Whether you think they're the best or worst, these are the top-10 on-brand Toronto Sun covers of 2016.
Since Torontoist‘s Front Page Challenge column started in the fall of last year, the Toronto Sun has always been in the thick of the race for first place on our weekly standings chart. They’ve won many times based on their patented formula of tabloid umbrage, the making mountains out of molehills and generally zigging while the other papers zagged. A late surge from Metro Toronto cost the Toronto Sun the coveted 2016 Front Page Challenge Trophy in the end, but our jury wanted to recognize some of the special front pages The Little Paper That Grew™ gave the taxpayers of Toronto. 2016 was also marked by the passing of their frequent front page subject, the man they loved (and occasionally loved to hate), former mayor Rob Ford.
Here, then, is our jury’s list of the Top 10 Toronto Sun Covers of 2016.
10. January 12, 2016
On the day all other papers in Toronto (and the world) commemorated the passing of David Bowie, the Sun made no mention of this moment on their front page whatsoever, instead devoting their cover to a Toronto bakery that was throwing in tickets for the upcoming Powerball lottery draw in the United States which promised a possible payout of $1.5 billion. For the Sun to avoid any mention of Bowie’s passing on their cover seemed like a deliberate omission. Other legends who passed away this year with similar iconic status (Prince, Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro) didn’t receive similar snubs on the Sun‘s cover.
9. January 5
The Sun made sport of Rob Ford’s apparent new teeth in the early days of 2016 with their cover story “Crack A Smile“, wherein Night Scrawler Joe Warmington reported that Ford still wasn’t exactly sure if he was smoking a crack pipe in the notorious crack video. “I don’t know what it was. This is why I want to see the videos to see for sure.” Sadly, Ford never did get a chance to see for himself, as the video was released to the public a few months after he passed away.
8. August 23
One of the Sun’s weirdest cover subjects of the year was their front page feature on a young girl who was wrapping up an international tour where she sang 80 national anthems in 80 countries, finishing with “O Canada” at an upcoming Blue Jays game. This celebration of optimism, innocence and hope was made more complicated by the other headline of the morning, a sarcastic congratulations from the right-wing think tank The Fraser Institute to the Canadian taxpayer for spending more money on taxes than on food, clothing and shelter.
7. September 1
The Sun made its reputation as the scrappy no-prisoners-taken contrarian voice of the hard working Canadian taxpayer during the days of Prime Minister Pierre “Fuddle Duddle” Trudeau, one of their most hated historical figures. They are equally upset about this new Trudeau era, often portraying Justin as the Boy King, and an out-of-his-depth dimwit. He was a favourite front page target throughout the year but the jury’s favourite example is “Comic Con”: the Sun was furious to discover that Prime Minister Selfie was now going to be immortalized as a member of the Marvel Universe, appearing in a boxing ring alongside Iron Man and the Alpha Flight team (on an alternate cover for a comic book, no less). Columnist Lorrie Goldstein busted a headvalve in his accompanying column, scolding Justin in patented Toronto Sun style: “Governing is for grown-ups. So it’s time to put down the selfie stick and start acting like one.”
6. April 25
Many of Rob Ford’s apologists and rationalizers respected his family’s request for privacy in the wake of his passing, with coverage mostly limited to that of Rob’s brother, future Prime Minister of Canada Doug Ford. But eventually Night Scrawler Joe Warmington was permitted to write the cover story “Dog Ford“, revealing that Rob’s widow Renata had recently given the kids a new puppy named Brownie to help comfort them in their loss (Renata revealed that Rob’s allergies were too severe for them to have had a pet in their home). Warmington’s opening paragraph is one for the ages: “There was only one Rob Ford and one Ford Nation. But now there is a Dog Ford.”
5. January 16
The front page of the Sun isn’t always reserved for gigantic headlines about the police battling gangs, perverts and radical Islamic terror cells. Sometimes law enforcement can make the front page just for breaking up an escalating feud between Scarborough neighbours that boiled over when one videotapes the other dumping shovelled snow onto their property. “Rent-A-Shoveller Punches Plow Man” and “Cloudy With A Chance Of Fury” are examples of the tabloid headline poetry that can be found on the Sun‘s front page throughout the year.
4. March 19
This cover is tailor-made for the Sun, the story of a man who hijacked a TTC bus late at night and forced the driver to blast through a series of red lights to take him to a Tim Hortons, where he was finally intercepted by Metro’s Finest. “Neither York Region nor Toronto police could say what transpired once the man was inside the Timmy’s. However, a source claims he was sitting at a table drinking a coffee when police arrived.”
3. November 6
The Sun was alone amongst the Toronto newspapers in their praise and general support of the populist Trump campaign. On the Sunday before the election they went forward with what turned out to be a correct prediction, popping a cartoon Uncle Sam hat on Trump’s head and a subhed touting “Donald In The White House A Real Possibility”, at a time where most prognosticators and the chattering classes of elite liberal media types were wondering exactly how big Trump’s loss to Hillary Clinton would be, so credit where credit is due.
2. May 7
The Sun also turned out to be prescient about the parallels between Rob Ford and Donald Trump that could result in an actual victory in an actual election. Donald Trump made the connection literal when he promised to “Stop The Gravy Train” in Washington D.C., a genuine page from the Rob Ford playbook, and one that delighted Doug Ford: “Full disclosure, I like Trump. He’s not part of the Washington establishment or the Washington elites…I wouldn’t underestimate him.” Seen at the end of the year, this Sun cover is quite haunting in its clairvoyance.
1. October 6
Our choice for the top Toronto Sun cover of 2016 is “Can Man”, a stunning example of the Sun‘s tendency to stoke a mob mentality that backfired spectacularly. When a playoff game between the Blue Jays and Orioles was disrupted by a fan who tossed a beer can that almost interrupted the play on the field (and who escaped the stadium without being grabbed by stadium security), the Sun offered a bounty for information leading to the identification of the can tosser. Joe Warmington urged the delinquent to turn himself in: “The writing is on the wall for whoever did this. When Toronto Police have your picture, it’s just a matter of time.” Hilariously, the person of interest in the case turned out to be a part of the team in the form of a Postmedia employee, and the Sun‘s “Can Man?” cover the following morning became an all-time classic, with the front page not clearly admitting the guy used to work for them and Warmington suddenly calling for cooler heads to prevail in this circumstance: “Those who know Pagan were ‘shocked’ by the allegations. He’s known as an ‘easy-going’ and responsible editor by those who work with him, and as an athlete who loves baseball and ‘respects the rules of the game.’”
Front Page Challenge will return on the first Tuesday of the New Year.