Monday 23 June 2014

Summer 2014 open forum

Keep your fellow Sun Media colleagues and former staffers up to date on happenings at your newspaper and the Sun Media chain.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Another honour for Les Pyette

Congrats to Les Pyette, pictured with daughter Kaydi.
From the Sault Ste. Marie Star

SAULT STE. MARIE - Les Pyette was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, where he began his long and productive newspaper career as a sports reporter at his hometown paper when he was still in high school.

He was bitten so hard by the journalism bug in those early days that he quit school to take a full-time job at the Sault Daily Star in 1963 for $65 a week, at the tender age of 17.

Pyette worked his way up to top executive positions at several newspapers in Canada and was founding editor-in-chief of the Calgary Sun in 1980.

He has travelled much of the world as a news man, but he never forgot about the people back home. He made regular trips back to the Sault to visit with family, which never seem far from his heart.

Pyette spent 41 years in the news business, 29 of them with Sun papers.

His efforts have led him into newsrooms across the country, to Taiwan, Japan, South Africa and many cities in the U.S., and distinguished him as one of the top news men in the nation.

Last fall he took his place in the Canadian News Hall of Fame among other greats in the industry.

On Saturday afternoon he was under the big tent on the Sault waterfront at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion to receive an honorary degree from Algoma University, and also deliver the commencement speech at the school's convocation ceremony.

“Who would have thunk that I would be standing here (now), when I was chasing all those sports stories around the Sault 50 years ago,” said Pyette, 69, who lives in London, Ont., but still calls the Sault “home.”

The Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) Degree is awarded by AU to recognize outstanding achievement by a person outside the university, said academic dean Arthur Perlini during his introduction of Pyette.

“Mr. Pyette's achievements in Canadian journalism are outstanding and have been acknowledged so by his peers, as well as the readership of many of the newspapers he has spearheaded,” said the dean.

“His career contributions and achievements ... are recognized today as those of a newspaper legend,” Perlini added.

Pyette was soft spoken and most when he took his turn at the microphone.

“Thank you so much for bestowing this honour on a poor kid from Connaught Avenue — Korah Road and Second Line. (It's) hard to believe,” he said.

Pyette tipped his hat to his mother and father from the podium.

“Both are long gone now ... They raised five boys and two girls in a little war-time house on Connaught Avenue. The morals and the values that they taught us still hold dear with us today,” he said.

He made special mention of his brothers, Norris, Nellie, Ron and Al, who were in the audience.

Pyette said his father wasn't home much when he was growing up because he worked two jobs. It was oldest brother Norris who drove the boys to hockey games and taught them to drive.

“(He) taught us not to take any BS from anybody ... I owe a lot to older brother Norris.”

Pyette became a bit emotional while recognizing Nellie, Ron and Al, “For all their love and support over the years.”

He said he didn't know what to make of university president Richard Myers when he called to tell him the school wanted to present him with the honorary degree. He thought one of his old friends from the Sault was putting him on.

“I'm humbled and honoured to be standing here,” he told the crowd of nearly 1,000 that filled the tent. “Thank you so much from the bottom of my Sault Ste. Marie heart for this wonderful honour. I will cherish it forever.”

Although he was still playing hockey and baseball when he began working for the Sault Star in 1963, Pyette's duties took him to local ball diamonds, soccer fields and the former Memorial Gardens to also gather game statistics and talk to coaches.

He provided the information to reporters at the Star who wrote the stories. He didn't actually get a byline until he had been on the job for six months.

After playing in a hockey game in Sudbury late in 1963 he called the Star to provide details and comments about the game.

“A guy named Greg Douglas took it (the information) and he made a story,” Pyette said during an interview after convocation.

He was shocked to see the story across the top of the sports page the next day — with his byline on it. It was one of those indelible moments.

“I was bitten hard. I was turned on right there” to the newspaper business.

Pyette worked at the Sault Star until 1967 when he applied for a job at a small paper in Illinois,“as a lark.”

To his surprise he got the job and worked three years in the U.S. before returning to Canada to continue his trade, later becoming editor at the Toronto Sun, then founding editor-in-chief of the Calgary Sun, publisher and CEO of both Sun papers and the London Free Press.

Through his career he also served as executive editor of the Toronto Sun, general manager at the Calgary Sun and vice-president of Sun Media before retiring in 2003.

He returned briefly to the news business in 2004 as publisher and CEO of the National Post for one year.

Pyette's advice to the 2014 graduating class was terse and simple.

“Believe in yourself, don't take no for an answer,” he told the more than 200 students in attendance.

Back in the '70s when the “upstart” Toronto Sun opened its doors, the so-called media experts predicted the paper wouldn't last six months, he said.

“But as you know, it's 43 years later and it's still going.”

It takes a lot of hard work to be successful, he told the students. There were many late nights and early mornings during his 40-plus years in the news business.

And he took some chances along the way, he said, such as leaving a secure job to begin a new venture.

“I can tell you students, no one is going to give you anything, you have to stick to your principles and work your butt off to gain a measure of success in this working world,” he said.

“Buckle down and concentrate and listen to your instincts, listen to your gut. If you're lucky you'll find something that you like. And if the door of opportunity opens, walk right through it and don't look back.”

Sunday 15 June 2014

Clare Wescott to celebrate 90th

Clare Westcott turns 90 on Tuesday, June 17, another milestone for the father of Jamie Westcott, the young award-winning Toronto Sun police desk reporter who died at 25 on June 13, 1989.

Clare’s career resume includes hydro worker, newsman, longtime Bill Davis aide, Metro Toronto Police Commission chairman, Ryerson Board of Governors member, National Parole Board member and citizen court judge.

He shares some of his experiences in a recent email note saying Bernie Webber, chairman of the board of JazzFM91, will be chatting with Brad Barker on his show on June 17 at 3 pm.

Clare writes: “Have no idea what they are going to say aside from wishing me a Happy Birthday.

“Jazz FM91 started more than 60 years ago as CJRT-FM at Ryerson Institute, now Ryerson University. It was then a mix of educational programming classes and music, mostly jazz.

“As a tiny FM station, its range was not far beyond the then tiny Ryerson`s campus. It was used as a teaching tool for students taking Journalism and, about 63 years ago, I was one of those students.

“All I remember is writing and editing copy for the sports broadcaster and once I read sport news and I`m sure I was terrible for I still remember trembling.

“In 1950, I came to Toronto from Seaforth to work for the Toronto Telegram. I enrolled in night school at Ryerson by mail before I left and I recall the cost for one year was $15.

“Classes were two nights a week and the teachers were mostly working Toronto news folks who were moonlighting. Classes were held in two-story frame buildings left from the war.

“I was so lucky (although I was fired from the Tely) for in the early 1960`s I was appointed to the board of Governors of Ryerson and in 1971 Premier Robarts and I were given honorary degrees.

“Bernie was an early data processing whiz and worked in the department of education in the 1960`s and later in other government ministries. He is really the father of today`s highly successful JazzFM91.”

Thank you for sharing the email, Clare.

And a very happy 90th.

Thursday 5 June 2014

At 30 - Hartley Steward

Updated June 11, 2014

Hartley Steward has died. He was 72.

The former Sun Media and Toronto Star executive leaves a wife, two children and countless benefactors of his mentoring over the decades in the news biz.

No funeral, as he requested, but a memorial service was held in Collingwood.

There are stories to tell about Hartley's long and productive career in journalism before he quietly bowed out of Sun Media in 2006. Stories about his years devoted to building the Sun tabloids in Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary, his time at the Toronto Star etc.

He cared about journalism and the people he worked for and with in newsrooms and boardrooms across Canada.

Our favourite Hartley Steward caring and sharing story stems from the wake of Paul Heming, a wiz Toronto Sun copy desk editor who died at 53 in September of 1993.

Paul left $1,000 in his will to buy drinks for his colleagues at his wake, which was well populated. When the $1,000 ran out a couple of hours before closing time, Hartley, not wanting to see Paul's gathering end early, added another $1,000.

TSF readers wanting to share their memories of Hartley can do so by email at 

Nancy Stewart, former composing room staffer: 
We were saddened to see Hartley Steward's obit in the Toronto Sun. Even though we didn't work directly with him, those of us from the former Composing Room and Ad Production Department remember him fondly as an advertising executive, Editor and Publisher. I'd like to relate one short story that reflects his caring attitude towards staff and his happy demeanour: 

When the Sun held its usual party for 20-year-service employees (yes, those were the days), I happened to be on sabbatical (again, those were the days) and missed the party. After my return, Hartley invited me to his 6th floor office and personally gave me the 20-year-service gold ring, taking the time to talk of work, history, the origin of our similar names and a few good laughs. He made me, and so many other employees, feel like we were an important part of The Sun. 

Mike Strobel remembers Hartley in a Toronto Sun column:

 John Downing remembers Hartley on his Downing's Views blog:

From Sherry, an ex-dayoner via a blog posting.
When I received a text from Sister Kerry yesterday about Hartley passing, I thought: Oh my God - there goes a Toronto Sun legend. That's so sad. I really loved that guy.

As a boss, and friend, he was so much fun - and so good looking - had an amazing sense of humour. Every minute spent with Hartley was joyful, in or out of the office. No matter who, or what, brought you down, Hartley had the knack of picking you up.

My heart cries when Tor Sun family members join each other at 30 - for Hartley, it's sobbing.

Judy Creighton, former editor/columnist for The Canadian Press.
I was most fortunate to meet Hartley when I joined the Toronto Star in 1973. Not only did he mentor me as a reporter, but  he became a good friend. So much so, he and his partner sublet their downtown apartment to me when they decided to purchase a house. 

Hartley was a wonderful writer and was blessed with a wicked sense of humour. He will be missed by all who knew him. 

John Paton, former Toronto Sun copy boy who rose to executive ranks, in his blog: 

Ron Base, former Toronto Sun entertainment writer, remembers Hartley in his blog:
John Cosway, former reporter/columnist/rewrite guy
My first glimpse of Hartley Steward was when Hartley and Les Pyette sat down with me for a job interview at the Toronto Sun's original digs in the Eclipse Building in late 1974.

Harley and Les peppered me with questions about my media jobs, looked at clippings from a scrapbook, listened to stories about my years with Thomson newspapers and the Richmond Review in B.C., but were most interested in my wage demand.

Told them I always want to make more than my last job. I was making $216 a week at my previous job at the Richmond Review, so "how about $217?" They both laughed - and a few weeks later I was on the Sun's cop desk for the start of a 19-year stay.