thing weigh?" I groaned. Close to a ton, I figured.

It was sheer agony carrying that demijohn to the kitchen and placing it on a sturdy chair.

Fortunately, my muscles are in good condition after a couple of months of hoisting sails in the South China Sea, so we managed to do it without mishap.

Cherubino stuck the rubber tube into the narrow neck and sucked on the other end. The ruby wine flowed smoothly into a gallon jug. While transferring the tube to the next jug, I splashed wine on the floor.

My pup, Lulu, appeared at that moment and dropped her squeaky ball in the puddle. It rolled across the floor leaving a red trail. She picked it up in her mouth, dropped it as though she'd been scalded, sneezed and shot upstairs.

I understood why, after we'd taken a little rest and I sucked on the siphon and got a mouthful. The wine was so dry that my mouth was puckered for 10 minutes.

The second and third sips tasted better, however.

All the bottles are now carefully stacked in the storage room. The guck in the bottom of the demijohn did not plug my bathtub drain as I feared it would. The kitchen floor has finally been washed and the house no longer smells like a winery.

The Massimobene wine, as I call it, for that is the Italian translation of Maxwell, will not put fear into the hearts of vintners in France, Italy or Ontario. But it's an interesting rose and I'm becoming accustomed to its taste.

Tonight, I will raise my glass in a toast to Variety Village and all the miracles taking place there."

Kate, that was our Miss Moneypenny, always popular with readers. Hope you enjoyed a small sampling from her hundreds of weekly columns.

It brings back a lot of fond memories of the more positive Sun years.

The Moneypenny column was on Page 38 opposite a column by Christie Blatchford.

Christie and Lois on the same page, with words elsewhere by George Anthony, Wilder Penfield III, Mark Bonokoski, Gary Dunford (Page Six), Lorrie Goldstein, John Downing, Ian Harvey, David Kendall, Dick Chapman, George Gross, Garth Turner, Jim Hunt, Maria Bohuslawsky, Scott Morrison etc., plus a Norm Betts SUNshine Girl and a Veronica Milne SUNshine Boy.

The editorial cartoon was by Andy Donato and the of op-ed columnists were Walter Stewart, Peter Worthington, Art Buchwald, William F. Buckley and then editor Barbara Amiel, aka the Black Queen of King St.

Doug Creighton was publisher; Donald Hunt, general manager; Robert Jelenic, acting general manager; Ed Monteith, editorial director, and Robert Burt was managing editor.

It was the 1980's Toronto Sun we knew and loved - a fun place to work and a fun paper to read.

Did readers who paid $1 for this special 1984 Variety Village edition get their money's worth?


Monday 8 October 2007

Lois: Peter W's column

This is the Peter Worthington column Lois Maxwell's family, friends, former colleagues and longtime readers of her Moneypenny column did not get to read in the Toronto Sun.

The unpublished 800-word column, written by the Toronto Sun co-founder from the heart as Lois' friend and former colleague, was spiked by the editors last Tuesday. It reads:

"A part of the Toronto Sun died this week with the news that in far off Australia, Lois Maxwell, better known as “Moneypenny” had died at age 80.

For 15 years, Moneypenny wrote a column for the Sun newspapers, and after a shaky start with the entertainment department which didn't always appreciate her, she became a fixture who regularly topped readership polls.

Always down to earth, Moneypenny worried that some seemed to resent her because she was a celebrity and not of the newspaper clan. While unfair, perhaps this was inevitable. Since appearing in 14 James Bond movies, Lois more or less adopted the Moneypenny name as her own, and exploited it to advantage.

To the surprise of us both (I was editor when Moneypenny came to us), Lois and I shared the same birthday, and every February at Valentines Day, when timetables permitted, we’d have a birthday lunch and gossip. Periodically, she would grumble that her colleagues in Entertainment undermined her. As editor, I felt this was a battle that she had to fight, and surely Miss Moneypenny, who could handle 007, shouldn't be intimidated by newspaper mortals.

Moneypenny was born Lois Hooker, from Kitchener (“I’m a hooker,” she’d joke to the unsuspecting). She ran away from home at age 15 to join the women branch of the army – a CWAC (Canadian Women’s Army Corps). Tall (nearly six feet) and beautiful, she was a member of the entertainment team for troops in Europe until her age was discovered. She then enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (1944) where she became a friend of Roger Moore, later to replace Sean Connery in the Bond movies.

Lois and I were of the WWII generation of teenage kids fearful of missing the great adventure, and both did something about it – she more daring that I, who merely joined the navy after trying (and failing) to get in the merchant navy at age 15.

Post-war, Lois tried Hollywood, did radio acting, and when she lived in Italy even tried a stint of race car driving. While she worked as a Sun columnist, she started a business to provide police barriers for crowd control. That was Moneypenny - game for anything, and as a widow was always concerned about her security in old age.

She loved her role as the flirtatious, acid-tongue Moneypenny in the James Bond movies, and became a fixture there until replaced in 1987 by a younger Moneypenny. Lois, supported by both Doug Creighton and me, lobbied that a natural progressing in the Bond movies would be for Moneypenny to be promoted to “M” – head of British Intelligence. To this day, it puzzles me why the movie-makers didn’t go that route. As we movie-goers know, Dame Judy Dench eventually got that role in Casino Royale.

It was always a bit of a shock to many of us at the Sun to realize that “our” Moneypenny had played in so many movies – not just the 007 series. She was in the Lolita movie; played in the Roger Moore Saint series; and in the Bedtime for Bonzo movie with Ronald Reagan that some of his critics cited as a reason why he should never be elected President of the U.S. Two dozen movies are to her credit.

At age 20, she won a Golden Globe award as the best new actress in a film with Shirley Temple, That Hagen Girl. While Moneypenny talked willingly about movies and celebrities, she never forced them on you. They might come up in conversations, and you had to keep reminding yourself that she wasn't like the rest of us, that she actually knew these people. Moneypenny was anything but a name-dropper.

Her life altered dramatically when her husband suffered a debilitating heart attack in 1960 and died 14 years later. She was left with a couple of kids and had to manage on her own, something she did cheerily and relentlessly, ever feeling some financial insecurity.

At our annual birthday lunches, Moneypenny would talk about her son, Christian, who had his mother’s wandering spirit and she worried about whether he would settle down. It was apparently at his home in Western Australia, where she died from cancer on the weekend.

As I recall, at our last birthday lunch 20 years ago, Moneypenny was planning to join a crew to sail a yacht across the Pacific. I was uneasy about her doing it, but she seemed determined. Personal risk was not something Lois fretted about. I don’t know if she ever did make the sailing trip. I suspect not.

But I do know that the adventurous, brave, 15-year-old girl who ran away from home to go to war, was the same adventurous, brave spirit who died in Perth, Australia, at age 80.

A great life, a wonderful woman, and a precious part of Sun history."

Moneypenny columns?

Kate Webster, a TSF reader, posted this comment for one of our earlier postings on the recent death of Lois Maxwell, who wrote the Moneypenny column in the Toronto Sun from 1979 to 1994.

"I'd love to read some of the Moneypenny columns and have tried searching the Toronto Sun site with no success," says Kate. "Can anyone point me in the right direction to find these online? Much appreciated!"

Some Toronto Sun columns and stories linger on the Internet for years without becoming pay per views, but our quick Google search for Moneypenny columns also came up dry.

Over to you, TSF readers. Can you help Kate find some of Lois' popular columns?

Sunday 7 October 2007

Les Pyette photo

It was perfect timing to see Les Pyette in the Toronto Sun once again on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Sun chain and countless current and former Sun employees should be forever thankful to Les for his 28 years working the newsrooms in Toronto, Calgary and the London Free Press.

The Kid From the Soo, looking trim and fit in the Saturday Sun photo at Rama with Joe "The Scrawler" Warmington and singer Billy Rae Cyrus, did it all for the Sun from 1974 to 2002. A key player in the newsroom and on up.

A legend in his own time, as illustrated in a Len Fortune photo/story tribute magazine (above), published when Les retired.

We'll keep this posting "tight and bright" in true Pyette tabloid style.

Happy Thanksgiving, Les. You are greatly missed.

Saturday 6 October 2007

Peter W. & Lois

Did Toronto Sun editors spike a Peter Worthington tribute column for Lois Maxwell, a friend and former Sun colleague who wrote the popular Moneypenny column from 1979 to 1994?

In the days after the actress/columnist died in Perth, Australia, last weekend, we thought it odd the Sun didn't publish a personalized tribute for the former Sun columnist.

All that was published was a Canadian Press story on Monday. It included a brief mention of Lois being a former Sun columnist, but no quotes from Sun vets or friends in Toronto.

On Tuesday, Peter was quoted several times in a lengthy Globe and Mail Obituaries page obit written by Sandra Martin, but still not a word from Peter or others in the Sun.

It just didn't make sense that Lois, a Sun columnist for 15 years and known world-wide for her appearances as Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond films, would not get a proper sendoff in the Sun.

And then this comment was left for a TSF posting we wrote Wednesday questioning the absence of a proper Sun tribute:

"Perhaps a reason why the Sun did not adequately mark the death of Moneypenny, who wrote a column for the Sun for 15 years, is because the Sun chose not to print Peter Worthington's tribute to this gallant lady."

The comment was signed "Peter."

Was a column written by Peter Worthington for Lois rejected by editors? If so, why?

Or is the above comment just a theory from a TSF reader coincidentally named Peter?

If the Sun did spike Peter's column, it would explain the absence of any heartfelt words for Lois.

Peter, if it was spiked and you still have the column, we would be delighted to post it here on the Toronto Sun Family blog for Lois' family, friends and former colleagues to read. You can e-mail it at your convenience.

Spiked column, or not, the Sun needs more heart when it comes to the passing of employees who contributed to the tabloid's success. Brushing off Lois' death with an impersonal CP story was shameful.

Meanwhile, people who befriended Lois after she moved to Perth in 2001 to live with her son, Christian, gave her an affectionate sendoff in the West Australian newspaper and online at

Friends in Perth say Lois had been working on her autobiography for a few years, but it wasn't known if she had completed the book.

Here's hoping Lois, who was 80 when she died, completed the project.

We'd like to read more about Lois appearing on the cover of a "slightly risque" calender, pictured in a spa with a group of local ladies. The calendar raised about $10,000 for the Fremantle Hospital Medical Research Foundation.

Friends in Perth say Lois, an "absolutely lovely lady." devoted her final years to helping the foundation following a life-saving operation at Fremantle Hospital.

Herb Gray lives

The correction in the Ottawa Sun is short and very sweet to the ears of Herb Gray - he is not dead.

Reminiscent of the widely publicized premature obit for Bob Hope in 1988 - five years before he died - a Friday report in the Ottawa Sun said the longtime Canadian parliamentarian was dead.

Today's correction reads:

"A column in Friday's Sun incorrectly reported longtime parliamentarian Herb Gray is dead. In fact, he is not. The Sun apologizes to Mr. Gray, who continues to work as the Canadian Chair of the International Joint Commission of Canada and United States, dealing with transboundary water and air issues.

Gray, 76, represented the federal riding of Windsor West from June 1962 to January of 2002 - 39 years, six months and 26 days.

Friday 5 October 2007

What's on first?

The Toronto Sun's front page Friday looked like a trial run at the new printing plant gone horribly wrong.

But stop the presses, sources say it was a normal press run at 333 King Street East and everything was intentional to appease the advertiser.

This is what Sun readers saw Friday:

Part of a Hyundai ad covering most of the right half of the front page photo.

All of Page 1 was repeated on Page 2.

Page 3 was a full page Hyundai ad.

Inside Your Sun, usually found on Page 2, was on Page 4.

The front page certainly is an eye-catcher and a keeper for Toronto Sun oddities collectors.

"It's like one of the annoying pop-up ads on the Internet, blocking what you actually clicked on and want to see, or in this case, paid for and want to see," said one TSF reader.

TSF's first impression? It was a failed Sun attempt to follow the Star and Post and have a 1 1/2 - page wrap ad for the front of the paper.

But sources say the first few pages were planned that way for the benefit of Hyundai.

"This is more of a story about how an advertiser pulled off a major front-page coup, with practically every publication in town - not how the Sun did it," said a source. "Shapes of things to come as ALL newspapers clamour for cash."

That's the bean counters at Quebecor for you - anything for a buck. Never mind the readers and the reputation the Toronto Sun has for daily, eye-catching front page photos.

In accommodating Hyundai, did the Sun consider all of the front page an ad, or just the space used for the overlay? Is this the future - large front page overlay ads?

The 1 1/2-page wrap ads appearing in the other Toronto papers this year do not interfere with the front page. You just pull the wrap ad off and read on.

(Speaking of wrap ads, if you want to know more about the ongoing "Know better. Newspapers." ad campaign in newspapers across Canada, click here.)

At first glance, Friday's front page ad placement in the Sun, the front page repeated on Page 2 etc., looks like someone screwed up big time.

Sun readers must have been wondering what's on first?

Why is first on second?

What, a full-page ad on third?

Hey Abbotttttttt.

Thursday 4 October 2007

Leafs, Scotty & John

And so it begins, another lengthy Toronto Maple Leafs season, with blanket Toronto Sun coverage, all leading up to the inevitable letdown and hopes for "next year."

There have been 40 years of "next year" for Leafs fans since T.O. last claimed the Stanley Cup in 1967. The annual excuses and cliches have worn thin, while player pay cheques, along with ticket prices, have grown fatter.

Growing up glued to the radio for Foster "The Voice of Hockey" Hewitt play-by-plays, each and every Leafs game was exciting, a theatre of the mind with ice. Then along came Hockey Night in Canada's televised games in 1952. In the mid-1950s, thanks to the Toronto Star, carriers were occasionally treated to live games at Maple Leaf Gardens.

With Hewitt at the mic for edge-of-your-seat "he shoots, he scores" broadcasts on radio and TV, winning wasn't everything.

In those days, the Leafs won a Stanley Cup, or two, or three, or four, so we were forgiving when the boys didn't win it all now and again.

But 40 years is one long, frustrating dry spell.

Hewitt is long gone, as is his generation of celebrated Canadian hockey writers who added to the enjoyment of every game with insightful locker room banter and game analysis.

Canadian hockey writers with flare and original, cliche-free prose are a rare breed, but two influential Toronto Sun Family members fit that mold.

They are Scott Morrison and John Iaboni, both hired by the tabloid in the 1970s. John (1971-1984) and Scott (1979-2001) made the Sun a better newspaper and left their mark.

John, a multi-talented National Newspaper Award nominee, left the
Sun in 1984 to become director of media and public relations at the Canadian Football League. Since 1989, he has been involved in a variety of sports-related ventures, including Olympics coverage for CBC.

Quebecor lost Scott as sports editor in 2001 following a 22-year run at the Toronto Sun and it was a big loss for Sun readers and colleagues. He has since become a Hockey Hall of Famer and a CBC commentator.

But Scott has returned to the Sun after six years by way of Quebecor's purchase of Osprey Media and he will be writing two columns a week.

Two Scott Morrison columns a week are better than no Scott Morrison columns.

We're not sure how often Scott's columns will focus on the Leafs, but whatever ink he devotes to our long overdue team will make next spring's letdown easier to accept.

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Gord Walsh returns

You can count on a lot of smiles and handshakes around the Toronto Sun newsroom Thursday when Gord Walsh returns to bolster the city desk.

With Dave Ellis, an assistant city editor, in hospital following a recent fall from his bicycle, and ACE Lisa Lisle leaving next Tuesday to become Sun Media's new national online editor, a call was made to the old newsroom pro.

"It was decided the desk needed depth on the desk - fast," a source told TSF.

Gord, who made his exit as managing editor on Feb. 2 after eight years on that job, agreed to return to the Sun newsroom to help out Kevin Hann while his city desk is short staffed.

He will be working with Kevin, ACE Jonathan Kingstone and Al Parker, an associate managing editor who helps out on city desk, which is still light for a city desk at a major daily newspaper.

A source said Gord, who got his start at the Sun in the 1980s as a reporter, agreed to a three-month contract, most likely because the Sun is still close to his heart.

Not Quebecor, just the newsroom and the people in it who were a big part of his life for two decades.

The old pros do it best and with Lou Clancy also returning to the roost (read Grant Robertson's Globe story), perhaps the focus of the Sun will change for the positive, back to solid news and investigative reporting and away from pages of Hollywood fluff and the Internet.

The thin newsroom staff, halved since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999, needs to feel positive these days and the old Clancy/Walsh one-two just might be the answer.

Meanwhile, a lot of colleagues, family and friends are wishing Dave Ellis a speedy recovery via the CarePages web site.

Dave is missed in the newsroom, so hurry back, is the word from fellow staffers.