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Development Of Saskatchewan Newspapers

Farm Papers' Roots Lie In Early City History

Saskatoon Star Phoenix [Special Supplement]
August 14, 1982. p.51

By Marsha Erb of The Star Phoenix

The Star-Phoenix is not the only Saskatoon newspaper with origins associated with the early years of the city.

A man named Harris Turner was instrumental in the creation of what today is the Western Producer, a weekly tabloid devoted to farm-oriented news. It has a circulation of 142,000 with readers in the four Western provinces, although the largest number are Saskatchewan people.

Harris Turner and a colleague, A.P. (Pat) Waldron were the founders of the publication, Turner having arrived in Saskatoon in 1917 as a war veteran. He was blinded in the 1916 battle at Sanctuary Wood, a 12-day onslaught in which 8,000 Canadians died.

Turner and Waldron met shortly after Turner arrived in the city. Waldron was a native of County Mayo in Ireland, having been educated there. He immigrated to Canada in 1912 and joined the army. He served overseas and turned to Canada after having been wounded at the Somme.

After becoming disenchanted with a law career in Saskatoon, Waldron and Turner combined their talents and ventured into the publishing business. They started with Turner's Weekly, capitalizing on Turner's pre-war profile publishing.

The first issue hit the streets Sept. 21, 1918, and two years alter boasted a circulation of more than 6,000. However, it foundered financially.

After Turner's Weekly collapsed, the business was reorganized as Modern Press and The Progressive began publication in 1923. Waldron and Turner were co-editors and they sought as their reading audience, Saskatchewan farmers. The paper supported the concept of pooling and it was viewed as an instrument in getting information out to farmers in the efforts to establish a wheat pool.

The paper got substantial support from farm organizations and saw the establishment of The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in 1924. The same year The Progressive was renamed the Western Producer.

Violet McNaughton, one of the most famous women activists on the farm scene in the early 1920s, became the first women's editor. McNaughton also played a prominent role in the development of the paper's editorial policy.

By 1927 the Modern Press and The Western Producer moved to new offices on Second Avenue.

The Pool took over the newspaper in 1931 after it started experiencing difficulties in the early years of the Great Depression.

The Western Producer enjoyed two more successful decades before a number of expansions took place.

By 1948, the newspaper was publishing color comics and a new magazine devoted to providing entertainment and cultural forums for the readership. Pioneer and historical writing found prominence in the magazine. The magazine carried by the color comics were dropped, 10 years later.

In 1953, the newspaper published a serial about the Mennonite treks from Russia to Rosthern entitled To Find the Daily Bred, by Jacob Fast, and it was later published as a pamphlet style book -- the first of many The Western Producer would turn out.

The first full fledged book left the presses in 1962 -- Grant MacEwan's, Blazing the Old Cattle Trail. The Western Producer now publishes its volumes under the name Prairie Books.

In 1976, the Western Producer moved to fully computerized composition and offset presses. Any by 1978, the newspaper established its offices at 2310 Millar Avenue. The Western Producer is not the only farm-oriented newspaper with roots in Saskatoon.

The Union Farmer, the official publication of the National Farmers Union (NFU) is a monthly newspaper which analyzes trends and policies affecting farmers and rural communities.

Union Farmer editor, Terry Pugh, says that besides presenting NFU policies, the paper strives to five "a progressive outlook on national and international issues pertaining to food and agriculture."

The Union Farmer got its start in 1937 when volunteer editor Samuel Yates, occupying a tiny Saskatoon office, put out the first edition of a mimeographed monthly newsletter called the UFC information, with the help of one paid staffer.

Yates was publicity director for the United Farmers of Canada (UFC), a financially hard-pressed precursor of the NFU. By 1938, the newsletter had attracted a circulation of about 1,000.

During the Second World War, the newsletter carried items on the progress of the Allied forces and examined the problems of relief for farm families still reeling from the negative financial effects of the Depression.

Yates was succeeded by former union general secretary Frank Eliason in 1942, and five years later publication was suspended because of financial problems.

Under the stewardship former CCF cabinet minister Joe Phelps, the farm organization was resurrected as the Saskatchewan Farm Union in the late 1940s. The union needed a newspaper and in 1950, with Jim Wright as editor, the Union Farmer was born.

The publication has a current circulation of about 9,000 and is printed in tabloid format. Saskatchewan NFU members compose the largest share of subscribers but almost all other provinces are represented on circulation lists.

The Co-operative Consumer also published in Saskatoon for a number of years, having spent a brief tenure in Regina. However, the paper succumbed to financial pressures and closed up shop in late June after 43 years of publishing.

The first issue under the name, the Saskatchewan Co-operative Consumer appeared Feb. 15, 1939, and was jointly published by the Consumers' Co-operative Refineries of Regina and the Saskatchewan Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd., of Saskatoon. The newspaper has been published by Consumer Press Ltd., since March 14, 1969.

A front page editorial in the first issue explained the paper's purpose with these words:

"To provide news of a strictly co-operative approach, information as to the kind and quality of merchandise available for co-operative distribution, matters pertaining to association affairs, articles with the national policies affecting commodities handled by its sponsors and editorials concerning the philosophy, principles and practices of the consumer co-operative movement."

The paper's last editor, Dennis Adkin, said the first issue contained four tabloid pages and a one-year subscription cost 25 cents.

The newspaper's first editor was H.R. Lamberton and after the first year it boasted a circulation 16,111.

The newspaper was published in Regina until June 15, 1942, when its offices were moved to Saskatoon, where it was published until disbanding. The name was changed to the Co-operative Consumer June 2, 1941.

Before going under this year, the Co-operative Consumer had a circulation of 130,00.

In 1912, the University of Saskatchewan began to publish its own newspaper, the Sheaf. It was originally established as a bi-monthly publication of the University Students Council but by 1979, the Sheaf Publishing Society was established under the Societies Act, making the newspaper independent from the Students Union. It is published periodically in a tabloid format.

The Society is a democratic collective with membership open to students of the university at large. As a member of the Canadian University Press, the Sheaf carris campus, local, national and some international articles and has its own editorial staff.