BEHIND most successful newspapers lurks a publisher or editor possessing an array of necessary attributes intelligence, ambition, a good business sense, and often a large ego -who shapes and guides the paper. In the case of the Toronto Sun, the upstart tabloid born in 1971 after the demise of the Toronto Telegram, this key individual was Douglas Creighton.
He is the real star of Jean Sonmor's insider chronicle The Little Paper That Grew (Toronto Sun Publishing, 408 pages, $29.95 cloth). Until Creighton was ousted by the newspaper's board last November, he was responsible, more than any of the other people involved with the Sun over the years, for both its financial success and its notoriety. By 1983 the Sun Corporation, which had difficulty raising $1 million in 1971 to get the paper off the ground, was able to purchase the Houston Post for $100 million.
Taking on the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star was not an easy task, but Creighton assembled the right team to do it. With such editors and columnists as Paul Rimstead, Claire Hoy, Barbara Amiel, Christie Blatchford, and George Gross, not to mention the immortal daily "Sunshine Girl," the Toronto Sun changed the way the news was delivered to Canadian readers.
The fact that the Sun commissioned Sonmor, one of its star reporters, to write this book does not detract from its objectivity. Sonmor pulls few punches, although her reverence for Creighton is evident on every page. She is content to let her subjects tell their stories; as a result, The Little Paper That Grew often seems a collection of anecdotes about personal and petty feuds rather than an attempt to analyse the Sun's commercial popularity and innovative style. Nevertheless, with characters such as Rimstead and Worthington around, life in the Sun newsroom was certainly never dull.