Friday 31 October 2008

Day Oners 6

Thirty-seven Halloweens ago, more than five dozen men and woman fresh from the defunct Toronto Telegram gathered in a creaky old former factory to give birth to the Toronto Sun.

What an exhilarating experience that Halloween effort must have been for one and all.

In the first 37 years of the Sun, when stories have been told of how it all began, most of the ink has gone to the high profile writers, editors and photographers.

The following people, listed in Ron Poulton's 1976 Life in a Word Factory, worked in various departments on Day One and we would be delighted to hear from them.

Tell us your Day One stories and bring us up to date on your post-Sun years. We will add your comments and include a photo if provided.

If any of the following people are deceased, please let us know and their names, obits and profiles will be added to the Day Oners' departed posting due tomorrow.

Each and every Day Oner should be recognized for their part in the Miracle on King Street. It was truly a unique print media journey.

Where Are They Now?

Newsroom: (21) Ray Biggart; (22) Bob McMillan; (23) David Farrer; (24) John Jursa; (25) Helen Bourke; (26) Jim Cowan; (27) Grant Maxwell; (28) Olive Collins; (29) Larry Collins

Library: (30) Bill Nicholson

Circulation: (31) John LeMay; (32) Ron Tonks; (33) William King

Display advertising: (34) Bruce Tuttle; (35) Dick Shatto; (36) Hugh Funston; (37) Gord Jackson; (38) Norm Milne; (39) John McKay; (40) Noel Ing; (41) Domenica Farella

Syndicate department: (42) Ron Cornell; (43) Paul Gillespie; (44) Bruce Borland; (45) Mary Buchanan; (46) Sandra D'Cruz

Business office: (47) Jim Brown; (48) Howard Hayes; (49) Bruce Rae (deceased); (50) Mary Zelezinksy

Secretarial: (51) Ann Rankin; (52) Susan Turpin; (53) Linda Bone

Switchboard: (54) Margaret Kmiciewicz (Deceased); (55) Jean Osborne

Messengers: (56) Jim Walsh; (57) Graham Evoy

For updates, e-mail us.

Next: The Departed

Thursday 30 October 2008

Day Oners 5

The trademark layout of the Toronto Sun's wasn't created after the Toronto Telegram's demise and before the Sun's launch on Nov. 1, 1971.

Andy Donato designed the dummy tabloid design and iconic logo years earlier at the Toronto Telegram when Doug Creighton, John Downing and Andy MacFarlane tried to convince the Bassett family the Tely should also publish a tabloid.

The Tely tabloid idea didn't fly and Andy's layout and other ideas were tucked away until 1971 and the birth of the Sun.

Which brings us to the Day One art department, messengers and secretaries:

Art department:

(16) Andy Donato: What more can be said about the kid from Scarborough, who this year marked his 40th year as an editorial cartoonist? From his first cartoon in the Toronto Telegram in 1968, to the lasting genius of his Sun cartoons four decades later, Andy is one Day Oner whose contribution to the print media cannot be measured. His award winning creative genius is recognized throughout North America and beyond. The awards are numerous, including the National Newspaper Award. His editorial cartoons spanning generations of politicians have been published in numerous best-of books. (New Donato compilation books are long overdue. How about a 40 Years of Donato book?) When not amusing Sun readers with his cartoons, Andy is a landscape artist and his paintings are in demand, as are paintings by his artist/wife Diane Jackson, formerly with the Sun. That said, Andy is also a hole-in-one golfer. What more could a kid from Scarborough ask for?

(17) Jeff Crawford: The second Day One art department staffer retired from the Sun years ago and is living in Bramalea. (Need photo and update on his life and times.)

The Messengers:

(18) Jim Thomson: One of four messengers at the Sun on Day one, Jim is also one of four remaining Day Oners on the job, along with Peter Worthington, Andy Donato and Christina Blizzard. Jim eventually worked his way into the graphics department, becoming one of the unsung graphics heroes who gave the tabloid its award winning front pages and eye-catching photos and graphics throughout the paper. In 1994, he added the weekly television guide video column to his resume. Today, Jim is the Sun's photo editor, working with photo vets Michael Peake, Stan Behal, Dave Thomas and others.

(19) Frank Benedetti: Frank, one of Andy Donato's uncles, was the talk of the Sun because he owned a 1955 Cadillac. A baker by trade, Frank delivered bread from an Italian bakery on Elm Street to the Italian community in Toronto, says Andy. As a Sun Day Oner, he was responsible for getting the daily layouts to Inland Publishing in Mississauga and there are stories to be told about car problems and missed deadlines. Andy says Frank worked at the Sun into the early 1980s and died 15 years ago. (Need photo)

The secretaries:

(20) Chris Smales: The future Christina Blizzard, Queen's Park columnist, was a busy secretary on Day One and at the time, thought she'd only be needed for a few days. Not on Doug Creighton's watch. Doug asked Christina to help out and she soon became a fixture as Peter Worthington's assistant. She was working with Peter at the time of his heart attack in 1978. He reportedly put on his coat, told Chris he was having a heart attack and shuffled off to hospital. It was 30 years ago, but it was a day at the office that Chris has never forgotten. And she has done Peter proud as an op-ed columnist. Read Christina's Day One memories here.

Newsroom staffers, messengers, secretaries, library staff etc. not mentioned to date will be listed next in a Where Are They Now? posting.

All of the known late Day Oners will conclude the 37th anniversary salute.

Next: Where are they now?

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Day Oners 4

One of the first photos taken in the makeshift darkroom in the days before the Toronto Sun's debut on Nov. 1, 1971, was of the fabulous trio of Day One photographers.

Norm Betts, Jac Holland and Dave Cooper, standing proud with their arms folded, were proven Toronto Telegram photographers about to show their talent as tabloid lensmen.

Wasyl Kowalishen, the camera shy darkroom tech, wasn't in the photo but was among the early arrivals prepared to kick start the Sun into a reality. More about Wasyl later.

Day One photographers:

(13) Norm Betts: Few Toronto Sun photographers put the "tabloid" in the tabloid more than jovial Norm Betts. His tricks of the trade for capturing unique, award-winning photos included wearing a cap with a bird on top to catch the attention of Princess Diana. And his Page 3 SUNshine Girls made him the envy of every guy in town. Who can forget Sandy, a model and supply teacher, rising out of the water? She was the talk of the town, as were many of Norm's Page 3 girls. The girls made famous by the early photographers have been banished to the back pages, reduced in size and now compete for space with round red promotional .com plugs. Norm moved on in the late 1990s, but remains a photography force in new endeavors.

(14) Dave Cooper: The last drop of booze poured during the wake for the Telegram had barely been consumed when Dave and the photo crew booked into the second floor darkroom in the creaky Eclipse Building to prepare for the Sun's launch. The small but professional photo staff didn't waste any time collecting local, provincial and national awards. Dave and other 1970s photographers often pushed the envelope with photos they felt suited a tabloid, but they didn't always get past Ed Monteith, the managing editor. Nonetheless, the Sun did shine with tabloid photo fare. Dave was the first Day One photographer to leave the roost. The Toronto Star beckoned in the mid-70s and he made the move. The Star agreed with Dave. Three decades later, he is still at 1 Yonge. (Photo needed)

(15) Jac Holland: As with most Sun staffers in the 70s, Jac and the dark room crew were good sports. Exhibit A would be a SUNshine Boy group photo set up by Lifestyle editor Joan Sutton, with Peter Worthington in a swim suit thrown in for good measure. There was Jac, sitting in a tub of water, being a good sport. There was always room for play among the professionals and readers loved it all. Jac worked at the Sun well into the 1980s before moving on to other photo ventures. Jac took with him a respectable portfolio of Sun photos and Angie, a Sun staffer and love of his life. (Photo needed)

Next: Art department, messengers and secretaries

Monday 27 October 2008

Day Oners 3

Ron Poulton's sports department body count for Day One of the Toronto Sun was five: George Gross, Kaye Corbett, Ken Adachi, John Iaboni and Eaton Howitt.

The tidy and productive five-pack would set the pace for award-winning Sun sports coverage for the next several decades.

TSF's countdown to the Toronto Sun's 37th anniversary this Saturday continues with the two surviving Day One sports staffers - Kaye Corbett and John Iaboni.

(Profiles of George, Ken, Eaton and all of the known departed in all departments will be in the final Day One update posting.)

(11) Kaye Corbett: Kaye, a sports writer who rode tall in the saddle at the Sun from Day One to 1994, almost made a detour to a job in Montreal after the Tely's closing was announced. But an offer from George Gross pulled him back into the fold in time for Day One. Almost 40 years later, Kaye vividly remembers the giddiness of that Halloween packaging of the Sun's first 48-page paper, with 13 pages of sports. Today, Kaye hangs his cowboy hat at the online Jerusalem Sun, corralling his favourite news and sports of the day. Read Kaye's Day One memories here.

(12) John Iaboni: Toronto Sun readers got a good 13 years out of this Toronto-born sports reporter, who got his start at the Toronto Telegram in 1968 while still in school. In the final week of the Tely, John interviewed a promising 10-year-old hockey player named Wayne Gretzky. It was John's first major newspaper story and the interview is still being talked about today. Since leaving the Sun in 1984, the former assistant sports editor has been entrenched in the sports world, including the CFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and the Olympics. Read John's Day One memories here.

Next: The Day One darkroom staff

Sunday 26 October 2008

Day Oners 2

The need to succeed engulfed every body that showed up on Halloween 1971 to launch a feisty little underdog tabloid called the Toronto Sun.

Doubters would have dampened the spirit of the Sun, born just two days after the well-aged Toronto Telegram closed its doors.

The following former Tely staffers set up shop in the Eclipse Building and made it happen.

We know the following Day Oners in the newsroom, entertainment and Lifestyle are alive and well

(4) George Anthony, first entertainment editor: This multi-talented entertainment writer didn't skip a beat after the Tely folded. He continued to cover film, theater and cabaret and wrote a daily column for the Sun until moving on to other ventures, including CBC-TV consultant and a recent book about former Sun celebrity interviewer Brian Linehan. George's TV input over the years includes Made in Canada, Royal Canadian Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report.

(5) Kathy Brooks: An unsung heroine in the entertainment department from Day One through to her retirement in 2006. As entertainment editor, she cultivated a small but productive collection of Showcase (now ENT) writers to be envied. People who worked for and with Kathy Brooks over the decades have only appreciation and praise for her journalistic and management skills and when you are dealing with the entertainment crowd, that is no easy feat.

(6) John Downing, political columnist: John and Ray Biggart planned to launch their own newspaper after the Tely's closure was announced, but went with the Sun crowd instead. It was the Sun's gain, with John on top of civic affairs for the next four decades. John quietly departed from the Sun earlier this year, dismayed by Quebecor's ownership of Sun Media. John, a great story teller, has found a new voice as a blogster. Read the former editor's Day One memories here and here.

(7) Cal Millar, police reporter: Cal's little black book, filled with police, fire and ambulance contacts, rivalled the connections of the Star's police desk vet Jocko Thomas. It was the Sun's loss and the Star's gain when when Cal jumped ship in the early years of the Sun. Cal retired from the Star earlier this year. (Photo is needed.)

(8) Ken Robertson: This former city editor and WW2 vet, left the Sun in the 1970s to sail his boat and sell real estate. He excelled in both and, now in his 80s, is a published author. Ken is working on two more books as we type. You can read Ken's Day One memories here. (Photo is needed.)

(9) Joan Sutton Straus, Lifestyle editor: The Toronto Sun's Lifestyle section was always among reader favourites when this lady was at the helm as Lifestyle editor and Sutton's Place columnist. Joan, born in Canada but now an American living in New York, had clout in Toronto social circles and beyond. Those sources, many from her days in fashion, provided fascinating fodder for her column. Many of those columns were used for three best-of books. Joan's devotion to the Toronto Sun in the 1980s and beyond extended to judging the annual Edward Dunlop awards entries. In her post-Sun years, this mother of two also served on numerous Canadian and American non-profit boards and from 1990 to 1992 served as the Ontario government's Agent General to the United States, heading up offices in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles. One busy lady. Read Joan's Day One memories here. (Photo is needed.)

(10) Glen Woodcock: This former Sunday Sun editor left the Sun as associate editor a couple of years ago, but he continues to contribute as an automotive writer, which suits his love of cars, new and old, to a T. His wife, Connie Woodcock (nee Nicholson) is a former reporter and currently a freelance op-ed columnist. She is also an honourary Day Oner. Glen's other love is jazz. He has hosted the Saturday night Big Band Show on 91.1 FM since 1975.

Next: Day Oners in the sports department

Saturday 25 October 2008

Day Oners 1

The Toronto Sun turns 37 next Saturday, a pup compared to the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, but well-seasoned compared to the National Post, which turns 10 on Monday.

The next few TSF postings are a salute to the Day Oners, an optimistic band of brothers and sisters who didn't take the closing of the Toronto Telegram sitting down.

Thousands who followed owe them big-time.

First, the executives, the three co-founders who braved the chilly accommodations, the hazardous electrical appliances and cranky old elevator to get the job done.

If TSF readers can provide updates on any staffers we haven't profiled, we'd be glad to hear from them by e-mail.

The Executives:

(1) J. Douglas Creighton, founding publisher: A newspaperman's newspaperman, from his Toronto Telegram police desk duties in 1948 to his death from Parkinson's at 75 on Jan. 7, 2004. Doug, from Day One, generated much of the Toronto Sun Family atmosphere by rewarding loyal employees for jobs well done. The Sun, after all, was Doug's brainchild. His baby. The roller coaster ride up for the Little Paper That Grew was with Doug at the helm. That ride for the Sun ended on Thursday, Nov. 5, 1992, when the Sun board of directors ousters Doug as CEO. Doug, an Order of Canada recipient, had covered a lot of bases in his six decades in print media, including Tely police reporter, sports editor, city editor and managing editor, and Sun publisher and CEO. He wrote about losing his home away from home a year from retirement in his 1993 book Sunburned: Memoirs of a Newspaperman. A Michael Gratton quote in the liner notes reads: "Doug Creighton was more than the boss. He is the soul of the Toronto Sun. I simply never thought of the Sun without him. I do not want to forget." Neither do we.

(2) Don Hunt, founding general manager: Of the three wise men who co-founded the Toronto Sun, Don worked mostly behind the scenes. His brother, Jim Hunt, a legendary sports writer, was far more high profile at the Tely and Sun. Don, a former public relations worker, also dabbled in sports at the Tely and was the Tely's syndicate manager when the paper folded in October 1971. Don left the Sun in 1988, moved to the U.S. to work on papers there, including the Houston Post, Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. He is now retired. (A photo of Don and an update on his post-Sun years would be appreciated.)

(3) Peter Worthington, founding editor: The accolades are voluminous and still accumulating for this prolific columnist and author. The son of a general, he is a WW2 and Korean War vet, former Toronto Telegram foreign correspondent, Sun co-founder, multiple National Newspaper Award winner, federal Conservative candidate, mountain climber, tennis player, eye witness to Jack Ruby murdering Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas in 1963 etc. etc. Peter has been rolling up his sleeves from Day One and while the original Underwoods might be history, the man at the keyboards is as relevant as he was when hired by the Telegram in 1956. He has always fought the good fight, be it a local issue or a world conflict. Ask the keepers of the Bergeron Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Picton about Peter's column clout. If you haven't read his 1984 book, Looking For Trouble, we ask "why not?" Peter is a newspaper legend in his own time and simple "thank yous" for his role at the Sun will never be adequate. Talk about lives lived . . .

Next: News, entertainment and Lifestyle Day Oners

Friday 24 October 2008

Nov. 1 countdown

The 37th anniversary of the founding of the Toronto Sun is one week and a day away.

Sun anniversaries were always a time for celebration and reflection. Who can forget the mother of all Sun anniversaries - the 20th in 1991, celebrated at the SkyDome, midway and all?

It is time again to salute the Day Oners, the out-of-work Toronto Telegram employees who pilfered what they could from the defunct daily and hauled it up to the Eclipse Building at 322 King Street West.

With less than $1 million in financing, the Day Oners had full confidence in co-founders Doug Creighton, Don Hunt and Peter Worthington to make a go of it and silence the doubters.

They worked Halloween night to get out issue No. 1, all 48 pages, and the newsroom environment in the former factory was scary enough.

But Toronto's new tabloid treat was on them and instant fans ate it up and lined up for more. The first issue became an instant collector's item. All 75,000 copies of the 10-cent papers were sold.

The corpse of the Tely was still warm when the Sun rose that Monday, Nov. 1, an underdog in the shadow of the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.

(The National Post wouldn't make it a foursome until Oct. 27, 1998. Conrad's former pet paper turns 10 on Monday. Happy Birthday to them. The more the merrier.)

The number of Toronto Sun Day Oners quoted has varied over the decades, 62 being the most popular number.

But in Ron Poulton's 1976 gem, Life In A Word Factory, he listed 69 and with those figures coming from good sources only five years after the Sun's launch, we'll go with his numbers and his names.

The thousands of Toronto Sun employees hired since 1971 all owe the Day Oners a tip of the cap for their focus and determination.

Like we've said, there is a movie to be made about the Toronto Sun. All the ingredients and a large cast of true characters are there for the scriptwriting and casting.

It was a most remarkable, journalistic ride until Doug Creighton's ouster in 1992 - the day the music died. The sale to Quebecor in 1999 continued the dismantling of the dream tabloid.

The future of the Sun being somewhat vague, we'd end the movie with Doug's ouster for corporate drama tone, or the 20th anniversary party for corporate success tone.

In the next TSF posting, we will list all of the Day Oners in Life In A Word Factory and provide capsule comments and photos if available.

There is also an open invite to Day Oners from any departments to provide their information and memories of the day.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Rewrites & Bob

We spotted another lengthy lead - 45 words to be exact - in the Toronto Sun the other day and we wondered, will it ever end?

Well, it just might.

Word is Bob McConachie, the Toronto Sun's former Ottawa editor and Metro editor, is returning to city desk as rewrite editor early in November.

The Sun hasn't had a designated rewrite desk since this blogster departed in 1994 and it often shows in the writing of younger staffers and the occasional old pro.

Bob, an affable guy who has a way with words and people, is the perfect Sun vet for the job.

Hopefully, he will have time to mentor young reporters who tend to flounder without advice from the vets.

A rewrite editor is a must for any major daily. Kudos to management for the renewed focus on rewrites and appointing Bob to the job. It is a win-win decision.

And a city desk with Kevin Hann, Zen Ruryk, Dave Ellis, Jonathan Kingstone and Bob McConachie holding the fort ain't too shabby.

Did we say ain't?


Missing teen

Updated 9/22/08
As of Tuesday, the Toronto Sun has been MIA in coverage of the missing Barrie teen, Brandon Crisp, 15.

There was a time when the Sun would have jumped all over the story of a straight-A high school student with a video game addiction vanishing without a trace.

The tabloid caught up to the story yesterday with an extended Sun flash, without a photo, while the CBC, CTV, the Barrie Examiner (a Sun Media newspaper, no less), the Barrie Advance, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and other media are covering it as a major story.

And, in this computer age, Facebook is playing a part in the search for Brandon.

Brandon, missing for a week, disappeared after riding off on his bicycle following an argument with his parents over his frequent playing of an Xbox game called Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Why the Sun hasn't devoted more space to the missing teen is puzzling.

Wednesday's Sun, perhaps? A full column by Bonokoski, Mandel, Warmington or Strobel?

Stay tuned.

(Update: Full story and photo in Wednesday's print edition, but story only online. Once again, why would have a story about a missing person and not use a photo?)

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Re Helen Bullock

Our thanks to former Toronto Sun city editor Ken Robertson for providing Jac Holland's e-mail for a Simon Fraser University historian.

Now where is Helen Bullock?

Elise Chenier, the SFU historian, says the April 6, 1975, story being researched was written by Helen Bullock and the photo was taken by Jac Holland.

If you have Helen's e-mail address, TSF will forward Elise's e-mails to her.

Re Jac Holland

Jac Holland, a Day One photographer who has been out of the Toronto Sun for more than two decades, is wanted for questioning by a Simon Fraser University historian in B.C.

"I am an historian at SFU doing some work on a story Jac Holland covered in 1975, and I am interested in contacting him," Elise Chenier says in an e-mail to TSF. "Do you happen to have his information?

"Many thanks and best wishes."

We'll put out the call to TSF readers, Elise.

If you can help Elise, who is chair of the history department's graduate program, get in touch with Jac, please e-mail TSF.

Monday 20 October 2008

Media priorities

Two Google search results today clearly show where print media falls in the priorities of PKP and his Quebecor Media.

A story about the week-old Winnipeg Free Press strike includes this quote from FP publisher Bob Cox:

"An experienced reporter at the Free Press makes a base (salary) of about $70,200 a year, compared with about $45,200 at the Winnipeg Sun."

A press release from Quebecor:

"Pierre Karl Peladeau and Robert Depatie, CEOs of Quebecor and Videotron respectively invite the media to a press conference to announce details of plans to invest several hundred million dollars in Quebec in the roll-out of a new highly advanced wireless network."

Enough said.

Friday 10 October 2008

Bill Harris style

It doesn't happen as often as it should, but the appeal of TV writer Bill Harris increases when he has a multi-item column, as he did Thursday.

If readers come upon a full TV column about Tori Spelling or that talentless rich bimbo, for example, and keep on going, you have lost your audience for the day.

But write about several different people or TV shows and your readers are more likely to find something of interest.

Former Page 6 columnist Gary Dunford mastered the multi-item column for three decades, Joe Warmington does it with his Scrawler columns, as does Bruce Kirkland on his DVD page.

It makes for perfect tabloid fare.

But back to Bill Harris.

In a perfect world, his TV column would be on the page opposite the TV listings page.

The daily TV listings page, by the way, is almost perfect with its listings format, capsule comments, David Letterman's Top 10 list etc. It would score a 10 if all of the (N)s for new episodes were in place.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Re Lisa Lisle

Lisa Lisle, the woman behind, has been appointed Sun Media's director of multimedia, says the current edition of Thinkmedia.

The position is hers, effective Oct. 20.

We wish Lisa well. Hopefully, she will focus on utilizing the Internet's full potential for online newspapers to compete with the immediacy of radio and television news.

Anything less than as-it-happens news, sports and entertainment, puts a damper on the transition to web media.

The content has not been news as it happens, it has been news when we get around to posting what we have, usually in block uploads at specific times.

It is improving. They no longer wait until the print edition hits the streets before updating, but it should be much more current throughout the day and night.

But back to Lisa's appointment.

Not bad for a someone who joined Sun Media as an Ottawa Sun police reporter in 1999, working her way up to assistant city editor before transferring to the Toronto Sun in 2005.

Lisa was associate city editor at the Toronto Sun last October when named national online editor. Computers are obviously her forte.

The Thinkmedia announcement says Lisa "has been working closely with newsroom staff to create multimedia content that has figured in the explosive growth and development of the various Sun websites."

It says Lisa "will lead the evolution of multimedia journalism for all the urban and community papers, establishing editorial standards and helping to identify developing technologies to continue Sun Media’s online growth."

Her responsibilities will include "the first-generation position of general manager of new media, occupied by Mike Nesbitt who is moving to Australia later this month."

We'd like to think Lisa will be given adequate resources and ample staff to cope with that "explosive" growth, but TSF tipsters say that ain't so.

If the minimal websites staff info is accurate, we feel for Lisa. You can't run websites - or newsrooms - professionally without adequate staff.

Now all we need is a head and shoulder shot of the energetic web woman.

Sun watch

Blogsters are picking on the Toronto Sun this week.

And now a word - or two - from Roof That Peach . . .

Re Dennis Earl

Longtime media blogster Dennis Earl wonders how many Toronto Sun readers beyond the GTA will call it quits after Monday's price hike to $1.50, plus tax.

His Writings of Dennis Earl blog frequently commented on the Sun and Sun Media during Quebecor's ravaging of the tabloid until most reasons why he read the Sun were silenced.

Well, he's back and vocal as ever and you have to wonder how many Sun readers beyond the GTA are echoing his sentiments this week.

Future circulation and readership audit numbers will determine the reaction of the masses - if those figures are publicized.

Our feeling is the future of the print edition beyond the GTA will be determined not by price, but by the demand for the new online e-edition subscription service.

If the e numbers satisfy advertisers - and it is clear advertisers, not the needs of readers, motivate Quebecor - why bother catering to print readers in the 519, 705 and 905?

Perhaps the print edition beyond the GTA will be just a memory by the time the Toronto Sun turns 40 in 2011, if not sooner.

Much of the tabloid formula that the once feisty, unpredictable, talk-of-the-town underdog tabloid embraced with great success for almost three decades is now a memory.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail continues to hire staff for its expanding print and online editions and is reaping the benefits.

The Globe has focus, as did Doug Creighton et al when the Sun carved out its tabloid niche and reveled in the city's acceptance of a newspaper that dared to be different.

We've lost that loving feeling, but we'd be willing to pay any newsstand price for a return to that tabloid magic. That edge.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Mickey & Joe

Veteran Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington has always reminded us of the late, great Mickey Carlton.

Mickey, like Joe, favoured a fedora and catered to the offbeat crowd in his Tattler column in the Richmond Review in B.C.

But Joe is the one with the leash.

Mickey worked for the Toronto Star before moving to B.C., where he turned the sedate little weekly Review into a tabloid in a broadsheet's clothing, with plenty of cops, robbers and T&A.

Circulation at the Review in the late 60s and early 70s mushroomed with Mickey at the helm. Elderly owner Herbert F. Gates winced initially but soon welcomed the hike in revenue.

The small Vancouver suburb got to know Mickey through his column, a no-holds-barred account of happenings in the backrooms and the bars of Richmond.

When Warmington was handed The Scrawler column years ago, it was like watching Mickey do his thing one more time. Great tab fare, with Joe going places most scribes don't go.

Page 6 was no longer an anchor for a Gary Dunford type multi-item column, leaving a huge hole in the upfront Sun, but the roaming Scrawler filled the bill.

Scrawler was toned down to a weekend column months ago and that is a shame. Joe needs to shed the harness and get back to offbeat Scrawler material throughout the week.

Cut Joe loose and let him roam the naked city, with all of its street people and gin joints.

Put some offbeat flare back into the increasingly predictable Sun.

Michele Mandel's fascinating "The book of job" column Monday is an example of the countless stories on the streets of Toronto that are waiting to be told.

People stories that make the Sun shine.

Monday 6 October 2008

Claire Bickley?

TSF often feels like a poor man's, with blog readers asking how to contact Toronto Sun Family members.

But that's OK with us. Long lost friends should be reunited.

Our most recent request is from a Cindy Ellen Crawford, who is trying to contact former Sun TV writer Claire Bickley.

Cindy says she goes back to Humber College days, when Claire, John Schmied, Zen Ruryk and Antonella Artuso were all journalism students.

That lineup of current and former Sun staffers is quite the endorsement for Humber College.

So where's Claire? We need to forward Cindy's e-mail and contact information to her. E-mail us if you have her e-mail address.

Price hike 2

The At Home in Hespeler blogger says the line has been drawn with a $1.50, plus tax, Toronto Sun.

"So it is, that at my house, the asteroid has hit my Toronto Sun habit as of today," the entry reads. "I can't imagine too many people paying a fifty percent price increase for a deteriorating product (that's available for free anyway) in an increasingly difficult marketplace. But the geniuses who brought you Paul Berton and Rob Granatstein think differently, and who am I to argue with success like that?"

TSF will post additional price hike comments from readers when found online or received via e-mail.

Sun readers being asked for $1.50, plus tax, as of today have to decide if the return on their daily investment through stories, columns, ads and other features, is adequate.

As mentioned in a previous posting, contributions of the old guard still make the Sun a good buy at $1.50, plus tax. The Sun has lost its edge as a tabloid, but still has its moments.

We could do without:

The 40-word leads;

Earlier deadlines at the expense of sports scores, concert reviews and late-night breaking news;

Those two and three-page special reports that belong in broadsheet newspapers, not a tabloid;

The numerous annoying throws to exclusive content on

And while the heart of the Sun under Quebecor has all but vanished, along with a large number of employees, there are occasions when the Sun of old shines through.

Sherri's night

Updated 6/10/08 re Bill Brioux column

The inaugural Sherri Woodstock music fest to celebrate the all-too-brief life of Toronto Sun entertainment writer Sherri Wood drew about 500 people Sunday night.

Click here for Bill Brioux's TV Feeds My Family replay of Sherri Woodstock.

Click here for Jason MacNeil's Toronto Sun coverage of The Opera House event.

e vs $1.50

Today is decision day.

Subscribe to the new online Toronto Sun e-edition for $4.99 per month now that our not-so-satisfying 14-day free trial has expired?

Or continue to buy the print edition, which as of today will cost $1.50, plus seven cents tax, Monday through Saturday, up from $1, plus tax, 'cause we live far beyond the GTA borders?

A buck fifty, plus tax, is a hefty hike from the 10 cents paid for the daily Sun after its launch in 1971, but all things considered, it is still a bargain, as are the $1.50 Toronto Star and $1.25 Globe and Mail in the boondocks.

The price is right for the Sun's e-edition, but the trial period clearly demonstrated how the format is not 100% user friendly. Playing hide and seek with the sports section is a major annoyance.

So we'll stick with print for as long as it is available.

The print edition is there in its entirety when you want it - in the car, on a park bench, on the couch, in the loo, in bed, in a lawn chair, on trains, planes and buses etc.

It is always a second away for sports scores, the horoscope, movie times, the classifieds, editorial cartoons, comics, favourite columnists, TV listings, the crossword puzzle etc.

In a family setting, you can share the sections.

Sure, most of that can be done with a laptop or one of the many handheld gadgets on the market today, but old habits die hard and print media is a very old and very reliable habit.

Besides, you can't use an e-edition newspaper to wrap stuff, protect flooring while painting, pad the bottom of the bird cage, make newspaper hats and protect yourself from the rain.

So we will buy our first $1.50, plus tax, Sun today and not take it for granted. We will read it in cars that consume $5 per gallon gasoline, while drinking $2 bottles of water, eating $4 pizza slices and listening to $15 CDs.

On any given day, a Mike Strobel column, Andy Donato cartoon, Mark Bonokoski exclusive, Joe "Scrawler" Warmington page, Eric Margolis column or Peter Worthington op-ed commentary will make $1.50, plus tax, sound like Honest Ed's prices.

Did we mention it is $1.50, plus tax?

Sun Media still has a screw loose on that petty bit of bookkeeping. It annoys store clerks and customers to no end.

Sunday 5 October 2008

Ottawa blues

The 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Sunday Sun came and went in September with little fanfare, a far cry from the hoopla for its launch in 1988.

"This is the happiest, most ambitious start-up we've ever had," Doug Creighton said on the day the first 136-page Ottawa Sunday Sun rolled off the presses, all 40,000 copies.

Those were giddy expansion years under the Maclean Hunter umbrella and a few big guns from Toronto, including Hartley Steward, Rob Paynter, John Paton and Rick Van Sickle, were aboard for the Sept. 4, 1988 launch.

Perhaps the current management is waiting for Nov. 7, the 20th anniversary of the launching of the daily Ottawa Sun to pop some corks, much like the Toronto Sun did royally for its 20th in 1991 by renting the SkyDome.

Or not.

Reliable sources say the 2008 Ottawa Sun newsroom is not filled with happy campers and the recent exodus of two young talented photographers and a veteran assistant city editor reflect the disenchantment.

TSF asked recently why the Ottawa Sun is losing good people who are leaving by choice, not the result of pink slips. Well, we got an earful.

"So, you ask, what's happening at the Ottawa Sun with the latest of a long string of departures being two extremely talented young photographers leaving recently — with no full-time jobs to go to — and an assistant city editor leaving within the last two weeks?" a reliable source writes.

"It's because, like many before them, they just can't stand it anymore," says the source. "Apart from many layoffs in the past several years, plus the most recent departures of rich talent and valuable experience, at least two dozen very good staffers have also left on their own accord in the past couple of years.

"And that’s from a small newsroom. They are all much happier in their new lives."

The remaining newsroom staffers are "bitter, angry, cynical, demotivated and demoralized."

"What does it say about an organization when the best people continue to leave because they are not valued or respected, they literally can’t stand it anymore and, worse yet, the organization lets them leave or encourages them to leave because they know they can get cheaper, more obedient, more grateful replacements?

"It’s a ‘50s-style management mentality hardly becoming of a corporation that claims to be enlightened and progressive.

"It is such a tragedy that so many skills, talent, knowledge and experience are lost to the Sun forever . . ."

The source says Sun Media boss Michael Sifton "needs to know that the exodus will continue and experience and talent will continue to bleed out of that newsroom as long as the toxic, negative, dysfunctional environment" remains.

What a depressing and sad picture of a sister tabloid that was once cause for joy and optimism.

We are here if management cares to respond.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Search language

The dead-end Yahoo search message on is now in English.

"Your search didn't return any results," the message, previously in French only, tells visitors.

A search message in English on an English language site makes more sense.

On behalf of TSF readers who noticed the message in French, thanks to the web tech wizards at for listening.

Frenchie forever

Frenchie McFarlane has been a friend of the Toronto Sun since he began feeding hilarious one-liners to Page 6 columnist Gary Dunford in the 1970s.

The comedian is still a friend of the Sun and as a friend he will be on stage between bands Sunday night at Sherri Woodstock, a tribute to Sherri Wood.

Soon after Sherri died of brain cancer in March at age 28, mention was made that the life of the young Sun entertainment writer should be celebrated.

Sherri Woodstock was conceived and it is to the credit of colleagues, friends and family that Sunday's multi-band gig at The Opera House became a reality.

The address is 735 Queen Street East. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with the first of six bands kicking off the music fest at 5:15 p.m.

John Kryk, the tireless talent behind all of those quality entertainment pages appearing seven days a week in the Toronto Sun, is in the Classic Albums Live band.

As former Sun TV writer Bill Brioux notes in his blog, the Sun's executive entertainment editor will be playing mandolin during the band's Led Zeppelin set.

If you didn't get the time to order tickets online, don't fret. Tickets will be sold at the door beginning at 4:30 p.m. at $25 per head. More info on Brioux's TV Feeds My Family blog.

Six bands, Frenchie and a whole lotta memories of a young effervescent Sun intern who wowed everyone with her enthusiasm. A night to remember.

The Sun says "money raised from the benefit concert will go toward educational needs - helping students pay for university through scholarships."

Sherri would be pleased.

Friday 3 October 2008

TorSun early

What's this, the Friday front page of the Toronto Sun on at 1:30 a.m.?

That is about three hours before the print edition hits the streets.

It wasn't the entire Friday paper, just the front page and late-night coverage of Thursday's Canada/U.S. political debates.

Will this be the norm, early front pages with a few new stories at 1:30 a.m. or so?

Or was the early front for the political junkies anxious to read how Tina Fey, er Sarah Palin, performed during the two-hour VP nominees' debate?

Gosh darn it, those two are so much alike.

All Sarah needed was a piece of straw in her mouth . . .

Yeehaw, just a heartbeat away.

SNL is lovin' it.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Holy cow

Pete Fishers front page photo of a cow killing cop is a show stopper.

First, you seldom get that up close and personal while police are discharging heavy artillery.

And you had to feel for the cows.

Pete continues to shine for Sun Media, snapping unique photos day and night in the burbs.

e-edition layout

Perhaps it is a technical roadblock, but why can't the Toronto Sun's e-edition have a full table of contents, front page to back, including the sports section?

Programmers have added helpful links to various sections and the Sunday Sun on the home page, but once signed in sports is not in the Table of Contents. You have click on "Select Title" and "Toronto Sun Sections" to get to the sports section.

And the daily sports section is mixed with links to sections from the previous Sunday Sun.

A tad confusing for readers of the sports pages.

Also, after you have read the sports pages and want to return to the news pages, you have to go back into Select Title and select Toronto Sun. Returning to the front news pages should be simplified.

OK, one more.

You click on Comment in the Table of Contents and there are links to Letters to the Editor and op-ed pieces, but not to Andy Donato's popular cartoon. The site has it right, with a home page link to the daily cartoon.

On the positive side, calendar access to up to 10 previous e-editions of the Sun is a plus.

When the 14-day trial expires and e-edition becomes a paid service, users should not have to go hunting for their favourite sections.

A paid site should be 100% user friendly and were not quite there yet, folks.

Peter Edwards book

Speaking of the Star . . .

Peter Edwards, one of the many Toronto Sun Family members now working the keyboards at 1 Yonge, published his 10th book this year.

Delusion: The True Story of Victorian Superspy Henri Le Caron was published by Key Porter Books and is being sold on for $20.76.

Peter's books, all non-fiction profiles of good guys and bad, have been added to TSF's authors list.

Dozens of books published by 38 current and former Toronto Sun staffers have been listed to date, an impressive tally for the tabloid.

If we have missed your book(s), e-mail the title(s), publisher, year of publication, number of pages and fiction or non-fiction.

Star's pub. exit

The Toronto Sun devoted more space yesterday to the departure of Toronto Star publisher Jagoda Pike than most departing Sun vets have received in recent years.

The Canadian Press story on Page 7 read like a Star press release, with its description of TorStar and its holdings and the Star being "Canada's largest circulation newspaper" in the lead.

We wonder how John Downing, Al Cairns, Len Fortune, Valerie Gibson, Tim Fryer, Darren McGee and numerous other Sun vets reacted to Pike's piece. Most received zero ink in the Sun when they left after years, even decades, of dedicated service.

Not a word in the Sun about Downing's departure and he was a Day Oner.


Devoting more than 10 paragraphs and a colour photo to Pike's departure - she's going to head Canada's bid for the 2015 Pan American Games - was very odd. It almost feels personal.

We do know there are Sun editors who want the tabloid to mirror the Star.

That would explain why they have largely abandoned the Sun's successful tabloid formula and taken the Sun down the broadsheet path at the expense of its edge and tens of thousands of readers.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

The Poker Dude


The Poker Dude is not in the print edition. Strictly online.


30 - NY Sun

The seven-year-old New York Sun closed its doors yesterday, adding 110 employees to the escalating U.S. unemployed newspaper workers numbers.

The broadsheet, along with Wall Street, was looking for a bailout.

As a New York Daily News story says, the weekday paper took its name from the original New York Sun, a giant in journalism that folded in 1950 after 117 years.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement he regretted the newspaper's demise.

"In a city saturated with news coverage and commentary, the Sun shone brightly, though too briefly," he said.

The collapse of any newspaper is a loss for journalism and readers. Canada has had its share of closures, including the Toronto Telegram in 1971, the Montreal Star in 1979, the Ottawa Journal and Winnipeg Tribune in 1980, etc.

The 2002 version of the New York Sun had heart, if not ample financial support after its biggest supporter, Hollinger's Conrad Black, severed ties financially.

(Seth Lipsky, the editor, took time out last year to e-mail TSF to comment on a posting about his feisty underdog paper. That is classy.)

The right-wing New York Sun reminded us of the underdog Toronto Sun in the 1970s and 80s with a scrapper, as the Daily News called Lipsky, at the helm in the newsroom.

Last month, Lipsky was telling staff and readers the plug would be pulled if the paper couldn't find new investors.

The Daily News story said the Sun was losing an estimated $1 million a month, with a daily circulation of 84,000, "with just 12,000 of those copies paid for."

New York, a city four times the size of Toronto, can't support four daily newspapers.

What's the story there?

In the expansion years of the Toronto Sun, New York was briefly considered, but insiders say the unions were too strong for an upstart tabloid to survive.