Wednesday 29 December 2010

30 - Eric Dowd

Updated 29/12/10 re John Downing link
Eric Dowd, who died from cancer on Christmas Day, was never a Toronto Sun Family member but he helped mentor many of us along the way.

The veteran Queen's Park reporter was 79 and, as Premier Dalton McGinty says in a CTV obit, was "a fixture" at the Ontario legislature for decades.

Eric, who died at St. Michael's Hospital, was one of those gentle people in print media who made novices feel at ease at first glance. Apparently, not so with his editors.

The CTV obit quotes numerous media people touched by Eric's presence along the way, from his years on staff at the Canadian Press, Globe and Mail and the defunct Toronto Telegram, and as a Queen's Park freelancer since the 1970s.

As competitive and professional as Eric was, he always had time to share his journalistic experiences with others who were keen on learning the ropes.

Ian Urquhart, editorial page editor of the Toronto Star, says in a Star obit Dowd mentored him as a cub reporter.

The CTV story says Wendy McCann, CP's Ontario, bureau chief, also remembers Dowd's willingness to help younger reporters.

"He really helped the next generation put politics into context, and without that context we wouldn't have been doing our jobs," said McCann.

In the early 1960s, Eric was one of many selfless Globe and Mail reporters and editors who made a difference in the lives of copy boys, including this blogger, who had an interest in becoming reporters by offering advice.

Eric's passion for the job never faded, covering the legislature from the 1960s to 2010, putting in long days even during his cancer treatments, says CTV. He was on the job two days before he died.

Former Toronto Sun editor John Downing has posted a tribute to Eric on his Downing's Views blog. His comments include regrets that the Sun never hired Eric after the Tely folded. 

Downing, one of Eric's former editors at the Tely, writes:

"Boy, he could bug you. And then charm with a gentle observation. Tough but fair. And with an inner strength that had him write about his adopted province right up to the final days of his battle with cancer that took him at 79 on Christmas Day."

Our condolences to his family.

A remembrance service will be held in the Trull North Toronto Funeral Home, 2704 Yonge St., Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 11 a.m.

Friday 24 December 2010

Memories of Ken

Updated 6/01/11 re daughter's comments

Ken Robertson wore numerous hats in his lifetime, but his pen earned him the most publicity - as a Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun (Day Oner) newsman and as an author. 

After his death from cancer Wednesday at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, we invited memories of Ken from all who crossed paths with him in his 87 years.

Lynn Tymczyszyn, Ken's daughter, writes:

"Ken Robertson was my Dad. Thank you all for your comments. I am sitting here reading them with tears in my eyes.

"Dad recovered from cancer surgery in November 2009, but the cancer came back. He was not feeling well for the past few months but kept going. He wanted to finish his book. He had two chapters to go.

"Jack Hutton suggested his news buddies send me stories about my Dad and we will include them in the book. I think that is a fantastic idea. Dad would love it.

"Dad also asked me to write about his new Great Grandson "Charlie" who he loved so much. He said something about this baby made everything perfect.

"My Dad asked me to publish the book, so I will try. I will welcome any stories you can send to me. I have many memories, but some of my favorite times with Dad were sailing on "Shadow" across Lake Ontario. I would phone him every day asking if we could go.

"I miss him so much. We are planning a Celebration of his Life, I think at Windcharm, in the spring. I hope all of his friends will come.

"Thank you."

John Iaboni, a Toronto Sun Day Oner in sports, writes:

"Well, our Sun Family has lost another great one. But what a life he lived and continues to live because those of us privileged to have worked with Kenny will always be touched by his ever-present smile, by the words of encouragement he provided in the heat of the battle and how he always ensured we knew how proud he was when the job was well done.

"I first met Kenny in 1968 as a teenager working in the Tely's incredibly seasoned and talented sports department. My initial thought? What a nice man. Time working together proved my first impressions to be correct.

"From those beginnings through those wild, crazy and proud days as Day Oners at the Sun, he never changed. It was a comfort for me to come to work each day and see him there, the face of calm yet prepared to dig in to kick the opposition's butt - and believe me, EVERY department at the Sun did that more often than not - always ready with a hello and constantly showing a caring interest in one's life away from work.

"It was a sad day when he left the Sun but, as I recall, he talked about his love for boating, life in Orillia and his family so he was ready to move on.

"Tally ho, Ken.

"To Kenny's family, my deepest condolences."

John Downing,  a Toronto Sun Day Oner, pays tribute to his old friend in a blog posting at Downing's Views. Here are his first few paragraphs:

"The Toronto Telegram died in 1971 but its memories live on with a shrinking band of survivors from the final wonderful and wacky decade.

"We just lost another one when Kenny Robertson died at 87. He wasn't famous. The tales of the newspaper war of Star vs. Tely in the 1960s seldom mention his name. The histories of the Sun skip by this Day Oner.

"But anyone who has ever been an editor or laboured in the trenches, when deadlines harass and the damned opposition probably has the pickup pictures or the key quotes, know that it is the Kenny Robertsons of journalism who form the spine of your paper, not the bosses or the stars.

"When they're agreeable as well as dependable, when they don't grumble as they ignore food or sleep until they get the story, then you have the bonus that was Kenny Robertson, two-way man."

The full Downing tribute can be read here.

Cal Millar, former Toronto Sun Day Oner cop desk chief and recently retired from the Toronto Star, writes:

"Just wanted to drop a line and thank you for letting everyone know about Ken’s death. He will be sadly missed.

"I first met Ken while I was working on provincial dailies before making my way in 1967 to the Toronto Telegram.

"He had a drive that never stopped and was an inspiration to young reporters.

"After joining the Tely, it was a privilege to cover stories with him in Toronto and be on assignments with him across the country and elsewhere.

"He never went away without getting the story and was never satisfied unless there were no more facts to get.

"It was also a great honor working with him when the Toronto Sun began in 1971. He  (as city editor) knew the job of a reporter and knew what to expect when someone was sent out on an assignment.

"Sadly, with the death of Ken Robertson and far too many others I have known who predeceased him, our industry has lost a lot of talent and experience that will never be replaced."

Hugh Wesley, former veteran Toronto Sun photographer and photo chief, writes: "He was one of the very best humans I have ever known, and most alive.

"I'll miss him and his bright quick mind. RIP Kenny."

Christi Carmichael writes: "Ken was a colleague and friend of my dad's from their days at the Tely

"Two years ago, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My dad forwarded my email I'd sent about it to Ken. Within days, I received a parcel in the mail.

"Enclosed was Ken's Windcharm book and a lovely note wishing me a swift recovery and hoping that I would enjoy reading his stories while I healed. 

"And I surely did! (The stories) were so vivid and poignant. I loved them. I told him so. And we became pen pals. He was so kind, sweet, talented and funny. 

"I will sorely miss his emails, but I'm pretty sure that I'll still hear his words in my head.

"Tally Ho, indeed."

Thursday 23 December 2010

30 - Ken Robertson

Updated re obit (no visitation or service at Ken's request)
The Toronto Sun has lost another Day Oner with the death yesterday of Ken Robertson, a former city editor, WW2 vet, real estate agent, sailor, private eye, trucking firm owner, author and story teller supreme.

Ken, who underwent a major operation last year and battled back for a Remembrance Day release from Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, died there from cancer last night. He was 87.

Today's Toronto Star obit says at Ken's request, there will be no visitation or service. If desired, memorial donations to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Vernon Kenward Robertson got his start in media prior to WW2 when hired by the Canadian Press to run copy to the Star, Telegram and the Globe. 

"I was the e-mail version of the late thirties," Ken said in his book. "I worked every weekday after school from 4 p.m. to midnight, six nights a week and on Saturdays to 10 p.m. Salary? Seven dollars a week."

Ken freelanced for papers for nine years before hired by the Tely in 1964 as a reporter/photographer. When the Tely folded on Oct. 30, 1971, Ken was one of 62 employees who launched the Toronto Sun on Nov. 1, 1971.

"I still look back proudly on that feat as a miracle," Ken, who left the Sun in 1975 to work in real estate and then the provincial natural resources ministry, said in his book. 

To have known Ken Robertson beyond his many titles, was to have read his 2007 book Windcharm - a dream delayed, which drew readers from around the world and made him an Orillia-area celebrity.

He was thrilled when a tourist from Europe looked him up while on vacation in Canada and told him he had purchased his book in a Paris airport and loved it. 

Ken, a father of two, grandfather and great-grandfather, was working on another book about his Orillia-area retreat, affectionately called Windcharm, when cancer returned him to hospital. 
Memories of Ken Robertson will be posted on TSF (e-mail us.) You can also post comments in the Star's condolences guest book here.

Don McKellar, a longtime friend, said Ken entered hospital on Friday.

"Ken was fortunate to be able to live independently in his home on the Sixth Concession to the very end," says McKellar. "Remarkable man."

Vince Devitt, another longtime friend, tells TSF: "I managed to get to see him for a short visit this summer. He was his usual jovial self, pounding away on his new book.

"I will miss him a whole lot."

This blogger is a property owner, not a renter, thanks to Ken. He was in real estate in 1976 when he called the Sun at 10:30 p.m to tell me about a "doll house" in Etobicoke that would be perfect for a bachelor.

So around midnight, armed with a flashlight, Ken gave me a tour of the one-bedroom house and within the hour we were signing the deal.  That house served me well for 15 years.

We kept in touch over the years and occasional phone calls from Windcharm seldom were brief. When Ken talked about his life, you listened.  

As lives go, Ken's life was full to the brim. We will remember him fondly.

Tally ho, as he would write or say at the end of emails and phone calls, tally ho.

Random thoughts

If there is one Toronto Sun Family member this blogger owes big time it is Les Pyette,a key player in the success of the Toronto Sun and the man who said yes to a job application in 1975. Today, as he recovers from a recent bypass op, we wish him a speedy recovery and a Merry Christmas with family and friends in London. You the man, Les. 

If you want to avoid negativity during the holidays, tune into MSNBC's new Making a Difference website. Nothing but positive people doing positive things, thanks to a Brian Williams news segment that has become a force of its own. Imagine what could be done without left and right, them and us, just people making a difference.      

Will Bill Harris, John Doyle, Bill Brioux, Rob Salem or any other respectable television writer ever write a piece on why more series do not embrace Christmas theme episodes? Thought Blue Bloods, which has a strong family ties plot line, would have been a natural, but nyet. Same anticipation for Medium and others.  

Speaking of Blue Bloods, does Bill McCormack, the former Toronto police chief, watch the series? McCormack, chief from 1989 to 1995, is the son of a policeman and four of his five children became police officers. Who knows, maybe the series is based on his life.

So who sold out the Toronto Sun's Page 2 to promotions? It was a tight and bright news page not so long ago. Pages 1 through 5 used to be bam, bam, bam tabloid pages.

Why didn't the Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg Suns and other Sun Media newspapers join the London Free Press, Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun and highlight the best 2010 photos snapped by individual photographers?   

Is there a PKP "noel" video for Sun Media employees this year?

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Best 2010 photos

Updated 31/12/10re Ottawa Sun mixed entry
The Dunlop Awards are long gone from the Sun Media landscape, but some newspapers in the chain are giving photographers an opportunity to highlight their best for 2010.

Hear, hear. Some of the photos online to date would definitely have been Dunlop contenders.

TSF has found five papers with 2010 photo highlights to date, posted by the Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Winnipeg Suns and the London Free Press.

Ottawa's mixed submission with photos snapped by

Errol McGihon, Darren Brown and Tony Caldwell.
The best of EdSun's:

Amber Bracken can be viewed here

Tom Braid can be viewed here.

Laura Pedersen can be viewed here.

Jordan Verlage can be viewed here.

The best of LFP:

Craig Glover can be viewed here.

Mike Hensen can be viewed here.

Morris Lamont can be viewed here.

Derek Ruttan can be viewed here.

Sue Reeve can be viewed here.

We'll add others if available.

EdSun EIC quits

The Edmonton Sun's revolving door is moving again, with editor in chief Jose Rodriguez calling it quits, says a TSF tipster.

Rodrigues, who has also been editor in chief of the Calgary Sun since January 2009, will continue as EIC in Calgary, says the tipster.

His exit is the 10th voluntary departure at the Edmonton Sun in recent months.

TorSun morgue

All Toronto Sun library clippings and photos must be on computer if, as a tipster reports, all of the originals are being packed and shipped to Barrie. 

"In order to make room for Sun TV in the Sun newsroom, or what’s left of it, the photo and print files are being moved to a warehouse in Barrie," says the TSF tipster.

"I don’t know if it means the Barrie Examiner building, which may have some space in their building since it used to be a Beaver Lumber building on the northern edge of this snow belt city.

"I wonder how anyone would access these files should they need something from them."

Out of sight, out of mind. 

Speaking of morgues, the Toronto Telegram's clippings spanning 95 years were dispatched to Sun staffers on request after being transferred to computer.

York University has 1.3 million Telegram prints and negatives in its library, with more than 1,000 images available online thanks to an experimental digitization project.

York breaks it down to approximately 830,000 negatives and roughly 500,000 prints.

Somehow, discarding vintage clippings and turning a massive photo library over to a university seems detached from the dedication and efforts of the legions of reporters and photographers.

Ditto for shipping Sun files and photos off to remote building for lack of space at 333.

We are talking about history.     

Sunday 19 December 2010

The Harvey Family

Like father - Larry Harvey.

Like son - Shane Harvey.

Like daughter - Gail Harvey.

Like daughter - Robin Harvey.

Four talented Canadians, two of them former Toronto Sun photographers.

Shane and Gail have been in the spotlight during their post-Sun years, Shane for his music and Gail for her film making. Robin worked for the Toronto Star for years before retiring.

Now, it's their dad's turn, with Shane's new documentary, Paper Promises, highlighting the musical talents of his 82-year-old father and what might have been in Nashville so long ago.

(The 82-minute documentary is being aired exclusively on Super Channel for the next year. The DVD and soundtrack CD can be purchased here.) 

"It's a love story," Shane told TSF during a conversation from Vancouver. "I love my father. He's the real deal."

Shane began working on the documentary in 2007, with his ex, Shelley Gillen, (a former Toronto Sun reporter) as the producer, and acclaimed songwriter Jim Vallance as music supervisor.

Shane says Vallance, a veteran songwriter with Bryan Adams on his resume, calls his father a world class songwriter.

The goal, says Shane, was to get his father on stage at the Grand Ole Opry with the song list he would have used had he made his Opry debut in the 1950s.

And, on Oct. 21, 2008, Larry Harvey did just that - performing live, on stage at the Opry, singing eight songs to a full house, including his three children and four grandchildren. His wife was too ill to make the journey.

"It was like he never left the stage," says Shane, who has since booked recording studio time for his father.

Shane's documentary made its debut on Super Channel on Nov. 28 and the word is spreading fast.

Joe Warmington wrote a column about Shane's father recently and Shane set up a Facebook page yesterday for updates on the documentary and his father.

Father and son have appeared on CBC's As It Happens and the Telegram in St. John's published a lengthy article, with links to several songs.

Shane says he is thankful he had the opportunity to complete his dad's journey to the Opry, a journey interrupted to raise a family.

More on Shane here and more on Gail here

One talented family.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Silver lining

Quote of the week comes from one of the hundreds of Sun Media employees who have been axed in the past decade:

"I wake up every day thankful that I got axed from the Sun, as I enjoy my new job much more. It also reminds me about what I liked so much about the Sun: Working hard with fun, talented, smart dedicated people and having great bosses that care about you and your career."

As we count down to the Toronto Sun's 40th anniversary next Nov. 1, TSF invites casualties of the Quebecor era to tell us how their lives have changed, for better or for worse.

Each and every person axed by Sun Media has a story to tell.

Fame for Elliott

Congrats to Bob Elliott, the Toronto Sun's veteran baseball writer and author, who is the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame's newest Jack Graney Award winner.

Colleague Mike Rutsey says in a Sun story the award has been presented 12 times in 24 years and Elliott's name now mingles with the likes of Milt Dunnell and legendary announcers Ernie Harwell and Tom Cheek.

The Graney award, in memory of the St. Thomas, Ontario, native, a major league player and announcer, is to "a representative of the media who has made a significant contribution to the game of baseball to Canada through their life’s work."

That is a perfect fit for Elliott, 61, who will receive his award June 18 at the 2011 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Previous winners:
1987: Neil MacCarl, Toronto Star; 1988: Milt Dunnell, Toronto Star; 1990: Austin “Dink” Carroll, Montreal Gazette; 1991: Joe Crysdale & Hal Kelly, CKEY; 1996: Dave Van Horne, TSN & CIQC; 2001: Tom Cheek, Toronto Blue Jays; 2002: Ernie Harwell, Detroit Tigers; 2003: Allan Simpson, Baseball America; 2004: Jacques Doucet, Montreal Expos; 2005: Len Bramson, TBS Sports; 2009: Ian MacDonald, Montreal Gazette.

Elliott has been covering baseball and the Blue Jays for the Sun since 1987.

The Hall of Fame's lengthy bio notes the Kingston, Ontario, native was born on Sept. 10, a birth date fittingly shared by Roger Maris and Joey Votto.

Elliott, who launched his sports writing career at the Kingston Standard in March of 1966,  has been nominated for the Cooperstown-based National Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award for three consecutive years.

But still the bridesmaid, not the bride, three years running.

You are due for Cooperstown, Bob. 

Like the Jays, Leafs, Raptors and Argos are fond of saying: Next year.

Friday 17 December 2010

Freep drops guide

Speaking of the London Free Press, the thinning Sun Media newspaper has axed its Saturday TV magazine for all readers.

Joe Ruscitti, editor in chief, explains why in a Comment piece.

"For most of you, there's no news in that, but about a quarter of daily subscribers were still getting the magazine on a by-request-only basis," he writes.

"Not to worry. If you are a daily subscriber, you will still get all but the weekday and late night listings in the newspaper over the course of the week."

Re final TSF year

TSF readers have been asking about this being the final year for the Toronto Sun Family blog.

In a nutshell, the 40th anniversary of the Toronto Sun and five years of TSF sound like perfect numbers to make an exit.

Truth is, while we continue to cheer for survivors still on the job and largely admire the job they do with what they have, the path PKP has taken Sun Media down has eliminated much of its heart.

Many of the talented Sun vets who gave a damn are gone and the successful tabloid formula those same vets crafted has been eviscerated.

A decade of Quebecor has killed Canada's greatest print media success story and nothing short of a change of ownership will turn the tide.

So another year of TSF is ample time to have vets from the glory years tell their stories and to allow the newer generation of staffers to speak their minds.

(Our favourite story at this time of the year? Shaking hands with Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington in the festive sixth floor executive room and being handed an envelope containing a week's pay - in cash. That was one of the many give backs in the pre-Quebecor years.)

A final year of more positive TSF postings would be preferable, but the first four years clearly indicate that scenario is highly unlikely.

PKP would have to experience a Scrooge-like epiphany, such as a  vision of the ghosts of newsrooms past, to realize the damage he has done and change course.

Until then, PKP is a billionaire with lots of toys and, sadly, his least favourite toy is print media.  Employees know it, readers can sense it.

Lifetime noms

The Canadian Journalism Foundation is requesting nominations for its 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, an honour Doug Creighton, co-founder of the Toronto Sun, received in 2001.

Two Canadian newspaper vets who come to mind are Peter Worthington, columnist and co-founder of the Toronto Sun, and Clark Davey, formerly Globe and Mail managing editor, Vancouver Sun publisher and Ottawa Citizen publisher.  

Worthington and Davey, both named to the defunct Canadian News Hall of Fame, are in their 80s and no doubt recognized by large numbers of younger journalists as career-changing mentors.

CJF launched the award in 1996 and invites annual nominations based on:

Body of journalistic work during career;

Contribution to society through outstanding journalism; 

Contribution to the professional development of journalists;

Contribution to the professional development of fellow journalists;

Recognition and respect from peers and community
The winner will be selected by a jury and presented at the annual awards gala.

Previous recipients:
2010: Lise Bissonnette; 2009: Joe Schlesinger; 2008: Sally Armstrong; 2007: Norman Webster; 2006: Knowlton Nash; 2005: Pierre Berton (posthumous); 2004: June Callwood; 2003: Doris Anderson; 2002: Trina McQueen; 2001: Doug Creighton; 2000: Mark Starowicz; 1999: Bernard Derome; 1998: Peter C. Newman; 1997: Peter Gzowski; 1996: Robert Fulford.

CJF emphasises "commitment, integrity, passion and inspiration" in its search for an annual recipient and Doug Creighton filled those shoes quite comfortably in his decades in print media, from Toronto Telegram police reporter to president and CEO of the Sun.

The backstabbing SOBs in the boardroom who ousted Doug in 1992 couldn't shine his shoes, but that is another story.

Thursday 16 December 2010

A London view

Butch (The Beast) McLarty, a London blogger, shares his opinion of  Eric Margolis, the London Free Press and Quebecor: 

I always enjoyed reading Eric Margolis - I now read me him online at his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter - because:

1. He is a well-informed and to-the-point veteran of international affairs. He doesn't mince words.

2. He doesn't toe any particular party line. Agree or disagree - and I usually agree with him -  you know you're dealing with an honest point of view based on years of field experience.

As a resident of London, Ontario, I can attest to the deterioration of the London Free Press during Quebecor's ownership.

For several generations, the London Free Press was a strong and proud voice for Southwestern Ontario under the Blackburns.

When Sun Media bought the Free Press in 1997, it appeared this fine tradition would continue when London-born Big John Paton was publisher.

But the bottom dropped out when Quebecor bought Sun Media shortly thereafter. It was a lousy turn of fate.

And it's not that the remaining staff at the Free Press are incompetent or lazy. There's simply been far too many cutbacks in staff for them to provide proper coverage while they receive their marching orders from out-of-town bean counters.

As a result, circulation continues to plummet and staff morale is at an all-time low.

Further, there's far less diversity in opinion columns with fewer local, regional, national and international voices.

Even the quality of editorial cartoons is in the toilet.

At one time, the Free Press provided editorial opportunities for talented, up-and-coming local writers to get published in a daily newspaper.

Not anymore as Peladeau's Quebecor throws nickels around like manhole covers, notwithstanding the fact that advertising revenue at the Freeps remains high.

It's a significant loss to readers, aspiring journalists and the country itself.

This sad situation is mitigated somewhat by online opportunities, but there is no substitute for a vibrant print edition of a local newspaper.

Currently, I can read the print edition of the London Free Press in a few minutes, including the once comprehensive Saturday edition.

It's little wonder that former LFP editor-in-chief Paul Berton made the jump to the Hamilton Spectator several months ago.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Sarnia snowed out

One of the casualties of the crippling snowstorm that closed Hwy. 402 between London and Sarnia is today's print edition of the Sarnia Observer.

The Observer no longer has its own presses, so the long distance hauling of Sun Media papers to the area from London was curbed by the storm.

An online Sarnia Observer story explains why the print edition has not arrived, which does little for print readers and advertisers wondering where the daily paper is today.

The contradictory online Observer story reads: 

"Due to the closure of Highway 402 there will be no printed edition of Tuesday's Observer.

"The digital edition is being made available free of charge for Tuesday's paper but you must register online at and click on the e-edition link.

"The Tuesday printed edition will be delivered as soon as the roads become passable."

So which is it, "there will be no printed edition of Tuesday's Observer" or "the Tuesday printed edition will be delivered as soon as the roads become passable?"

And does the major delay, or non-delivery at any time, mean all subscribers and advertisers will be credited? 

Winter has not officially arrived and Quebecor's long distance paper hauls are already feeling the brunt of severe weather. 

Quebecor sold its presses at the Observer, the Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune and shipped them to a firm in Peru last December.

So unlike the year-long Ottawa Sun experiment, which saw its papers being printed two hours away in  Mirabel, Que., before returned to Ottawa in 2008, there is no turning back.

Group of 20 Idol

Politics, smolitics, let the next Group of 20 Summit be a concert with world leaders on stage.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took the stage the other day to sing the Fats Domino hit Blueberry Hill.

Japan's Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made the charts last year when a song - Take Heart - he recorded in 1988 was re-released.

We've seen Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper play piano and sing the Beatles tune With a Little Help From My Friends.

and former U.S. President Bill Clinton does a mean version of Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel.

The power of music.

As John Lennon and all of the casualties of Toronto's G20 would have said, imagine.

Monday 13 December 2010

TorSun tabs it

Toronto Sun editors heard the recent "tab it up" call and yesterday's Sunday Sun was Exhibit A, with two exclusives from Sun vets.

Rob Lamberti's two-page spread on mobsters and Peter Worthington's latest two-page revelations from Clifford Olson were classic tabloid features.

That is one way to boost Sunday sales.

Link update

We know about spammers, phishing and other devious Internet ploys to con surfers into believing Google links are genuine, but the "Tori" link mentioned in the previous post is a new low even for scum-suckers.

Our thanks to TSF reader Jerry for the following comment:

"Has nothing to do with the LFP. These scam sites have been around since last century.

"The newer scam sites can be 100% automated. In some cases, you just buy your own web hosting space and another company will run the entire process for you. Of course, that company takes a chunk of any money you make.

"Such a site will automatically search the web for 'any' remotely-related content and then will link to that content. These sites can even auto-embed Youtube videos, etc.

"The point to these links/embeds is to attract search engines and, of course, to mislead web viewers searching for 'real' information.

"These sites usually run on blog software (i.e. Wordpress) and their purpose is to make money from advertising and/or by selling some crappy e-book. These sites are often called 'f'logs', and they litter the web.

"Flogs will ping as many legit blogs as possible, hoping to attract some traffic from those legit sites. Some will even auto-post messages on forums, also hoping to attract traffic.

"There are also many scam sites that use look-alike domain names in hopes of attracting web visitors who have slightly misspelled the real domain name.

"On the Web, there are snake oil salesmen on every corner. Web-proof yourself the same way you street-proof your kids. Or, be like a journalist: believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see. Especially on the Web." 

So what is a legitimate business like the London Free Press to do about a pathetic book promoter who uses the newspaper's name and Tori's name to misdirect web surfers?

Where do you draw the line in hawking goods online? 

Sunday 12 December 2010

WTF book promo

We can only hope Sun Media's London Free Press has nothing to do with this deceptive online book promotion that uses the Tori Stafford story as a draw:

tori stafford london free press | The 77 Secrets
By The London Free Press VIDEO: Premier Dalton McGuinty was in London Friday where he visited the food bank and discussed a number of issues including the . ...

First impression is "The 77 Secrets" in the tagline are facts about the murder case that are now known after a publication was partially lifted.

But the link is to a promo for a book called The 77 Secrets, which has nothing to do with Tori's abduction and murder, nor the aftermath.

If the London Free Press has anything to do with this shameful book promotion, it is a new low for the paper.

If it is an individual using the paper's name - and the murder case - to deceive people into viewing details about the book, the Free Press should immediately put a stop to the deception.

Here's another secret for those responsible: Going to the bottom of the barrel for recognition is a sure way to never see daylight.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Dailey tribute

More than 1,000 people attended today's 2 1/2-hour celebration of life for Citytv's Mark Dailey.

Dailey died Monday from cancer. He was 57.

Citytv has also added its half-hour tribute to the 31-year Citytv newscaster to its online videos.

Mark's clan

Mark Stewart, an award-winning Toronto Sun cop desk vet with three young children, was 38 when he died from cancer on Nov. 18, 1995.

Mark, one of a number of Sun newsroom staffers to die before their time, had been working the police desk full-time since 1982, winning awards and the respect of colleagues, readers and police.

Colleagues considered Mark a key player in the glory years of the tabloid, sharing cop desk duties with Rob Lamberti and Lee Lamothe.

Well, just after the 15th anniversary of Mark's death, TSF received a family update from his daughter, Emma, and she said it was okay for TSF to share it with readers.

Emma, who is studying for a B.A. in Sociology, writes:

"My name is Emma. I am the second of Mark's three children who all miss him very much. A lot has changed for us in the 15 years since his death.

"We were moved to New Brunswick, where I am now in my third year of study at Saint Thomas University. My brother, Dan, is still working on healing after he was involved in a terrible car accident a little over three years back. He is slowly working away at university with interest in journalism. Teagan is in the midst of her Grade 11 year at a local high school.

"My mother, Toni, has found what she loves to do while working at Saint Thomas University - tutoring students with disabilities.

"I made it back to Toronto last summer to bury my grandparents, my father's parents, and was pleased to see a new grave marker connecting my dad to his parents. It had not been completed by the time we left, but I hope to get back next summer to view the final product.

"I am so thankful that you spent your time to compile this web page for all the families. I could never express how much it means to know that he is not forgotten.

"Thank you so much."

Thank you for your email, Emma. You, your siblings and mother are doing your father proud.

Friday 10 December 2010

Sun TV News jobs

Sun Media posted numerous Help Wanted ads today with a Dec. 31 application deadline as the chain prepares for a March launching of its Sun TV News channel.

Most of the positions are Toronto-based: Talk show producer; senior weather anchor; writer/editor; senior news anchor; news anchor; senior graphics artist; graphics artist; studio switcher; studio director; assistant director; audio operator; graphics playback operator; line up editor; multimedia content producer, resource coordinator.

Other TV jobs have been posted for Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Winnipeg. 

While the positions are TV oriented, jobs descriptions indicate responsibilities for some jobs include Sun Media's print and online venues.

Salaries offered for key positions will be an early indication of how competitive PKP intends to be in staffing his new television venture.

Will the paycheques attract the Ted Baxters of broadcast media, or the Walter Cronkites?

Stay tuned.

2011 Heroes coin

Pete Fisher, Sun Media's tireless Highway of Heroes photographer and promoter, can take another bow after the Royal Canadian Mint announced a 2011 Highway of Heroes collector coin will be minted. 

On hearing the news Tuesday, Fisher, who works the Cobourg/Port Hope area at Northumberland Today, wrote this letter of acknowledgment:

"I've sat here for about an hour, going over this email, hoping not to forget anyone. Please don't hate me if I have. It's been an emotional day . . . believe me, it's been an emotional day.

"Let me first give thanks to the people who helped make this happen. The first and foremost goes to Caroline McIntosh. I've never met her, but have talked to her regularly on the phone. She has always been there and I can't believe the effort she's put forth for this . . . simply put, amazing. 

"Joe Warmington said in the first column about this, that I'm a take no prisoner's type of person. Well, I can say that Caroline is the same. I cannot thank her enough for what she has done. Her effort has been nothing short of fantastic. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

"Joe Warmington from the Toronto Sun. Joe kicked this off with his column. He's always been a strong supporter of Canada's military. He's a great friend and has always been there for me. Thank you Joe.

"To Hector Mcmillan, Mayor of the Municipality of Trent Hills. Words simply aren't enough. I first talked to Hector about this when I was in Campbellford covering the Legion story. Immediately he gave his support. I can certainly say, without his efforts this would not have happened.

"To Linda Thompson, Gil Brocanier, and Sue from the Municipalities of Port Hope, Cobourg and LaSalle. Thank you for standing up and supporting this. Strength was in the numbers and you were there for all the right reasons.

"To Karl Walsh of the OPPA, who has been there since the first to get Cobourg Police Constable Chris Garrett what he deserved, thank you.

"To the OPFFA/TPFFA, thank you.

"I thank both MPP Lou Rinaldi and MP Rick Norlock. I'm not a political person, but both have been extremely supportive. They have my utmost respect.

"I thank the Royal Canadian Mint. Freedom of this great country we call Canada gives us the choice of free speech. In that, it was simply a matter of opinion. I thought, along with thousands of others, that our heroes deserved this recognition. And not only them, but the people that come out to the bridges each and every time.

"To the radio stations, including Roy Green and Ted Woloshyn, who have given their support for this cause, it's been great. Thank you also to the television stations, like CHEX and Lisa MacDonald - this wouldn't have happened without their support.

"And to the paper I work for, Northumberland Publishers, they have been there since the start, willing to give their support for this cause that is so right. I can't thank them, and Cecilia, enough for writing the stories and keeping everyone informed.

"Finally, what this is all about, was doing the right thing for the heroes of this country. They shall never, ever be forgotten. And when I think about them, I think about their families. I, and we all owe them so much. 

"I have said from the start, and I will say to the end, their families are not alone, and will never be alone, I will always be there for them, and I know everyone in this email will also be there for them. I think of their sacrifice each day when I wake up, and I think of them now.

"I can't imagine what they go through, but I can at least tell them, they are not alone.

"Thank you to all (and I hope I didn't miss anything)"

Pete Fisher

Well done, Pete.

Noel - you're fired

A TSF tipster says another pre-Christmas Quebecor trimming, this time at Canoe.

"I heard there was more layoffs at Canoe this holiday season," the tipster writer. "At least 5 people." 

Are they alone, or have other Sun Media employees quietly left their buildings after being pink-slipped this Christmas season? We have a feeling there have been other casualties.

Meanwhile, a voluntary departure from the Welland Tribune reduces the reporting staff to three.

A tipster writes:

"Welland Tribune reporter is leaving to go into the  public sector. Government job with big pay, benefits, and pension. This will leave the Tribune with 3 reporters."

Strobel strays

Mike Strobel a guest columnist at the online Torontoist?

Anything to flog your new book, Bad Girls and Other Perils, eh Mike?

Interesting read, though. Took us back to the days when Toronto newspaper wars flared and Ben Johnson lied to us first.  

Judging by the comments of Torontoist readers, the great journalism divide in 2010 is between traditional print writers/readers and uppity online writers/readers.

Torontoist readers actually chastise Mike for using his trademark one-line sentences for his online guest column. 

Don't fold to Torontoist pressure, Mike. Keep those paras short, sweet and punchy.

Tabloid readers love you - and your style.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Lennon page

Kudos to Marie-Joelle Parent and John Kryk for a couple of unique John Lennon stories marking yesterday's 30th anniversary of the rock legend's murder in New York.

Personally, we can't get enough of the writings of New York-based Marie-Joelle and John, but with John, the question is why doesn't he write more often? Thoroughly enjoyed his November piece about Johnny Carson.

Marie-Joelle's Twitter page says she is  a "New York multi-media entertainment and news correspondent for Sun Media Canada." 

Sun Media should keep her busy. She has the tabloid touch. More frequent input from her would be preferably over those embarrassing WENN-dominated back pages any day of the week.

BTW: WENN online is even more of a joke. A count this early a.m. - 15 WENN entertainment stories for Tuesday and Wednesday.

But when the budget is tight and manpower is minimal . . .

Bob and Regent

The annual Regent Park Christmas Dinner will mark its 30th year on Christmas Day and the late, great Toronto Sun writer Bob MacDonald would be applauding the milestone.

The dinner - more than 1,300 people sat down at the tables last year - was a pet project of Bob's for more than 20 years before he died at 76 on Feb. 26, 2006. 

Organizers of the dinner could always count on Bob to be in the food line on Christmas Day, helping to feed the less fortunate while his own family waited for him to share their day.

Bob's faithful readers continue to support the dinner at the Sacre Coeur Church, 381 Sherbourne St., each year.

Donations are being gratefully accepted at: 

Regent Park Christmas Dinner,
P.O. Box 30085, 2365 Warden Ave., Unit 4
Scarborough, ON, M1T 0A1

Wednesday 8 December 2010

TSF's 4th birthday

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Toronto Sun Family blog.

TSF was launched Dec. 8, 2006, as a morale booster for Toronto Sun employees, past and present, who were concerned about the flagship tabloid's future. 

Chatter at a Toronto Sun reunion, attended by 150 current and former employees two weeks earlier, included major concerns about job losses.

SOS - Save Our Sun - lapel stickers were everywhere. The Toronto Sun was once named one of the Top 100 companies in Canada to work for, but Quebecor had curbed the appeal.

We tried Myspace for the blog launch but ran out of allotted photo space within a day, so we switched to blogspot and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

TSF traffic was slow in the first few weeks, but input from proud current and former employees, pre-Christmas layoffs and other news kept the ball rolling.

Unfortunately, good news has been minimal over the past four years, with Quebecor:

Slashing payroll numbers (including 600 on Black Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008);

Selling newspaper buildings, including 333;

Closing newspapers and merging others;

Eliminating Christmas bonuses, sabbaticals etc.

Dropping the Dunlop Awards;

Messing with proven content;

Turning newsrooms into sweatshops etc.

Unleashing this year's Tory Kory fiasco in Ottawa;

And the list goes on.

Four years later, as TSF counts down to the Toronto Sun's 40th anniversary next Nov. 1, the mood at Sun Media is as distant from pre-Quebecor years as can be.

What the fifth and final year of TSF blogging brings is anyone's guess. Our dream scenario is PKP unloads his newspapers in favour of someone who gives a damn about print.

With employees slashed and buildings sold, more newspaper closures could be on the horizon. As it is, PKP has too many toys in his closet to focus on newsrooms.

The billionaire's newest toy, Sun TV News channel, launches in March, no doubt putting more pressure on overworked and understaffed newsrooms across the chain. 

So stay tuned, TSF readers.

Many thanks to TSF's faithful gathering of reliable tipsters who have kept TSF postings flowing in the first four years.

Most tipsters employed by Sun Media remain anonymous, fearing for their jobs. In Quebecor's world, they say putting a name to a Sun Media tip can cost you your job.

Sun vets from the glory years say the loss of freedom of speech for newspaper employees is the saddest post-Quebecor cut of all.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Lunch casualty?

A St. Catharines Standard reader e-mailed this typo gem found online after a Port Colborne teenager was struck by a train:

The story reads:

"He was taken to Welland hospital before being airlifted to Hamilton with injuries to his food and leg."

Must have been the ham on rye he was carrying.

Editors caught the typo in updating the story.