Friday, November 3, 2017



The "last man standing" ordered another glass of the house red and talked passionately about some insult from four decades ago while I egged him on as an appreciative audience
The rest of the actors in the insult are dead, I think. So, some would say, is the newspaper we built from the wreckage of another great paper.
It was the annual anniversary dinner of one old cartoonist and one old editor/columnist to mark the birth of the Toronto Sun in the Eclipse Building on Nov. 1, 1971.
There are some who say the eclipse has been a long time coming to its most famous occupant, but that would never come from me since I treasure all newspapers and applaud all their staffs who have to be such adept survivors.
Of course the "last man standing" is Andy Donato, the noted golfer who occasionally has done editorial cartoons since the 1960s.
And the warm friend and occasional critical boss of the "last man standing" is me. Together we noshed contentedly at Ottimo's and contemplate survival at an age when the Bible estimated we would be dead.
We put together the first Toronto Sun during Halloween. That ancient Scottish prayer for heavenly help that often is recited on All Hallow's Eve when even the cemeteries are restless should have been carved on the antique building. "From ghoulies and ghosties And long-legged beasties And things that go bump in the night."
We certainly later endured ghoulies and ghosties as politicians, the Establishment and the snooty competition did their best to dismiss us as just another shopper's flyer on steroids backed by developers and knuckle-dragging conservatives.
But it turned out that Monday, to universal surprise as the newfangled tabloid was snapped up, that we few were an instant success. We sure didn't know it then as the trick-or-treaters flitted about and some of us felt like our hangovers from the Tely wakes were a flu fed by apprehension about how to feed our families.
There were only 59 of us following the Three Musketeers of Doug Creighton, Peter Worthington and Don Hunt from the ruins of the Toronto Telegram where 1,200 had worked as a giant family, including the "last man standing" and this creaky editor who put out the Tely's final edition.
And now Andy is the last of the 62 Day Oners still working for the Sun although they just tried to cut him from four to three cartoons a week. Many of the others have passed on to the great newsroom in the sky to argue style usage with Saint Peter and to suggest there is something strange about how some get through the Pearly Gates because they hint without proof they have a "real" relationship with the big guy.
Andy came to my attention as I was struggling up the Tely editorial ladder. He stood out as an irreverent prankster who had the inside track with the famous and powerful because they loved to call and get the original of his cartoons even when he skewered them. (I confess a conflict there since there are cartoons ridiculing me among the 30 lovely paintings and other creations on my walls from Andy and his wife Diane...who is much nicer.)
And now decades later, Andy is the great survivor of a golden time in the journalism history of Toronto. The famous bylines, the circulation wars, the stunts, the great pictures and the legendary columnists that were loved by readers and were part of the audacious fabric of the Telegram and the Sun are remembered by fewer and fewer people. Tumpane? Hicks? The Rimmer? Fisher?
Also shrinking with the nostalgia are the newspapers of 2017 as they wilt under the electronic competition and by being ignored by the ad buyers and fools who think social media and fake facts give readers a true picture of the reality around us.
Where in hell do they think the real news comes from? Certainly not from cranks trying to weave outrage from the lint in their belly buttons. Real journalism costs money and requires training and experience and talent and cannot be performed by amateurs who think anyone can write, that libel is a new street drug, and fiction is better than truth.
If there ever was a time in journalism for the plea in that old Scottish prayer, it is now.
"Good Lord, Deliver us."
And we should all say amen unless you want to live in an undemocratic world where Andy with that discerning eye and great talent would have obvious targets in every single meeting for anything more important than a pothole repair.
The world has become a shooting gallery, for cartoonists too, just as they have become an endangered species even if this one lasted 60 years.

1 comment:

Bono said...

Great piece filled with truths.