samedi 10 octobre 2009

The Gazette

In 1776 Benjamin Franklin and an army of the not yet USA invaded Canada and occupied, however briefly, Montreal.  Franklin hoped to get French-Candians' support by giving them a french newspaper.  He brought in Fleury Mesplet, a young French exiled printer.  By the time young Mesplet was ready to publish, the occupier had gone home not being able to garner the support he had hoped for.
Nonetheless in 1778 La Gazette Politique et Littéraire de Montréal began publishing.  After a few years it became bilingual French/English and not long after unilingual English.  For the last 231 years it has been a Montreal institution.  Some years ago it was taken over by Canwest publishing, a Winnipeg based holding.  The Asper family managed to drive their newspapers to the brink of bankruptcy by borrowing heavily to get them...only to see the add revenues plumet and the readership vanish as editorial control was made in Winnipeg.
Now the Montreal Gazette is on the verge of being sold...or worse, closed.
231 years of history would be wiped out by a red bottom line.  This morning, Josh Freed, a regular columnist, comes up with the idea that we could all bunch together and buy the Gazette with the journalists in order to save it.  Could be a great idea.  Of course I could be a bit sentimental, my uncle Henri worked 52 years at the Gazette Printing Company, entering at 18 as an apprentice binder and retitring at 70 when the binding department was shut down.

11 commentaires:

  1. I love this bit of history, and a reminder that things are changing right before our eyes. Most newspapers and magazines are folding, news/investigative reporters are dwindling, and the idea of a free press, the watchdog par excellence, is being underrated. We are becoming one big global conglomerate. Help!

    p.s. we have two small papers in my town of 1200 people, a freebie and a subscription paper. They cooperate with each other, share stories and coverage, but not revenues. They act as the town criers and sometimes the watchdogs. Rare!

  2. Indeed Rosaria. here in many small communities we have community papers staffed with volunteers and getting some revenues from adds by local merchants and professionals and supported by a board made up of representatives of the membership and citizens at large. Some are more than 30 years old.

  3. La Gazette Politique et Littéraire de Montréal was later written in English? I wonder why, but I can make a guess it was due to the Anglos having more cash and more public. I understand your being sentimental about it, although all attempts by journalists of saving declining newspapers and magazines via buying them is usually a failure, especially now, because of the Internet, a real paper killer beyond any doubt.

  4. Without the Gazette, what will Montreal have for news? Radio Canada (radio and televisions)? And the Tribune (with which I'm not familiar).

    The concentration of media ownership really limits the possibility of public discussion by limiting information available. I hope the Gazette can stay open. The newspaper business being what it is, I don't think the employees can make a go of it. Sadly.

  5. Montreal has both Radio-Canada (French radio and TV) and CBC (TV, Radio 1 and Radio 2). There are some weeklies such as The Hour (Cultural news) and others such as the Suburban in the anglophone west island...but nothing compared to the Gazette.
    La Tribune is a Sherbrooke french newspaper, it has an english counterpart: The Record.
    La Presse ,la Tribune and le Soleil in Québec city are owned by Gesca Corporation an arm of Power Corporation.

  6. So Paul, in your view, are information and media in Quebec plural or are they limited by media concentration?

    Media concentration: the Internet may be a newspaper killer, but it is nonetheless also bringing hope of a wider media democracy – the flourishing of Internet TVs and blogs is amazing. My daughters for example find it natural to use the PC as a TV thing by tailoring their own entertainment. I do too, though less. Don’t want to be too long in front of a screen.

  7. Save for the CanWest neewspapers strictly controled from Winnipeg for editorial contents and the ones under Québcor control such as Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec, our newspaper editors are rather free as to the edotorial positions they take.
    For the Gesca papers when the owners want to input they do it in special editorials and they sign them. In the same issue their journalists are known to take an opposite view...without being fired as happened to some CanWest editors like the guy at the Vancouver Sun some years ago.
    I also use the internet to access the BBC, Al Jazeera and Le Monde along with Ha'Aretz. I think it's a wide open door to the world and the various way the same events are percieved by other peoples and cultures. But I still read newspapers and am a regular suscriber to the Gazette and La Presse with some magazines:National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, SaudiAramco, L'Actualité, Reminisce and Reminisce Extra.
    The written thing remains important and I guess it will have to adapt but will not disappear.

  8. Oh yes, the written thing will remain. Canadian Geographic? The two couples of Canadians I told you about at the Commentator's left a copy of it at my facility. Very interesting, and with a big article about Newfoundland.

  9. I also use the internet to access the BBC, Al Jazeera and Le Monde along with Ha'Aretz.

    I see, but this is still content from big companies. What I meant is that now any person can post any media content on places like Youtube and similar so that they make their own 'tube' (entertainment, music, entire programs etc.) without having to depend on big companies for content any more. People both produce and consume their own content. This is also what blogs are. I read you, you read me, and we do not only consume the books or papers issued by the Big Firms. This translates into more information and media democracy - and this has of course hastened papers financial difficulties. They are trying to react by for example allowing more interaction from readers. Wonder if it will be enough.

  10. That we will see in the medium and long run.