Wednesday, 24 July 2013
The thought of small, community-minded newspapers sprouting from the indifference of conglomerates like Sun Media warms the heart.
It takes us back to our roots when we worked for independent and chain-owned community newspapers that swore by the code - community news, sports, social events and entertainment first.
(Much like the Brampton Times city editor who refused to use my photos of the Beatles snapped at Maple Leaf Gardens because there were no local people in the pictures.)
Chatham Voice's Corcoran, Blake and Fatima Pisquem all worked at Sun Media's Chatham Daily News before parting company. A fourth, Tricia Weese, will join the Chatham Voice next month.
When Tricia joins the weekly paper, there will be eight men and women devoting their time and energy to making the Chatham Voice a community newspaper of old.
The free print edition, in full colour, and the online edition, have been welcomed by the community.
"Feedback from the community has been extremely positive," Corcoran tells TSF. "We currently put out a once-weekly publication, delivered to homes and businesses in Chatham, with a weekly circulation of more than 20,000.
"Printed in full colour - every page. Looks great. Everything, with the exception of printing, is done locally. The content is local, the ownership is local, and the readers appreciate that."
We wish the Chatham Voice only success, with the support of readers and advertisers. Nothing is more contagious than the will to succeed in a new venture.
This blogger's first reporting job was at the Chatham Daily News in 1963 and it was pure joy from the first assignment - take the Speed Graphic, pocket full of bulbs and pocket full of film slides out for a spin.
The focus of the Daily News, a Thomson newspaper at the time, was Chatham and a few nearby communities. The op-ed pages had some outside content, but largely it was local front to back.
We didn't mind working 14-hour days because we wanted to succeed and, as long as we paid the rent and had enough to eat, money was not an object. The money comes later.
The recent launch of the Chatham Voice reminded us what the Toronto Sun must have felt like on Day One and the potential it presented to the 62 former employees of the defunct Toronto Telegram.
Perhaps the hundreds of men and women axed by Quebecor in recent years might consider branching into independent weekly or daily newspapers in their communities.
Can you vision a movement of new, community-driven Voice newspapers to replace the apathy of Sun Media in supporting community newspapers?
We are sure the community newspaper vets at Chatham Voice have some pointers.
Contacts: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-397-2020.
If the owner/managers of other independent community newspapers launched across Canada since this blog began in 2006 want to provide updates on their experiences, please do.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 06:24
Sunday, 21 July 2013
Mark's final Sun Media column:
When Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin penned his final piece for New York’s Newsday, he signed off to both management and readers by writing “thanks for the use of the hall.”
Today I wish to express the same thanks.
When I put the final touches to my first newspaper column way back in 1977, banged out in triplicate on a manual typewriter from a low-rent motel room near Kingston Penitentiary, I did not expect my run to ever end.
But it did, on Tuesday.
Hard as I tried, I never got as good as the legendary Jimmy Breslin, but he was my template for what a hardcore newspaper columnist should be — gruff, opinionated and fearless, but with a soft touch when a soft touch was needed.
While there were times with Breslin when it seemed he couldn’t have cared less, there was never a time when I could have cared more, nor when my harshest critic was not the face in the mirror.
I hope it showed in my work because I always gave the best I had to give.
Since 1974, I have worked for no one else but the readers of this space.
And now, thousands of columns later, and millions of words having lined the bottom of bird cages, it has come time to say goodbye.
It’s not easy.
My worst days, of course, were those three years back in the late 1990s when I was publisher and CEO of the Ottawa Sun, and my eyes were buried in budget books and not staring at a blank page on a computer screen with a column deadline looming.
Anyone who knows me knows this to be true.
Writing is what I loved, not management, and so it is good to go out as a writer.
Not many in the game have been as fortunate as I have been, who have been given a column at such a young age — then one of the youngest in Canada — and with it a ticket to virtually travel the world over the course of decades.
There is no greater adventure than to be a history’s elbow when the world changes, to be in Berlin at the very moment the Wall came down, to dodge gunfire in Rhodesia, to find yourself in a room in the Vatican next to where a pope lies recovering from an assassin’s bullet, or to be in an IRA funeral cortege in sectarian Belfast when two off-duty soldiers get lynched.
And that’s just a quick whetting of the memory.
During my days as the marquee columnist in Toronto, often punching out five columns a week, my memory quickly flashes to the phone call to the newsroom from the hitmen who had just whacked Toronto mobster Paul Volpe, and directing me to the exact location where his body could be found.
How’s that for having contacts?
During more recent times, there was the opportunity to write a 15-part series on the urban aboriginal which, while winning a couple of awards, was important in that it put a face to an oft-conflicted First Nations, and addressed those conflicts through their own words, not just the words of bureaucrats and politicians.
The capper, perhaps, was Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin launching the largest investigation in his office’s history as a result of another award-winning series I wrote on post-traumatic stress disorder among Ontario’s provincial police, and the force’s reluctance to deal with the turmoil and the anguish.
This issue must continue to be pursued.
Throughout the course of my career, rarely has a week gone by when I am not stopped in the street by a reader, many times to remind me of a long-ago column about their aunt, or their uncle, or someone they know who had fallen on hard times but were picked up by my words in this space.
Small victories, yes, but important ones too.
It signals a connection with readers.
So this is it, then. The end of this road, so to speak, but not the end of the adventure.
Somewhere, out there, another challenge awaits with my name on it.
Until then, thanks for the time and the use of the hall.
You will be missed.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 02:57
Friday, 19 July 2013
It has been nine months since David Mirvish unveiled plans for a massive facelift for King Street West. The project would include demolition of the Princess of Wales Theatre and the nearby Eclipse White Wear Company Building.
All has been quiet on the Mirvish front until the pending sale of Honest Ed's at Bathurst and Bloor and nearby Mirvish real estate was announced this week. Funds needed for the King Street West redevelopment?
Makes us wonder if the Eclipse building, home to the Toronto Sun from its launch on Nov. 1, 1971, until the summer of 1975, will soon vanish.
Hundreds of Sun employees and former employed crammed into the Eclipse building in November of 1992 to celebrate Doug Creighton's 64th birthday just weeks after he was ousted.
During the party, it was announced if $200 was paid to the Toronto Historical Society, a commemorative plaque would be added to the Eclipse building tagging it as the birthplace of the Sun.
Dropped by the building a few times over the years and it appears that plaque was never paid for and attached to the building.
If and when the Eclipse building is demolished, sentimental Sun vets interested in owning a piece of newspaper history should be offered a piece of 322 King Street West.
A brick, perhaps? Surviving Toronto Sun Day Oners and those who followed might cherish a piece of the building. Once it is gone, it is gone.
If there is a countdown to demolition, TSF will round up favourite photos of the Eclipse building for a photo album.
A 2012 National Post photo by the late former Sun photographer Mike Cassese shows the proud white Eclipse building and the nearby Princess of Wales Theatre.
And a Toronto Star story profiles buildings in the way of the major facelift.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 03:31
Thursday, 18 July 2013
Updated July 19
Yesterday's online edition of the Toronto Sun was updated at 2:07 p.m. to correct the headline and the lead for the story mentioned below.
The revised headline: Teen, nearly electrocuted, falls from tree in Oakville
The revised lead: A small Oakville country club remains closed and without power after a 13-year-old boy was nearly electrocuted there Wednesday afternoon.
TSF's original post:
Toronto Sun online story July 17:
Boy, 13, electrocuted, falls from tree in Oakville
We'll ignore a teen being called "boy," but having him in serious but stable condition in hospital after being electrocuted is inexcusable for the reporter who wrote the story and the editor who wrote the headline.
One more time:
But with minimal, overworked staff, Sun readers can expect this quality of journalism in print and online.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 07:04
Keeping track of who's who at the Toronto Sun is getting easier by the month as staff numbers dwindle. One TSF source says there are only five or six reporters left in the newsroom.
Tom, hired by Les Pyette in the 1980s when the Toronto Sun was an enviable newspaper job, was born in Trinidad and Tobago. giving the tabloid an edge in dealing with the black community.
He covered the Rodney King riots in L.A. at a time when the Sun dispatched reporters and photographers to other locations. He also covered the fiery death of cult leader David Koresh in Waco, Texas.
Plus the aftermath of Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew.
The affable reporter was proud of becoming "the longest serving minority reporter" in the Sun chain.
Post-Sun, he is into freelance writing, working on a true crime novel and taking courses at Humber College to become a consultant in the immigration business.
Godfrey, just one of the many talented men and women who shared the Toronto Sun newsroom in its glory years, can be reached at email@example.com
Keep in touch, Tom. Looking forward to reading your book.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 03:22
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
Mark Bonokoski, a Sun legend since 1974 and one of the original members of the Windsor Mafia, is one of the 360 layoff casualties announced yesterday.
Say it ain't so, Bono. But, unfortunately, it is. Here is what he had to say on Facebook.
"Black Tuesday: It was difficult to choose which media report to run under this post, so I chose one from the mid-West. A halfway point perhaps.
"Anyhow, unmentioned in any news reports thus far is that I. too, was relieved of my duties this morning (via a phone call) as Sun Media's national editorial writer and columnist.
"Since my Sun Media email account has already been disabled (as per protocol), I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"PS: Any and all job offers will be appreciated. My tank is still full and I am running on all cylinders.
"To my Sun colleagues, thanks for the time, the space and the friendships. You are unrivaled."
In our books, there was no finer a writer than Mark when he wrote about everyday people in the Toronto Sun over the decades. It earned him wide readership and numerous awards.
This is the Toronto Sun Family profile written in 2006 before Mark was named national editorial writer/columnist:
arrived at the Toronto Sun in 1974 as a member of the Windsor (Star)
Mafia. He became news columnist in 1977. Mark was the first Toronto
journalist to write about Nova Scotia's brutal Billy Stafford, who abused his commonlaw wife, Jane Hurshman, until she shot him dead. (Former Sun staffer Brian Vallee
later wrote the acclaimed book Life With Billy.) Mark was transferred
to London as the Sun's European bureau chief in 1988 and the
award-winning staffer filed copy from the shadow of the Berlin Wall the
night it fell in November of 1989. In 1991, he was appointed Editor
of the Ottawa Sun and became Publisher and CEO of the Ottawa Sun in
1997. In 1999, he walked the plank and rose as Sun Media's national
affairs columnist in Ottawa. He left the Sun (stupidly, as he puts it) in 2000 to
pursue a career as a federal politician, crashed and burned. Mark
returned to the Toronto Sun as a columnist in 2002, where he was
welcomed back with three Dunlop Awards and a National Newspaper Award
nomination. Columns he has penned in the past two years about the Deering sisters of Port Perry, Erica and Shannon,
helped raise more than $50,000 from readers for experimental stem-cell
surgeries in China. The sisters were left quadriplegics in an August
2004 car accident. That is the impact of the heart-felt words of a
veteran Sun columnist. He cared in 1974 when hired by the Sun and he
still cares 32 years later.
Comments and best wishes can be posted on TSF or emailed to email@example.com
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 04:30
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Sun Media has announced closure of 11 newspapers, including several that were closed in the past month or so, and 360 more job cuts across the chain.
The Canadian Press story:
Five more Toronto Sun employees have been cut and gone are the three 24 Hours free newspapers in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
Veteran Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski was one of the Toronto Sun casualties. Names of the four other Toronto Sun casualties are pending.
The once proud and prosperous Sun empire shrinks again. The Globe and Mail lists the eight shuttered paid papers as: L’Action Régionale in Montérégie; Lindsay Daily Post; Midland Free Press; Meadow Lake Progress; Lac du Bonnet Leader; Beausejour Review; Le Magazine Saint-Lambert and Le Progrès de Bellechasse.
Have your say on TSF by posting or by emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 14:51
Monday, 15 July 2013
James Wallace has resigned as editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun.
So goes another veteran Sun staffer from the ever-shrinking numbers at 333.
Here is Steve Ladurantaye's Globe and Mail story on his departure.
The Globe story says: James Wallace, a former reporter and columnist with the paper who was appointed to the job in 2008, told staff he would be stepping down Monday afternoon. Executives at Sun Media, who own the Toronto tabloid, didn’t respond to requests for comment but confirmed his departure.
Comments and good wishes can be posted here or emailed to email@example.com
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 23:41
Friday, 12 July 2013
Updated July 14
Rewrite: Okay, Peter Worthington never did sit here.
Ken Wyman writes:
Truth in advertising: Peter Worthington's step-daughter, Danielle Crittenden, tweeted me just now that PW did not actually sit at this desk. She says "He always had an office. Rim was for copy/layout editors."
Let the record stand corrected. But either way, it's a great table!
I hope you can tell me more about the desk. Perhaps some of the readers of the Sun Family Blog will recognize it, even though the original base is long gone, and replaced with Ikea legs. Comments would be welcome.
More importantly: Do you know anyone who might want to give it a good home?
The original email from Ken:
I have the original, historic, Toronto Sun City Desk, and, much as I love it, it's time for it to go to a new home. Would you like it? Or do you know people who might? Don Hunt, perhaps.
Peter Worthington Sat Here: Originally built as the city news desk for The Toronto Sun, then used by their sports department, it was passed on to United Press International and Canadian Press. I acquired it from CP in 1985 (and I still have the sales receipt to prove provenance).
The journalists, famous, infamous, and unknown, who sat here left a patina of cigarette burns, coffee stains, and scuff-marks, and I have preserved that. Built of thick wooden boards, like a bowling alley, it is an impressive piece of history.
It can be assembled in the original 54 inch wide C shape, or in a sinuous curve up to 21 feet long, or in twos, threes, or any combination of all seven sections, or each section can stand alone. There are five wooden drawers, and two under-desk shelf units.
Cell 416 362-2926
His PDF reads:
For Sale: Historic News Desk or The Rim
Excellent conference room table, executive desk, dining room table, set for TV news roundtable panel, receptionist desk, or up to seven individual tables. Also perfect for a journalism school or museum.
Peter Worthington Sat Here: Originally built as the city news desk for The Toronto Sun, then by their sports department, it was passed on to United Press International and Canadian Press. I acquired it from CP in 1985 (and I still have the sales receipt to prove provenance).
The journalists, famous, infamous, and unknown, who sat here left a patina of cigarette burns, coffee stains, and scuff-marks, and I have preserved that. The City Editor sat in the middle, with the departmental editors around the rim. Built of thick wooden boards, like a bowling alley, it is an impressive piece of history.
It can be assembled in the original 54 inch wide C shape, or in a sinuous curve up to 21 feet long, or in twos, threes, or any combination of all seven sections, or each section can stand alone. There are five wooden drawers, and two under-desk shelf units.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 16:29
Saturday, 6 July 2013
Brian Charles Belliss, a former longtime Toronto Sun composing room employee, has died at 70.
His obit reads: Passed away unexpectedly on June 30, 2013 at NorthYork General Hospital at the age of 70. Loving husband of Sandy. Beloved father of Michael (Renee) and Vicki (Todd Gillis). Proud grandfather of Jakob, Danielle, Ryan and Lukas. Will be missed by his sister Diane (George) and his aunt Connie Imrie. Friends may call on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 12 noon followed by a Memorial Service at 1 p.m. at the R.S. Kane Funeral Home (6150 Yonge Street, at Goulding, south of Steeles). As an expression of sympathy, donations may be made to the charity of choice. Condolences www.rskane.ca. R.S. Kane 416-221-1159
Stories and memories of the life and times of Brian can be posted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
"It is hard to believe the time has come when we begin to lose the people we have spent a significant part of our life working with and enjoying each others company. Brian was my boss when I was brought on full- time at the Toronto Sun in 1972, with the Financial Post. He was great to work with, instructive, very calm, satirical and encouraging. As a foreman, he was a classical example of why it was so great to work for the Sun. He was not just a boss, he was a friend."
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 04:40
Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Updated July 7, 2013
Welcome to the TSF tribute page for Peter O'Sullivan, a tabloid genius whose influence at 333 was felt off and on from the late 1970s into 1999. The following comments have been gathered from Facebook, the Toronto Sun and other sources. If you have more tributes or stories to tell about Sully, email them to email@example.com
"I was shocked to hear of the passing of Peter O'Sullivan. He was my age. I remember working with him and Ed Monteith many times on the front page. Working on the front page to Peter was not a job but a privilege. He pushed the envelope both in composing and the colour lab at the time. He was fun to work with, but he knew exactly what he wanted and expected even if it took few redoes and you had to pull it away from him to get to press. The front page to Peter was the entrance to the day's work of the whole company and you can't argue with that. I not only enjoyed working with Peter, he also made me feel an integral part of the process. He even invited me to drinks at the Press Club, how inclusive can that be? Another great paper-man gone."
"Peter was one of those very special people who made working at The Toronto Sun a very memorable experience. He was the King of Page One layouts, and we in the Composing Room loved his passion for doing it the best. He was sincere, smart, playful and serious. Peter was one of the reasons the Golden Years at The Sun were Golden and he will be remembered very fondly."
"Peter O'Sullivan was a young sharp-minded rim jockey at the Sun, who Doug Creighton recruited to direct start- up Sun papers in the States, first in Orlando and then editorially at the Houston Post, where he helped turn that paper around. He returned to become the editorial director at the Toronto Sun and while some didn't appreciate some of his decisions, he was fearless, dedicated, well respected and revered by most of those directly under his command. Memorable quote in a news meetings: "Mel Lastman may be an a..hole . . . but he's our a..hole."
"Peter "Sully" O'Sullivan was a remarkable newsman and I really enjoyed it when he was at our helm. Sorry to hear of his passing. We sure had a lot of fun."
"When my family was dealing with the sudden, senseless death of my sister Shirley Anne, who was well loved in the Sun newsroom, Sully told me to take off as much paid time as needed, be it a week or months, and not to even think about work. Hard news man but one with a soft heart in the right place."
“He was a mentor to me tremendously, especially as a columnist when I first started (in 1979). It’s such a tremendous loss on a personal level, because he died far too young. I remember I was making $200 a week (in 1980). He dropped me off at my apartment at Queen and Sherbourne and he saw where I was living and he talked to the then-managing editor and said, ‘She’s not making enough money,’ and I got a raise to $275 and it meant I could get a better apartment.””
"Sully hired me twice - first time as a proofreader when I was still in school. He could give you sh-- like nobody's business, but he knew his business."
"I am sorry to hear the news. He was a natural newsman, an excellent tabloid editor. He could lay out a page better than most. Another old Sun soldier gone."
"I am saddened to learn that Peter passed away at such a young age. I personally found Sully to be a decent and caring man. RIP Sully."
"Peter and Bob Vezina were the two people who gave me a job at the Toronto Sun and Peter helped with the immigration department which could have insisted I go back to England and wait for permission to take the position."
"Sad day! Peter was a good man. We had many laughs in the composing room."
Linda A. Fox
"When Sully was managing editor he was always fair with me. I really liked the guy. He gave me a shot at being the arts writer for Showcase, not a role the Sun upstairs brass cared greatly about that is for sure. He was also a lot of fun and had a wicked sense of humour. I am stunned by this news, this and Bryan Cantley in one week. Very sad for the news world."
"OMG. I'm so shocked, shaken."
"Wow. There were two people whose names were verbs in the newsroom. Has this story been Shanoffed? I just got Sullied. All joking side, I was there for both his eras. Intense guy. I'll always remember his detachment at the Management Buyout. "We bought the paper back!" people said. "Don't for one second make that mistake," Sully said. "We didn't buy anything. They did." Turns out he was right. They did. And then they sold it to Quebecor. And that's where the story starts to die."
"Always felt Peter wanted to take the Toronto Sun where management didn't want to go - to the gates of the British tabloids. It was always a joy watching him work the newsroom. He was focused, dedicated and proud of his eye-catching front pages. He was at the helm the night John Lennon was murdered in 1980 and the British import gave Sun readers a front page to frame. When you talk of the glory years of the Sun, Sully was a key player."
“He was energetic and demanding, fairly exploding with ideas. He was cheeky and profane, but I also found him shy and self-effacing. He was one of the great editors and personalities of this place and he was generous with his guidance.”
"I . . . recall the night they blew up Litton Systems in Etobicoke. Home grown activists were demonstrating their dislike of the Canadian company building cruise missle guidance systems, and took out the front of the building in October 1982. I was able to get into the scene, got a good photo of the destruction before the police closed it down for investigation. Sully was particularly pleased with the photo that he front paged that night, and back before deadline to boot."
"He’s fondly remembered as a great tab editor by many members of the Sun family.”
"Very sad to read this news."
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 04:42
Monday, 1 July 2013
Updated July 3, 2013
Peter "Sully" O'Sullivan has died at 64, found dead in his San Diego-area home last week.
The former editor-in-chief was many things to many people, but for most who worked with him, he was a tabloid genius whose Toronto Sun influence was felt off and on from the late 1970s to 1999.
Unfortunately, all that he gave to the Little Paper That Grew meant little to Quebecor. He was one of the first Sun executives to be axed when the long-lasting purge began in 1999.
Peter, says retired Sun Media executive Les Pyette, was hired by the late, great managing editor Ed Monteith.
"I am sorry to hear the news," says Pyette. "He was a natural newsman, an excellent tabloid editor. He could lay out a page better than most. Another old Sun soldier gone."
The Toronto Sun's 1980 John Lennon murder front page was all O'Sullivan. It was just one of many memorable fronts with his imprint on it as an unsung hero of the newsroom. He enjoyed pushing the envelop, perhaps wanting the Sun tabloid to be as tabloid as the Sun in his native England.
While Peter's Sun career began in the late 1970s and ended in 1999, those Sun years were not consecutive.
Peter spent time away from the tabloid, moving to a Sun Media paper in Orlando, Florida, then the Houston Post as editor in December 1983 after it was purchased by Sun media. He was 39 and editor in chief of the Post when he resigned in September of 1988 to pursue other opportunities.
"The Post under Peter made dramatic improvements,'' an Associated Press story quoted William Dean Singleton, whose Houston-based Media News Group Inc. bought the Post in 1987, as saying.
At the same time,.Don Hunt (co-founder of the Toronto Sun) resigned as the Post's publisher to head a new international division of Media News.
In 1989, Peter was hired as managing editor of the St. Louis Sun, a new Missouri newspaper launched on Sept. 25, 1989, with an initial press run of 200,000. No doubt Peter sensed what Toronto Sun Day Oners experienced when the tabloid was launched on Nov. 1, 1971.
The new Sun tabloid, owned by Ingersoll Publications Co. in New Jersey, was competing for readership with the 110-year-old St. Louis Post Dispatch.
But the 1989 rising of a new Sun was short-lived. It folded seven months later, making its exit on April 25, 1990. But before it bid farewell, it was the talk of the town with the following headline: "He Bit Hers, She Sued His."
Knowing Peter O'Sullivan's work at the Toronto Sun, we are sure that headline was all Sully.
Peter made his way back to 333 King Street East in 1995 as editor in chief. After being axed in 1999, he made his way back to the United States, settling in Coronado, near San Diego.
Peter's last known newspaper job was a brief stay at the Union-Tribune in San Diego in 2004 as assistant news editor.
He leaves an ex-wife, step-children and step-grandchildren, says a Toronto Sun story.
If you want to share memories of Peter in the Toronto Sun Family blog, post them and we will launch a separate "Memories of" posting.
This blogger's memories include admiration for pushing the envelop in attempt to make the Toronto Sun a true tabloid. He was a key player during the glory years of the Sun.
If others can fill in the blanks of Peter's life and times, re his early years and the latter years, please do.
Posted by Toronto Sun Family at 06:53