THE CLOSURE OF THE WINNIPEG TRIBUNE
The End of Winnipeg’s other Newspaper
By George Siamandas
FOUNDING THE TRIBUNE
It was founded in 1890 by L.R. Richardson and D.L. McIntyre who scraped together $7000 to take over the press and premises of the old Winnipeg Sun. The Free Press had just bought the Winnipeg Sun. Its first issue of 2,500 papers came out on Jan 28 1890.
It took guts to start such a venture. By 1889 no fewer than 30 papers had started up and failed. Struggling under the restraints of outdated equipment and no telegraph service, the new paper managed to survive. Spurred by Winnipeg’s growing population and an economic boom the Winnipeg Tribune became a viable alternative to the rival Winnipeg Free Press.
While primarily regarded as an independent liberal paper covering local events and personalities, the Tribune also reported on national and international news. It became known for its crusades on various issues such as poor roads and lanes as in its spring 1893 campaign. Publisher RL Richardson was also a politician who was elected to Parliament three times. He remained independent and once offered a reward to anyone who could demonstrate the difference between a Liberal and a Conservative.
In 1912 feeling the economic boom of the city, Richardson decided to create a new building fitting of the Tribune and constructed an elegant terra cotta faced office at Smith and Graham. In 1920 Richardson sold out to Southam and he died in 1921. In those days good people had a job for life. Editor John Moncrief who started in 1890 would keep his job till 1937. He died in 1939. In 1965 the Tribune celebrated its 75 anniversary by printing that April 6, 1965 issue in exactly the same format, typestyle and layout as its original 1890 issue.
But on Aug 27 1980, out of the blue and without any warning, 375 people were out of work. Gene Telpner joked that he had just gotten new drapes and furniture. Val Werier who was with the Trib for 35 years said it was a shocking moment. But people in the pressroom knew something was coming because management had stopped the presses that morning, something they did rarely, and only for major events. What killed the Tribune? Corporate downsizing killed the Tribune in which the Thompsons, the owners of the Winnipeg Free Press, agreed with Southam, the owners of the Tribune, that they would each close down a paper in Winnipeg and Ottawa. It is hard to know why that wasn’t considered collusion.
NOTED FOR LOCAL NEWS
When the paper closed, Winnipeg lost many of its favourite columnists: well-known writers like gossip and entertainment columnist Gene Telpner. There was also “Uncle” Vince Leah, who for 45 years wrote Winnipeg nostalgia and famous stories like the Time Building fire of 1954. Another favourite was Lillian Gibbons who wrote about local history, and wrote a column called, “Stories Houses Tell. Others who moved on included sports writers like Jack Matheson and Vic Grant. Jim Shilliday later worked for the Real Estate news. Another was Val Werier whose human-interest features soon found a spot at the Free Press.
WHAT WAS LOST?
We lost that intense competition between two equal players fighting to get the story. And much of the Tribune staff scattered across Canada. Just as the Tribune had risen in place of the Winnipeg Sun 90 years earlier, some out of work Tribune employees started a new paper and called it the Winnipeg Sun.