Wednesday, January 9, 2013



It has been overlooked in the hurly burly of media history but the Toronto Sun was fortunate to have chairs of its board of directors in early decades which helped enormously as the Little Paper That Grew became a voice that couldn't be scorned.
John S. Grant, who just died, gave a gentlemanly touch to the upstart newspaper that could be the despair of even its friends.
The first chair had been Edward Dunlop, a courtly leader from Rosedale who had proved his guts by falling on a grenade dropped by a soldier in a second world war training exercise and was blinded.
Grant was followed by Lionel Schipper, also an agreeable presence at our functions who managed always to ignore at least one embarrassing incident, the Sun being the Sun.
The heart and soul of the newspaper was, of course, the founding publisher, Doug Creighton. The first Editor, Peter Worthington, was the fire and brimstone of the Sun's viewing with alarm all the stupid pols and scoundrels of the world. And above them, sort of, was the board, led by those elegant chairs, who must have occasionally had a bad case of hearburn when their friends wondered wotinhell the Sun was up to now.
What I liked about these chairs is they actually read the editorial and the main columns, something that I'm not even sure my family did.
 I recall Dunlop, who had the paper read to him by his lovely wife Dorrie, complaining mildly to Creighton when one day the editorial, my column, and my regular commentary on CBC radio were all similar attacks by me on the same target. I grumbled that I didn't know our chair also listened so carefully to the CBC and one had to cut corners when Worthington was off saving the world and I had to do his job as well.
Grant was the first person to congratulate me on my editorial the day after I was appointed Editor and I managed not to tell  him that it was hardly my first one. The chairmen paid close attention but not even they realized how many tasks each of us were expected to perform back when the entire editorial staff could meet in a small bar. And often tried to.
For those conspiratorial critics of the media who visualize powerful millionaires dictating a paper's approach to every issue, the Sun was a galling exception. The Sun was born thanks to the backing of city developers tired of being bashed for even reasonable projects. But Dunlop, who had been a provincial cabinet minister, brought an Establishment shield to the fight, and Creighton and Worthington were too proud and adroit to be be kept in anyone's pocket. So the enemies who wanted to dismiss us as a tabloid/shopper tool of contractors never got traction.
In fact, the Sun was so independent that one prominent developer took me for a steam and some whiskey to grumble about some of our stances and when I mentioned this to Creighton, he got annoyed, saying the developer had nothing to do with the paper. But he did, I pointed out,  he had his lawyer there as his silent proxy.
Grant was a refined personable host even when one of our columnists had just bashed away at some public company for which he was the lawyer. Dunlop also managed not to complain when we kept proving we were a conservative newspaper by bashing policies of his former colleague, Bill Davis, a scarlet Tory. Schipper was important to the building of a domed stadium because he headed a committee looking at the best sites. He never said a word to me as I cheerfully lambasted the project every chance I got, although Creighton suggested it might be best if I saved my rhetoric for my column, not the editorial.
Creighton made the Toronto newspaper world wildly jealous by having annual directors' seminars in lovely or intriguing corners of the world and would invited several staffers from all levels to dine and drink with the bosses. It would be here that Grant would demonstrate to joggers that he was a Master runner competing in national and international races. Schipper also was much fitter than most Sun staffers who would say snidely that he must be fibbing about his age in the company biogs.
In the newspaper business, where your image can be a life preserver or a killer, John S. Grant and his colleagues were shields when they could have been chinks in our armour.

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