Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

STAR-PHOENIX (Saskatoon)

The Star-Phoenix is the only daily newspaper published in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. With a circulation of about 65,000, it is the largest and best newspaper in the province. But in recent years, Star-Phoenix news executives have struggled to maintain the high quality of coverage the paper has traditionally offered its readers.

This fight to uphold newsroom standards has been particularly difficult since 1996, when the Star-Phoenix was purchased by the Hollinger organization. Hollinger, controlled by press baron Conrad Black, is Canada's largest newspaper chain. The Siftons, who operated the paper for seventy years through four generations, always looked after their employees. It was a tradition stretching back to the Great Depression, when the Star-Phoenix kept everyone on the job despite tough economic times.

Hollinger promised that nothing would change and that it would maintain the paper's editorial quality. But once the sale was finalized, the profit-hungry Hollinger's first move was to fire one-quarter of the newspaper's staff, including twenty-four people in the editorial department. This mass firing, coupled with a similar move at the Leader-Post in Regina, sent shock waves through newsrooms across the nation. That day, March 2, 1996, which has become known as "Black Saturday," has gone down as one of the cruelest and darkest days in Canadian journalistic history.

The S-P, as it is popularly called, also came to national attention in 1978, when the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a lower-court judgment against the paper in a libel case. The S-P had published a letter to the editor from two law students who accused a Saskatoon alderman named Morris Chernesky of displaying "racist resistance" for opposing the location of an alcoholic rehabilitation center for Indians in a white area. The Supreme Court awarded Chernesky $25,000 and ruled that the newspaper could not use the defense of "fair comment" because the opinions expressed in the letter were not those of the newspaper it self. This ruling prompted several provincial governments to change their libel laws to ensure that newspapers could publish letters from readers who held opinions not necessarily agreeing with those of the paper.

The Star-Phoenix has grown up with the city it serves. It began life as the Phenix in 1902. The paper, initially printed on a Washington handpress by Westley and Edward Norman, was renamed the Phoenix in 1905. It became a daily a year later. A second paper, the Capital, was started in 1906 and renamed the Star six years later. The Star and the Phoenix were merged in 1928, when both papers were purchased by the Sifton family.

Editorially, the Star-Phoenix has frequently shown itself to be sharper and quicker off the mark than the Leader-Post, its sister paper in Regina. The S-P puts more emphasis on original reporting, and its columnists are more inclined to take controversial stands. This difference is due in part to the fact that while Regina, the provincial capital, is dominated by a civilservice mentality, Saskatoon has a more business- oriented and progressive outlook.

See also CITIES AND TOWNS: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Jim McKenzie University of Regina

Previous: Small-Town Newspapers | Contents | Next: Storz, Todd

XML: egp.med.043.xml