1 p.m., March 17)
The history of the Orléans Star pt. 4 Evolution
By Mike Beasley
The Orléans Star
is the last in a four-part series on the history of the
Orléans Star from its inception in 1986
to the present day.
three looked at the years from 1993, when Michael Curran
was appointed editor, to 1997 when the papers new
owner Transcontinental, purchased the Weekly Journal.
this final part of the series we will look at the impact
Fred Sherwin had on The Orléans Star from
1997 to 2001 when he left to launch the highly successful
website, OrleansOnline.ca, and eventually bought The
Star from Transcontinental in 2016.
began working at The Star as a freelance columnist
in October 1989 at the age of 28 after a serendipitous
meeting with then-editor James MacArthur.
had just returned from Montréal where I was a staff
photographer with the Montreal Daily News and I
ran into James, who I knew from previous exploits, in
a bar on Elgin Street. He told me he had just been hired
at The Star and I asked him if he needed a photographer.
He said No, so I told him that I had done
some writing and he suggested I try my hand at writing
a column, recalls Sherwin.
first column was a tongue-in-cheek piece on the evils
of Halloween and why it should be abolished. I think
we got seven or eight letters to the editor from people
who were very upset that I would suggest such a thing
and the column stuck.
time, Sherwin became the papers senior writer, producing
several award-winning special projects, including a three-part
series on student drug and alcohol use in Orléans
in 1991 that placed second in the special projects category
at the Ontario Community Newspaper Awards.
worked under a series of editors, including Michael Curran,
until October 1997, when then-publisher Val Xavier came
to him with an offer he couldnt resist.
guy named Mike Aiken was the editor at the time and it
wasnt working out. A number of mistakes were made
in the paper and Val was at her wits end,
says Sherwin. She asked me if I would be willing
to take over as editor and try to turn the paper around.
The first thing I did was call James (MacArthur) and the
two of us locked ourselves in the office for the next
two days and completely redesigned the paper.
publishing about four successful editions, word came down
from the head office in Montreal that Transcontinental
had purchased the Weekly Journal which set a series
of moves in motion. The
biggest was a condition of sale that enabled Curran to
assume the role of editor and Caroline Andrews to remain
as publisher. The latter meant that Xavier was shown the
was an excellent publisher and an even better person.
Carolines only interest was to keep the bean-counters
in Montréal happy, says Sherwin who had a
totally opposite opinion of Curran.
was awesome. He still is. Our number one priority was
to maintain the journalistic integrity of the two papers
despite the bean-counters. So he looked after the Weekly
Journal and I took care of The Star. It was
a perfect partnership, but unfortunately all good things
eventually come to an end.
remained at the paper until 1998 when he left to take
over as publisher of the Ottawa Business Journal.
He was replaced by David Sali, who left in 1999 to work
at the Ottawa Sun as a copy editor.
David left, I took over as the managing editor of both
The Star and the Weekly Journal on the one
condition that I had complete autonomy on positioning
the ads and editorial content, says Sherwin.
the next 18 months, the arrangement worked out extremely
well. In his first year as managing editor, Sherwin received
the OCNA Better Newspaper Award for Best Editorial. A
year later, the paper received a trio of awards for Sports
Story of the Year, Best Arts Story, and Special Investigative
Series of the Year for a five-part series the staff did
on the accessibility of violent video games to minors
which was picked up by the National Post and resulted
in the video games rating system in Ontario.
months later, he was unceremoniously let go by Andrews
after a heated exchange over the direction of the paper.
office wanted to take the production of the paper out
of my hands and place it into the hands of someone who
didnt have a clue. I vehemently disagreed and she
fired me, recalls Sherwin.
months later, he launched the website OrleansOnline.ca
with $100 and a camera.
12 months the website was averaging 2,000 visits per month.
Today, OrleansOnline.ca attracts over 70,000 visits per
month. In 2007, Sherwin was inducted into the Algonquin
College Media Hall of Fame.
the success he has enjoyed since he left the Orléans
Star, Sherwin says his departure marked the beginning
of the papers decline.
truly believe that the paper took a downhill slide after
I left. You cant serve two masters. You cant
be an advertisting vehicle first and foremost and serve
the community second. Your sole purpose is to support
the community by writing about the people and events that
make it special. If you focus on the content, if you focus
on the product, the advertising will come.
a philosophy that Sherwin has stuck to since buying the
newspaper last November, and will continue to stick to
in the future.
story was made possible thanks to their generous support
of our local business partners.)
www.orleansonline.ca's main page