This Week in History (1923): PG becomes a “one-newspaper” town

The Prince George Citizen might reasonably claim that its “newspaper empire” began 91 years ago this week.

On March 13, 1923, the Citizen announced a merger with its last remaining newspaper rival, the Leader. The amalgamation marked the end of a 13-year stretch in which no less than seven different newspapers — each championing a particular set of regional interests — had battled tooth and nail for readers, resources and recognition.

But times had changed, and the publishers of the Citizen and the Leader — adversaries for two long years — now recognized that media cooperation, not contention, was a better approach for the young and growing community of Prince George.

“It has been realized that a single newspaper, having only the advancement of the district before it, will have a much greater striking force than could be hoped for with two, and the inevitable division[s] which attach to conflicting interests,” announced the Prince George Citizen on March 13, 1923. “The new paper, which will be known as The Citizen, will have an empire as its field, and with proper supervision and the development to be expected, has a future which should make it one of the most influential publications in the dominion.”

The merger gave new shape to Prince George’s media landscape, which had been marked by divisions and rifts for years. The newspaper had been a vehicle for propagating, promoting and defending local interests since 1910, when papers operating out of the competing townships of South Fort George and Central Fort George (and later Prince George) became tools in an ongoing battle for regional dominance.

The area’s first newspaper, the Fort George Tribune, started up in late 1909. Originally housed in a rustic shack in South Fort George, the Tribune relocated to Central Fort George in 1910 — “to the utmost chagrin of the lively little metropolis at South town.”1

Soon, however, South Fort George had its own newspaper champion: In summer 1910, newspaperman J. B. Daniell arrived in town and started the Fort George Herald.

The Tribune and the Herald maintained a spirited rivalry until the township of Prince George sprang up in 1913. Then, Daniell sold the Herald, moved “next door,” and launched the Prince George Post in 1914. Area residents now had three different newspapers reporting from three different angles at their disposal — a number that jumped to four for a time, when the short-lived Daily News ran for part of 1915. But this luxury didn’t last long. The Post folded in 1915 due to lack of financing, the Tribune shut down that same year, and the Herald ceased operations in January 1916 after a fire destroyed its George Street offices.

Fortunately for the news-hungry populace, there was nary a gap in local coverage. The Prince George Citizen commenced operations in early 1916. Later that year (and in the spirit of the old rivalries), the Prince George Star also hit the news stands. When the Citizen and the Star amalgamated in 1917, Prince George became a one-paper town — until the Leader went to press in March 1921.

By the early 1920s, however, regional politics had died down; Prince George, incorporated in 1915, had clearly become the area’s dominant townsite; and the need to pit one set of regional views against another gave way to the need to promote the interests of the district as a whole. As the Leader reported in its last issue, published on March 15, 1923:

The fact was forced upon the management of both newspapers that one newspaper could, at this time, better serve the interests of the city and district, with a better prospect of growth and development. 2

Prince George thus became a “one-paper” town and remained so until the Prince George Free Press commenced operations in 1994.

Notes:

  1. “The newspapers of Cariboo,” Prince George Citizen, 13 March 1923, page 2.
  2. “Announcement,” The Leader, 15 March 1923, page 1.

Sources:

  • “Announcement,” The Leader, 15 March 1923, page 1. 
  • “Announcement,” Prince George Citizen, 13 March 1923, page 1. 
  • “The newspapers of Cariboo,” Prince George Citizen, 13 March 1923, page 2.

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