The Dangers and Opportunities in 1988
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Feb 1988, p. 222-228
Godfrey, John, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Dangers and opportunities described by the speaker as his own. Day one of the new "Financial Post" and other memories and anecdotes related to the publication and its operation.
Date of Original
4 Feb 1988
Language of Item
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Full Text
John Godfrey, Editor, Financial Post
February 4, 1988
Chairman: Ronald Goodall, President

Ronald Goodall

This week, on February 2, a rather rare event occurred in the City of Toronto. On that day, a new daily newspaper, the Financial Post Daily Edition was published. A lot of the credit for this innovative event has been attributed to our speaker today, John Godfrey, a historian, educator, writer, and now editor.

Idiosyncracies of writers are well known: Shakespeare never blotted a line; George Bernard Shaw never drank liquor, coffee or tea (he survived to 94). Our speaker today has a penchant for hats: the bowler, the deerstalker, the old fishing hat, the hat party.

However, the event of publication of a new daily newspaper will be met, as would anything new, with criticism that such a daily is not necessary; there is a weekly Financial Post; a Financial Times; a daily Globe and Mail Report on Business. Lewis Carroll foresaw this criticism. Perhaps I can quote from that famous tea party in Alice in Wonderland: "Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why, you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as I eat what I see. " Our speaker will, of course, reveal the objectives and plans for this daily newspaper and rebut this criticism.

John Ferguson Godfrey was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He was educated at Upper Canada College and at Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland. He holds degrees from Trinity College, University of Toronto; Balliol College, Oxford, and a doctorate from St. Antony's College, Oxford, England.

His academic career included positions as assistant and associate professor of history, Dalhousie University, and as president and vicechancellor, University of King's College. Mr. Godfrey's honours include the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the Vanier Award in 1981. He is a member of and has been active in a number of organizations serving the arts, education and the community such as the Association of Atlantic Universities, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Canadian Conference of Christians and Jews, the Ethiopia Airlift and Adopt-a-

Village, the Seaweed Theatre Association, the Atlantic Symphony and the Atlantic Ballet Company. Mr. Godfrey has authored a book Capitalism at War. Industrial Policy and Bureaucracy in France, 1914-1918, and has written various articles on educational, political, international, social and economic affairs for Canadian newspapers and magazines.

Today, Mr. Godfrey will discuss the dangers and opportunities in 1988. However, l should mention that 1988 is a leap year. The origin of the term leap year is somewhat obscure. In a leap year any fixed date after February does not fall one weekday later than the preceding year but skips or leaps a day and occurs two days later. The origin of the custom that women may take the initiative and propose marriage in a leap year is obscure also. However, this custom was provided for by law in Scotland in 1288 and a fine was levied on the refusing man.

The opportunities in 1988 appear to include the leap from weekly to daily newspaper and the leap (forward or backward) from historian to editor. The danger in 1988, Sir, is that your present status as single could change given the opportunity custom presents to the fair sex.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome John Godfrey, editor of the Financial Post, who will address us today on "The Dangers and Opportunities in 1988."

John Godfrey

The dangers and opportunities that I am going to describe will mostly be my own. I would like to console any of you who thought I was Bob White. I am not Bob White. However, my life, as his book will describe, is on the line. That pretty well sums it up, although I think even more on the line today is the life of our circulation director.

Day one of the new Financial Post was marked by a couple of events. One was Doug Creighton, the chairman of the board, not getting it at home. It was thought a little unwise as well on our part to have skipped the newspaper outlet in the Maclean Hunter building. I should point out that there was no favouritism shown because I didn't get mine this morning and neither did my father.

I should say that, for those of you who were wondering why it hadn't snowed yet, did you notice that just as the trucks were leaving on the eve of February the 1st for points east, west and everywhere else, it started to snow. It hasn't stopped since. That old "FP magic" does its thing.

The manager of circulation, Michael Fox-he is actually Michael J. Fox for all you teenyboppers out there-is a hero. He really has done a miraculous job in the time available. We started with 18,000 home subscriptions to deliver from day one in Toronto, 1,400 boxes, which was up a little bit from the 30 we previously had in the streets, out of 4,500 dealers and, somehow, the miracle mostly happens. It happens about 97 per cent of the time, the other 3 per cent are only members of my immediate family and directors of the Financial Post.

On the editorial side, we've had fun, too. We started with what they call a series of "live dummy runs." This does not refer to any athletic activity on the part of the people at the paper, but rather the attempt to produce, as close as you can under real battlefield conditions, a newspaper. Day one, after we said "OK, the deadline would have been at 6:15," day one looked like Ran Daily Mail in South Africa doing a special report on Nelson Mandela. There was more white there for scribbling notes, sending little messages to your friends ... we were going to charge 15 cents because that was about as much as you got out of it.

I would like to say though-to reassure you if you think that I am in the wrong place at the right time, or the wrong timethat this is not the first newspaper I've launched. This is actually the third. My father kindly found a clipping from The Toronto Telegram of 1954, at which Doug Creighton laboured and of which the Sun is the wild successor, pointing out that in October of that year, a newspaper was launched called The Coach House Chronicle at Mooredale House in Rosedale and it's full of the business plan-1 was 1 I at the time. I'm recorded in the Tely as saying, "We drew up an estimate of costs and presented to the board of directors at Mooredale. We managed to cut it down a little bit. They gave us a terrific supply of newsprint, 7 by 3'/z inches, ink and type." And then it goes on to report, "The boys have a crew of reporters and printers, though at present they're going through the painful process of firing and hiring." And I'm quoted again: " 'It isn't easy getting them to do what you want,' said John,

`. . . but we'll just wait to see what they can do best and then get them to sign a contract. " Oh, dear. Plus ca change. . . The second effort was perhaps more closely allied to our current situation when I went as a day boy to Upper Canada College in the prep school in Grade 8. A friend of mine, Philip Lind, who is now a vice-president of Rogers Cable, and I noticed an establishment rag there called The Border which was Gestetnered-a much more advanced kind of technology-and at that point we decided what we needed was a peppy little product to take on the establishment rag-sound familiar?-and we put out The Day Boys' Chronicle. "Chronicle" is a part of all my early newspapers. And we actually did very well. We had contests and all sorts of things and, eventually, we broke the monopoly of the establishment which is what we're out to do again.

When we had Frank Barlow over, the managing director of the Financial Times of London, earlier this week to join in the festivities-and I should remind you that the Financial Times of London has taken a 25 per cent stake in this operation along with the Sun's 60 per cent and Conrad Black's 15 per cent-he said something which really struck a note with me. He said, "I inherited the Financial Times. I didn't invent it."

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I think I can say I've done both. Because eight months ago, coming out of an academic life like Bob Painter, my friend from Trinity, my old college, a greenhorn editor if ever there was-talk about on-the-job training-[ thought I was inheriting the editorship of the most distinguished financial weekly in the country-the 81-year-old Financial Post-from Neville Nankivell. f understood that I was part of a glorious line going back many years, but in the past 60 years, there'd only been five editors-Floyd Chalmers, Ron McEachern, Paul Deacon, Neville Nankivell and myself. And I thought I'd know what my job was. We had an excellent product-200,000 circulation. In fact, this year the Financial Post ended with the best year ever. Record revenues, record profits.

But then, two months after I arrived, my life was turned upside down when Neville said, "Now, it's time to invent. We have to invent a new financial daily to go with our old friend, the weekly." And as the plot unravelled and we couldn't tell people-it was a terrible difficulty plotting in a news room because they're all so nosy and such awful gossips, that's what they're paid for-it was very difficult keeping the secret back. But people like Bea, I think, had pretty well figured out what was going on but were kind enough not to ask. Then the Sun came into this partnership and, suddenly, we had this extraordinary image of Bay Street Boys on page 3 and all sorts of thoughts.

And this is the importance of the Financial Times link, because the Financial Times gives us a watching post from London on the whole world and if we're going to thrive in this country, not only do we have to understand the United States better, but we have to understand the world better.

I was on the phone to a friend of mine in Tokyo this morning and it was after midnight his time, and he was talking to me about a column we're going to do, a sort of global markets column out of Tokyo. What about, "Where are bonds going in the next two months?" He's predicting-get your note papers out-he thinks that the bond market is booming right now. There's an awful lot of liquidity in Tokyo. He then sees another big stock push which will trigger yet another little bow on the stock markets, followed by ... I hate to tell you some bad news-but that kind of perspective from Asia, where the markets open first is what we want to put into the paper, a global perspective. And that's the nature of this partnership with the Financial Times. A Canadian paper which is grafted into, or onto, a global press organization so that we do not take anything for granted out there when we tell you about what's going on.

We've taken a lot of flack over, well, a certain amount of flack, over this phrase we've used-"the intelligence of money." The intelligence of money-there was a Sun columnist, Gary Dunford, who said, "The intelligence of money ... why don't you say the intelligence about money, or that's like saying the apple of orange. It doesn't work." Well, I think it does work and here's why.

The intelligence of money means two things to me. The first is a kind of military intelligence, that notion of knowing beforehand what's happening so you can make your choices. We are out here, as Frank Barlow says, "to inform decisionmakers"-decision-makers who are investors, who are running corporations, who are running governments. That's our market. It's not a big market. It's a very select market. The other reason I like the intelligence of money is it gives the notion of a presiding intelligence-that someone is sitting back there, in London or in Tokyo or here in Toronto, saying, "The reason we're putting this story in is to give you a notion of what's coming, what will happen in the future to oil prices, to forest products, to gold." That sort of intelligence that is thinking about the product. And that is the model which the Financial Times of London gives us.

As far as our future goes, I think we've got a terrific future and the main thing is getting one step right at a time so we can move on to the next phase. What the Sun has is enormous faith in this enterprise and the courage of its convictions. I found myself with Bea Riddell yesterday, sitting down with an architect planning the new building which will be on the side of the existing Sun building, and planning not only for that building, but for the expansion of the existing staff. The Sun has already ordered a dedicated press for us. That is faith and that's the kind of attitude we were so delighted they brought to the party.

There's also the notion of phase two and phase three and they're closer than you think. Once we get our act together here in Toronto-once we understand the nature of the beachhead that we've landed on-if we can do it here, we can certainly do it elsewhere. Phase two and three will follow on rapidly and that will involve going national in the fullest sense of the word with printing regionally, satellites, regional distribution system, home delivery and the whole bells and whistles. That is the goal and we think it's closer than many people realize.

But that's only the beginning, because when you have a great daily financial newspaper, you have a number of other things. You have information which can be used in a variety of ways. And so what we see is the use of electronic information-The Wall Street Journal, for instance, whose circulation and ad linage is dropping off, is making more money than ever from the electronic side. We've got all of that with us, too. We have all the on-line information, FP on-line. We have all of our traditional Financial Post information services and the value that's being added to them will be greatly enhanced.

And it doesn't end there. We're going to be able to provide financial information in any format you wish, whether it's radio, or we're looking now at things like television, and we've already produced books and we shall produce more. It's almost limitless. But the main thing is a step at a time, one bite at a time.

So that's the core of our operation-the weekly with the four little friends tagging along like ducklings after the mother duck. And our mandate clearly, at the end of the day, is to become great. Now, I'm not naive and I am a historian and I know that institutions are not made great overnight. I was lucky enough to be the president of the oldest university in Canada and I can tell you it takes time in any institution to create greatness.

You can make something good enough-and I think we are doing pretty well already on this product-but you should never be satisfied with that and the mandate is to get right out there the way Barney Kilgore did with The Wall Street Journal, recognize that good is a good start, but that greatness is the goal. Thank you very much.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Douglas L. Derry, a Past President of The Club.

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The Dangers and Opportunities in 1988

Dangers and opportunities described by the speaker as his own. Day one of the new "Financial Post" and other memories and anecdotes related to the publication and its operation.