By Liz McKeen
This year, the Glebe Report marks an important milestone – a half-century of bringing neighbourhood news to the people.
The first issue of the Glebe Report came out on June 17, 1973, a 12-page, black-and-white sheet optimistically and, as it turned out, realistically labelled “Volume 1, Number 1.” It was the brainchild of Penny Sanger, its instigator and first editor, and was produced around the kitchen table of her First Avenue home.
She was a no-nonsense frank talker with the heart of an activist. In the first issue, she wrote “Glebe Report is a community newspaper and a journal of free voices. We welcome contributions, although we cannot pay for them.”
Her first foray into publishing got her into trouble. The front-page headline, “Benoit accused of breaking faith over Holmwood,” galvanized Mayor Pierre Benoit to threaten to sue the paper. Cooler heads prevailed, and the next issue in July ran a front- page story, “Glebe Report apologizes to Mayor,” stating that the “breaking faith” in question referred not to the mayor himself but to City Hall in general – an apology of sorts.
Many of the topics broached in this first issue will be familiar to readers today – plans to deal with cut-through traffic, Glebe planning proposals (including proposed high-rise apartments along Queen Elizabeth Drive), the lack of parks in the Glebe, school news. Also appearing was a detailed account of the grand opening of the Glebe Community Centre in the “old St. James Church at Second Avenue and Lyon Street” that took place on June 2 of that year.
Interestingly, the item on Lansdowne Park, quoting Charles Sim, the “new city director of parks operations,” reads in part, “First and foremost, I want the Park to be a good citizen of the Glebe… It is up to the people of the Glebe to decide what they would like to have done to the park.” He also indicated that space could be made available for community meetings and activities. It seems that little has survived of the management approach to Lansdowne of 50 years ago.
In the second issue, Joyce McCaffrey in her “Comment on food prices” cites the world shortage of food and increasing population for “the growing demand for food [that] is pushing up prices,” according to the Commons Special Committee on Trends in Food Prices. Plus ça change.
The Glebe Report has from its inception been independent and, unlike some community newspapers, has not been affiliated with the neighbourhood community association. Clive Doucet remembers from his time as Capital Ward city councillor that there were several attempts over the years to buy the paper out by for-profit corporations, but it held onto its independent not-for-profit status.
It is distributed free on paper to all Glebe and Glebe Annex households and many Glebe businesses. Since 2004, it has also been available online (glebereport.ca) and more recently on social media. Costs are paid entirely through advertising. It is published and managed by an elected board of directors of the Glebe Report Association, a not-for-profit corporation formed in 1983. Membership in the association is open to all adults who live, work or study in the Glebe.
While the first few years were kitchen-table affairs, the Glebe Report moved into the Glebe Community Centre upstairs in 1977, moving out briefly in 2003 when the building was renovated and then back in 2004 in its current main-floor location. While early years were strictly paper and literal cut-and-paste operations, in 2004 the Glebe Report turned to email and word processing along with its newly launched website and hasn’t looked back. Indeed, this year will see the launch of a revamped website.
The Glebe Report, I am happy to report, is a thriving 50-year-old with the heart of a teenager! While it had to “pivot,” as did we all, in the first months of the pandemic in 2020, the paper continued to publish throughout (albeit with one or two issues online only, in the days when we were all washing our groceries and quarantining library books.) In periods of economic downturn, as we are experiencing these days, when Bank Street businesses are struggling, the quest for advertising dollars becomes more fraught. But because the Glebe Report is often read cover to cover by several members of a household, many businesses have recognized the impact and reach of a Glebe Report ad and have continued to advertise. We are grateful for their support over many years.
Initial circulation of about 5,000 copies has grown to 7,500. Delivery is carried out under the leadership of a distribution manager by a team of commercial distributors, eight area captains (meet them elsewhere in this issue!) and about 75 volunteers who drop it off at your door, among them children, families, retirees and otherwise good citizens. Next month we hope to introduce you to a number of them – stay tuned!
Liz McKeen is editor of the Glebe Report.
Penny Sanger was the initiator in June 1973 and first editor of the Glebe Report.