The Great JOURNAL DE MONTRÉAL Adventure
Who could have predicted on June 15, 1964 that Le Journal de Montréal would achieve such popularity? At the time, there was vigorous competition among the city’s French-language newspaper, and there seemed to be no room for yet another player, especially as La Presse, Le Devoir, and Montréal-Matin each had a loyal readership base. Indeed, right from the outset, the new Montreal daily was poorly received by its print media peers. The director of Le Devoir even declared that the new paper would drop in the fall like the leaves from the trees.
In early June 1964, typographers at La Presse went on strike, completely paralyzing operations at the St. Jacques Street daily. To fill the gap, Pierre Péladeau quickly went on the offensive. André Lecompte, a director of weekly newspapers, was instructed with putting together a team in just one weekend! He was appointed editor-in-chief of a newspaper that was still without a name and immediately asked his friends, André Rufiange, humour columnist, and Maurice Côté, gossip columnist, to form the core of the new team. Lecompte also hired freelancers from radio stations for access to the newswire, which had refused by other media.
On June 15, 1964, in early afternoon, Le Journal de Montréal was already on newsstands! Copies flew off the shelf, and in just a few days, average circulation soared to 80,000! In January 1965, however, when La Presse began to appear once again, sales of Le Journal de Montréal plummeted to 10,000 copies a day. Gaining new market share among Montreal’s newspaper would require an original approach. Pierre Péladeau and his team decided to create an exclusive readership base by offering a new product to people who, in the absence of Le Journal de Montréal, would probably not have bought a daily newspaper on a regular basis.
One of the productive ideas designed to increase circulation was the Gold Star stamp, which helped the daily increase its circulation to nearly 25,000 in three months. Even more instrumental was the idea of publishing a morning – rather than an afternoon – paper. Another not-to-be-overlooked feature – and one which made Le Journal de Montréal unique in those days – was that the paper was published seven days a week. This was a first among newspapers in Canada.
The look and feel of Le Journal de Montréal was a key feature of its success. Drawing inspiration from his experience with neighbourhood newspapers, Pierre Péladeau created an editorial line that contrasted sharply with that of other media. His recipe was simple: news and raw information had to be at the heart of the newspaper’s content, which explains the absence of editorials. The format was also another key feature: it’s a paper that can be read quickly. Headlines, which effectively summarized the story, immediately told readers what to expect. This original approach to content and form contributed to the creation of a new readership base – 50% of whom had never bought a daily newspaper before.
However, without the appearance of key figures, Le Journal de Montréal would probably not have become as popular as it did. The arrival of Jacques Beauchamp in 1969 and René Lévesque, a year later, was crucially important. These stars in the world of sports and politics propelled daily sales from 45,000 to 75,000. René Lévesque’s participation also demonstrated the newspaper’s pluralism and openness to all ideas, even contradictory ones. In fact, André Lecompte used to say that “Pierre Péladeau hired people without bothering about their political, religious or sexual orientation.”
Over the years, Le Journal de Montréal has become a vital institution in the daily life of people in Quebec. It has evolved at the same pace as Quebec society, a witness to its defining moments since the Quiet Revolution. Today, Le Journal de Montréal continues to stand out by reporting every day on topics that matter to readers, by conducting investigative journalism that brings truth to light, and by analyzing the major issues of the day unlike any other newspaper. Le Journal de Montréal is also increasingly a pleasure to read, thanks to the unveiling in the past year of the new, bound and full-colour “Cahier Week-End” supplement and the new “Votre Maison” supplement – also full-colour. These innovations were made possible with the launch by Québécor of the new ultra-modern printing facility at Mirabel in 2007. In 2008, with over 1.1 million readers a week in Greater Montreal (NADbank) and 2.1 million readers a week in Quebec (PMB), Le Journal de Montréal is, more than ever, the Number 1 French-language daily in North America!