PRESS

Front-page challenge

BRUCE WALLACE October 26 1987
PRESS

Front-page challenge

BRUCE WALLACE October 26 1987

Front-page challenge

PRESS

It is one of Canada’s oldest and most venerable small-town newspapers. The 90-year-old Record, published in Sherbrooke, Que., 120 km east of Montreal, is the province’s only remaining English-language daily other than Montreal’s powerful Gazette (circulation 200,000). But with the increasing cost of reaching the paper’s 6,500 subscribers scattered throughout Quebec’s Eastern Townships, The Record's survival as a daily appeared doubtful. That changed on Oct. 5 when Record publisher George MacLaren negotiated a deal with Montreal newspaper magnate Pierre Péladeau that appears to have secured The Record's future—and launched MacLaren, 48, into an ambitious new career.

On Oct. 6 MacLaren announced that he was selling his company, Townships Communications Inc., which prints and publishes The Record, to Péladeau’s Quebecor Inc., the Montreal-based media conglomerate. The amount was not disclosed, but Record insiders estimated that it was between $1 million and $2 million. And the sale was part of a larger package: on Oct. 14 Péladeau announced that MacLaren would also become publisher of Quebecor’s new English-language Montreal daily, scheduled for publication by February. According to MacLaren, the still-unnamed tabloid, to which Péladeau reportedly has committed $25 million over five years, will emphasize sports, business and city news.

Earlier this year Péladeau considered a partnership with international press baron Conrad Black, but that deal subsequently soured and he then turned to MacLaren. The Sherbrooke lawyer and powerful backroom Tory organizer who had bought The Record in 1977 from Black and his partners, Peter White and David Radler, concluded the deal with Péladeau in less than three weeks.

MacLaren had maintained The Record's editorial mixture of local news items and wire service reports on national issues. Said Record editor Charles Bury: “There will always be a little corner chopped off everyone’s soul because we are no longer an independent paper. But this will not only make us a better paper, it will keep us alive.”

— BRUCE WALLACE in Montreal

BRUCE WALLACE