Fowler quits Toronto Sun suddenly after two-year stint

By Lee Lester in Canada

Neil Fowler, former editor of Welsh national daily the Western Mail,
abruptly left the Toronto Sun last Friday, two years to the day after
he became publisher-CEO of the Canadian paper.

The tabloid’s weekday circulation plunged 13 per cent to 179,452 in
the six months ended 31 March. Saturday and Sunday sales fell 10 per
cent after a redesign and a sharp price increase.

Staff were told
Fowler had resigned, effective immediately. The paper’s owner, Quebecor
Inc, said it was a “mutual decision” between the company and Fowler.

Quebecor
spokesman Luc Lavoie said the company “is not blaming anybody” for the
falling circulation, but “the latest numbers show that there was
something to be worried about”. Although circulation was improving, a
new publisher should guide the paper as it “moves to the next stage”,
he added.

But Fowler’s departure is likely to be welcomed by Sun staffers, who resented his comment that Canadian journalists were “lazy”.

Rival
newspaper the Toronto Star quoted Brad Honywill, a Sun journalist and
union chairman at the paper, as saying: “He tried to clarify it
afterwards that he had meant we need to be more competitive, but he set
the tone. In recent months, water-cooler conversation was basically
about how much longer Fowler would last.”

When Fowler was hired,
he said: “I’m used to 10 or 11 competitors at the newsstands, and
Toronto is as competitive as it gets in North America.”

But
during his reign at the sportsheavy Sun, the paper was hit by a lockout
that closed down the National Hockey League and is still continuing.

The
Sun also bled circulation as it fought fierce competition in Canada’s
largest city from three paid dailies and several free newspapers.

In the UK, Fowler has edited the Lincolnshire Echo, the Derby Evening Telegraph and The Journal, Newcastle.

He
told Press Gazette he was considering offers in North America as well
as the UK, but would not comment on the reasons for his resignation.

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