Other memories from the Montreal Star?

February 10, 2009

Interesting reaction from Stu Lowndes here to something I wrote back in September. Any other former hacks from the Montreal Star want to chip in? To facilitate conversation (if any…), Lowndes’ comment reproduced here:

The Montreal Star folded partly because editorial management decided to hire a few hacks from the tabloid press, in particular, the Globe/Midnight operation, then based in Montreal.

The Star was the better paper of only two in the city. The Montreal Gazette wasn’t really a newspaper, it was a scum sheet of St.James’s Street financiers and those PR flacks at the local watering hole, the Montreal Press Club.

Okay, I’m a little harsh on the rag. I used to work for The Star and my moments and memories go back to the early 1960s – and when Peter Desbarats, then feature writer, was dean of journalism of University of Western Ontario, now retired, and others: Walter O’Hearn, Paul (Dodo) McKenna Davis (night editor), Dick Havilland (city editor), and so on …

As for Dennis Trudeau, I met the chap during a stint at the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph. Couldn’t figure him out then, can’t figure him out now.

Trudeau, however, knows how to play the game.

Unfortunately, the QCT online, doesn’t. The oldest paper in Canada still doesn’t get it. Such big ideas for such a small rag with less than 2,000 print eyeballs. But, who knows …

I wonder how The Star would have appeared or have changed in this so-called Google Generation.

I have changed; I haven’t read a rag in years, including The Montreal Gazette. But I was born on a paper, and my heart and sentiments are still with most of them, with only a few exceptions.


Stu Lowndes


Quebecor imposes lockout again, more trouble at the Montreal Gazette

January 26, 2009

Tough weekend for Montreal’s press. Quebecor put its Journal de Montréal hacks and support staff on lockout. The Montreal Gazette union rejected management’s latest proposal.

Quebecor is getting good at this. They continued to publish the Journal de Québec during a lockout that brought the union to its knees. There is no reason they cannot do the same with the Journal de Montréal, with the same results (yep, they’ve published today). Quebecor doesn’t fear the competition. Given the state of the advertising market, there’s no place for a new daily to emerge and La Presse has proven incapable of attracting Journal readers. Le Devoir? I don’t think so…

As for the Gazette, Canwest wants to have some of the work done in other cities where the chain has operations, but the Montreal workers are not too keen on watching those jobs leaving through the corporate Internet connection. In this economy, where do you go if your position gets cut? Management doesn’t fear a strike, but a lockout is certainly a possibility.

You paid $ 400,000 for… what?

October 28, 2008

Another story about a public entity spending impressive amounts of money to get a new logo and public image. The Montreal Gazette berates the 82 municipalities of the Greater Montreal for a $487,000 branding and promotion exercise that produced a new logo the Gazette describes as “a stylized M in the colours of a roll of LifeSavers.”

Life Savers, anyone?

Life Savers, anyone?

It’s not even 8 a.m. yet and predictably, the snarky comments have stared pouring in.

I feel for the Montreal Metropolitain Community and for National, the marketing firm who got the contract, I really do. People don’t realize how much work goes into those things: strategic scan, creative design, research, focus groups, consultations, etc. A lot of people get involved.

Except the logo alone cost $ 400,000, according to the text. If that is true, it’s hard not to think that’s excessive. And the result, well… it’s sweet, but underwhelming. Kind of a 1980 Télé-Québec look. It’s also liable to induce nausea if your look at it for more than five seconds.

Apparently the new logo will only be used abroad (a relief) and will not replace the logos of the municipalities. It’s missing a good opportunity though. The graphic elements some of those towns use really ought to be changed. Take Laval’s Tetris-like cheap 3-D logo, for instance.

Breaking news : Europeans are here to stay

October 16, 2008

If you can, grab a paper copy of today’s Montreal Gazette. Starting on A13, there’s a 4-page special edition of the newspaper as if it had been written in Champlain’s time (this “Quebec City is 400 years old” craze is still going on in la belle province).

What I find interesting is that it’s written from the perspective First Nations might have had. “Europeans are here to stay”, the headline screams. “Are we admitting too many Europeans”, the editorial board wonders.

Nicely done and “outside the box.”

Montreal Star closes

September 25, 2008

On this day in 1979, the Montreal Star ceases publication after 110 years in print. Closing the successful newspaper was part of a deal between the Southam and Thompson chains to stop competing against each other in four major markets in Canada. That kind of gerrymandering prompted the establishment of the Kent Commission on newspaper ownership and subsequent government interest in newspaper ownership transaction.

Interesting to see how the Montreal Star’s best staff fared after the closure. Dennis Trudeau went straight to a successful career in broadcasting (still ongoing). Sports reporter Red Fisher and literary editor Doris Giller were welcomed by the Montreal Gazette. Cartoonist extraordinaire Terry Mosher (Aislin) had already crossed over to competitor Montreal Gazette in 1972. None left Montreal.

Happy birthday to you, Montreal Gazette

August 25, 2008

La Gazette de Montréal was first published on this day in 1795. It was published in French initially, but Editor Fleury Mesplet soon realized that the only people with advertising money in Montreal spoke English. It is now Quebec’s only English-language daily. Contrary to popular belief, it is not, the oldest one – that honour belongs to the Quebec Telegraph Journal, a high-quality weekly in Quebec City.

The Gazette survived bitter circulation wars with the Montreal Herald, the Montreal Star and the Montreal Daily News. It seemed to be doing all right in recent years, but cuts in the newsroom earlier this year might indicate trouble.

Happy birthday to you, Izzy

August 11, 2008

Izzy Asper would be turning 76 today, had he not died in 2003. Hard to believe he built his media empire in just 25 years.

Things have been difficult for Canwest in the last five years, although it has little to do with the new management (the next Asper generation) – the seeds were planted duting old Izzy’s reign. The National Post is still bleeding red ink, there are cuts in many of the group’s newsrooms including, most regrettably, the Montreal Gazette.