May 17, 2013

Conservative champion gone

One of the worthless but sentimental things I’ve collected over the years is a copy of the final edition of the Toronto Telegram, dated Oct. 30, 1971.

The Tely was my parents’ newspaper of choice, arriving by train a day late where we lived in the wilds of Northern Ontario.

When the Tely shut down, due to a looming strike, my parents reluctantly switched to the Toronto Star, which was then and is still now, a liberal-leaning paper. The Tely had been the voice of the moderate right, which had deep roots in a province riddled with Orangemen.

With the death of the Telegram, the right sought a new vehicle, and in short order some former employees of the paper started up the Toronto Sun, which would spawn a successful media empire and launch into the spotlight its founding editor Peter J. Worthington.

One of the most outspoken, controversial and honored journalists in Canada, Worthington died this week at age 86. To sum up the flood of tributes, Worthington was a hero for a certain post-war generation of conservatives in this country, a balance to the surge of liberalism stemming from the 1960s.

Before Worthington took the helm of the Toronto Sun, he had racked up an extraordinary career as a globe-trotting reporter with the Tely, hopping from hot spot to hot spot, including being at the Dallas police station when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

He dismissed that Zelig appearance (he’s in the TV footage) as “not a watershed moment” in his career compared to the turbulent news reel of human conflict that he had witnessed and chronicled.

The Sun was a tabloid, modeled on the style pioneered by the Brits, and its racy format of Sunshine Girls and heavy diet of sports and brazen opinions was previously unknown to staid Canadians. But the formula worked, and eventually Sun-style papers sprung up around the country, notably in Calgary, Winnipeg and Edmonton.

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