Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The deal is done


With fond memories of Doug, Peter, Don and others in the 62 or so Day Oners Club, we say farewell to one of North America's print media success stories gone awry thanks to corporate power plays, greed and mismanagement by new owners.

As others have said, those who were around to share in the glory years have memories - and stories - to last a lifetime. In my book, the Toronto Sun was an Ali, a Gretzky, a Pele, a Woods. Shooting stars to be remembered as one-of-a-kind experiences.

To know what the working environment on all six floors of 333 was pre-Quebecor is to know how much our shooting star has dimmed. In the end, we will always have SkyDome circa 1991 and warm memories of Christmas bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, sabbaticals, Blah days, anniversary parties etc.

To the survivors of the PM purchase, we wish you well. TSF will be here to relay new ownership moves. We can only hope PM will be gentle.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Free Sun book for TSFers

Julie Kirsh, our tireless master of the Toronto Sun library, has a deal for 200-plus TSFers - a free copy of Jean Sonmor's 1993 book The Little Paper That Grew.

"I have 200, maybe more," Julie says. They are free for the asking but have to be picked up at 333.

The best years of the Toronto Sun were 1971 through 1993 and this 408-page book includes mention of many of the Sun legends and their stories.

It was about to be published when Doug was ousted. He was gracious in rewriting his introduction: "When Jean Sonmor asked me to write an introduction to her 20 year history of the Toronto Sun, I had no idea that she would have to rewrite the last chapter to include my dismissal."

Rumour has it the remnants of the Little Paper That Grew will be moving out of 333 now that Sun Media has been sold to PM. If you do not have Jean's book, now is the time to pick up a mint condition copy.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

TSF: One million visits

The Toronto Sun Family blog, launched in 2006, has topped the one million visits mark, with almost two million page views.

That speaks volumes for the interest in the roots and early growth of the Toronto Sun and its siblings and the relentless Quebecor downsizing since 1999.

Most of the reliable tipsters who kept TSF informed of happenings at their Sun Media newspapers have been laid off or have moved on to other jobs.

A change in ownership this year will bring to an end the blog as a means of reporting Sun Media activities, but we will still have memories of the glory years to share.

Thanks a million for your interest in this blog.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring 2015 open forum

What will become of the remnants of Sun Media in 2015? There is apprehension in the air as spring begins and we await a decision on the purchase bid by PM. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Virtual news awards site ready to go

A virtual Canadian News Hall of Fame profiling more than 100 inductees is ready to go, says Ian Connerty, former chair.

"For about $5,000, we could have a virtual Hall of Fame on the Internet to honour and respect the six newest inductees and the other 113 members of the Hall of Fame," says Connerty.

All that is needed, says Connerty, is $5,000 from the Toronto Press and Media Club, which owns the rights to the Hall of Fame, to cover the cost of the website.

Over to you, TPC.

As it stands, Hall of Fame plaques honouring Canadian newspaper greats, including Toronto Telegram and Toronto Sun vets, sit in storage gathering dust.

Friday, 13 February 2015

At 30 - Sun News Network

April 18, 2011-February 13, 2015.

Bye bye.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Winter 2014/15 open forum

No Christmas layoffs for the TSF forums this year, but keep in touch as we close 2014 and begin a new year with new owners on the horizon.

Merry Christmas to all and to all the best in 2015.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

At 30 - Don Hunt, last of three Toronto Sun co-founders

Updated Nov. 20 re Celebration of Life 
Don Hunt, the last of the Toronto Sun's three co-founders, died yesterday in Toronto from leukaemia. He was 85.

A Celebration of Life will be held Monday, Nov. 24 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, 1668 Islington Avenue in Etobicoke.

The last time we remember Don and fellow co-founders Doug Creighton and Peter Worthington, standing shoulder to shoulder was during the Toronto Sun's memorable 20th anniversary shindig at SkyDome, complete with a midway and fireworks.

That thank you party - and earlier parties and gestures - said it all for their respect for employees who made the tabloid a huge success in the first two decades. A year later, the party ended with Doug's ouster from the board.

Don left the Toronto Sun in 1988 to work at the Houston Post after it was purchased by the Sun and then the Denver Post, but returned to Toronto in 1991 for the 20th anniversary party.

There were a few sets of brothers working at the Sun in the early years, including Don and his brother, Jim, a celebrated sports writer. Their smiles and laughter were contagious.

So, at 30 the last of three men who led the charge at 222 King Street West, in a factory setting, and 333 King Street West, in a new building four years later.

Don Hunt, founding general manager.

Doug Creighton, founding publisher, died from Parkinson's disease at 75 on Jan. 7, 2004.

Peter Worthington, founding editor, died from staph infection complications at 86 on May 13, 2013,     

We are forever indebted to Doug, Peter and Don.

Memories of Don can be posted here or emailed to thecos@the-wire.com 
Fellow Day Oner Christina Blizzard wrote Don's obit for today's Sun:

TORONTO - He was a gentle giant of a guy — a newspaper legend who had printer’s ink in his veins and a brilliant business mind that guided the Toronto Sun through its financially perilous early years.

Don Hunt, the paper’s first general manager, died Tuesday at Toronto General Hospital of leukaemia.

He was 85.

While former colleagues at the Sun remembered him for his business smarts, his daughter, Patricia, is mourning him as a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

At 6-foot-6, he was a big guy with a big heart, who liked nothing more than to take his grandkids to the beach.

“It was his childhood dream to start a newspaper,” she said in an interview. “He wrote for his high school newspaper when he was 12.”

Hunt was one of the triumvirate that founded the Sun. The late Doug Creighton was the publisher. Peter Worthington, who died last year, was the editor.

Hunt was the third leg in the stool, so to speak, the calm business voice who kept a steady control over the paper’s finances, while Creighton and Worthington focused on the editorial side of the business.

An avid sports enthusiast, Hunt always insisted sports be given prominence in the Sun.

“He loved the Detroit Tigers and loved to go to games at Tiger Stadium,” Patricia recalled.

He leaves his wife of 59 years, Helen, as well as five children, Patricia, Cameron, Andrea Fennessey, Ian and Paula.

He also had 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“He loved to go to Florida and play on the beach with them,” she said.

Hunt grew up in Sarnia and was in the fourth graduating year of the University of Western Ontario’s journalism program. He had two brothers, Jack and Jim “Shakey” Hunt, also a sports writer.

He started working for the Montreal Star when he was 17 and later moved to Toronto, where he joined the now-defunct Toronto Telegram. When the Tely folded, he moved to the Sun.

His storied journalism career included meetings with Fidel Castro and Che Guevera when he covered the winter league baseball in Cuba. He’d met many U.S. presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

He had drinks in the White House with Ronald Reagan.

“He was a great father and he was always the life of the party,” Patricia recalled.

Hunt loved to play golf and baseball, and in his teens played basketball against the Harlem Globetrotters.

He was also instrumental in starting Can-Am Racing, a predecessor of what is now the Honda Indy and he promoted F1 racing at Mosport.

Hunt quit the Sun in 1988 to go to the Houston Post. He later moved to the Denver Post.

Glen Woodcock, who was the Sun’s first production manager, recalled the fledgling Sun could not have survived without Hunt’s firm hand on the tiller.

“Without Don, we wouldn’t have had any success,” said Woodcock, who now writes an auto column for the Sun.

He remembered a guy who would always watching the dollars.

“He was the guy who kept us on the straight and narrow when it came to spending money in the early days,” Woodcock said.

“Doug was a spender. I think without Don Hunt we would probably have gone broke in the first couple of months - or maybe the first couple of weeks.”

Hunt had ran the Tely’s syndicate department, and brought the rights to many features to the Sun.

Woodcock remembers he always wanted to run the Peanuts cartoon in the Sun — but Hunt balked.

“He wouldn’t let me have Peanuts because we could make $200 a week from the Star,” he said. “And I understood. He was absolutely right.”

While he was careful with cash, Hunt would loosen the purse strings if he saw a good idea.

Woodcock pitched the idea of running a Day in the Life of Toronto - and asked for an unheard-of 28 clear pages to run photographs from all the Sun photographers.

“I went upstairs to Don and said, ‘Two weeks from Sunday, I’d like to have 28 extra clear pages.’ He looked at me and said, ‘What for.’”

When Woodcock explained, Hunt didn’t hesitate: “You’ve got them,” he said.

He also remembers Hunt okaying putting a pop machine in the darkroom - except instead of ginger ale, it was stocked with beer.

“It lasted for a week until there was a drunken brawl between the circulation department and the composing room,” Woodcock recalled.

“Don told me to get rid of it - and out it went.”

Cartoonist Andy Donato remembers Hunt as the quiet guy who was always working in his corner office and who stayed away from office politics.

“Peter and Doug were the ones out front. He was never the kind of guy who wanted the limelight,” Donato recalled.

“He was just a damned good general manager. He was a journalist, a sports writer, who became the general manager of a big, successful company.”

After Hunt moved to the Houston Post, he wanted to stay on the board of the Toronto Sun. When the Sun balked, he sold his stock and stayed in the U.S.

“He was the steady guy in the middle who kept Doug and Peter apart - the voice of sanity,” Donato said.

Sun Media’s v-p of editorial, Glenn Garnett, recalled that Hunt was a good sport who at one legendary event dressed up as General George Patton for an advertising department motivational party.

Garnett, who edited the Sun’s official history, The Little Paper That Grew, by Jean Sonmor, said there was a great deal of tension between Hunt and Creighton in Hunt’s latter years with the company.

“We got the impression he was very much the hard-driving, hard-as-nails businessman behind two very outgoing, affable guys,” he said. “I’d describe him as the steel spine of the Sun.”

The last time the three Sun founders got together was at a lavish party at SkyDome, now Rogers Centre.

In 1991, Creighton had laid out a massive celebration, complete with a merry-go-round.

The last picture of them together, they’re on that merry-go-round.

In his book, Looking For Trouble, Worthington remembered Hunt as the guy affectionately dubbed “Dr. No.” He was the guy who told everyone we couldn’t afford big expenses and had to live within our means.

“For all his blunt, sometimes insensitive exterior, Hunt was kind, scrupulously honest and competent,” Worthington wrote in his book.

Long-time Sun editor John Downing recalled that Hunt lived near him in Etobicoke and one of the paper’s first carriers in that area was one of Hunt’s sons. Downing’s son took over when he quit.

Downing said Hunt rarely got into political discussions, but would simply sit on the side as Worthington and Creighton quibbled about which politicians they’d support.

He recalled Hunt as a calm presence in a business where tempers could often flare.

He also remembered him as the guy who was very much his own man - and wouldn’t listen to what others were telling him.

“When the Tely folded, Don sued (Tely owner) John Bassett - and won,” Downing recalled. Downing had been advised not to sue — and regrets not having collected money he was owed.

A Celebration of Hunt’s life will take place 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24, at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, 1668 Islington Avenue in Etobicoke.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

New start-up independents survey

The Toronto Sun turned 43 on Nov. 1, 2014, prompting this invite to former Sun Media staffers who have launched independent newspapers across Canada to share their experiences.

Independents spawned by Sun Media's downsizing have been popping up in the past decade and we often wonder how they are being received by readers and advertisers.

Former Sun Media staffers publishing independent newspapers in the shadows of the conglomerates can describe the experiences in unlimited words.

Post here or email your start-up experiences to thecos@the-wire.com

Meanwhile, Toronto Sun Day Oners continue to relish the choice they made in going with the tabloid start-up after the demise of the Toronto Telegram days earlier. 

The photos in this blog posting were snapped in the early years of the Toronto Sun in the Eclipse Building factory environment. 

Christina Blizzard and Andy Donato are the lone Day Oners still on the job. 

Other surviving Day Oners, including Don Hunt, George Anthony, Jim Thomson, Jac Holland, Norm Betts, Dave Cooper, John Iaboni, Cal Millar, Linda Bone, John Downing, Joan Sutton, Ann Rankin, Kaye Corbett, Kathy Brooks, Glen Woodcock, Mary Zelezinksy and Bob McMillan, remember seeing a dream become a reality on Nov. 1, 1971.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Postmedia $316M purchase forum

Today, a Toronto Star headline reads: Postmedia buys 175-paper Sun Media for $316m


If the sale is approved, what will it mean for survivors of the 15-year downsizing by Quebecor?

Postmedia is Paul Godfrey and Paul Godfrey et al pocketed millions in selling Sun Media to Quebecor in 1999.

We would prefer to think positive, but if it comes to a choice of shuttering the National Post or the Toronto Sun the folks working at the remains of 333 King Street East should be prepared to vacate.
What is it they say about the light at the end of the tunnel is usually an oncoming train?

Have your say.