Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The first 1,000 copies of the Edmonton Journal rolled off the presses at the back of the Shamrock Fruit Store on November 11, 1903. The paper's founders were John Macpherson, Arthur Moore, and J. W. Cunningham, and the Journal faced tough competition from the well-established Edmonton Bulletin. In fact, the Journal failed to show a profit for five years. By 2002 the Journal employed 894 staff and had an average daily circulation of 145,000 copies.

The Journal grew with Edmonton, which was incorporated as a city in 1904. From its inception the Journal sided with the Conservative Party and therefore against the Bulletin, whose co-owner, Frank Oliver, was a Liberal cabinet minister. The Journal also was a champion of the development of the "new Northwest," a booster for the city and region, especially when economic times were hard in the 1920s and 1930s.

Under the control of John Imrie, who was publisher from 1921 to 1941, the Journal moved into a handsome new building on Bellamy Hill in 1921; branched out into radio, launching CJCA, Alberta's first radio station, in 1922; and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1938, the first time such an award had been made outside the United States. The honor was given for the paper's defense of freedom of the press in resisting William Aberhart's Social Credit government's bill to bring newspapers under government control. The Journal battled the bill in front-page editorials and all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against the government on March 4, 1938.

On January 20, 1951, the Bulletin stopped its presses for good, leaving the Journal as Edmonton's only daily newspaper until April 2, 1978, when the Edmonton Sun, a morning tabloid, printed its first edition. The Journal's facilities were improved to keep pace with its expanded circulation, which had reached 95,881 in 1956. An addition doubled the size of the paper's building in 1952, a press building was added in 1955, and in 1980 the opening of the Eastgate production plant, complete with offset presses, inaugurated the modern era of the Edmonton Journal. For five years, from September 2, 1980, to April 8, 1985, the Journal put out both evening and morning editions, but thereafter, in keeping with nationwide trends, the paper published only a morning edition.

Recent years have seen the construction of a new fifteen-million-dollar office complex, which involved the demolition of the old 1921 structure, a landmark that city planners did not want to see erased. (Parts of the old facade were incorporated into the new structure.) The Journal also put $1 million into becoming part owner of the Edmonton Oilers, demonstrating again that Edmonton's leading paper not only reports the news of the city and region but also is part of that news.

Daivd J. Wishart University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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