GEOFFREY W. STIRLING
The legend of our magazine’s founder, Geoffrey W. Stirling, is one that is truly larger than life. Stirling, truly the last of the media mavericks in Canada, lived ‘a movie’ that could only be described as an epic blockbuster, filled with more twists and turns than a Hitchcockian thriller.
A member of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Royal St. John’s Regatta Hall of Fame and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Stirling, from his early days, was a visionary figure. In an era where Canadian media conglomerates in this country are the norm, Stirling was truly the last of the independents.
When you look back at what he has done for the Newfoundland media landscape alone, he has been an innovator, a pioneer, and there’s no denying that he did it his own way.
THE ISSUE THAT STARTED IT ALL
In the spring of 1946, Geoffrey William Stirling launched his weekly paper, The Sunday Herald, a modest tabloid that would spawn a media empire. Over 3,300 issues later, we head back to where it all started, and peek inside the tattered pages of that original issue.
It’s 1946, the year 51-year-old military officer, Juan Perón, is elected president of Argentina, the same year Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech warns of a Soviet expansion. Italy abolishes its monarchy, and 12 Nazi leaders are sentenced to hang as a result of the Nuremberg war trials.
A world away, on an insular island in the middle of the Atlantic, a contested referendum is held to decide the colony’s future, posing a tormenting political question. Would we, the people, continue under a Commission of Government, restore responsible government or — as proposed by a fiery hog operator, journalist and aspiring politician— join Canada?
Joey Smallwood’s motion was thwarted in ’46, but, as history reminds us, he’d prevail a few years later.
In ’46, an electric range down at City Service on Water Street would set you back about $220, while a boiled ham just up the road at F.J. Scott demanded 75 cents. A gallon of potatoes over at Paul Kavanagh’s was 25 cents, and a shiny new Dodge DeLuxe came with a $1,069 price tag.
In the spring of that year, an ambitious 24-year-old by the name of Geoff Stirling was hawking his own product, St. John’s Sunday Herald, a 20-page weekly tabloid,modestly costing five cents.
Some instantly predicted its demise. Smallwood, a seasoned journalist who owned a newspaper, warned him to dismiss the idea. Stirling persisted. After working at his father’s restaurant, stashing away $25 a week, he’d saved $1,000, enough for four issues.
The legacy that is Geoff Stirling, the media maverick and visionary, was born. The work, though, was only beginning. On May 12, that first issue, the inaugural of over 3,300 and counting, rolled off the presses. Stirling, fusing ink and sweat, wrote the paper himself (all but five columns and the letters-to-the-editor), sold all the advertising, printed the product and personally sold copies door-to-door.