They Deserved Better

Last year, I entered The Toronto Sun’s annual column writing contest.  It had been many years since I last participated but I had some ideas for the 2005 contest and wanted to submit something particularly strong.  (To read it, click here.)
Once I settled on my final draft and short bio (which was one of the contest requirements), I then proceeded to fax The Sun my entry.  The next day, after returning from the grocery store with my mother, I noticed there was a message on our family answering machine.  I played it back and heard the voice of this lovely woman who proceeded to tell me how much she enjoyed my entry.  But there was a big problem:  it was very difficult to read.  Apparently, the ink on the fax transmission she received was very faint.  While she was able to understand it and thoroughly enjoy it, she insisted I fax it again. 
After following her directive, I received the nicest email from her in return.  After saying that the second transmission was successful she once again told me that she agreed wholeheartedly with what I wrote and much to my delight and surprise, she turned out to be an enormous Howard Stern fan, like myself.  (Since he made the move to Sirius Satellite Radio this past January, I have no idea if she followed him over there.)  I wrote her back to thank her for her kind words and to tell her about this Stern fan site, which gives readers daily rundowns of the show.
That nice woman was Sherry Johnston, one of the original Toronto Sun employees (Day Oners, they call them), something I didn’t realize until I saw her picture in the paper this past November next to a few other people who have also been with the paper since the beginning.  (This was for their 35th Anniversary “celebration”.)  Much to my disgust, I read today on Toronto Sun Family Blog that she is one of the many loyal employees who undeservedly got fired by Quebecor this year, yet another victim of hurtful and needless company cutbacks.
She was The Sun’s original secretary and it was her job in 2005, as I’m sure it has been every year they’ve had this column writing contest, to collect all the hundreds of entries the paper receives from aspiring (and, in latter years, professional) writers.  When she told me that if she was a judge, she would’ve voted for my entry, I can’t tell you how nice it was to receive a compliment like that.  Even though that’s the only time I’ve been in contact with her, she made a strong impression on me that I won’t soon forget.  (I still have that email she sent me.) I hope she is doing well, despite the shameful way she was removed from the paper.  She exemplifies why people love this newspaper.  She has the human touch.
As I look at the other names on that list of recently excised employees, I feel not only sadness but also absolute anger.  As far as I know, not one of those people did anything to deserve their fate.  They had jobs to do and they did them.  Some of those names are unfamiliar to me because of the nature of their positions.  We never hear about the typists who work their fingers to the bone everyday putting things together for the paper.  We never hear about the mail messengers or the copy editors who work just as hard.  Their efforts are as integral to the paper’s success as the reporters and columnists whose names we do recognize.  It’s absolutely unacceptable to me that all of these loyal employees have to fall on their swords for nothing.  Sun Media is not an unprofitable company.  It made over 200 million in profits last year, as I believe it did the year before.  Just because Sun Media and Quebecor want higher profit margins than they already have does not give them the right to pull the hearts out of all these men and women who simply went about their business working for this newspaper.  It’s disgraceful how they’ve been treated.  It’s unconscionable. 
Toronto Sun Family blogger John Cosway, who worked at the paper for 19 years before taking a buyout, said it best in an entry he posted on December 14th:  “In the first two decades of the Toronto Sun, management went out of its way to avoid having to fire an employee.  You had to pull a Don Ramsey and get the paper successfully sued for libel, resulting in a hefty fine, before being shown the door.  But that was before Doug Creighton was ousted.   Since that day in November of 1992, the bean counters have been busy crunching the staff and payroll numbers.  It has become an annual game of employee roulette and the losers have often been the most loyal employees.”  (To read the entire entry, click here.)
Is it any wonder then why most of the editorial staff voted for unionization 3 years ago?  So much for the good old days.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, December 22, 2006
10:15 p.m.
Published in: on December 22, 2006 at 10:23 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Dear Dennis Earl:

    At 2:45a, on May 4, 2010, I was surfing, Googling ex-Sun people, and this site came up. Imagine my, well, actually, shock when I read your Blog of Dec. 22 – They Deserved Better – your words were so sweet that I had tears in my eyes. Please, though, don’t feel so bad for me. I was probably the only staffer who was tickled pink about being laid off. I danced up and down the halls, counting down the days, and just couldn’t stop smiling – money would definitely be tight (still is – but I have a fantastic sweetheart, Terry, and, as I told lovely ex-staffer, Laura Bobak when we found out we were both leaving – I know I’ll never starve – and I was right. We have wild turkey, road-kill venison, walleye, home grown veggies, etc., in the freezer right now, lol). The Sun has lost a lot of good people and, luckily for the paper and readers, have kept some really wonderful people. The worst part of Sun history, for me, was the very first major layoff – a week after the 25th Sun Anniversary Party, when a huge amount of people I grew up with, were kicked out the door – every time the phone rang we’d all freeze and look at each other, no one wanting to pick up the phone on the chance it was the grim reaper. So, with wave after wave of layoffs after that, it wasn’t a shock to get that call – it was a relief – and I never shed a tear until I read your kind words. You not only made my day, but you made me feel good about myself and I thank you ever so much. I am humbled. By the way, my sweetheart worked his butt off and saved up enough money to buy me a lifetime Sirius subscription, and all equipment required and I am still listening to Stern – not the dumb stuff (girls, Stern going on for the zillionth time with his poor-me rants but to the interviews, the Wack Pack skits – I did cry when Hank died – the stuff Sal and Richard put out with their phony calls – some are asinine – but there are a few classics like the time Sal pretended to be selling his wife’s scooter and was driving it over to a dealer, his wife (Richard) called the dealer, then Sal called the dealer from his cell phone with the police chasing him – well, you really have to hear it – I guarantee you will break up when you hear the Tommy guns in the background. Once again, thank you – I can’t wait to print this and show my mother – I think I’ll frame it and give it to her for Mother’s Day and tell her: See Mom, you and Dad did do a good job. You, Dennis, will make Mom’s day, too!

  2. Sherry, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you posted this comment, easily the best one this website has ever received. I’m also relieved that all is well with you and yours after your many dedicated years at The Sun. You have an amazing attitude and that obviously helped you get through what must’ve been one of the most difficult transitions of your life. How splendid, too, that you followed Howard over to Sirius. (What a great gift from your husband.) Thank you very kindly for your insight, your sense of humour and your very sweet compliments. I’m honoured that you think so highly of this piece that you would present it as a gift to your mom. There aren’t strong enough words to express my gratitude to you for that moving gesture and for everything you wrote. So I’ll simply say thank you, thank you, thank you. All the best to you. On a damp, gloomy, thunderous day, you made it shine.

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