Sunday 29 December 2013

Thane Burnett exits Sun Media after 26 years

Thane Burnett, Sun Media writer extraordinaire, has left the building after 26 years, most of them spent in the bowels of 333.

One fewer storyteller from the glory years that earned the Toronto Sun a reputation for gifted storytellers: Mark Bonokoski, Jerry Gladman, Peter Worthington, Christie Blatchford, John Downing and other prose masters.

It seems being promoted to the national desk is a kiss of death.

This is globe-trotting writer's farewell:

I can see the bartender tapping his watch.

So I guess it's time I gathered up my coat and headed out.

But before I go, and you've been great to sit and listen to my stories, I'd like to pass along a few parting words.

Not any great wisdom. More like a period at the end of a last sentence.

After 26 years of telling tales for Sun Media, another four with a Halifax paper, I am no longer their reporter. Though I guess I still qualify as a journalist.

Years ago, I stood with a group to meet Prince Charles. He was introduced to our motley band with someone explaining: "Your highness, these are a few local reporters."

"What's the difference between a journalist and a reporter?" the prince asked.

A veteran among us chimed in: "A reporter is a journalist who has a job."

So I am no longer a reporter or 'Sun Scribe' — the scrappy moniker used by my peers in the newsroom since 1971. And, because of the complicated marketplace of the business, I may never be a newsman again.

Beyond being a husband and dad and, on better days, a good man, I've always seen myself as a news writer. And my stories have always been for you — until now.

I see you looking at me with a certain unease. Don't.

These years have flown by in endless rounds of adventures. If you had told me at 20 years old how I would spend the next three decades, I would have paid to live through it.

Did I tell you once, while at the Calgary Sun, a Blackfoot elder guided me through a vision-quest involving me going without food and water, and being left in the wilderness for four days? Or the time I was, after I joined the Toronto Sun, smuggled into a South American prison? That a Canadian soldier dove in front of me to protect me from incoming fire in Afghanistan?

Oh, ya, I guess I did tell you.

Wait, what about how I felt in earthquake-ravaged China, or on the island of Montserrat during a volcano that melted my boots, or in remote India where I followed a trail of AIDS patients, or Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing or inside Ground Zero's 'frozen zone' on 9/11 or finding Biddy Baby, a tough Louisiana swamp-man whose family stubbornly rode out hurricanes Katrina and Rita inside a bandit's camp?

You're right. I told you them all, right here.

I just really appreciate the time you gave me.

And I've always been aware they were never my stories. I just carried them to you.

I know there are plenty of louder voices — those demanding you feel outrage about this or screaming the other guy shouldn't be allowed to believe that.

But behind these obnoxious characters, there are as many as 13,000 journalists working in Canada — many quietly knocking on doors or jumping on planes so you'll know the full truth of a story.

Is the industry dying? No, though it is going through serious growing pains that many other trades have known.

In fact, there are apparently — despite corporate shakeups — as many journalists in this country as a decade ago.

How do I know? A journalist dug into it and told me so.

Showmen like Rush Limbaugh like to routinely call out the flaws of 'mainstream journalism'. But Limbaugh, and those like him, simply feed off of the work done by reporters who daily venture out to ask questions and bring you back answers.

Yes, I have worries about journalism. We all do. But I believe in storytelling and the need to be informed when there are sirens blaring on the street outside, or when a government is throwing its citizens in prison a half world away.

Better journalists than me have died believing the same thing.

If I do decide to replace my pen with a hammer or rake, to give up what I've been doing for so long now, I'll still wander in here each day -- now to listen rather than tell.

I just thought it was important, if these are the last words I write for a newspaper, that you know having you sit with me to hear my many stories has been a great honour.

And with one hand on the door latch and the other over my heart, be sure I always tried my very best, knowing you were waiting right here.

Malette exits Intelligencer after 34 years

Belleville Intelligencer's Chris Malette exits with Sun Media buyout after 34 years, but will continue column.

Chris MaletteThis is his farewell column as a staffer:

Desk cleared out?


Office supply room looted for box of paper clips?


Men's room key turned in?


Adios muchachos! I'm out of here.

After 34 years at The Intelligencer and 35 playing with ink and paper, your humble scrivener is calling it a day. The big leap, the sayonara, last call, you name it – I took a package, as they say.

There came the dreaded announcement some weeks back that Sun Media/Quebecor was laying off 200 in a round of “reductions,” to help the corporate bottom line. 

Long story short – I'm leaving and someone is staying as a result. I don't want a hero cookie for it, it was my time to go. I'd watched as our newsroom was hollowed out of some storied journalists over the past several years and was sad, truly sad, that I was the last one standing from the crazy, brawling, bawling, laughing family that was here when I shuffled in the door at 45 Bridge Street E. in 1979.

So, here it is. My last column as an Intelligencer employee. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank a few people along the way, not the least of whom is the late Myles Morton for the great atmosphere he fostered here for those many years he and his family ran The Intelligencer. Myles was generous in ways I can't begin to describe and helped cement many journalists' decisions to keep at the craft. There are far few, if any, like him in the game any more.

As mentioned, people like Linda O'Connor, Ady Vos, Henry Bury, Ron Hiuser, Brian O'Meara – all the 'lifers' as we called ourselves – long since left. My old pal Bones, Paul Svoboda, is still here so I'll pass the torch from failing hands, to cadge the Habs credo. Here, Lurleen, Vachon, Meeks (over from Trenton with Kuglin) Richards, Hendry, Miller, Mountney and Lessard are left to carry on, too. Bonne chance, mes amis!

I have worked, as I said, for bazillionaire Ken Thomson, Conrad Black's Hollinger, Osprey under Michael Sifton and Quebecor under Pierre Karl Paledeau. I have been the play thing of multi-millionaires for all of my working life and like most of us in the craft we're lucky to have a camper trailer or RRSP over five figures, as a result.

C'es la guerre. None of us got into this game to make it rich and the owners know it. They knew they could pay us poorly, but those of us with a passion for news and the life of listening to your stories and telling your tales of triumph and tragedy would do it for nickels. And nickels we got.

So, I'll be toiling in words, probably, until they plant me or the noodle goes from too many raps on the rugby pitch, but it's early days to worry about that.

For now, it's time to sit back with a mug of nog and ponder a life well spent with pen and paper, having covered years of the zoo that is city hall, walked among the famine stricken in Somalia, the wretched poor of Haiti, the hurricane battered of Honduras, the war weary of Bosnia – it's been a life-changing experience and not one many reporters from smallish dailies such as ours ever got to cover. I have been blessed and made a better person for the suffering I have seen around the world as a result.

But, I have been blessed, too, with the love of family and the ability laugh long and hard at my own foibles and the camaraderie of a coterie of great friends, so, yeah, I'll be fine.
I'll miss most, however, you, the readers who have kept me going all these years.

Oh, one more thing? I'll see you all in the new year. I might be gone from a parking spot here at the paper, but they're letting me play in this space each week!

Cheers, until then.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Bob Boughner exits CDN after 54 years

Bob Boughner
Updated Dec. 29 to include Bob's farewell to readers

Years ago, a survey said the average stay for a reporter at a Canadian newspaper was five years.

Many a Toronto Sun reporter beat that average hands down because of favourable pre-Quebecor working conditions, but a record of sorts must have been set by Bob Boughner at the Chatham Daily News.

My first daily reporting job, thanks to Bob Turnbull, the late, great Globe and Mail city editor, was at the Daily News in the summer of 1963.

Bob was working the newsroom at the time. More than 50 years later, he is down to his final two days on the job.

He leaves Friday, having saved the job of Daily News reporter Vicki Gough by taking a Sun Media buyout. Sounds like the caring Bob I knew for three months in 1963 in helping this very green cub reporter and former Globe and Mail copy boy get to know Chatham.

All the best, Bob. You have served Chatham well.

Bob's Dec. 19 farewell to Chatham Daily News readers:

Santa has come along with an early Christmas present for me – retirement.

And so after 54 years this is my last day on the job as a reporter for The Chatham Daily News.

I was a mere teenager when the late Jack Bowers took a chance with a drop-out from the farming program at Ridgetown College to allow me to cover the much-coveted newspaper farm beat.

My late teacher, Bernie Jones, always told me he thought I might someday become a writer.

In later years he said he was proud that I succeeded in a highly-competitive field of endeavour.

Covering special events, reporting on fast breaking news and interviewing celebrities and big-name politicians came easy to this eager reporter.

I can remember the traffic chaos caused when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker allowed me to interview him for nearly 45 minutes on his private train car on the CNR line in Chatham while enroute from Windsor to Toronto.

The same thing happened a few years later when the president of the CPR (a Mr. Crump) passed through Chatham and invited the late Bill Gray and myself to hop aboard his private train coach which was stopped for nearly an hour at the CPR crossing on William Street.

I was in the newsroom the morning a bulletin came across the wire that U.S. President John F. Kennedy had been gunned down in Dallas and one of the youngsters I interviewed that morning called recently to say he was still reading my articles.

I vividly recall walking the streets of Detroit conducting interviews during the riots along with former CFCO reporter Pete McGarvey.

I can’t begin to count the number of colleagues that I have worked alongside over the years including Dave Hodge, who went on to become a big-time hockey announcer on TV and George Hutchinson, who spent a few years at Ontario House in London, England, representing Ontario.

It wasn’t until recently that someone pointed out that I’m likely the longest-serving reporter in Canada – move over Lloyd Robertson and Peter Mansbridge.

Having a face-to-face talk with Nelson Mandela ranks high on my list of achievements as does helping in some small way keeping the doors of Navistar open for an extra year or two by opening the doors of communication between Navistar officials in Chicago and former CAW boss Buzz Hargrove. Buzz was salmon fishing off the coast of Vancouver when I helped facilitate a flurry of phone calls.

During my career I had the great fortune to cover a number of politicians, including former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Chatham-Kent Essex MPs Dave Van Kesteren, Elliot Hardey and Jerry Pickard and MPPs Rick Nicholls, Pat Hoy and Andy Watson.

There have also been a long list of mayors that have provided me with news tips over the years including current mayor Randy Hope and the late Garnet Newkirk, Bill Erickson, Doug Allin and Margaret Archibald.

The job has allowed me to travel to destinations near and far and write about them in my weekly travel column.

Incidentally, I have been asked to continue to turn out a weekly travel column – at least that will allow me to keep my fingers in the paper business.

I know retirement won`t come easy, but because of the advanced technology required in today`s newsroom it`s necessary for me to move on and allow the younger, techy generation to take over.

For instance, the new generation reporter-photographers today cover events in the field, take photographs and immediately place them online for the world to see.

That`s beyond my limited scope of turning on and off my computer each day. I could almost see the writing on the wall when the computer replaced my trusty, old typewriter and digital cameras took the place of my large, old graphflex camera.

In the early days we had company cars to whiz about Kent County (today it`s known as Chatham-Kent) and we spent much of the day in the field gathering news.

Today, news comes to the newsroom in a variety of forms ranging from prepared media releases and photos and a good portion of the work is now conducted over the telephone.

The world has changed dramatically in the past half century and although I can still easily churn out front page articles daily, it’s the technology that has forced me to the sidelines.

I have thoroughly enjoyed keeping Chatham-Kent residents informed of news happenings on a daily basis for more than a half century and will definitely miss coming to work daily. I hope readers have been better informed as a result of my writings.

Retirement will allow me to spend more time with my children – daughter Tammy Lynn Michaud and her husband Ken and Todd Boughner and his wife Nicole, along with my grandchildren – Connor and Sarah Michaud and Clair, Martin, Lydia and Anderson Boughner.

My late wife, Diane, and I were married for 43 years before she died of cancer, robbing her of the opportunity to watch her grandchildren grow up.

Thanks to my readers, employers and newsroom colleagues who have put up with this sometimes grumpy, old man – and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s to each and all.

Perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Sun Media sells four Ontario weeklies

Sun Media has sold four Ontario weeklies to Maple Key Media, which says "We are excited to bring these papers back under local ownership."

Positive news from Quebecor, for a change. Merry Christmas to staff at the Haliburton Echo, Minden Times, Bancroft This Week and Barry's Bay This Week.

TSF readers have been saying if Quebecor has little interest in community newspapers, it should sell the newspapers rather than close them. 

More Sun Media sales to come? Stay tuned.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Marilynn Figueroa exits 333

Marilynn Figueroa, as Hugh Wesley noted in a Facebook posting, knows where all of the bodies are buried after three-plus decades in Sun executive offices at 333.

Marilynn walked out of the Toronto Sun on Friday as yet another vet leaving the tabloid. A farewell gathering is being planned for January.

Behind every Sun boss in the early decades of the Sun, there was an efficient, personable secretary. Women like Trudy Eagan, Lynn Carpenter, Annemarie Cimowsky. Marilynn Figueroa.

Saying farewell:

Moria MacDonald, former Toronto Sun education columnist:
"Marilynn was my first stop in my first summer job at the paper. She took one look at me and said, "Never wear white when you're working at this place." 

"Marilyn, the 'fixer' above all fixers, a paragon of patience and discretion, thoughtfulness too. She helped make the trains run on time. A class act."

Les Pyette, former Toronto Sun city editor/publisher and CEO:
"Retiring?" asks Les, who worked with Marilynn for 14 years in Toronto and Calgary.

"I think she is leaving after 33 years," he says. "Quite a record, quite a gal. Marilynn always had your back, a first-class pal." 

Don Hawkes, former Toronto Sun associate editor:
"Can't believe Marilynn is packing it in," says Don Hawkes. "She has to be the longest-running good looker in history. Say hi to her for me. I'm off my feet temporarily, or I'd do it myself."

Ian Robertson, another former Toronto Sun vet:
"I don't know what the Sun will do without 'the rock.'

"No matter how busy Marilynn was, she always accommodated staff, no matter what job they did," says Ian. "Efficient, helpful and kind aptly describes her.

"I recall Marilynn when I first joined the Sun through 25 years until my retirement last January - always bustling with work, with gentle reminders to get my delayed expense accounts in, forever getting them put through, helping us all out when company accountants started billing for all long-distance calls on our company BlackBerries, without bothering to confirm if they were business or personal.

"Some, like me, never made personal long-distance calls from work (I have a Bell calling card, which is only fair - wise and you never lose track, trying to recall who you called a month or two ago). Marilynn straightened the bean-counters out fast.

"Could it be she reminded them of their promise - in writing to us all - when the cell phone plan began, to bill staff only for personal long-distance calls? Must have rocked the budget; one ad staffer got a 50-cent demand. She'll be missed."

John Downing, former Toronto Sun editor in an FB posting:
"Marilynn had this competent calm even if Les or Peter or Mike or some impostor stayed crazy longer than the daily five minutes. 

"When the accountants or HR or the business office or some puffed up official from the 'outside; delivered the latest incomprehensible manoeuvre against common sense, she cut through the BS and saved the day, and your feelings. 

"Marilynn was more captain of the ship than the admirals who took the salutes."

Lew Fournier, former veteran Toronto Sun copy desker, from FB:
"A CEO of a major engineering firm once told me: I can take off for six months and no one misses me; my secretary takes off for a day and the whole place falls apart.

Marilynn's holidays were a time of dread around the Sun; her return was occasion for joy. I can't count the number of times she helped me and other staff members, all with a great smile and an ability to let all the crap around her roll off her shoulders. 

"I love you, Marilynn."

Trudy Eagan, Toronto Sun secretary to 6th floor executive: 
"Marilynn has been a key member of the Sun family for many years and has contributed a great deal to ensuring editorial ran smoothly (or as much as that is possible) during these years. 

"She will be missed by many. Thanks Marilynn. Here's to the next chapter. Knowing you kept Pyette and Strobel (amongst others) in line qualifies you for most anything Ciao Bella."

John Cosway, former Toronto Sun vet:
"Secretaries were the unsung heroes during the glory years of the Toronto Sun, so much so that management (Doug) introduced Secretaries Day when all were wined, dined and pampered. 

"Marilynn's 30-plus years of dedication to the inner workings at 333 were no doubt filled with enough stories for a book. Hopefully, Marilynn, you are leaving on your own terms and this is not another squeeze play. 

"And darn, Marilynn, you are departing just as I was learning to spell your first name with two ns. Enjoy your post-Sun years.

To add your comments, email

More comments about Marilynn and her departure can be read in the Toronto Sun Family's Facebook group.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Sylvia Train, former Toronto Sun gadabout, dies

Updated Dec. 17 re Ron Base
Sylvia Train, the Toronto Sun Family's former queen of the social circle set for three decades, has died.  

Sylvia's age remains a mystery, but her skills in getting the who's who of the entertainment and social crowd to talk on record for her Sun columns are well-known.

She died Thursday at Wellesley Central Place in Toronto, almost 20 years to the day she said farewell to 333 and her readers. Sylvia, who had Alzheimer's, had resided at Wellesley Central Place for 9 1/2 years.

Jim Slotek's heart-felt farewell in the Sun:

Fellow colleagues from the day remember the human dynamo as someone who  charmed everyone on the A lists and in the Sun newsroom.  

A fitting home base for Sylvia during her Sun years was a condo in one of the new buildings on Lake Ontario down by the Humber River.

Memories of the former ballet teacher, theatre producer, talent agent, restaurateur and widely-read Toronto Sun columnist can be sent to

Ron Base, former Toronto Sun entertainent writer 
"Sylvia was the delightful wallflower at the orgy. A great and loyal friend, we worked at the Sun together, attended New York openings together, tried to launch a Hollywood game to rival Trivial Pursuit together, laughed together and occasionally held each other up when the going got rough. 

"She helped to repair a marriage (at least for a time) and when she dated Leafs owner Harold Ballard, she made sure my wife and I got the best seats at concerts at the Gardens. 

"She had style, wit and flare. When Sylvia entered the room, you knew things were going to liven up. The room is much darker today. 

"Loved you old friend ..."

Hugh Wesley, former Toronto Sun photo chief (FB)
"Just found out Sylvia Train has passed from this earthly venue. She was quite a down to earth woman and so well-connected to the hurly burly wacky entertainment biz in Toronto (See George Anthony fb) 

"Whenever you had an assignment with her and celebs, if you were smart, all you had to do was hang on to her coat tails. So little in stature and with so many stories. I think she was Harold Ballard's squeeze before Yolanda. 

"And speaking of Harold Ballard ... Rob Ford."

Les Pyette:
"So sorry to hear about Sylvia, a grand old gal who certainly contributed a lot to the success of the Toronto Sun. We shared many a lunch/dinner in the 70s. She taught me proper manners and opened many important doors for a struggling young city editor."

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Christmas 2013 Sun Media layoffs

Updated Dec. 7, 2013
If it is Christmas time, it is pink slip time at Sun Media.

TSF received the following posting today:

Publisher Mark Holmes from Northumberland Today let go this morning after 33 years with Sun Media. Along with one Classifieds person. Darren Murphy back at the helm but operating out of Peterborough... another bleak Christmas for Sun Media employees. 

Update: 200 more jobs cut, including about 50 in editorial.

A union press release says "Although plans may change, the downsizing (in Ontario) was expected to affect the Toronto Sun, London Free Press, Belleville Intelligencer, Chatham Daily News, Sarnia Observer, Stratford Beacon-Herald, Brantford Expositor, Owen Sound Sun-Times, St. Catharines Standard and the Niagara Falls Review."

Putting names and faces to the latest cutbacks from TSF readers and other sources:

Toronto Sun
"Thane Burnett, Lisa Lisle (Online boss), (the National Ent editor). Also 3 jobs on endangered list in Editorial, Figgy is leaving and national marketing group canned."

Ottawa Sun
"Five also cut from the Ottawa Sun: Randy Hayley, Drew McAnulty, Robert Moore, Donna Udechukwu and Sandra Wells."

Belleville, Trenton
"Belleville Intelligencer losing 2 from editorial. No names yet. The layoff here also includes The Trentonian and The Community Press, the two weeklies that fall under our Quinte umbrella. Rumours abound that management will kill the sports department, with all remaining reporters working out of a common pool and taking assignments as they come. Supposed to be meeting soon to discuss details and buyout packages that might be available to those considering leaving. As it stands today, the 2 lowest people on the overall seniority list would be hit."

Niagara Region - Niagara Falls, Welland, St. Catharines, Thorold
"Three in Niagara Falls (reporter, sports editor, managing editor); one in Welland (reporter); two in St. Catharines (reporter, photographer); the only Thorold News reporter; the magazine division is shuttered. The editorial department of the Niagara Falls Review is being moved to St.Catharines to be overseen by the St. Catharines Standard managing editor. The editor in chief of the Review, who hasn't been at that paper in months as he travels the province training employees on how to get by from the last set of cuts, is being moved into an as yet unknown position. No doubt he'll help the company figure out how to get by with even fewer employees." 

"Corey Smith, Matt Day, Corey Larocque at the Niagara Falls Review. Dave Johnson at The Tribune and one non-editorial person there, too. Jeff Blay at Thorold News. Jeff Bolichowski and Julie Jocsak at St. Catharines Standard. Review editorial merged into St. Catharines. Thorold News to become part of the Standard somehow. Still three publishers in Niagara."

"Looks like steps are being taken to move to just one paper for the Niagara region. Remaining staff from the Niagara Falls Review are moving into the new offices of the St. Catharines Standard. Looks like the Review lost three people, including ME — and former longtime reporter – Corey Larocque. Standard is losing 3 - photog Julie Jocsak, reporter Jeff Bolichowski and Jeff Blay, who reported for the weekly Thorold News. Tribune is losing veteran Dave Johnson, and I hear one other. I'd be nervous in Welland that they are next to shutter the office and move into St. Catharines. Yet another dark day for journalism in the Sun Media family."

"For the record, Welland also lost a valuable reporter when Dave Johnson, a longtime member of The Tribune newsroom was let go."

"In Chatham, according to social media chatter, reporter Vicki Gough and sales rep Chris Summerfield." 

"At least one gone from Brantford, reporter Hugo Rodrigues." 

Northern Ontario - Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Timmins
"In Northern Ontario, Sudbury Star 4, Sault 3, North Bay 1, Timmins 1 (not replacing a reporter) What about SUN TV? Any cuts?" 

St. Thomas, Stratford
"Mark Butterwick, former longtime city editor at the St. Thomas Times-Journal, started when the newspaper was part of a small SW Ontario group owned by the Dingman family, then under ownership of Thomson, Bowes and the Sun/Quebecor. Mark in recent years stepped over to be a local sports reporter. Laura Cudworth, reporter, Stratford Beacon-Herald."

Friday 1 November 2013

Toronto Sun turns 42

Happy 42th birthday, Toronto Sun.

And, yes, you do look thinner.

Take a bow Andy Donato and Christina Blizzard, the two remaining Day Oners from the 62 or so former Toronto Telegram staffers who got it started in the Eclipse Building on Nov. 1, 1971.

Simon Kent, a relative newcomer, has a column on the anniversary today, with different photos used for the print edition and the online edition.

The print edition photos - Don Hunt, Doug Creighton, Ray Biggart and Peter Worthington reading the first Sun and Peter and Lou Grant in the newsroom - bring back a lot of memories.

Good times and good people.

Hopefully, with another anniversary on the books and another Christmas approaching, it doesn't mean more layoffs at 333.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Canadian News Hall of Fame needs a home

Les Pyette - 2013 inductee
Raise your hand if you recognize the name Arthur Ford.

Or Gerald Filon.

Or John W. Dafoe.

Young, or old, don't feel guilty if you didn't know they were the first three inductees into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in 1966.

Ford was a longtime editor of the London Free Press; Filon was publisher of Le Devoir from 1947 to 1963 and Dafoe, a posthumous inductee, was editor of the Manitoba (Winnipeg) Free Press from 1901 to 1944.

Many more solid contributors to Canadian news gathering would be inducted, but the collective accomplishments of these men and women are nowhere to be found other than in a list of names on a bare bones webstite.  

(On the Toronto Telegram/Toronto Sun front, those media greats include Hall of Fame inductees Ted Reeve (1972), J. Douglas MacFarlane (1985), Doug Creighton (1988),  Trent Frayne (1992), Peter Worthington (1997), Douglas Fisher (2000) and Les Pyette (2013).

The shame of the Canadian News Hall of Fame is it does not have a home for its Wall of Fame and, until last year when Lloyd Robertson and Andy Walsh were inducted, it had been dormant since 2002.

The Hall of Fame had inductees from 1966 through 2001 annually except for 1996, when no names were added. When Gordon Donaldson, previous chair of the Hall of Fame died in 2001, it appeared the Hall of Fame died with him. There were no inductees from 2002 to 2011.

Kudos to Ian Connerty, current chair of the Canadian News Hall of Fame, for resurrecting the Hall of Fame last year and for his enthusiasm this year.   

This blogger met Ian this week at the Hall of Fame presentations and he appears to be someone who gets things done and this is one thing that needs to get done for the preservation of the history of Canadian print and broadcast media greatness.

"The Fame is currently in search of a new permanent home since the Ontario Club closed up," says Ian. "Our artifacts are in storage for now. Last year, we met with folks at Ryerson about location the Hall in heir new Communications building, but that didn't work out. We are looking for other options."

Ryerson would have been an ideal location.
Washington's popular Newseum
While media in the United States have the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to showcase the history of American print and broadcast media, Canada has an embarrassing void.

How the Newseum sums up its museum: "The Newseum - a 250,000-square-foot museum of news - offers visitors an experience that blends five centuries of news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits."

In Canada, no news museum, not even a wall to hang the Canadian News Hall of Fame plaques, now sitting in storage gathering dust.

Ed Patrick, longtime president of the all-but-defunct Toronto Press Club (now known as Toronto Press and Media Club and still homeless) singled out the Toronto Star's John Honderich at this week's Canadian News Hall of Fame dinner when talking about the need for a new showcase for the Hall of Fame.

Why single out John? Canada's media conglomerates and surviving independents should come to an agreement on the financing of accommodations for a new Canadian News Hall of Fame/media museum.

Have journalists across the country research the inductees and the history of Canadian media and contribute their findings to the Hall of Fame/media museum.

Or honour the inductees with an online virtual media museum, displaying each of their Hall of Fame plaques, along with their biographies and photographs, plus other media-related material.

With the successful 2013 inductions of Les Pyette and Boris Spremo still fresh in the minds of media across Canada, it is time to strive for a new home for the Hall of Fame before the 2014 inductions.

Whether a physical building, or a professionally-designed website, Canadian media should collectively do no less to honour the 100-plus greats of the news business.

Set a deadline and get it done.

Friday 18 October 2013

Bob Burt provided this photo of the Windsor Mafia, a group of multi-talented Windsor Star newsmen. All but two were involved in the rising of the Toronto Sun.

It is an amazing, nostalgic photo when you realize the talent represented in this one photo.

Seated from left: Les Pyette, Cam Norton, Bob Burt, Vic Roschov. Standing from left: Bruce Blackadar, Ron Base, Brian Vallee, Ray Bennett and Mark Bonokoski. Cam, Bruce and Brian left us too soon. Ron, Mark and Les were at last night's party.

Bob Burt writes: "Sitting to my left is Vic Roschkov, Editorial cartoonist Windsor Star & Toronto Star. Standing in the back row is Ray Bennett, who went from Windsor to the Sunday Star, then to TV Guide in L.A. and now in London, Eng. working for an entertainment publication.

"I believe the pic was taken to accompany a 'Windsor boys doing well' piece being written about the Mafia in the Windsor Star. If memory serves, the Windsor writer was Al Halberstadt. He later became a city councillor there - don't know where he is anymore."

A night for Les Pyette: Hall of Famer

When we first proposed a gathering to celebrate his induction into the Canadian News Hall of Fame, Les Pyette said he would stay over an extra night if there was enough interest. He did not know if there would be.

There definitely was.

The gathering at P.J. O'Brien's last night was a mix of Les Pyette's family, friends and former colleagues out to toast and thank the new Hall of Famer.

Many thanks to Ron Base, who has known Les for 40 years, for his words at the microphone and for drawing others to speak of their admiration for Les. Words from the heart from Andy Donato, Mark Bonokoski, BJ Del Conte, Shane Harvey, Ian Harvey, Mike Strobel (who sang Love Me Tender).

And then there was the photo Les held in his hand while expressing his thanks for the warm wishes from people whose lives he had changed over the decades.

The photo, one of two emailed by Bob Burt, was of the Windsor Mafia, which we will post elsewhere. It is a priceless photo that Les did not have in his scrapbook.

Joe Warmington, who booked the lounge, sweet-talked owner Pat Quinn into providing free hot food, something every self-respecting newspaper person treasures.

Kudos to Sue-Ann Levy for recommending Cakes by Robert and for the photo of the cake. It was a shame to cut into the work of art, but we did. Delicious.

There were a lot of photos taken during the night. Would appreciate FB postings.

Messages from those who could not attend came from near and far: Linda Barnard, vacationing in Turkey; Joan Sutton, on the move in New York; Hugh Wesley on a photo assignment in Guelph; Michael Peake, New York-bound; George Anthony in Montreal etc.

Although we asked several times for a separate bar tab for the guest of honour, Les paid his own way. The $90 raised in the donations covered most of the cost of the cake, so we are good.

The gathering at PJs turned out to be all for Les and rightly so. It was not the appropriate environment for remembering Peter O'Sullivan, so that leaves us to remember him at another time, another place.

Friday 11 October 2013

No stopping the presses for Metroland

Darryl Smart is home again and loving it as sports editor of Metroland's new Norfolk News.

The former Sun Media staffer, one of hundreds pink-slipped in July, is excited about being a Day Oner at a new newspaper.

"This opportunity at the Norfolk News is exciting," Darryl said in an email. "It's not very often you can start a paper from the ground up, let alone do it where my career began and in my own backyard."

Darryl is a classic example of the talent Sun Media has sidelined since Quebecor took over in 1999. The award-winning newsman served the chain well for 13 years, starting with the Simcoe Reformer, followed by the Woodstock Sentinel-Review, Tillsonburg News and Brantford Expositor.    

"To be honest, I was pretty sad to leave the Expositor," Darryl says. "It was the paper I wanted to be at when I first started in the business. As a kid I delivered the Expositor and always looked up to the likes of Ted Beare and Ed O'Leary, so it was an honour to be following in their footsteps."  

Darryl was the sports reporter at the Expositor when axed in July. He did it all for Sun Media previously: sports photographer, managing editor, night news editor and lead hand for central pagination.  

Now he is the sports editor at the Norfolk News, another new weekly print/online newspaper for Ontario.

"I was born and raised in Waterford so being home again is great," he says. "It's also pretty funny because my mom (Jean Leguee) is a long-time ad rep with the Reformer." 

These are exciting times for newspaper people who have not given up on newspapers. 

The focus, from front page to last, is local news. Community. 

Metroland does community very well. 

Sun Media doesn't, plain and simple.

Out Port Hope way, we have Sun Media's Northumberland Today, the amalgamation of three established newspapers that served Port Hope, Cobourg and Colborne, and Metroland's Northumberland News.

Northumberland News is local front to back. Northumberland Today has a lot of recycled Toronto-based Sun Media content created in PKP's grand centralization scheme.

Give full control of community newspaper content back to the publishers and more Sun Media newspapers might be spared the axe.

For now, we salute Metroland for creating new newspapers and providing jobs for more of the talent Sun Media has lost since 1999.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Cool memories of TorSun comp room

Hi, everyone. I'm Glenn Fraser.

I started with the Sun in 1982 at the Edmonton Sun. I transferred to Toronto in 1985 working in the composing room.

Every weekend, in the winter, us comps would freeze our little butts off. One particular Sunday night was extremely cold. Back then the wall where we composed the pages was nothing more than cinder block with a red brick face on the outside of the building.

It was the west facing wall and looked onto the parking lot. The west wind would rip against the wall and we would feel the cold on the inside.

I finally had enough and organized the crew to get their coats, hats, scarfs and gloves on and got a photog to snap a couple of pictures. I put together the attached front page and made two copies: One for me and the other was sent to the building manager.

For the life of me I can't remember his name, but when we got to work on the Monday afternoon we were told that he got the message. 

It was then explained to us the building did not have a boiler but was heated by the people and the machines in the building.By Sunday night, the building would cool down because of the lack of people working on the weekend.

We were told to suck it up. lol

Monday 30 September 2013

Paul Heming gone 20 years ago today

Toronto Sun newsroom staffers arriving at work on Sept. 30, 1993, were told about the sudden death of 13-year copy desk vet Paul Heming.

Paul was only 53 when he died of a heart attack, gone too soon like many others at the Sun, including Ben Grant, Greg Parent, Lloyd Kemp, Del Bell, Paul Henry, Jamie Westcott, Ray Smith, Mark Stewart, Paul Rimstead, Jerry Gladman.

The Ryerson grad worked at the Guelph Mercury, Toronto Telegram, the Guardian and other publications in England, and the Globe and Mail before arriving at the Sun in 1980.

Paul was a huge part of the Sun newsroom chemistry that made going to work seem more like you were going to a party. His love of baseball was contagious.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Oct. 17 - a gathering for Les Pyette, Peter O'Sullivan

You are invited to an evening of celebration of Les Pyette’s induction into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and remembrance of the late, great Peter O'Sullivan.

When: Thursday, October 17, 7 p.m. to ?

Where: The lounge room at P.J. O’Brien Irish Pub & Restaurant, 39 Colborne Street (Behind the King Edward Hotel)

Cash bar, with “nibblies” courtesy of Pat Quinn.

Former Sun colleagues, family and friends are invited to mingle, congratulate Les for being inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame and to remember Peter O’Sullivan.

Both men were key players in the rise of the Toronto Sun during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Their newsroom skills and eye-catching front pages raised the bar for tabloid fare.

If you are not able to attend the P.J. O’Brien gathering, feel free to post comments about Les and Peter here or on the Toronto Sun Family Facebook page.

Les, a newsroom vet from the Soo, and photo legend Boris Spremo will be inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame the previous night during a $200-a-plate dinner.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Jennie Marks, a 36-year TorSun vet, dies at 63

Jennie Marks, a dedicated Toronto Sun circulation staffer for 36 years, died suddenly on Sept. 19, leaving a legacy of family, friends and satisfied Sun readers. She was 63.

Jennie, just one of the hundreds of Sun vets who made a difference at 333 during its growth in the 70s, 80s and 90s, is remembered for her effervescence on the job and off.   

Hired in 1977, Jennie made a difference from the day she arrived at the Sun after working for the Montreal Gazette. She was a native of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

It has been estimated she talked to more than a million Sun subscribers in her 36 years at the Sun, all the while keeping her cool and not losing her love of the job.

The Jennies of the Toronto Sun, the unsung heroes of the Little Paper That Grew, were always the pride of co-founders Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington. 

This blogger remembers Jennie's good nature during office-to-office sports pools throughout the building. She was always a delight to talk to during visits to circulation. 
Jennifer Patricia Marks is survived by Liston, her husband for 35 years, daughter Kerin, son Brad and his wife, Marthese, and numerous brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and her Toronto Sun family.

“The Sun was her family apart from the blood family; she loved everyone she worked with, especially going back to the old days,” Brad said in a Toronto Sun story.

She was known as "Mom" to many.

Viewing will be held on Thursday Sept. 26, between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Newediuk Funeral Home, Kipling Chapel, 2058 Kipling Ave., Toronto. Funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday, Sept. 27, at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew’s RC Church, 2547 Kipling Ave., Toronto.

Interment will be held at Assumption Catholic Cemetery, 6933 Tomken Rd., Mississauga. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society, or to the Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, in memory of Jennifer Marks, would be appreciated by the family.

Online condolences at

Memories of Jennie Marks can be emailed to

Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Paper - Ontario's new monthly independent

Another former Sun Media staffer has launched a free newspaper, this time a Clinton-based monthly print/online edition to serve the Huron Region.

As a TSF blog poster says: "There is a new newspaper in Huron County, which is founded by (Cheryl Heath) a Sun Media castaway. Check out The Paper on Facebook)"

The Paper's website reads:

The Paper is an independent monthly publication, which is dedicated to bringing local businesses, services, retailers, and community-service organizations together with the region’s readership. 

It is designed with those age 40+ in mind, and is distributed to a number of targeted 55+ communities and seniors homes in Huron County. It is also available at a number of independent convenience stores and one book store.

Its editorial content is produced by local writers, and is edited by Cheryl Heath, a veteran print journalist with more than 20 years of experience in the field. Cheryl, a Windsor native, has worked in weekly, biweekly and daily newspapers in Ontario, Manitoba, and Alberta. 

Cheryl and her husband, Russell, moved to the area in 2003, out of a keen desire to enjoy life in a circa 1864 Georgian home in the small community of Clinton, while working at a corporate publication. That corporation restructured in 2012, casting Cheryl adrift. She chose The Paper out of a firm belief that despite protestations to the contrary, there are still people out there – though granted mostly those 40-plus – who appreciate the printed word. And for those who don’t, there is always thus, the online edition. 

The Paper is aimed at those who are seeking locally sourced and produced features, photography, opinion pieces, stories, recipes and comments, and more information on locally operated businesses, restaurants, and retailers. 

The Paper is also an advocate for the county, its residents, and economic development. The Paper strives to promote the interests and goals of Huron County’s residents and business community. As such, The Paper strives to promote businesses and services in Huron County, while also sharing the stories of those who choose to call Huron County home, meaning both those with long proud roots in the community, like sixth-generation dairy farmers, to the former city folk who chose to say “goodbye, city life!” and with the green acres they now are  here.

The Paper welcomes you, the reader, to get involved, and perhaps more importantly, invest your time, if not your only yours dollars, in God’s country, which is also promoted through the Huron Tourism Association as Ontario’s West Coast. 

TSF welcomes another new Ontario independent.

Saturday 7 September 2013

PC's Hudak hires Bonokoski

We didn't think Mark Bonokoski would be idle for long after being ousted from Sun Media in July after an  award-winning run since 1974. 
As the Toronto Star announced Friday: In other staffing changes at Queen’s Park, Tory Leader Tim Hudak has named legendary former Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski to be his director of communications.

The seasoned journalist in 2000 made an unsuccessful bid for the Canadian Alliance nomination in the federal riding of Nepean-Carleton, but was seen as too moderate by right-wing Reformers in the local association.

TSF agrees with the "legendary" part and he is the right man for the job. Our only hope is Mark will continue to pen the occasional, non-political Bono whimsy on his blog.

Congrats, Mark.
BTW: Perhaps the Star beat the Conservatives to the punch in announcing Bonokoski's appointment. We couldn't find a press release from Hudak's office anywhere online into early Saturday. 
It was Tweeted, but no official press release that we could find.

Thursday 5 September 2013

New paper for Petrolia

Another new independent free Ontario newspaper was born today in Petrolia, competition for Sun Media's Petrolia Topic. It is appropriately called the Independent.

Update on the launch by Heather Wright, a former Sun Media freelance writer: A CTV report:

TSF received these anonymous postings today:

"The Independent in Petrolia launched today. Respected journalist who once freelanced for Sun before those funds began drying out. In competition with the Sun's Petrolia Topic which has been sliding badly. Wonder if the Independent will publish the Topic's obit soon."


"Just heard her that a new newspaper is opening in Petrolia (southwest Ontario) to compete with the Sun Media Petrolia Topic. Haven't lived in Lambton County for years, but I know my mother sure is happy to see another newspaper in her town. Guess she won't need to renew her Topic again, this is a free paper to every household in Petrolia and area.

"Anyone hear more about who is running the paper? I would guess former Sun Media folks, there certainly are a few in the neck of the woods."

Monday 26 August 2013

Crownest Pass Promoter in Alberta closes

Make that 13 Sun Media newspapers shuttered since last fall.

The Crowsnest Pass Promoter in Alberta is toast as of today. 

The latest Sun Media casualtity is said to be a victim of a dispute between the local mayor and the newspaper.  

Sun Promo Queen Lesley Annett dies at 65

Her smile and the glow that came from being one of the Toronto Sun's key promotions staffers is what we will remember of Lesley Annett. 

Mike Strobel has written about Lesley in two recent columns, including one today that describes how she danced at her daughter's Aug. 17 wedding just a week before dying of ovarian cancer at 65.

Trudy Eagan says in a Facebook posting: "Beautiful column Mike which captures the essence of our special friend and colleague who taught so many of us to be brave and spirited in so many ways. We will long remember her laughter, sense of humor, and how she made each of us feel,like we were the only one in the room. Thanks."

You can read Mike's column here

Lesley, who died Sunday in her Oakville home, was just one of the many positive people who filled the six floors of 333 during the glory years . 

Memories of Lesley can be posted here by emailing