From the Archives · Mining

Hacks, flacks and superstacks

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

like a Colossus;

and we petty men walk under his huge legs,

and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.

Men at some time are masters of their fates;

the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

          -Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 11

Sudbury, Ontario – Early on Good Friday morning, April 16, 1976, James D. Cullen was killed while working the graveyard shift atSudbury’s Frood Mine.  In itself, there was nothing unusual about Cullen’s death.  He was, after all, the fifth worker to die on the job at Inco since the first of the year.  But the cave-in that killed James Cullen triggered a chain of events that few could have foreseen.

The Good Friday accident, an angry union, and an alarming injury rate (3,000 reported accidents in the first half of the year) combined to touch a raw nerve somewhere in the upper regions of management at Inco, a company that is acutely sensitive to its public image, especially inSudbury.  The result was a bitter, behind-the-scenes battle for the hearts and minds of the people in this city.

A large part of the public here are the Cullens, and the 20,000 people like him who comprise the work force of the nickel industry.  Strangely, after spending two years as a journalist in Sudbury, I can’t really say that I know these men, for in the local media they have no aggregate presence as miners, family men, or even as trade unionists.  If the hourly-rated employees of Inco and Falconbridge Nickel Mines have any image at all then it is a private one, voiced by some media people over drinks in the local lounges, of the ham-handed, thick-headed “dumb miner” who works underground because he is too stupid to do anything else.

On the other hand, the image of Inco Ltd., Canada’s largest and most profitable mining company, is all pervasive.  As surely as the turning of the season, Mother Inco is ready to sponsor, underwrite, document, and endow life in theSudburybasin.  In the winter there are the Inco bonspiel and the Inco Cup ski competitions, in the summer the Inco Regatta and Inco golf tournament at the Idylwylde Golf and Country Club, a favorite haunt of the company’s top management and the city’s small professional elite.  In the spring there are Inco scholarships, awarded to the deserving sons and daughters of company employees, and in the fall the opening of the Sudbury Theatre Centre which is heavily supported by corporate donations.  Year round there is an unending stream of gifts to charities, hospitals, relief efforts, and sporting organizations.

Nor are the local media ignored.  Sometimes Sudbury’s print, radio, and television companies receive money for the straightforward sale of advertising space and time for Inco promotional activity.  But often the relationship is more subtle – Inco’s sponsorship of local radio and television programming runs well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.  Inco buys the air time for its own production, pays the productions bills, and buys promotional “spots” leading up the specials as well.  The public gets carefully-selected documentation of life in the community, the company gets still more good PR, media people get work, and the stations turn a tidy profit in addition to logging those all-important local-programming hours that are so vital in CRTC considerations when the time for license renewal rolls around.

Apart from regular news programming, much of Sudbury’s local radio and television production is sponsored by Inco, and each of the city’s two locally-owned television stations received roughly $300,000 from Inco’s PR department in 1975.

At CKNC-TV, for example, Inco sponsors a 39-part half-hour prime time series entitled Inco Presents.  A high quality production, Inco Presents ranges from a look at the lifestyle of city firemen to the native artists on Manitoulin Island.  CKNC has two employees on its payroll, a writer and a producer, who work exclusively on Inco programming.

Across town at CKSO-TV, Inco sponsors Fin, Fur, and Feather, a program devoted to the outdoors and aimed at fishermen, hunters, and conservationists.  Like Inco Presents, Fin, Fur, and Feather is a weekly prime-time half-hour series that runs throughout the programming season.  CKSO also carries Inco Showcase, a half-hour series on the city’s classical music students.

At CKSO-FM, the company sponsors Candlelight, a nightly half-hour program of mod music that follows the CBC’s World at Six and knocks out the first half hour of As It Happens.

Candlelight contains a brief (and usually condescending) safety message.  “Safety, on the road and in the home,” but never on the job.  Sudbury’s lone FM outlet also caries the one-hour weekly Memories and Music, a program of interviews with Inco pensioners who reminisce about company, area, and family history, but never about the city’s long and colourful trade union history.

CKSO-AM carries the Inco Community Bulletin Board five times daily, “Brought to you by Inco, working for the good of Sudbury.”  At CKSO and CKNC, Inco is the largest source of advertising revenue.

At CHNO, the city’s other English-language AM station, Inco contracts are also substantial.  Last winter the company commissioned and sponsored a 20-hour series on Sudbury morning entitled Kaleidoscope.  Devoted to the history of the city’s many ethnic groups, the programs were written by CHNO newsman, Ken Curtis, who received $200 a week for his services over a four-month period.  Curtis estimates that Inco paid CHNO $150 a week for the one-hour time slot, plus five one-minute promos six days a week.  Over a four-month period Kaleidoscope brought CHNO upwards of $7,000.

Sudbury’s only English weekly newspaper, Northern Life, carries at least one page of Inco advertising a week in its average 18 advertising pages, and it receives occasional special contracts for multi-page promotions of tourism or a holiday pull-out section of Inco-sponsored Christmas carols, complete with music.

The billboard industry, too, receives its share of Inco business – the “Be Careful” safety campaign that started last winter still occupies dozens of billboards throughout the city.

Last on the list of Inco’s advertising outlets is the city’s only daily, The Sudbury Star.  The Thompson-owned paper receives job postings and straightforward notices regularly, but Inco’s share of the paper’s total advertising revenue is comparatively small.

There are numerous Inco-sponsored special events presentations and shorter clips, like the company’s Summer Scene tourism promotion that until recently ran five nights a week on CKNC between The National and local news, giving Sudbury’s CBC-TV affiliated newscast a “here’s the local news as brought to you by International Nickel” flavor.

The nexus for all these diverse activities is the public affairs department located in Inco’s Ontario Division headquarters in Copper Cliff.  With a full-time staff of 12 and a million-dollar-a-year budget, the Inco PR department dwarfs most of the city’s news gathering agencies.

A clue to the importance the company accords its PR department is revealed in the corporate structure.  The director of public affairs, Ontario Division, is one of five departmental directors who rank reasonably high in the management hierarchy.  Yet the public affairs director answers not to one of the vice-presidents one notch above him but directly to Mel Young, the executive assistant to Sudbury’s top manager, Inco Ontario Division President Ronald Taylor.

The inquiring reporter attempting to cover Inco quickly learns that the company’s attitude toward the press is well-disciplined and tightly-controlled.  More than most large corporations or government agencies, the flow of information is carefully funneled through the public affairs department in eitherTorontoorSudbury.  From the senior vice-president at Inco’s world headquarters in New York City down to the lowly shift boss 2,200 feet underground in Sudbury, even the blandest query will meet with the same response: “Have you talked to our public affairs department? No? Then I really have no comment to make.”

Until 10 weeks ago, the man at the hub of this Sudbury media web was Donald Hoskins, Inco’s Ontario Division public affairs director.  A former Manitoba broadcaster turned PR man.  Hoskins was “Mr. Inco,” the company’s television face, radio face, and sole spokesman.  Hoskins arrived in Sudbury four years ago, and he quickly remade Inco’s stodgy Sudbury image into its current community-oriented and dynamic presence.

It was Hoskins, too, who vastly increased the amount of money Inco spends in the local media, along with an elaborate system of personal gift-giving to Sudbury reporters and editors.  Everyone in the media, from the rookie reporter to station managers, receives gifts from Inco – trinkets like pens, pins, and small Christmas presents.  Everyone is invited to the annual Inco Oyster-Hoister, a Hoskins-instituted annual free food and booze party for the media.  But the most expensive favors, like the “debauchery trips,’ are usually reserved for management.  With a year or two, individual editors or news directors will have spent a few thousand dollars on the Inco tab during sprees that are a part of the perquisites of a media management position inSudbury.

Broadly speaking, the media people here fall into one of two categories:  they are beginning or ending careers.  The city has in fact produced some of Canada’s best journalists, and newsrooms in the area are still filled with good, young reporters.  But the best turn over quickly, and they leave complaining not about the city or its people, but about low wages and a management that stifles initiative in reporting, especially on business and labor.

How does all of this affect the practice of daily journalism in Sudbury?  What follows is the 25-day journal of one reporter working the Inco beat in the shadow of the superstack.  It opens in the aftermath of the Good Friday death of Inco miner James Cullen.


Dropped into the safety office at the Steel Hall this afternoon.  Tempers thee were high and rising over the death of James Cullen.  I talked with John Higgison and Tom Gunn, the co-chairmen of the Local 6500 inquest committee.  Both men really feel the rising fatality rate because theirs is the grim responsibility of investigating the accident scene, interviewing eyewitnesses, and doing what they can for the widows.  (Cullen had a wife and four children.)

They show me colour Polaroid snaps of the accident.  About all I can make out is the tram, a squat mining vehicle with the wheel-base of a five-ton truck, nearly buried under muck.  Higgison tells me that Cullen was not crushed by the ore.  He died of asphyxiation when the muck covered the back of his neck, forcing his chin against his chest and cutting off his wind.  He died at the wheel of the scoop, pinned into the driver’s seat.

Higgison is shaken because a witness that he interviewed told him that Cullen was still alive after the cave-in.  The witness came running when he heard the roof come down and he called out to Cullen in the darkness and the dust.  Cullen revved the scoop’s engine three times to show that he was still alive.  It took 10 minutes for the rescue party to clear a way into the tram.  Cullen was dead when they got to him.

Gunn and Higgison are angered at the Cullen death because the union has been complaining about the working conditions at Frood for months.  Gunn reels off a list of fatal and near-fatal accidents at Frood to back-up his contention that the ground is rotten.  This morning the union demanded that provincial mining inspectors investigate the conditions at Frood immediately.

I checked with Mac Keillor, my boss at the Globe and Mail, and he says he’ll take the story about the investigation demand from the Steelworkers, using that as a news peg for the fatality.

CHNO news is already reporting that some of the working areas at Frood’s 660-foot level have been closed, but I’m unable to confirm by the 6 p.m. deadline for the Globe’s bulldog edition.  Barry Davie, a Ministry of Natural Resources spokesman, will say only that “We have one of our engineers on site now doing an investigation on the underground workings.”

Don Hoskins is unavailable for comment before deadline.  He’s on his way to Toronto with a half-dozen local reporters for the annual Inco shareholders’ meeting tomorrow.  I lead with the Steelworkers’ demand for an inspection.

An hour after deadline Davie calls back.  “As a result of our investigations we have closed an additional three places on the 660-foot level….  We mean there is no active production mining going on in these areas.  They are reconditioning the ground in these areas.  But until such time as the reconditioning is done to our satisfaction, production will not take place.”

I ask Davie if that means conditions were bad when Cullen was killed.  To my surprise he replies in the affirmative,  “In some localized areas they’re into sound ground problems.”  It’s as close as I’ve ever heard a ministry spokesman come to stating on the record that the company is at fault.

Hoskins finally returns my call.  He denies that any working areas at Frood were closed down, which doesn’t surprise me since I’ve only just learned of the closings and Hoskins is in Toronto.  He did offer the ritual company explanation of the fatality.

“Now, Mick, this isn’t for publication of course, but I’m told that Cullen was driving with the scoop of the tram up when it happened.  He bumped into the back (the ceiling of a drift or horizontal shaft), and pulled the whole thing down.  That’s off the record, of course.”  Of course, since the coroner’s inquest has yet to be held.  The implication, though, is clear:  the accident was caused by the dead man when he violated some common sense safety practice.  It’s too bad, but the poor dumb bastard brought it all on himself.

I thank Hoskins and knock off for the night.

I wait until late in the afternoon before calling the mines branch to get the latest word on the closings.  I get Balfour Thomas, the man who actually did the investigation.  He’s just come up.  He says the Frood mine manager suggested one more area that the company feels might be unsafe and offered to close it in addition to the three areas the ministry asked to have closed yesterday.  Thomas accepted the offer.  Other than that, only the three other areas have been closed.  That’s my lead for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Inco annual shareholders meeting took place in Toronto.  That’s the really big Inco story of the day.  Ernest L. Grubb made his annual “State of the nickel world” address, and it received copious coverage in the local media.  It should have.  For local news people the annual meeting is an excuse for what the news staff at one TV station affectionately refer to as “an Inco debauchery trip.”  The recipe is simple enough:  Hoskins gets the luxurious Inco recreational vehicle (telephone and bar equipped), loads it with booze and Sudbury reporters, and leads a magical mystery tour to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto.  Wine, song, the limitless resources of Canada’s biggest mining multinational at the disposal of half-a-dozen Sudbury media managers.  On this trip are the news directors of CKNC-TV and CHNO radio, a radio hotline host, a reporter from CKSO-TV/AM/FM, and a senior reporter for The Sudbury Star.  A representative of every mainline media outlet the city has, except for Radio-Canada.  A sprinkling of station management also attends the meeting at Inco expense.

At one local TV station a buddy of mine is putting together the late-night news package when he gets word that two Inco representatives are there to see him.  He goes to the reception area and they tell him they’ve just rushed the videotaped interviews with Inco President Grubb up fromToronto.  It’s news to my friend, but he takes the tape from the Inco runners and goes back to the newsroom.  He gives no more thought to the tape in his scheduling until he starts getting from management:  “Did the Grubb tape arrive yet?  Oh, good, good.”  The tape runs on the 11 o’clock news.

The closing story runs on the provincial page of the bulldog.  My assignment today is the coroner’s inquest into the death of Leslie Simard, a 21-year-old man killed in the same general area as Cullen two months ago.  I’m just settling in at the courtroom when Ken Curtis of CHNO slides in behind me.  “Hey,” he whispers, “have you heard what Hoskins is saying?  He’s denying that any areas were closed and Judges is backing him up.”  (Harvey Judges is the chief mining inspector for the Sudbury region.  Until January he was Inco’s supervisor at the Levack Mine.  The appointment of an Inco man to supervise the ministry’s mine inspectors at Inco brought protest from the Steelworkers and the NDP at Queen’s Park, but to no avail.)  I don’t take the news too seriously since my sources are iron-clad and all of the other media carried the same story, but during the first break at the inquest I hurry across the street to CHNO.

In the newsroom, Curtis plays me the tape of the Hoskins statement and I phone the Globe to tell National Editor Arthur Rowson about the unexpected denial of our story.  Art’s got the story on the wire, but he’s not impressed.  “It seems to be the company trying to save face.  It looks like a semantical question of the ministry ‘ordering’ the place shut down.  I don’t think we want to do anything on it.”

While I’m taking with Art, Hoskins has located me at CHNO and he’s waiting on another line.  I told him I’d heard the statement, and of Rowson’s response.  “If my statement isn’t published,” Hoskins blusters.  “I’ll have to reconsider further co-operation with the mop and pail.”

“Don.  I’m just telling you what my boss told me.  I only work there.  If you want to take it further why don’t you call Art Rowson at the Globe?”

“That’s not my job.”

“Well, he’s my boss and he made the decision.”

I question Hoskins about the meaning of his statement.  Is he denying that any working areas have been closed by the ministry?  Yes.  The only areas affected would have been closed for the routine investigation that always follows a fatality.  No, the company has not been told to recondition the ground and request a mines branch check before resuming production.

“I’m not saying that you were at fault for that story, Mick.”  The implication is that Davie and Thomas spoke out of turn, and now their boss, Harvey Judges, has corrected them.

Mine inspector Thomas is attending the inquest on behalf of the ministry, and back at the courthouse I seek him out in the crowded lobby.

Is it true, I ask him, that he ordered the closing of three working areas?  Thomas replies that he pointed out several unsafe areas to the Frood mine manager during his inspection.  He gave the company the choice of closing them or the ministry would issue a formal order.  The company agreed.  Is it true that the areas cannot be reopened without ministry permission?  It is.  Is it true that the areas would have been closed as a matter of routine after the Cullen mishap?  The areas would not have been closed, and he draws a map in my notebook to show me that the closed areas were not located in the immediate accident area.  Thomas is obviously nervous during the interview, and out of the corner of my eye I see several unionists edging closer to hear our conversation.

The inquest resumes.  Simard’s work partner at the time of the accident testified that the ground at Frood’s #3660 is very bad.

“A lot of places are cracking up.  There’s a lot of cribbing around.”  (Wooden cribbing, used only in places where the ground is shifting.)  Like Cullen, Simard was killed by a “fall of ground.”  But Simard’s workmate admits that he isn’t sure that his partner placed himself beneath protective screening while drilling was in progress.  The evidence indicates that Simard’s body was several feet in front of the screen.  For some reason, (ignorance, inexperience?) Simard was standing in harm’s way when he didn’t have to.

Simard’s mother takes the stand, unusual in itself since mothers and widows rarely testify at inquests.  “I’m not a speaker,” she apologizes after taking the oath, before making a statement that touches the heart of the class relationships here in the nickel capital of the world.

“My son wanted to be a good miner.  When he first went into that job he felt that miners were dumb.  His father was a miner and he’d tell him ‘Don’t grow up to be like me.’  But when he’d been there a while he told me that he had a growing respect for the men who worked underground.  They were tough and they had guts.  He was becoming proud of his profession, and that’s what he thought of it as.”

Mrs. Simard believed that her son was killed by his inexperience and by the poor training given Inco’s underground employees.  She testified that her son never complained about the brief two-week training period, “but I thought at the time that it was inadequate for the job that he was doing.  I thought, ‘I guess Inco knows what’s best.’  I realize now that I was wrong.”

After filing a story on the inquest I encounter Thomas once again in the lobby.  He’s worried.  “Look, I don’t want to get into a public argument with Inco, he falters.

“I understand,” I tell him.  “Don’t worry about it.  The Globe and Mail isn’t publishing any more on it anyway.”  Thomas seemed relieved.

I make a point of watching both local TV newscasts tonight.  CKSO has Steelworker president Mickey Maguire on first.  Shot in his office with available light, Maguire appears angry and concerned for the safety of his members at Frood.  Convincing.  Hoskins follows, reading the same statement I heard earlier at CHNO, relying heavily on Harvey Judges to back him up.  With his heavy beard, bad studio lighting, and rehearsed delivery, Mr. Inco presents a haggard image, remindful of the Nixon-Agnew talking heads staring hypnotically into the cameras during the 1972 U.S. presidential campaign.

On CKNC, Hoskins appears again in the studio, though with better lighting, reading the same statement.  The Steelworkers have declined an opportunity to reply, but the reporter has located sources willing to give “the other side” of the story.

Received a call from a Sudbury Star reporter early this p.m.  He was worried, concerned by accusations from Davie, the ministry official, that he’d been misquoted in the press.  I compare notes with the Star man, and we both have nearly identical statements from Davie about the shutdowns at Frood.

I tell the Star guy how Thomas had had the courage to categorically deny the implications of Hoskins’ statement yesterday, an act that could mean putting his own job on the line.  Don’t worry about Davie’s accusations, I tell the Star reporter.  “Davie is new at his job, and he went too far when he talked with reporters.  Now the heat is coming down from Inco and he’s scared.  I’m satisfied that we both quoted Davie correctly. His job may be in jeopardy, and if he wants to make us the scapegoats I don’t really care.  I’d rather see guys like Thomas and Davie staying in the ministry, and if we have to take a minor whipping so they can it’s no skin off my nose.”

The biggest surprise of the week comes when today’s Star arrives on my doorstep.  The Simard inquest is big news – a skyline head across page 1, and two sidebars on page 3.  Hoskins’ denial of the closing are printed on page 8, under the obituaries.  And the story includes conflicting sources.

The news media’s objective attitude towards Inco is short-lived.  Wendy Jackson, the Star’s labor reporter, quit her job today in protest of alleged interference by Inco in the Star’s news coverage.

As 23-year-old Harvard graduate, Jackson started working for the Star in September, 1975.  She was the first Star reporter to be assigned to the labor beat in a decade.

Her problems apparently started with an April 17 page 1 story on working conditions in the converter area of Inco’s Copper Cliff smelter.  It was based on a Ministry of Health study which found that converter workers who smoke are subject to higher incidence of chronic bronchitis than smokers working in other areas.  Her story quoted Hoskins as saying that “nowhere in that whole study does it state that working in the smelter causes bronchitis.  If you do not have a history of smoking, if you’ve quit smoking, then you don’t get sick.  The study is about smoking.”

But like his statement on the Frood closings, Hoskins’ remarks on the converter study ran counter to the facts. Jackson’s story went on to point out that the incidence of bronchitis was found to be 14.8 per cent higher among all converter workers than among workers in another “control” area.  When smokers were surveyed the difference simply became more pronounced.

On Wednesday, while a few reporters in town were returning from the “debauchery trip” and while others were tracking the Frood closing story, Jacksonwas called onto the carpet by Star editor Erik Watt.  In a sworn affidavit she recounted a part of the conversation, including Watt’s explanation of why he was pulling her off the labor beat.

“Mr. Watt told me that my labor stories were ‘slanted.’  He said, ‘You’re one of a new breed of journalists who are more interested in crusades than in the facts.’  When I asked him to provide specific examples of how my stories were slanted, he said there was nothing specific he could point to, that it was just a feeling he had after reading some of my work.

“Mr. Watt told me I ‘turn off’ people in the business community. He said several business sources – and he named Mr. Hoskins; Fred Brown of Inco’s public affairs department; Bill Rolston, president of the Sudburyand District Chamber of Commerce.”

“When I asked why Mr. Hoskins didn’t trust me.  Mr. Watt replied, ‘Your standards are too high.’  I asked what he meant.  He said ‘When you accept an underground tour (from Inco in November) and return a Christmas gift (a set of glasses) saying it’s against your ethics, he feels he can’t trust you.’”

In her letter of resignation, Jackson stated the conditions under which she would return to work:  “Unless you can stand up to Hoskins (and any other advertisers who might try to push the Star or its reporters around, apologize for your insults to me, guarantee me freedom from interference again on my labor beat, and every other beat as well (as a policy of the Star, to be announced to all), I can’t see working for you….”  Interesting to watch the Jackson story unfold in the local media.  Although her affidavit has been available to all city newsrooms since morning, no one has touched the story except for Ken Curtis at CHNO who aired it on the 5 p.m. news.  Neither Watt nor Star publisher John Friesen were available for comment on the story.

I was gossiping with CKSO news director Jim Marchbank this morning and mentioned the Jackson story.  He said they wouldn’t do anything on it since it was an internal matter at the Star.  “We don’t meddle in their affairs, and they don’t meddle in ours.”

Thursday, April 29 – For the second time in less than a week, the Star has a surprise.  On page 3, beneath a four-column head, the Jackson affidavit is fairly reported as a subject of discussion at last night’s Labor Council meeting.  Not surprisingly, the labor movement is quite upset about the Jackson affair.  Now that the Star has “legitimized” the existence of the affidavit maybe other news media will pick up on it.

Sure enough.  Two days after the affidavit was released to the press and first reported, CKSO-TV gets around to the story.  But through an amazing journalistic sleight-of-hand they manage to avoid any reference to Inco.  Instead, they refer obliquely to charges of “business influence” at the Star.

The Star brass still has no comment on Jackson’s allegations.

Privately a few reporters that I speak to say they’re upset about Hoskins’ alleged interference.  One senior reporter who long ago gave up any ideas of “crusading journalism,” says, “It’s one thing for Hoskins to criticize the news coverage his company is getting.  But when he starts interfering in people’s jobs, then he’s gone too far.”

A second reporter, a veteran of several “debauchery trips,” puts it more succinctly:  “Hoskins is calling in his chits.”

Friday, April 30 – I had a few drinks today with a local news director, a long-time recipient of Inco largesse.  He tells me about the Toronto trip last week, about the private rooms in the Hyatt Regency, about the $25 dinners at the Royal York.

“Hoskins really knows how to make you feel like an emperor,” he says with admiration.  But, he’s quick to add, when the chips are down as they were at the Frood mine or on theJacksonstory, his station covers them like any other story.  I know that what he says is true.

 “But, look,” I ask him, “how many people in Sudbury know about those trips?  And how does that affect or credibility in the community when we’re covering Inco?”

He nods his head, shrugs, and pours another glass of beer.

The Jackson affair has lain dormant for two weeks now.  Quite wisely, the Star brass has elected to make no comment in hopes that the whole thing would slowly be forgotten.  It probably would have, too, except that Globe reporter Arnold Bruner arrived today to do a story on Jackson.  He quickly made the rounds of Watt, Hoskins, and Jackson and the final edition of the Star contains management’s long-awaited reply toJackson’s allegations.

In a Page 1 box headed “Star Statement” publisher Friesen offered a carefully-worded rebuttal of sorts:  “Sudbury Star publisher John Friesen today flatly rejected allegations by a former employee of outside interference in the news and staff assignment policies of the paper.  He said the whole affair appeared to be an attempt to discredit the newspaper by attacking the professional integrity of its employees.

Mr. Friesen added that in view of certain competitive aspects in the media, he was not surprised that the accusations were being readily accepted without question and with obvious enthusiasm in some quarters.

“Despite what is being said, there has been no outside interference in the handling of news at the Star.  The suggestion that we alter news and change assignments to suit the casual whims of outside interests is unadulterated poppycock.”

Significantly, the statement made no mention of editor Watt and contained no denial that he talked with Jackson nor that he made the statements that she attributed to him.

The Star statement receives widespread coverage on all of the electronic media, including CKNC-TV, which never covered the original story to begin with.  I have a good laugh over my beer tonight thinking of the poor bewildered viewers of CKNC news.  While the announcer refers to “allegations” and “a former Star employee” and “outside interference,” there has never been any direct reference to the affidavit, Jackson, or Inco.  The station reports as “unadulterated poppycock” accusations which its regular views must never have known existed.


Donald Hoskins resigned his position at Inco Wednesday, May 12, two days after Bruner’s visit.  His resignation letter reads:  “In light of possible public reaction to certain of my decisions, I would like to submit my resignation as director of public affairs, Ontario Division, Inco Ltd.”

“I do not feel that these decisions were either improper or incorrect.  However, I feel this action is required to avoid any possible embarrassment to Inco Ltd. And others.”

“I deeply regret coming to this decision, but feel it is the proper course of action.”

Two weeks later, CKSO announces that Hoskins has been hired as radio news director.

By late June, Wendy Jackson landed a new job with the Ottawa Citizen.  Her case became something of a national cause celebre after extensive coverage in both the Globe and Maclean’s and newspapers as far away as The Village Voice in   New York called to get her story.

On June 29, Erik Watt announced his retirement from journalism.  The Star reported that he planned to “establish a tourist operation in the Northwest Territories,” the culmination of a long-standing dream.

CKNC-TV news director Bill Catalano, whose staff did such a scintillating job throughout the Jackson story, told Maclean’s reporter Angela Ferrante that Inco has little effect on journalism in Sudbury.  “Inco has never tried to interfere with any story at this station.  A lot of people are mad because they feel their integrity has been impugned (by the attention devoted toJackson).  You can’t be bought by tumblers and a couple of parties.


This story, originally printed in the now-defunct Content magazine, was written about one year after the events depicted.

I’m happy to be able to report that the relationship between Inco and the Sudbury media has changed greatly- and for the better – in the 30-plus years since Hacks, Flacks and Superstacks was first published. Oyster-hoisters and debauchery trips are long since in the past.

Unbeknownst to me, the story circulated widely among the Toronto brass of Canada’s publicly-owned broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC.

Alarmed at the captive news media in what was then and still is Canada’s twentieth largest city, the CBC hierarchy decided to accelerate planning for the establishment of its own radio station in Sudbury. CBC Sudbury went on the air on April 15, 1978. I was hired to be  founding producer of the morning show, Morning North.

And the credibility gap and evident disconnect between the Sudbury media and its public?  When, in the spring of 2009 the CBC announced a round of national budget cuts that would reduce its Sudbury workforce by half, hundreds of Sudburians turned out for a rally to protest the cut backs.


3 thoughts on “Hacks, flacks and superstacks

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