As informatiive – and enthralling – as student textbooks are, in order to be a truly knowledgeable student in Montreal, it is important to read the city newspapers (no, the Tribune doesn’t count). Although McGill is situated in the heart of one of the most socially and politically active cities in Canada, many students are unaware of what happens beyond the campus gates. Montreal is a diverse city and produces four equally diverse papers — try picking one up.
As the only English-language daily newspaper in city, the Montreal Gazette has a large and devoted readership. It is one of the oldest newspapers in North America and actually began in the late 1700s as Le Gazette, a French-language newspaper. Le Gazette evolved into a bilingual paper, but by the early 19th century, the paper decided to present the news solely in English. Today, The Gazette is the primary paper for Montreal’s Anglophone community. Although it tends to separate itself from the Bloc Quebecois and many of its past contributers — such as William Johnson and Paul Wells — are associated with the Conservative party, the Gazette remains a politically neutral publication.
The name, Le Devoir, translates to “The Duty” in English. Le Devoir is a French-language, independently owned newspaper with a deeply rooted and highly controversial history. Henri Bourassa, a political figure of the early 20th century who was a strong advocate for francophone rights, founded Le Devoir in 1910. Throughout its existence, the paper has been closely associated with Quebec sovereignty and Nationalism. Although it is a highly intellectual newspaper, Le Devoir has a relatively small readership in comparison to other Montreal newspapers and continues to struggle to stay afloat.
La Presse is a French-language newspaper with a broad readership aimed at the middle-class bilingual and francophone populations. La Presse and Le Devoir are pitted against one another politically due to the fact that La Presse has published many articles opposing Quebec sovereignty. Praised for its aestethics, the publication won a number of Canadian National Newspaper awards for their in-depth international coverage of news in Niger and Afghanistan.
Le Journal de Montreal is the youngest French-language daily tabloid with the widest circulation and largest readership. This tabloid paper is a major competitor for La Presse because of its simplicity and lack of political affiliation. Interestingly, these two papers are also historically intertwined: Le Journal de Montreal was started during a strike at La Presse and the two papers have competed for readership ever since. Respected political figures such as René Lévesque and Robert Bourassa have contributed columns to the publication.