Saturday 31 May 2008

Day 1: Joan Sutton

Joan Sutton Straus, a Day Oner and former Toronto Sun Lifestyle editor, remembers moods experienced that memorable weekend in 1971 when the Tely folded and the Sun rose:

"A blur. The Blur came from the wake the night before. I still have the T-shirt with all those Tely names autographed front and back.

And panic, because I arrived at the Eclipse building to discover that this was real: I had an office of my own, with a very large hole in the wall, through which I could see George Gross.

I had a page to fill and can't remember what I filled it with. I do remember realizing that I would have to fill page after page, day after day.

In the beginning, it was a dusty, cold place, with a hole in the wall at the back and plaster dust everywhere, but it was warmed by the spirit of pioneering and our readers.

Our readers, furious that the Tely had been closed, brought us food and drink and bought the paper and forgave us our typos. It was a suitable setting for a great adventure.

In recalling the glamor and headiness of those days, I think everyone sometimes forget how very hard we worked. I wrote fashion, food, a daily column, a weekly interview, and to get advertising, we produced supplements, bridal, fur, salutes to career girls and volunteers.

George Anthony covered film, theater, cabaret, plus a daily column and features.

On that first day, given the lateness of the night before and the fact that I did have a husband who was justifiably grumpy, and two small kids, I didn't stay around for the first paper to come off the press.

But next morning, I was in the car in my nightgown and bathrobe, going from one old Tely newspaper box to another and another . . . all empty. I went home totally dismayed, sure that there had been a press breakdown, or a delivery problem.

Not at all. The papers were all sold out. Even in the suburbs, readers were going out to buy the new Sun. That's how it started for me. And one of these days, I'll write about what went on from there . . ."

Thanks for the memories, Joan.

Gordo & The Bear

Ian Harvey, former longtime colleague of Toronto Sun vet Gord Walsh, welcomes the former managing editor to the freelancing fold.

Gord, once a reporter always a reporter, sniffed out the story about a black bear running loose in his Pickering neighborhood and sent off a 500-word report to the Sun's city desk like the old pro he is.

"Did you spot the Special to the Sun from the new Pickering correspondent Gord Walsh?" Ian asked TSF. "Ear to ear coverage on loose bear terrorizing school. Now that's something you don't read every day.

"Welcome to the ranks of freelancing Gord," says Ian, one busy freelancer and a big booster of CEP's Canadian Freelance Union.

TSF seconds that emotion, but Gord is one of those rare and gifted newsmen who should never be allowed to leave the newsroom. Chain him to a desk until he is 90 - and then let him freelance.

Friday 30 May 2008

Ah, Page 3 girls

David Asper, in a National Post Full Comment blurb on the Maxime Bernier/Julie Couillard affair, says:

"Most of the Canadian media started looking like a Sun Media page-three photo. Then, add a touch of bad-girl "biker chick" innuendo - and our libido-driven prurient interests come alive."

Ah, memories of Page 3 SUNshine Girls. How long has it been since they were booted to the back pages? Five, 10 years?

Internationally, the tab girls are on Page 3. Girls on Page 3, gossip on Page 6. But beginning with the Toronto Sun, Sun Media ladies were banished to the back pages and diminished in size. The popular Page 6 feature in T.O. is also history, but that is another story.

Burying the ladies was a major blunder made by those with broadsheet mentalities and it - and other changes - moved the Sun away from its wildly successful tabloid formula and down a slippery slope to mounting reader indifference.

But to longtime readers like David Asper, they will always be Page 3 girls in our hearts.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Odds & ends

Kingston Whig-Standard honours
Sun Media's acquisition of Osprey newspapers last summer increased the chances of reaping more newspaper awards and honourable mentions. The latest national recognition is an honourable mention for the Kingston Whig-Standard in the 2007 Canadian Journalism Foundation excellence in journalism awards. The paper won praise in the small/local media category. The awards were presented at a CJF gala in Toronto last night.

Sun's wrist slapped for "hose job" comments
A Canadian Press story says the Ontario Press Council has upheld a complaint against the Toronto Sun over a city hall story last October. The complaint involved contract negotiations for Toronto firefighters and the Sun's "secret hose job" comments in a column. The complaint was filed by Scott Marks, president of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Donato in black and white
We think we have figured out why Andy Donato's editorial cartoons in the Toronto Sun are a mix of black and white and colour - the number of pages. It seems the new Quebecor presses can't handle colour in the op-ed pages when the tab is beyond 100 pages. If so, that and earlier deadlines for the Sun are affecting reader service.

Speaking of earlier deadlines
The photo caption for Tuesday's front page photo of Sheryl Crow was "Something to Crowe about." People picking up the Sun expecting to read a concert review on Page 57 were shortchanged. All they got was another photo of Crow on Page 57, no review. (That's what we got beyond the GTA, we're not sure about the GTA). And what's with "Crowe?"

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Globe re 333

Grant Robertson, the Globe and Mail's media reporter, says Quebecor has put the 300,000- square-foot Toronto Sun building up for sale, but has not disclosed an asking price.

We do know condo developers have been advised the prime piece of real estate at 333 King Street East, home to the Toronto Sun since 1975, is available.

Maybe there are some crackerjack real estate agents among TSF's readers who can find the asking price for the property, idled presses and all.

Robertson's story says Quebecor may seek to lease the space from the new owners, but TSF relocation rumours include what's left of Sun staff moving in with Canoe employees nearby.

Employee morale at the Sun must be at an all-time low with a skeleton staff, their home up for sale, two of their best copy editors out the door and a questionable future.

Quebecor's dismantling of the once prosperous, proud and productive newspaper continues.

We can't help thinking about Gordon Gekko's philosophy in the movie Wall Street: "It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation."

Monday 26 May 2008

WinSun is up

You might think Sun Media would downplay positive ABC circulation figures during a contract dispute with 150 Winnipeg Sun employees, but that's not the case.

A Winnipeg Sun story today says circulation numbers for the six months ending March 31 are up "significantly" compared to the previous year.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations figures show paid average weekday circulation was 39,890 - up 4.89%, while the Winnipeg Free Press figures were up 1.06%, says the story.

The Winnipeg Sun weekend numbers were also up: Saturday, 37,993, up 3.5% and Sunday, 46,105, up 2.65%.

The story also says: Kevin Klein, Winnipeg Sun publisher and CEO, says the Sun's increased numbers reflect the commitment newspaper employees have made to providing an alternative voice in news, sports, and entertainment that otherwise wouldn't be heard in this market.

Excellent praise for employees and positive circulation figures, just in time for management and union conciliation talks.

TSF awaits the six-month ABC figures for the Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton Suns, which will be countdowns to the end of Sun Media's involvement with ABC.

Sun Media, Torstar and Transcontinental recently announced they are quitting U.S.-based ABC in favour of the Canadian Circulation Audit Board.

ABC figures for Toronto's four dailies for the six months ending March 31 are spotty.

Globe and Mail figures posted are: Monday to Friday average paid daily circulation - 312,713 and 385,703 on Saturday.

National Post figures are 199,402 weekdays and 209,595 on Saturdays

The Toronto Sun and Toronto Star figures haven't been posted.

The only ABC figures online for the Ottawa Sun are Weekdays - 49,504; Saturday - 41,754; Sunday - 46,534.

Changes from the same period in the previous year are not mentioned.

333 memories

Updated 06/01/08
An ongoing collection of comments about Sun Media's pending sale of 333 King Street East, the Toronto Sun's digs since the summer of '75.

Joan Sutton Straus, a Day Oner and former Lifestyle editor: "My main memory of the King Street East building is all those computers - and having to learn to use them.

After the Eclipse building, it was very grand indeed and instead of having to write a daily column, a food feature, a fashion page, a weekly interview and fill the rest of the week's space myself, I looked out on a staff: a secretary and two writers in the Lifestyle department.

My office was bigger but, alas, it did not feature the hole in the wall that made it possible for George Gross to give me daily advice. His office was across the room. Andy Donato still stopped by to give me my daily hug.

The bosses, Creighton and Hunt, were on a different floor from the rest of us, but that didn't mean we didn't beat a path to their door, demanding more money in our budget, threatening to resign and then setting off for the Winston's martini lunch to negotiate.

The space was grander and Pierre Berton and company - who predicted the Sun would never succeed - were eating humble pie, but we were still very much the Sun - committed to its success, competitive, unconventional, joyous.

And I do mean joyous."

Ian Harvey, former veteran Toronto Sun reporter, remembers the food and grooming services at 333, including Doug Creighton's personal barber setting up shop.

"Yeah, the barber, where the ATM machine was on the ground floor. He had a little tiny room Doug set up for him. He was Doug's barber. I want to say his name was Tony, but that would be too much of a cliche."

Ian also remembers the roaming cafeteria: first down in the basement, with vending machines, to the full 6th floor cafeteria "where you got off the elevator, walked by the executive offices with those lovely ladies and west to the cafe with the tables overlooking King St.

"Then when they added the west wing, they moved downstairs to the first floor and called in Reds.
Not that Doug ever ate there. He was too busy at Winston's."

Bill Brioux, former Toronto Sun television writer: "All I know is I'll be pissed if they move the Sun to Brampton.

"As someone who worked there in the last decade, it certainly was nice to be sandwiched between the re-emerging Distillery district and the 'Old Toronto' charm of the Market area. I do miss walking that 'hood.

"I also always felt that, from the wide foyer to the grand, well lit atrium at the top of the stairs, it was a cool building to enter, but that it got less and less impressive the closer you got to my desk.

"I was interviewing somebody downstairs in Reds once - might have been Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall or Brent Butt from Corner Gas - and when they realized the address was 333, they said, 'Makes sense - the place seems about half Satanic.' Boy, were they right."

E-mail your comments on the sale of 333.

Sunday 25 May 2008

Dyck leaving

Sun Media just can't seem to keep its award winning photographers.

Darryl Dyck, named photographer of the year yesterday by the Canadian Association of Journalists, is leaving the Edmonton Sun after 10 award-winning years.

"Unfortunately, he’s leaving the Edmonton Sun while he’s at the top," says an Edmonton Sunday Sun story by Kevin Crush. The story says Dyck is headed for the west coast to work as a freelance photographer.

However, Edmontonians should still be able to see his photos because he plans to be working for the Canadian Press wire service, the story says.

In April, Calgary Sun photographer Brett Gundlock learned he had won a couple of Dunlop Awards. He moved to the National Post in Toronto on May 7, weeks before the Dunlop Awards gala June 26.

And, as noted recently after his NNA photography win, Dave Chidley was lost to the Canadian Press after 23 years at Sun Media when laid off by the London Free Press. He had previously worked at the Calgary and Toronto Suns.

Plus award winning Toronto Sun photog Dave Lucas, who fled to the Globe and Mail in April of 2007.

Four gifted young Sun Media photographers lost in less than two years.

Plus Fred Thornhill, an award winning Toronto Sun vet who took a buyout last year during the Quebecor cutbacks chaos and is now shooting photos for Reuters.

For Sale: 333

It's official, Mike Strobel says in his Sunday Sun column - 333 King Street East, the Toronto Sun's home since the summer of 1975, is for sale.

"(Newsflash: The Sun building will be listed for sale, publisher Kin-Man Lee tells staff. It's too big and he doesn't want to be a landlord. So . . . )," he writes.

We hate to gloat, but TSF has been forecasting the sale of 333 since early last year.

Take a read of Strobel's column before it is yanked and a $12 fee is imposed to read the rest of the story.

Strobel wraps up his column with:

"I wonder if the Eclipse Building is available."

Two floors of the Sun's first home at King and John Streets would probably accommodate what is left of the tabloid.

Construction of 333 a mere four years after the feisty Sun was born on Nov. 1, 1971, was a proud achievement for all involved.

Sun employees working out of the Eclipse Building were so eager to view the inside of their new three-storey home, Doug Creighton arranged for guided tours weeks before the official opening.

The Sun was on a roll and the mood was giddy. Connie Nicholson (now Woodcock) was the first to sit down to type a story in the new digs.

This blogger's story about Cameron March, a missing Burlington-area boy, was the first front page story/photo off the shiny new Goss presses.

Editors had been making nightly runs to a Mississauga print shop to get the job done, so watching the presses at 333 roll for the first time was the first of many causes for celebration.

The house that Doug, Peter and Don built was also the first real bond the Sun had with its readers. Paul Rimstead invited readers to come on down and 5,000 people showed up.

Readers lined up to take guided tours of 333. They were invited to parties at 333.

The original 333 quickly outgrew the rising Sun and it expanded upwards and outwards, swallowing the large parking lot to the west and giving Doug and other execs offices on the 6th floor. And Red's, a first floor cafeteria named for Doug.

While the Sun at 333 was an open house for a few years, security was tightened following demonstrations by groups opposed to Sun content and a few thefts in the building.

Life at 333 was never dull. Lou Grant showed up for a day as senior city editor; Peter Worthington's office was raided by the RCMP; TV and movie stars arrived for interviews; Barbara Amiel did her thing as editor-in-chief long before she met Conrad.

But most of all, 333 was filled with fiercely loyal and competent employees who did Doug, Peter and Don proud and they were rewarded with bonuses, sabbaticals, parties etc. The Sun never needed a union with Doug at the helm.

The saddest day for 333 was the day employees gathered in the second floor atrium in 1992 to hear Doug had been ousted from the paper he loved. It was the day the music died

And then along came Quebecor in 1999.

The Miracle on King turned into a lingering nightmare.

Putting a For Sale sign up at 333 is another nail in the coffin.

OT: Hillary

Hillary, be gone.

CAJ Sun wins

Edmonton Sun photographer Darryl Dyck added another award to his resume last night, winning the photojournalism category in the Canadian Association of Journalists awards.

A CNW Group press release says the CAJ Awards for Investigative Journalism were presented during a gala dinner in Edmonton. Darryl's win was for a photo portfolio he submitted.

Heather Rivers and Elliot Ferguson, two reporters at Sun Media's Woodstock Sentinel-Review, won in the Community Newspaper category (circulation under 25,000) for their submission, Poverty in Prosperity's Shadow.

The top award, the Don McGillivray Award for Investigative Journalism, went to Greg McArthur and Gary Dimmock of the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen respectively for the entry, The Secret Agent Who Conned the Mounties.

Details of Darryl's photo portfolio weren't available, but you can sample the fine work he is doing in an Edmonton Sun photo gallery.

We would link to the winning Woodstock Sentinel-Review entry, but the paper doesn't have a web site.

Congrats to all.

The Toronto Sun wasn't nominated for any of the awards, but as the press release says, the CAJ awards are for "recognition for the best in investigative journalism" in Canada.

There has been more space devoted to Hollywood bimbos and fluff than to dedicated, investigative pieces since the Sun newsroom numbers plunged to half of its pre-Quebecor size.

There have been a few exceptions, but generally, the newsroom and budget numbers don't allow for gung-ho investigative team assignments as witnessed in the earlier years.

Man, how the Toronto Sun used to kick butt with local, national and international investigative reporting reaping national awards. That buzz is gone.

It's all about attitude and focus. The Globe and Mail has both and continues to consistently win top awards. The Globe was hiring last year when Sun Media was firing. Go figure.

Quebecor's end game for the profitable Toronto Sun is fuzzy, but when key people are shown the door, the latest being AMEs Darren McGee and Tim Fryer, hope for a happy ending is fading.

What's in the crystal ball? A stronger and more competitive Toronto Sun - or a free Sun/24 glorified shopper?

Stay tuned.

Friday 23 May 2008

WinSun offer nixed

A Winnipeg Free Press story says Sun Media and the union representing 150 Winnipeg Sun employees have agreed to concilliation hearings.

The union walked away from Sun Media's final three-year contract offer, which includes a 2% per year pay hike, yesterday, says the Free Press.

Sun publisher Kevin Klein has e-mailed staff asking them to reconsider, says FP.

A strike deadline has not been set, but 83% of the CEP members at the Sun previously voted in favour of a strike.

Press Council

The Ontario Press Council doesn't get a lot of ink year to year, but the work goes on 32 years after it was launched to monitor the conduct of newspapers across the province.

A recent summary of complaints shows there were 100 reader complaints in 2007, down from 120 in 2006 and "well below the record 169 in 1992."

The posted decisions make for interesting reading and involve every level of print media in Ontario, from small town dailies to the Big Four in T.O., including the Toronto Sun.

Readers of any Ontario newspaper can register complaints with the OPC in writing if they are not satisfied with responses from newspapers, but how many readers are aware of the process?

Obviously, enough to keep the OPC busy.

Says the OPC:

"From its inception in 1972 to the end of 2007, the Council adjudicated 524 complaints, upholding all or part of 260 and dismissing 254, some with reservations. Two complaints were withdrawn after hearings and no decision was reached in the remaining eight."

Thursday 22 May 2008

Star re 333

The Toronto Star says Quebecor has confirmed the sale of 333 King Street East, home to the Toronto Sun since 1975, is being considered.

It took a typo in Now magazine to bring the pending sale to light. One source tells TSF an announcement could be made as early as next week.

A Quebecor spokesperson told the Star only a third of the building's 300,000 square feet is being used.

Funny how that works. Disembowel six floors of a once thriving newspaper and shut down its internal presses and suddenly there is a lot of free space.

Sad days, indeed.

But we'll always have memories of all six floors filled with fiercely loyal and competent Toronto Sun colleagues enjoying the glory days of the tabloid, when the news - and readers - were Front Row Centre.

The new guy

His name is Jack Romanelli and they are calling him a newsroom manager.

He was managing editor of the Halifax Daily News when Transcontinental Media pulled the plug on Feb. 11, leaving him and 65 other employees unemployed.

“Not a second of advance notice," he told Aaron Burnett, a NovaNewsNet student reporter. "We showed up and they told us, ‘that’s it. Today was the last edition of the Daily News.’”

Tim Fryer and Darren "Woody" McGee, two Toronto Sun copy desk vets shown the door on Tuesday, must have shared that same mental shock punch in suddenly losing their jobs.

Was Romanelli's hiring by the Toronto Sun at the expense of Tim and Darren's jobs? Sources say he waited until they were out of the building before entering the newsroom.

Ah, to be a fly on the wall for that newsroom scenario.

The latest axing of talented and dedicated Sun newsroom staffers is not the last, insiders tell TSF. More heads will roll at the profitable, but perplexing, diminished tabloid.

The Sun has lost its edge and numerous loyal employees since Doug Creighton's ouster in November of 1992 and more so since Quebecor bought Sun Media in 1999.

As a couple of TSF readers have said, Doug, the Toronto Sun's late, great founding publisher, must be turning over in his grave once again with the exit of Tim and Darren.

But we digress.

Back to the new guy, plucked, not from within the Sun Media chain, but from the debris of the defunct Halifax Daily News, a tabloid that had a circulation of about 20,000.

Readers of the Nova Scotia Business Journal became aware of Romanelli's move to the Toronto Sun on April 29 when this news brief appeared:

"Romanelli moves on
Halifax - The editor of the now defunct Halifax Daily News, Jack Romanelli, will start a new job as a newsroom manager at the Toronto Sun next week.

Since the February closure of the Daily News, Romanelli was offered several jobs outside of Nova Scotia, but was waiting for a career opportunity to arise locally.

He admits that it is unfortunate that there were no real career options available that would allow him to remain in Halifax.

Romanelli and his wife, Jane Davenport, editor of Halifax Metro, have listed their Clayton Park house on the market."

Previous newspaper stops for Romanelli during his 20 years in the news biz: The Montreal Gazette and Cornwall Standard-Freeholder.

It's interesting to note that a few Daily News employees were transferred to a new free Halifax newspaper in the Metro International chain.

A rumour during the ongoing Quebecor chainsaw massacre that peaked in the spring of 2007 was Sun newspapers would eventually be merged with free 24 Hours commuter newspapers.

With 333 being eyed by condo developers, the downsizing of the Little Paper That Grew to free paper status doesn't sound far fetched.

And when Sun rim legends like Tim and Darren become victims of the carnage, there is little doubt Quebecor is more interested in packaging ads, not news.

The heart of the old Sun gets weaker by the day.

Wednesday 21 May 2008

333 future iffy

Now magazine tells TSF the address in a condo development story should have read 330 King Street East, not 333, the Sun's address.

We would consider that good news, but a TSF tipster directed us to, a web site that pinpoints 333 as "available" property.

"A listing of all of the buildings that we have available on King Street East," UrbanDB says - and 333 is on the list.

The site's intro reads: "Welcome to UrbanDB, an online open-content collaborative effort to accurately document development and real-estate activity."

One way or another, it sounds like the days of 333 being home to the Toronto Sun are numbered.

Darren & Tim out

Darren "Woody" McGee and Tim Fryer, two veteran Toronto Sun copy desk vets, were axed yesterday and escorted to the door, say several TSF tipsters.

That mind boggling news shreds any of the hirings and other positive vibes at the Sun in the past few months.

"No reason given (not that Quebecor ever needs one) and an Osprey staffer was watching to step in once Woody and Tim were escorted out of the building," says a reliable source.

Another source, former Sun graphics vet Len Fortune, told TSF:

"Got the news last night that both Tim Fryer and Woody McGee got their walking papers yesterday.

"Tim and Woody have been the mainstay of the rim . . . hopefully both were prepared for the Sun's actions and weren't blindsided.

"I can't comment on the Sun's action as I have no details, but I will say that the two were instrumental in the successes of the Sun and that the paper owes both for their effort.

"I wish them and their families good health and happiness."

Another tipster, calling the axing of McGee and Fryer a "shocker" announcement, tells TSF:

"It is baffling that Quebecor would lay off two senior longtime editors (neither of whom is in the union) out of the blue like this."

Darren and Tim were among the unsung heroes of the rim since the 1980s and great people to work with night after night.

Out with the old pros, who know the magic of tabloid news packaging and creating those celebrated front pages, in with? Who knows.

Dead beat

A fake obit story out of South Carolina reminds us of the early Toronto Sun years when obits were taken by phone and published without question.

Obits called into the city desk were passed on to the rewrite desk, or the closest idle reporter. The obits would then be viewed by city desk, the news desk and proofreaders.

On this particular day, a man on the telephone gave a reporter details for an obit. It cleared all of the checkpoints before it was published.

The next day, an astute reader advised the Sun we had been had. It was a fake obit and the telling clue was the name of an island where the supposed deceased had died.

It was, indeed, a fake obit, submitted as a practical joke.

The Sun quickly imposed security checks for all obits, requiring staff to telephone funeral homes to confirm they had called in the obits.

The fake obit and actual funeral arrangements mentioned in the lengthy Post and Courier story were more elaborate than a bogus called-in obit, making it all the more bizarre.

In a nutshell, a woman led the funeral home and the newspaper to believe she had a daughter in the U.S. Air Force who had been killed in Iraq on May 11. A photo of a woman torn from a bridal magazine was used for her "daughter's" obit.

Her motive? She thought a death in the family might buy some time with her creditors.

Numerous people who left words of comfort and condolences on web sites were not amused.

Definitely one for the offbeat news column.

Now, Now

Hold the phone, says Toronto Sun Editor Rob Granatstein, 333 King Street East isn't a future condo site as reported in the current issue of Now magazine.

"I think Now has the wrong side of the street," Rob tells TSF in an e-mail. "There's a 14-storey building under construction on the west side of Princess, at maybe 323 King. I see it from my window. I'm pretty sure that's what they're talking about."

TSF is awaiting a reply from Now re the 333 information in its story.

But if 333 is safe for now, that's good news.

The building Doug, Peter and Don built in 1975, the few remaining Toronto Sun Day Oners and other 70s and 80s vets are the last links to what made the Sun a success story.

Without them, the Toronto Sun will become just another Canadian newspaper, without the heart that made it a unique tabloid for employees and readers during the first 20 or so years.

TSF tipsters say there are more changes in the wind for the profitable flagship tabloid. The wise move would be more unique tab fare and less broadsheet content, but that's just us.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Bye bye 333?

Has 333 King Street East, called home by Toronto Sun staff since 1975, been sold to make way for a 14-storey condo development?

The latest issue of Now Magazine says just that:

In the works
• Fourteen-storey condo with penthouses at 333 King East.

TSF has been hearing rumours of 333's sale since early last year, when Quebecor's buzz saws were cutting staff and services in the six-storey flagship Sun building.

The pride of the Toronto Sun, built just four years after the launch of the never-say-die tabloid, opened in the summer of 1975 to the applause of Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt and the entire Sun team.

Not much left at 333 these days.

The presses have been silenced, some departments have been severely trimmed or moved and the newsroom is still about half the size of its glory days.

What's left could easily move back into the Eclipse Building at King Street West and John Street, where it all began on Nov., 1, 1971.

If they are announcing a condo project for 333 King East now, it will be only a matter of time before Sun staffers pack their belongings and merge with another Sun Media/Quebecor operation.

And that will be a sad day for Sun vets who witnessed the growth of the Little Paper That Grew.

Ian re Paul

Paul King will get the party he wanted tomorrow night and there will no doubt be an endless stream of stories told about the late media legend.

Ian Harvey, freelance writer and former Toronto Sun vet, decided to share his Paul King story with TSF readers in an e-mail. Says Ian:

"I never really knew Paul to talk to him. Saw his byline, of course, in the Toronto Star. Had to chase it more times than I would have liked when he scooped us on some stories, notably, the piano man (whose first name escapes me, but his last name was) Drake and the princess he married and very quickly unmarried. Weird stuff.

Anyway, my celebrity sighting with Paul happened very early in my career. I had been hired by the Sun in December 1978 from the Scarborough Mirror, following Lorrie Goldstein to 333 King East. (and in turn followed soon by Jean Sonmor and Gord Walsh).

I started Jan. 1, 1979, and so by Nov. 10 that year, I was pretty much on my way to being a veteran, the newsroom being as young as it was and survival of the fittest and all that stuff.

It was a Saturday and I was working the day cop desk, which all GAs did because in those days there were only two cop deskers, Cal Millar and John Schenk.

It's 5:30 p.m. and close to quitting time when I hear a call from the Toronto Fire Department for a kid trapped on the escalator at the Sheraton Hotel.

Now in the month prior, we'd had an inquest into the death of a man who fell from the main floor to the basement from the balcony which surrounds those main escalators. So, of course, I'm off like a starter's pistol, screaming out of the newsroom on the trail of a story which would make my day, which so far had been rewriting major news reports and OPP traffic deaths - yer typical, boring weekend fare.

I'm 23 years old and full of it . . . piss and vinegar of course, not the stuff I'm full of now, which is a different colour.

I throw the 1978 Pontiac Sunbird into rubber-screeching mode, fly across town and park on the sidewalk in front of the esteemed hotel, grabbing my cameras - a beat up Canon AE-1 and an EF (bought used from Barry Gray) because we always had to shoot colour and black and white.

Inside, I get to the scene and the TFD guys are pulling this kid's foot from the escalator - his pants leg had got caught and he was shaken and bruised but not torn, so to speak. I approach and the TFD crew, realizing a photo-op when they see one, beckon me closer to shoot. And just as I do, these two local yokel security guards from the Sheraton decide I shouldn't be there and tried to muscle me away.

Na uh. Not going to happen. I lean forward and start shooting so they try to grab my arms, one each side of me, and then frog march me backwards outta there. Of course, I get a little miffed and vociferous. The AE is in my hands and as I spin around, the EF on my shoulder swings up and clocks one of them in the face. They take it as a punch and the next thing I'm on my back fighting with these guys.

Now, at 23, quite a few pounds lighter but a student of martial arts at the time, I wasn't about to go turtle so there were a few punches and kicks exchanged. But the next thing I know is that this guy is pulling the goons off me and flinging them to the side like some super hero.

Turns out it was Paul King. He was there for some unrelated reason and drifted over, I guess. I never did ask him why he was there.

I went back to the Sun, filed my pics and stories and went home. The cops showed up four hours later and I hid in the back bedroom until the legal beagles advised me to go downtown to 52 Division and then to St. Mikes to record the bruises.

Paul's quote, though, was priceless. Something like: "All I saw was this reporter on his back and these security guards wailing on him." Which kind of put the kibosh to their story that I was interfering with TFD and the "rescue."

Both the Sun and the Star carried stories. I was charged with assault. We counter charged them with assault.

The only other bookend to this story is that the next morning I was slated for 10-6 when I got a call from the city desk - I think it was Bob Vezina.

"Harvey? We need you in Mississauga right now," he says in that typical growl.

"Yeah, sure, but I have to go to 590 Jarvis and get my fingerprints and picture taken over last night's little thing."

"Okay, but then you get your ass out to Mississauga, the fucking city's on fire."

And indeed it was. Bill Sandbox Sandford's picture on the Sunday Sun front told the story and the rest is history, save for a couple of things.

I never got to say thanks to Paul for saving my ass. I know I got a couple of punches and kicks in, but given my prone position I was going to get a lot more than I dished out.

So, for the record, thanks Paul.

I know you were in your share of conflicts over the years and I'm glad our paths crossed. I would have done the same for you in the circumstance, and will for anyone in a similar jam in the years ahead - in your memory.

You were a heck of an adversary - and saviour."

Thanks for the e-mail Ian.

Sunday 18 May 2008

TorSun job

It is a part-time position, but Saturday's Toronto Sun ad for an entertainment reporter should be a big draw.

The Sun says it needs someone to "cover and review music in and around Toronto, and occasionally back up other entertainment writers."

Excellent gig.

While it sounds like a perfect opportunity for a journalism grad keen on music, or for a natural itching for a break, the ad calls for a minimum of two years experience on a daily newspaper.

That's a bummer.

Why not leave it open to anyone willing to work his or her butt off to get a foot in the door of a major city daily?

Heck, you could turn the hiring of a big city daily concert reviewer into a competition.

A couple of trial concert reviews by applicants on the short list would quickly determine the scope of their knowledge of the local, national and international entertainment scene and their writing skills.

Deadline for applications is May 28.

Saturday 17 May 2008

Dunlop trickle

Sun Media's in-house Edward Dunlop Awards, announced almost a month ago, are still trickling onto the Internet.

Canada's largest newspaper chain, for unknown reasons, didn't release a complete list when the awards were announced April 22, so the wins have been trickling in from online newspapers publishing local wins.

Northumberland Today has just announced Pete Fisher, a Cobourg Daily Star photographer, won a spot news photo award for one of his many memorable Highway of Heroes processions along Hwy. 401.

Fisher, a 20-year photo vet, also received an honourable mention in the same category for the gunpoint arrest of a suspect at a Tim Horton's outlet.

Northumberland Today says Fisher hopes his late grandfather, a Cobourg photo studio owner, would be proud of his achievements in photography.

It says Fisher was "a driving force" in having the stretch of Highway 401 from Trenton to Toronto designated the Highway of Heroes.

"Every time I go to Trenton, I shed a tear," Fisher says.

Congrats, Pete. Your grandfather would be proud.

Thursday 15 May 2008

30 - Paul King

Updated 05/17/08 re Globe obit and wake
Paul King
never worked for the Toronto Sun, but his presence was often felt during newsroom banter about local media legends.

Former Sun staffers Ron Base and Brian Vallee helped Toronto Star reporter Tracy Huffman give Paul a fitting sendoff following his death Friday from cancer. He was 72.

(Vallee also wrote a royal tribute for a May 17 Globe and Mail obit.)

King, a Manitoulin Island-born reporter, ghost writer, author and world traveller, enjoyed one amazing ride for a preacher's son.

Vallee says Paul didn't want a memorial service, just a party.

"He wanted a party and a party he will have."

The gathering will be next Wednesday (May 21). E-mail Vallee for time and location and a head count.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Fournier & NNAs

Did we miss it, or did the Toronto Sun not publish a single word about Friday's National Newspaper Awards banquet in Toronto?

It took an e-mail to TSF from Bryan Cantley, NNA secretary, to discover that Lew Fournier, a Toronto Sun copy desk vet, was recognized as an "unsung hero for his great career on the desk."

Cantley says Sun Media's participation at the NNAs needs to be mentioned. He writes:

"I wanted to post some info on the Saturday NNA story about the number of Sun Media people recognized at the awards show on Friday.

"Christina Spencer was a co-emcee along with Linwood Barclay of the Star and they were terrific, very funny, very topical.

"Lew Fournier was recognized as an unsung hero for his great career on the desk and was one of the presenters, as was Mandy Martin of Cobourg and Port Hope.

"Lou Clancy paid tribute to two of the greats sportswriters ever - Milt Dunnell and George Gross."

Thanks for the e-mail, Bryan.

We're delighted to hear Lew Fournier took a bow in front of media reps from across Canada. He has been one of the Sun's unsung heroes for more than two decades.

By-Liner No. 1

You find the most interesting collectibles at country estate auctions, including copies of The By-Liner from the 1950s.

The prize for a two-hour wait at a Corneil's country auction in Little Britain, near Lindsay, was The By-Liner, Vol. 1, No. 1, from April of 1951, complete and in excellent reading condition.

This By-Liner, which included a program of events for the Toronto Men's Press Club's By-Line Ball, held April 14, 1951, at the Royal York Hotel, recalls another era of newspaper men and women.

An era when newspaper legends mingled with the greenest of journalists after hours at flourishing press clubs and special events, with the occasional royalty, sports and other celebrities at the bar.

(The second By-Liner from May 1952 includes the classic photo of Jimmy Durante and Ted Reeve nose to nose at the press club.)

In April of 1951, H.E. McCallum was mayor of Toronto and his welcoming message is on Page 4. A full-page message from Wessely Hicks, president of the TMPC, is on Page 6. There is also a greeting from Ruth Honderich Spielberg, president of the Toronto Women's Press Club, on Page 8.

On Page 7, the first paragraph in a story by J.V. McAree reads: "Fifty years ago there were six daily newspapers in Toronto. Today there are three."

The six: The Globe, Telegram, Star, News, Toronto World and Mail and Empire. The three: Globe, Telegram and Star.

That same lead today would read: "Fifty years ago there were three daily newspapers in Toronto. Today there are four."

in 1951, the Toronto Men's Press Club was only seven years old, but already a maker of legendary newspaper tales, involving giants of the business, sports and entertainment celebrities and the occasional royalty.

The first By-Liner captures the mood of the day, with columns by Frank Tumpane, Alex Barris, Bruce West, Ted Reeve, Cay Moore, Milt Dunnell, Marilyn Bell, Jack Karr, Art Chambers, Greg Clark, Scott Young and Byrne Hope Sanders.

The Toronto Sun wouldn't rise for another 20 years, but a few of those newspaper legends would still be around in 1971 to contribute to the success of the tabloid.

Ads in Vol. 1 of The By-Liner also revive memories of another era, including a Maple Leaf Stadium ad announcing the 1951 baseball season opener, Eaton's, Simpson's etc.

Reading the first By-Liner makes us nostalgic for By-Liner Balls, with Patty Conklin's Midway, dancing, a stage show, Firefighters' Awards, the crowning of a Miss By-Liner etc.

And for a time when flourishing press clubs and after hours camaraderie of reporters, photographers, columnists and editors were the order of the day.

The By-Liner, Vol. 1, No. 1 would be the perfect donation to a Canadian media museum - if we had one.

Or we could hold a TSF auction for Volumes 1 and 2.

Any bids?

Saturday 10 May 2008

Donato's genius

Sun readers who are not fans of sport and the opera might have scratched their heads over Andy Donato's editorial cartoon on Friday.

But for most other readers, it no doubt left them smiling and talking once again about the pure genius of Andy Donato.

Priceless - and in colour, as all of his cartoons should be.

We're not sure how long Canoe keeps Andy's cartoons online, but give it a try.

Sun families

For a lot of Sun employees, the "family" in Sun family has been just that - family.

Doug Creighton and sons Bruce and Donald; Robert MacDonald and daughter Moira; Doug MacFarlane and son Richard; Paul Rimstead and brother Rolf; Peter Worthington and stepdaughter Danielle, the Tonks brothers etc.

Now that the Sun chain has been around for almost 40 years, we're getting another generation of Sun family members.

Enter Sean McCann, 28, a new copy editor at the Calgary Sun. He is the son of Sean McCann, a former Toronto and Calgary Sun vet. Sean Sr., now a grandpa, taught his son well.

And Ryan Pyette, a promising young Sun Media sports writer working out of the London Free Press, is a nephew of Les Pyette, the retired Toronto/Calgary/LFP Sun vet.

Sun, in the blood, all the way.

Thursday 8 May 2008

One for George

A recent Toronto Star story said the cost of building an indoor rink these days is about $2 million.

That sounds like a fair price to pay to build a George Gross Arena.

George, who left us on Good Friday at 85, deserves nothing less than his name on an arena dedicated to developing the skills of new generations of figure skaters and hockey players.

Figure skating was dear to his heart, so much so that George is being added to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame this year.

The Baron's final Toronto Sun column, written on the eve of his fatal heart attack, was about Canadian Olympic skating star Kurt Browning.

George also wrote about all levels of hockey, from the minors to the NHL, with equal enthusiasm. He was a widely respected friend of the game.

So a George Gross Arena is a natural.

While $2 million is almost 10 times the $250,000 it cost to build Ted Reeve Arena at Main and Gerrard in the Beach district in the 1950s, it can be raised with city, corporate and community support. The city desperately needs new rinks, so work around the hurdles.

The Ted Reeve Arena story is inspirational, with east-end community individuals and groups raising $125,000 over seven years after the city guaranteed the first $125,000.

Ted Reeve Arena, named after the former lacrosse star, CFL football player and legendary Toronto Telegram/Toronto Sun sports writer, has been home to skaters since 1954.

The city, the Telegram and the community got the job done then and with the outpouring of love and affection for George Gross in 2008, there is no doubt the city, the Toronto Sun and the community can make George Gross Arena a reality.

Perhaps it should be built in Etobicoke, home to George and Elizabeth and their two children for decades.

George, the Toronto Sun's founding sports editor, not only shared Ted Reeve's love of sports and sports writing, but also love of community. He helped raise millions for Variety Village and other charities close to his heart over the decades.

The least we can do is raise $2 million to honour George for his untiring dedication to sports and the community.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

A new logo

Focus, for the lack of a better word, is good, especially in the newspaper business. So the new corporate logo unveiled Monday by Quebecor Media is warranted.

Sun Media chief Michael Sifton unveiled the new corporate logo in the latest issue of Think Media, a periodic Quebecor Media newsletter for Sun Media employees.

Publications in the largest newspaper chain in Canada have been under several umbrellas - Sun Media, Osprey, Bowes - and one brand for all makes sense. Focus clarifies.

But the focus on appeasing advertisers in the announcement of the new logo and in other content in the newsletter pushes the gathering of news to the sidelines.

And that is rather odd timing, this being the week when hundreds of reporters, photographers, columnists and editors will be gathering in Toronto for a Canadian Press dinner and the National Newspaper Awards gala.

Will any of the guest speakers take the opportunity to pull a Howard Beale and tell Canadian journalists worth their salt they should be mad as hell with the diminished emphasis on ethics in journalism and good, old fashioned competitive news gathering?

Probably not.

But, back to the new Sun Media logo announcement:

“As Canada’s largest newspaper publisher there are a lot of advantages to strengthening our brand image and finding as many ways as possible to work as one team,” says Sifton.

“Using a Sun Media logo will enhance our profile with advertisers, while providing a strong platform for all of the publications that serve the hundreds of communities where we operate,” says Sifton.

“Our local banners will continue as before to have a strong presence in the communities, but connecting them under the Sun Media corporate brand reinforces our network and our offer to advertisers.”

The new logo will replace other graphics, such as the Osprey bird, and will be used in conjunction with the Bowes and Osprey legal business names. The mastheads of all the Sun Media publications will be making use of the new Sun Media logo.

The new logo will be phased in on new business cards, letterhead, cheques and other materials as new stocks are ordered.

The newsletter says a style guide, being developed by Toronto Sun Creative Services Supervisor Brian Corcoran, will indicate how to use the new logo in various applications.

“We want to make the best use of the Sun Media branding but without interfering with the publication names that are important in each market,” says Corcoran.

It appears the red and white front page Sun logos will not be affected, which is good news.

Not so good news - a newsletter that puts most of the emphasis on advertisers and bean counting and little on the encouragement and support of competitive news gathering.

Monday 5 May 2008

Metric converter

By popular demand, a web site that converts the cost of gasoline from per litre to per imperial gallon.

For those paying $1.17 per litre, that is $5.32 per gallon in good old Canadian currency.

No use complaining, but you can reduce gasoline usage by driving the speed limit, using cruise control and properly inflating your tires.

Biting comment

The Owen Sound Sun Times earns some kind of a free speech award for publishing an online letter to the editor that tears a royal strip off the Sun Media newspaper.

"If I were a food critic served a plate of The Sun Times my comment would be that the newspaper is most often bland and boring, not unlike lumpy lukewarm overcooked oatmeal," writes Susan George of Wiarton.

"Where has the passion gone in the newspaper industry?" she asks in her letter. "'In the day' journalists lived and breathed the next story and the editor hungrily published it.

"An exclusive story could be in Owen Sound's backyard and The Sun Times would not recognize it if they tripped over it," she says. "Reminds me of a small narrow minded businessperson who would bend over to pick up a quarter and miss the $50 bill.

"I have conducted a survey of my own, asking friends and acquaintances what they think of The Sun Times and the general consensus is that it is boring and uneventful."


And this is from a reader with newspaper people in her family.

Sun photo tour

By golly, Sun Media web masters are finally getting the hang of providing stories with links to related photos.

Exhibit A: The Sunday Sun story about a Saskatoon exhibit of photographs taken by Toronto Sun news photographers.

"The compelling shots, taken by some of the Toronto Sun's best photographers, are just a snippet of those on display at a special public exhibition in Saskatoon beginning this Thursday," says Ben Spencer's story.

To the right of the story, under a "Photo Galleries" caption, is a link to three dramatic photographs from the exhibit, taken by award-winning Veronica Henri, Stan Behal and Dave Thomas.


TV guide-less

Winnipeg Sun readers who paid for their Sunday papers at outlets and corner boxes soon discovered the television guide was missing.

The guide has been axed for all but home delivery and online subscribers and that's the rub for readers who buy the Sunday Sun at stores and boxes primarily for the TV guide.

After paying for the paper, they read about the reason for the lack of a TV guide.

"If you picked up today's Winnipeg Sun at a store or from a vending box, you might be wondering what happened to the weekly TV listings which normally come with the newspaper," says the story.

"As part of our initiative to reduce the price of the Sunday Sun, from $1.25 to just a dollar, we have eliminated the weekly TV guide from all papers, with the exception of those delivered to subscribers," it continues.

"In speaking with readers over the past few years, we found the vast majority of single-copy buyers didn't use the weekly TV listings. So rather than watching all that newsprint go to waste, we decided to make the TV guide available only to subscribers. In the process, we were able to reduce the price by 20%.

"Of course, we know there are some readers who pick up the Sunday Sun in order to get the weekly TV listings. For those readers, we offer a number of subscription options, ranging from seven-days-a-week, to Sunday-only, to our new e-edition, all of which carry the weekly listings.

"To learn more about our subscription options, or to give us your feedback, just call 632-6506."

We don't buy that "vast majority of single-copy buyers didn't use the weekly TV listings" explanation. Why guides only for home delivery subscribers? What has subscribing and not subscribing got to do with providing a reader service?

Weekend TV guides in newspapers appear to be on the endangered species list. In Toronto, the Sunday Sun and Saturday Star television guides are looking lean and anemic.

Do it right, or don't do it at all.

The Globe and Mail is the only Toronto newspaper catering to couch potatoes, who want more in their newspaper guides than listings, a token story and a crossword puzzle.

The Globe's Friday TV/films combo section is full of stories, reviews, capsule comments etc.

But that's the Globe for you - it's just doing what it can to keep the customers satisfied.

Saturday 3 May 2008

Chicken soupers

Like father, like son.

Calgary Sun columnist Stephen Lautens, son of the late, great Toronto Star columnist Gary Lautens, is now a Chicken Souper like his dad.

Lautens says after columns by his father were used in several Chicken Soup books, he was invited to submit a Calgary Sun column for a Chicken Soup for the Father & Son's Soul book.

As he puts it in today's Calgary Sun: "It's like winning the Nobel Prize for columnists."

Without the $10,000 prize loot.

Stephen has a ways to go before topping poppa's Chicken Soup track record. Gary's columns have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul, Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul, Chicken Soup for the Parent's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Treasury.

And he isn't the first Sun staffer to share stories with the Chicken Soup audience.

Lorrie Goldstein, a Toronto Sun columnist, for one, as he notes in a review of Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul. (Also see

Are there other Sun columnists worthy of a Chicken Souper salute? E-mail us.

Thursday 1 May 2008

WinSun strike?

Winnipeg Sun employees have voted 83% to strike, says the Winnipeg Free Press. The vote yesterday did not set a strike deadline.

"Sun Media has been attacking our members for the past two years and created a horrible work atmosphere," Adolph Setek, CEP Local 191 rep, said in a release, the Free Press story says.

The 100 employees in the CEP bargaining unit have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2007. The strike vote was held after 11 days of talks failed to reach an agreement.

A CEP Bargaining Bulletin in February described the early negotiations.

"The company has tabled some dramatic proposals, especially in the advertising department while the union proposals seek to protect the solid contract we have and make gains in job security," says the bulletin.

"Talks have been cordial so far but both sides know there are contentious issues ahead when we start talking money."