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Peter Worthington, Sun Media « Douglas Fisher

Fisher

 

August 1, 2006
As readers of Sunday’s Sun know, Doug Fisher, at age 86, has decided to sheath his pen (so to speak) and retire. Sort of A tribute in the Sunday paper by Sun Media’s Jorge Barrera, and a farewell column by Fisher himself, hardly do justice to what Fisher meant to the Sun and to Canada. I was editor when the Sun rose in 1971 from the ashes of the defunct Telegram, and a concern of Publisher Doug Creighton and I was establishing political credibility in what we hoped would be the first respectable tabloid in Canada.

We had Lubor Zink, revered and trusted by those who mistrusted and understood the basic nature of communism and Soviet ambitions, but we needed Fisher not as a counter-balance to Lubor, but as an added voice of wider dimension. Doug and I both feared Fisher would be lured to the Toronto Star which wanted him, and which would give him space we hadn’t, and pay him more money than we could afford. What inducement could we give? He knew, from his years at the Tely, that we’d never try to dictate or control what he wrote, so that wasn’t an incentive.

What else could we offer? As it turned out, our concerns were unfounded. Fisher was an individualist and not attracted by the culture of the Star which, to some of us, seemed intent on breaking, or molding employees into subservient vassals. That’s overstatement, but gives an idea of the corporate image reflected by the Star. Fisher chose the underdog. His main concern was that shorter columns (thrice weekly) might deter readers.Instead, he found that his readership increased and he got more reaction from his shortened columns in the Sun than he did from his lengthier columns in the Tely. Even then, his stature as a political analyst and fair and reasoned commentator on all facets of life and politics, exceeded anything coming out of Ottawa. His background as an NDP MP gave him an advantage over other political columnists, and it’s a tribute to him that in almost 45 years of newspaper writing he has never been accused of partisan reportage.

That a person with his knowledge and character, and reputation for fair and courageous assessment, would choose to work for the Sun was of incalculable benefit to us when we were trying to defy conventional wisdom that three dailies could not survive in Toronto, and certainly not one that was philosophically conservative. Which isn’t to say that Fisher always agreed with the Sun’s editorial view or approach. But I think he always appreciated that we believed what we wrote and were straightforward in our views.Personally, I’m sorry to lose the wisdom of his columns. He understands Ottawa and Canada as few others do. His last column on Sunday deserves studying by everyone who is concerned about Canada and its future – especially the changes in Parliament.

This isn’t to suggest that Fisher was always right,but is to say he was always honest and true. There is no humbug in him; none of the sycophant or toady.He was astute at defining people, which could be unnerving. Especially MPs. As he says of himself, he was far more than a journalist, and involved in every sort of enterprise that benefited Canada – sport,culture, aboriginal issues, environment, military, you name it. One of the last in the media who fought in WWII – 4th Canadian Armoured Division, and the war coloured his approach to life. Today, no one in our media is more highly regarded and respected than Doug Fisher. He’s done so much, that some wonder why he hasn’t been awarded the Order of Canada. It’s a valid question. The reason, I suspect, is that several times he has refused the award, probably on grounds that it has become such a political bauble,that he wants no part of it. I’m not certain this is true, but from what I know of Doug Fisher, it fits with his character. He will be sorely missed by the Sun and our readers.


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