HISTORY OF THE TELEGRAM

 

Early in 1879 a printer by trade, William James Herder, took an idea and made it into a reality. The reality was the first daily newspaper in Newfoundland and Labrador that sustained criticism and skepticism to become the oldest continuously published daily in the province.

    Herder, born in Old Perlican, Trinity Bay in 1849, published the first edition of The Evening Telegram on April 3, 1879. At the time Newfoundland was governed by a responsible government; the fishery was prospering; plans were underway for a railway system across the island; and mining enterprises were beginning. Newfoundland had rejected joining Canada in 1869 and was functioning as an independent country.

    At the time of Herder's venture St. John's had a population of 30,000 and Newfoundland's total population stood at 175,000. Competing for readership were one tri-weekly newspaper and 7 bi-weekly newspapers.The 1860s had seen the country's first daily printed but it quickly folded.

     Alexander A. Parsons was The Evening Telegram's first editor, a position he held until 1901. Robert Mercer held the position of pressman for The Evening Telegram from its beginnings until 1929. He began turning out papers on a hand press which had a capacity for producing 400-500 copies daily. In total the newspaper had a staff of 6 people.

    Situated at 218 Duckworth Street in downtown St. John's the Telegram printed the first edition consisting of a single sheet, four sides printed. The paper sold for 1 cent per copy. In a mere two weeks the paper was expanded to two sheets, four sides printed each. Only 3 months later, on June 28, a quadrant press was introduced that could print 1,000 copies a day. The Evening Telegram did so well that by May of 1880 Herder was seeing 2,000 copies of his year-old venture hitting the streets of St. John's.

    With increasing circulation Herder moved his operation to a larger building on Gregory's Lane connecting Duckworth Street to Water Street. A new drum-cylinder Babcock and Cottrall machine was installed in the new location which moved The Evening Telegram even further ahead in technology with its capability to produce 1,800 papers per hour.

    In 1880, The Evening Telegram was housed in its new building with a new printing unit and also received, by accident, a new look. Pink paper was sent to the St. John's Evening Telegram instead of the Toronto Evening Telegram. This new look was maintained by The Evening Telegram until February 7, 1942 when World War II interrupted shipments.

     For the first thirteen years of publishing the paper prospered and it endured when other daily papers were started and failed. On July 8-9, 1892 however, St. John's and The Evening Telegram met with disaster. The Great Fire destroyed half of the downtown area of St. John's, including The Evening Telegram building. Herder only had insurance to cover 1/5 of his losses, but not wanting his successful venture to expire, he rebuilt the newspaper and on September 1, 1892 it was being printed regularly at a temporary office on Water St. In January, 1894 a new building opened on Water Street beside Gregory's Lane to house The Evening Telegram.

     Herder's paper took rapid steps in advancing its technology, so in 1895 the first wet-mat stereotyping press was installed giving the paper the capacity to produce 20,000 copies of a 4 page paper per hour. Again, in 1906, another new press was installed, this being the sixth since The Evening Telegram began printing. A 12-page Duplex flat bed, direct printing machine was installed, the first one in Newfoundland. The paper then changed its format from 4 columns to seven columns and in 1908 added a type-setting machine to its advancing technology. Prior to the installation of this machine all type-setting was done by hand. Only 11 years later the press was again updated to a 16 page tubular plate rotary press.

    Shortly after that, from 1919 through 1922, The Evening Telegram employed Joseph R. Smallwood as a part time reporter and editorial writer. It was Smallwood who would later bring Newfoundland into Confederation with Canada and become Newfoundland's first Premier. During Smallwood's political career as Premier he would later sue The Evening Telegram and vocally oppose its journalistic methods.

    Forty-three years after the paper first printed and grew to be the only successful daily in Newfoundland, William Herder died. After his death the newspaper was reorganized and a Board of Directors was established with W.H. Herder as president and H.A. Herder as vice-president. Both were sons of William J. Herder. Other changes took place as well within the paper. William Herder's Evening Telegram had been pro-liberal but after his death the policy became Newfoundland first, regardless of party.

    During the 1920s, St. John's saw the start of the Tely 10, a ten mile road race started in 1927 and sponsored by The Telegram. It started with a small group of runners and has now escalated to over 1800 runners. The race begins in Paradise and finishes in St. John's at Bannerman Park.

     In 1929, The Evening Telegram also started a subscription list to assist the families of the victims of the south coast disaster which amounted to $250,000.

    The 1930s saw some firsts at the paper with the first colour (red) being printed in an ad, but it was not done again until 1958. In 1935, the newspaper hired its first staff photographer, Albert Young. He was also the first official press photographer in Newfoundland. By the end of the second world war The Evening Telegram had its own electronic engraving plant for photographs. It was the first in Newfoundland.

     Within 4 months of each other, in 1934, both the President and Vice-President of the company died, and a year later, on December 31, 1935, another Herder was appointed President. Ralph B. Herder became President until 1955 when he died. Along side him was James M. Herder as vice-president and general manager. The newspaper created its first advertising department in 1941 with John G. Green as manager.

     In 1952, Weekend Magazine was added to The Evening Telegram weekend edition and circulation was around 20,000. In 1956, a 96 page Hoe press was bought and the bottom two floors of the Parland Building west of Gregory's Lane were leased where the press machinery was housed. The old building where the press machinery had been was renovated into a newsroom, offices and an accounting department.

    By the spring of 1961 all departments, except the mailroom and delivery, were moved to the Parland building on Duckworth Street.

    James M. Herder succeeded his brother Ralph as publisher upon the latter's death in 1955.

    The next decade remained relatively quiet with some technical advances happening like changing the front page format from eight columns to six columns of type in 1968. The newspaper also purchased a Justape computer in 1967 which allowed type to be set faster and in varying line widths. Articles were easier to read as a result because the line width was increased.

    In 1970 Jim Herder, the last son of the founder of The Evening Telegram died. For 91 years the newspaper had been published by father and sons. On August 1, 1970 Thomson Newspapers of Toronto and London bought The Evening Telegram and remained owners until 1996.

    Stephen R. Herder, the long-time Managing Editor of the newspaper was appointed Publisher upon the death of James Herder, his uncle.

    Since January of 1958 the paper had been reduced to publishing five days instead of six, but in September of 1971, six days of publishing was resumed. Shortly after on Oct. 21, 1971, 53 employees of three production departments set up picket lines but returned to work a few days later on October 25.

     Another strike would hit the newspaper on August 2, 1979 when again production departments walked out. They were striking for shorter contract terms and increased wages. On August 20, 14 news staff joined the 20 striking pressmen and composing room staff. On November 14, 1979 the strike ended with only minor incidents occurring over the month, such as the obstruction of delivery vans.

     A few years later on October 31, 1981, when Herder's grandson Stephen R. Herder was publisher, The Evening Telegram moved to its home on Columbus Drive. A Goss offset machine was installed which gave the paper an eighty page printing capacity with more colour capability.

    With Stephen Herder's retirement in 1991, the newspaper had been published by a member of the Herder family for 112 years.

    It was not, however, until April 1989 that The Evening Telegram would start publishing seven days a week to become a true daily newspaper. Shortly after the newspaper gained full process colour capability. The Evening Telegram changed its name in 1998 when it became what it is today, The Telegram, to reflect its single copy distribution in the morning.

    Miller H. Ayre became the publisher in 1993. He was the first local publisher not to be a member of the Herder Family. Ayre brought many years of public policy and retail experience to the position. He retired in 2008 after being appointed the Group Publisher for Transcontinental in Newfoundland and Labrador. By then, he had provided local leadership through a period that saw The Telegram pass through five public companies and ownership groups.

   Charles J. Stacey was appointed as the tenth publisher of The Telegram in 2007, having previously held the position of controller since 1997. A Certified Management Accountant, Stacey began his career with The Telegram in 1993 as assistant controller. In 2008, Stacey was appointed Group Publisher and Ayre was given the title Publisher Emeritus.

     In 1996, Thomson sold The Telegram to Hollinger Inc.. On November 15, 2000, as part of the largest transaction in the history of the Canadian media industry, Hollinger sold its major metropolitan daily newspapers in Canada, including The Telegram, to CanWest Global Communications. On August 9, 2002, The Telegram was then purchased by Montreal-based GTC Transcontinental Inc.

    In early 2004, The Telegram started offering to readers around the world electronic subscriptions to the full newspaper via the Internet at www.thetelegram.com.

    On April 3, 2004, The Telegram celebrated its 125th Anniversary and continues to be Newfoundland and Labrador's largest daily newspaper.