In Caraquet, N.B., in the heart of French-speaking Acadia, residents awoke last week to find a free copy of a new French-language newspaper, l’Acadie Nouvelle, lying on their doorsteps—their first newspaper since the 95-year-old l’Evangéline closed because of labor and financial problems more than 20 months ago. But even as a new newspaper was born in the east, another was dying; three days before, citizens in Newfoundland picked up the St. John’s Daily News and read the banner headline, Looks Like This Is Goodbye.
The publishers of the l Acadie Nouvelle hoped that the distribution of 21,000 free copies of their 64-page first edition would boost the fledgling paper’s efforts to penetrate the province’s 250,000-member francophone population. The publishers, with the help of private local backers who contributed $400,000, plan an initial pressrun of 6,000 copies and hope to increase sales by 1,000 papers a month until the end of the year at 50 cents a copy. But the paper’s long-term goal is to expand from its base in the northeast of the province into French-speaking areas of Moncton and other cities.
Meanwhile, St. John’s Daily News publisher William Callahan termed the closing of his newspaper, founded in 1894, “a tragedy.” Callahan had struggled for several weeks to find investors and increase the morning tabloid’s ane-
mic circulation of roughly 10,000 by offering free television guides and running contests, but his efforts failed. Last week the Toronto Dominion Bank called in its $200,000 loan, and the paper declared bankruptcy. The closure left the approximately 34,000-circulation Evening Telegram, owned by Thomson Newspapers of Toronto, as the only survivor in the St. John’s newspaper market. The demise of the News also brought the total of Canadian cities with English dailies owned by competing owners down to five. (They are Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax.) Said executive editor Josephine Cheeseman: “The newspaper had guts. It was never a fence-sitter.” Over the years the News was also known for its color and irreverence. When a power failure on Dec. 14, 1982, left six million residents without heat and light, in the midst of Newfoundland’s dispute with René Lévesque’s Parti Québécois over low rates for Labrador hydro,the headline blared: This Is What Would Happen If We Pulled The Plug!
To avoid the same fate as the News, VAcadie Nouvelle will have to draw on the strength of the francophone community to survive. But the paper’s editor, Nelson Landry, formerly of l Evangeline, is optimistic. Said Landry: “It has been a hard road, but I think we are here to stay.” -ROBERT BLOCK,
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