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The end of a strike and the start of a losing battle for the Montreal Star

Forty years ago, the Montreal Star began an ill-fated attempt to win back readers after a months-long absence from the newsstands.
In February 1979, the Montreal Star began printing again after a long strike by its pressmen. 0:53
Sitting in second place in a town with two English newspapers was not where the Montreal Star wanted to be, but that was the story when the paper hit the streets on Feb. 12, 1979.

It was the first Star to be printed in eight months, as a result of a strike by its pressmen that began the previous June.

According to The National, when the Star presses started rolling again, the century-old paper had lost an estimated 100,000 readers to the rival Montreal Gazette. 

Still, the returning Star sought to regain its top spot in the Montreal market, even though it faced an uphill battle in doing so with a dwindling population of anglophone readers.

"A race for supremacy, perhaps even survival, is underway between the city's two English dailies," the CBC's David Bazay reported on The National.

Room for both?

Despite the challenges before it, Star publisher William Goodson, was defiant about the paper's future.

Montreal Star publisher William Goodson believed his paper would survive. (The National/CBC Archives)

"There's certainly room in Montreal for the Montreal Star. Now whether there's room for the Gazette, that really will be up to the Gazette itself," Goodson told CBC.

The Star turned to television ads to remind readers it was back in the market — and it was time for them to return to their paper of choice.

"Remember what you liked about the Montreal Star? You can switch back now," the TV ads said, as funky music played in the background and flashy shots of the paper were shown.

The paper was also running ads on radio and getting its message out on print ads placed on billboards, buses and trains, according to The Globe and Mail.

'On top of the world'

The Montreal Gazette had gained a considerable advantage over the Star while its competitor dealt with a prolonged strike. 0:30

The pushback didn't worry the Gazette, where publisher Ross Munro told CBC the paper was "on top of the world right now" due to its increased advertising and circulation numbers.

Russ Munro, the Montreal Gazette's publisher, did not believe his paper would fall back to second place in the market. (The National/CBC Archives)

Munro said the Gazette had gained so much ground on the Star that it didn't expect to fall back to second spot in the market.

"Insiders say that the ferocious fight between the two newspaper chains here could last a couple of years," Bazay said at the end of his report.

In fact, the Star would fold much faster than that. By the end of September FP Publications would pull the plug on the paper, citing losses stemming from the strike and subsequent battle with the Gazette.

The news hit Star staff hard. Because, as Bazay would report, "they knew that their paper had been losing money, but they never expected that it would close."