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Toronto Star

The Toronto Star is Canada's highest-circulation newspaper, though its print edition is distributed almost entirely within the province of Ontario. It is owned by Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., a division of Star Media Group, a subsidiary of Torstar Corporation.

History

The Star (originally known as The Evening Star and then The Toronto Daily Star) was created in 1892 by striking Afternoon News printers and writers. The paper did poorly in its first few years. But it prospered under Joseph "Holy Joe" Atkinson, editor from 1899 until his death in 1948.

Atkinson had a strong social conscience. He championed many causes that would come to be associated with the modern welfare state: old age pensions, unemployment insurance and health care. The Government of Canada Digital Collections website describes Atkinson as "a ‘radical’ in the best sense of that term...The Star was unique among North American newspapers in its consistent, ongoing advocacy of the interests of ordinary people. The friendship of Atkinson, the publisher, with Mackenzie King, the prime minister, was a major influence on the development of Canadian social policy."

But Atkinson was also a shrewd businessman who became the controlling shareholder of The Star and amassed a considerable personal fortune. The Toronto Daily Star was frequently criticized for practising the yellow journalism of its era. For decades, the paper included heavy doses of crime and sensationalism, along with crusading zeal for social change.

Its early opposition and criticism of the Nazi regime saw the paper become the first North American paper to be banned in Germany by its government.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Star sought increased respectability by elevating professional standards and avoiding the sensational excesses of the past. It hired some of the country's most respected journalists and advocated expansion of the welfare state.

In 1971, the Toronto Daily Star was re-named the Toronto Star and moved to a modern office tower at One Yonge Street and Queens Quay. The original Star Building at 80 King Street West was demolished. The new building originally housed the paper's presses. The printing plant was moved outside the city to Vaughan in 1992. During the 2003 blackout, the Star printed the paper at a press in Welland, Ontario.

On May 28, 2007, The Star unveiled a redesigned paper that features larger type, narrower pages, fewer and shorter articles, renamed sections, more prominence to local news, and less prominence to international news, columnists, and opinion pieces. Star P.M., a free newspaper in PDF format that could be downloaded from the newspaper's website each weekday afternoon, was discontinued in October 2007, 13 months after its launch.

Atkinson Principles

Shortly before his death in 1948, Atkinson transferred ownership of the paper to a charitable organization given the mandate of continuing the paper's liberal tradition. Ontario's Conservative government passed a law barring charitable organizations from owning large parts of profit-making businesses. The law required the Star to be sold. The five trustees of the charitable organization circumvented the law by buying the paper themselves and swearing before The Ontario Supreme Court to continue the Atkinson Principles:

  • A strong, united and independent Canada
  • Social justice
  • Individual and civil liberties
  • Community and civic engagement
  • The rights of working people
  • The necessary role of government

Descendants of the original owners, known as "the five families", still control the voting shares of Torstar, and The Atkinson Principles continue to guide the paper to this day. Recent editorials have been headlined "Fairness for the deaf" and "Public policy fuelling poverty." In February, 2006, Star media columnist Antonia Zerbisias wrote on her blog: "we all have the Atkinson Principles—and its multi-culti values—tattooed on our butts. Fine with me. At least we are upfront about our values, and they almost always work in favour of building a better Canada."

Editorial position

The Star is proudly liberal in the Canadian context. Its precise position in the political spectrum — especially in relation to one of its principal competitors, The Globe and Mail — is hotly disputed. Long a voice of Canadian nationalism, the paper opposed free trade with the United States in the 1980s and has recently expressed concern about U.S. takeovers of Canadian firms.

Editorial positions sometimes surprise readers. The Star was an early opponent of the Iraq War and sharply criticizes most policies of George W. Bush, but supported Canadian participation in U.S. continental missile defense. Recent editorials have denounced political correctness at Canadian universities, opposed proportional representation, and called for more restrictive copyright laws.

The paper has almost always endorsed the Liberal Party federally. The Star was the only major daily to do so in the 2006 federal election while many of the other major papers endorsed the Conservatives. The Star has never endorsed the social-democratic New Democratic Party, though it came close to doing so provincially in 1990. The paper endorsed the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in many of the provincial elections from the 1940s to the 1980s. (Star journalist Claire Hoy coined the nickname "Big Blue Machine" in 1971 to describe the PC political organization which frequently ran on a moderate agenda.)

That said, today few major North American dailies are further to the left than the Star. But the paper's editorialists and columnists usually avoid strident advocacy of radical social change. They prefer incremental reform, fueled by earnest exhortation and appeals to compassion. Recent series on news pages have focused on poverty and multiculturalism. Supporters praise the Star 's continuing commitment to its founding principles, applauding its ability to attract a large readership for many stories unlikely to be printed elsewhere.

Detractors call the newspaper "the only paper in the world edited by a dead man" (a derisive reference to The Atkinson Principles), or target formulaic "sob sister" stories that focus on the plight of the poor and downtrodden. Some accuse the paper of being a mouthpiece of the Liberal Party of Canada. In recent years, a few critics have even revived a previous put-down, "The Red Star".

Features

The Star is the only Canadian newspaper that employs a public editor (ombudsman). Other notable features include:

  • a community editorial board, whose members write opinion articles that sometimes criticize the paper
  • an immigration/diversity reporter
  • charitable campaigns that solicit contributions from readers
  • a full page of letters from readers every day
  • results of daily online polls and comments about them
  • more coverage of poverty and social justice issues than any other Canadian newspaper
  • an annual competition honouring Toronto's best employers
  • a full colour comics page every day (with half of a page of "Saturday Strips" on Sundays, and one section consisting of "Sunday Strips" on Saturdays)
  • one page of puzzles, such as crosswords, riddles, jumble, and Sudoku, daily (with two pages of puzzles in the comics section on Saturday and three Sudoku puzzles from easy to hard on Sundays)

The Star says it favours an inclusive, "big tent" approach, not wishing to attract one group of readers at the expense of others. It publishes special sections for Chinese New Year and Gay Pride Week, along with regular features on condominiums and shopping. In recent years, the newspaper has promoted "a new deal for cities."

Competitive position

With four conventional dailies and two free commuter papers in a greater metropolitan area of about 5.5 million inhabitants, Toronto is one of the most competitive newspaper cities in North America. The advent of The National Post in 1998 shook up the market. In the upheaval that followed, editorial spending increased and there was much hiring and firing of editors and publishers. Readers, advertisers and reporters benefited from the fierce competition; shareholders arguably did not. Toronto newspapers have yet to undergo the large-scale layoffs that have occurred at most other newspapers in Canada and the United States.

Unlike some of its competitors, The Toronto Star has been profitable in most recent years. The residual strength of the Star is its commanding circulation lead in Ontario. The paper remains a "must buy" for most advertisers. Some competing papers consistently lose money, are only marginally profitable, or do not break out earnings in a way that makes comparison possible. However, the Star has long been criticized for inflating circulation through bulk sales at discount rates.

But margins have declined and some losses have been recorded. In 2006, several financial analysts expressed dissatisfaction with The Star 's performance and downgraded their recommendations on the stock of its parent company, Torstar. In October 2006, the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Star were replaced amid reports of boardroom battles about the direction of the company. A redesigned paper launched in May, 2007. It features 17% less space for editorial content and a greater emphasis on local coverage.

Publishers

Current editors and executive

Editorial

  • Fred Kuntz - Editor-in-Chief
  • Ian Urquhart - Editorial Page Editor
  • Joe Hall - Deputy Managing Editor

Business management

  • Peter Bishop - VP, CFO,Strategy
  • Wayne S. Clifton - VP Advertising
  • Brian R. Daly - VP Human Resources
  • Judy Sims - VP Digital Media
  • Sandy Macleod - VP Consumer Marketing
  • Glenn P. Simmonds - VP Production

Section editors

  • Business Editor: Mark Heinzl
  • Brand New Planet Editor: Kathy Muldoon
  • City Editor: Lynn McAuley
  • City Hall Bureau Chief: Jim Byers
  • Condo Living Editor: Doug Junke
  • Entertainment/What's On Editor: Janet Hurley
  • Foreign/National Desk National Editor: Alan Christie
  • Foreign Editor: Martin Regg Cohn
  • I.D. Editor: Jon Filson
  • Sunday Editor: Kenneth Kidd
  • Saturday Editor: Diana Zlomislic

  • Life Editor: Lesley Ciarula Taylor
  • Fashion Editor: Bernadette Morra
  • Food Editor: Jennifer Bain
  • New In Homes Editor: Doug Junke
  • Editorial Page Editor: Robert Hepburn
  • Opinions Page Editor: Jim Atkins
  • Special Sections Editor: Steve Tustin
  • Sports Editor: Mike Simpson
  • Starweek Magazine Editor: Gord Stimmell
  • Travel Editor: Robert Crew
  • Wheels Editor: Mark Richardson
  • Your Home Editor: Gale Beeby
  • Public Editor: Kathy English
  • Photo Editor: Ken Faught

Journalists

  • Bob Aaron
  • Theresa Boyle
  • Sandro Contenta
  • Christian Cotroneo
  • Jim Coyle
  • David Crane
  • Robert Cribb
  • Damien Cox
  • James Daw
  • Linda Diebel
  • Rosie DiManno
  • Joe Fiorito
  • Dana Flavelle
  • Prof. Michael Geist
  • Richard Gwyn

  • Slinger
  • Lorraine Sommerfeld
  • Tanya Talaga
  • Bill Taylor
  • Allan Thompson
  • James Travers
  • Rita Trichur
  • Ian Urquhart
  • Tony Van Alphen
  • Rick Westhead
  • Thomas Walkom
  • Olivia Ward
  • Lisa Wright

Other notable contributors

Community Editorial Board

  • Gary Pieters [2006-2007]
  • Enez Perkins [2006-2007]
  • Karen Zhou [2006-2007]
  • Kashif Sayed [2006-2007]
  • Shawn Meikle [2006-2007]
  • Tania Baldwin [2006-2007]
  • Rahaf Harfoush [2006-2007]
  • Estella Cohen [2006-2007]
  • Andres Laxamana [2006-2007]
  • John Stevenson [2006-2007]
  • Maryam Akrami [2006-2007]

Notable former columnists

Among the Star's best known current columnists are Rosie DiManno, Carol Goar, Linda McQuaig, Cleo Paskal, Ellie Tesher, Thomas Walkom, and Antonia Zerbisias.

Superman and the Star

Joe Shuster, one of the two creators of Superman, worked for the Star as a paperboy in the 1920s. Shuster named Clark Kent's paper The Daily Star in honour of The Toronto Daily Star. The name of Kent's paper was later changed to The Daily Planet.

See also

References and external links

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