From “Read all about it!” to “I saw it online!”: The evolution of Canadian journalism
Journalism has come a very long way from the days when paperboys stood on street corners and shouted the top story of the day to attract the attention of passersby. Today, news is delivered through various platforms, channels and ways. That’s why Centennial College’s Contemporary Journalism students spend three semesters learning new tools, trends and directions of journalism while also leaning on the staples of good reporting. These students learn to tell stories in an interactive environment that includes exploring social media, visual storytelling, data journalism and more.
But to know where journalism is heading, it is important to look at where it has been. Here is a glance at how Canadian journalism came to be.
Before 1752: Printing presses were not allowed in New France (Canada, which was divided into the districts Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal; Hudson’s Bay, Acadie, in the northeast, Plaisance, on the island of Newfoundland, and Louisiane, after 1717, extending north through the Illinois Country). That’s in part because French officialdom, reports The Canadian Encyclopedia, opposed establishing presses in the colony.
1752 – 1800: Canada’s very first papers were simply publications of government news and proclamations. And while many would think that Toronto, given its status as a media stronghold today, established journalism in the country, it was actually Halifax that saw the first paper. The Halifax Gazette was founded in 1752 by Bartholomew Green, who came from a family of printers for Boston. When Green died shortly after he reached Halifax, John Bushell carried on the paper. In 1764 Canada’s second paper, the Quebec Gazette, emerged and became Canada’s first paper to be printed in French and in English.
1800 – 1850: This period of Canadian journalism is known as the Partisan period. According to Wikipedia, printers and publishers started to see the success and power of freeing the press from government control. But the right to report wouldn’t be won until 1891. A particularly interesting case is that of the paper Le Canadien, a French weekly and the political mouthpiece of the Parti Canadien (the voice of the liberal elite and merchants). Because the paper often spoke out in defense of Canadiens and their traditions against the British rulers, the paper’s editor and his colleagues were arrested and imprisoned without trial. Le Canadien was reestablished in the 1830s. During this rebellion era, there were also technological advancements. For example, in 1832 the first iron printing press was introduced in Canada and in 1850, the first steam-press was being used. It made it possible for larger editions of papers, larger circulation and the emergence of daily papers.
1850 – 1900: The nation building and myth-making period, according to Wikipedia, is characterized by editors free of direct government control but still being privately persuaded in their editorial content. At the same time, papers took on the role of establishing Canadian identity as well as journalistic networks. For example, in 1859, the Canadian Press Association was formed in Kingston. It went on to become the Canadian Associated Press and, today, the Canadian Press. By 1860, Canada’s largest paper was Toronto’s The Globe and Mail, which still exists today.
1900 – 1980s: In the early 1900s not only did advertisers begin to play a big role in newspapers but women also began to enter the field. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, this included Kit Coleman at the Mail and Empire and Edouardina Lesage (“Collette”) at La Presse, who started their careers in the new “women’s sections”. Chains also became common. In, 1934, for example, Roy Thomson bought newspapers and began to expand into radio stations as well. By the early 1950s, Thompson owned 19 papers. Eventually, TV came onto the journalism scene and with these expansions, the educational standards increased. By 1973, reports the Canadian Encyclopedia, more than 40 percent of working journalists at city dailies had a university degree of some kind.
1980s – Present: In recent years, the Internet has completely revolutionized the way news is delivered. Social media is playing a major role in how people consume news. Print papers, meanwhile, are struggling to continue to select the right business models to continue to survive. Some Canadian papers, like La Presse, have made the transition to a completely digital format. It is an exciting and transformative era for journalism and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
By Izabela Szydlo