Oh, oh. More trouble for Toronto Star hacks.
Rupert Murdoch Davis, former chief fart catcher for editor Michael Cooke, is in the building!
Precisely what Davis is up to at One Yonge is a mystery, but his recent tweet that he’s “been doing some Star work” for a few months, has inmates of the dreary daily understandably jittery.
For years at the Star he was in charge of handing out blindfolds and cigarettes, a role in which he took great pride.
“If you take the cheque,” he once told the Ryerson Review of Journalism, “You have to loyally perform the duties.”
Even if those duties run contrary to every fundamental tenet of journalism? Er, yes!
A corporate stooge since his early beginnings at the Ottawa Citizen, Davis is best remembered in his celebrated role as the grim reaper with CanWest Global, circa 2001.
It was Davis who launched CanWest’s national propaganda program, on behalf of his boss, Izzy Asper. His notorious Aspertorials, which reflected the Graspers’ “core positions” on important issues of the day, were imposed on all CanWest’s major dailies. (In his first Aspertorial, Davis promoted tax breaks for charitable foundations. Coincidentally, the Graspers operated one of the largest charitable foundations in the country.)
He soon had all the CanWest dailies singing from the Izzy hymnal, notably on three sacred themes:
–Jean Crouton, (whose government regulators dispensed all broadcast largesse);
-business (from whence all manna is created);
-Israel (Izzy’s obsession and above reproach);
When the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Quebec Federation of Professional Journalists censured the Aspers for their obsessive corporate self-interest, Davis suggested the complaints were rooted in anti-semitism: “Some of the reaction was precipitated because this was a new company run by western Canadian Jews.”
He bashed off withering op-ed pieces and letters to the editor dismissing the critics, many of them CanWest employees: “I saw the pack in action and the group-think…inaccurate, disdain for the truth,” etc.
Hacks who protested were frog-marched out the door. Stories were amended, columns spiked and political cartoons trashed. When Stephen Kimber criticized the Graspers in his column for the Halifax Daily News, his piece was killed. Davis claimed it was a decision by Daily News managing editor Bill Turpin.
But Turpin said he’d phoned Davis beforehand to ask if he should let the column run. Not unless you’re looking for a hill to die on, Davis replied.
Turpin and Kimber later quit.
Davis’ oldest friends and colleagues are unsurprised to see to old arsecreeper resurface. “He was always a skilled phony,” recalls a former underling from the Edmonton Journal.
“Knowing whose asses to kiss has undoubtedly helped him advance in his career,” Valerie Hauch, Davis’ Ryerson classmate from 1975 told a Rye Review typist in 2003.
Those who worked under Davis remember the short-arsed bullyboy screaming across the newsroom until his voice cracked; cursing and humiliating reporters until some of them wept.
Then there was the time he told an embarrassed Jane Davenport (yes, that Jane Davenport!), before a cringing group of colleagues, that she should dress up more often because she really was hot!
That’s what Jon Filson said; and the rest is history!