Throwing back 40 years: the story behind Seven News

By Eric Morse, a communications volunteer with the Cabbagetown Residents’ Association.

For the past year or so, I’ve been tracking highlights of the old Ward Seven News from 40 years ago. The paper was created in 1970 as a “progressive” alternative to mainstream media, and it was in print from 1970 through March 1985, existing in a perpetual state of financial crisis and subsisting on a hot mix of grants, donations, volunteer labour and ad revenue (plus some income from a print shop it owned). Unfortunately, the digital archive for its last year of existence is available only as images of the front page top halves, so the reason for its expiry isn’t immediately available. Did it write its own obituary, or just fold its tents and quietly steal away?

It lived its entire span as an editorial collective, so did not always have a formal editor (and whether or not a masthead appeared seems to have depended a lot on how much ad copy they had managed to sell), but many, many names then and later famous in the reformist movement in municipal politics passed through its pages. Here is a masthead from September 1983:

Recently Ron Kaplansky, one of the board members listed, contacted us after reading Throwback Thursday, and we talked over coffee. A well-known graphic designer in Toronto, he had served on the board for about a year in 1982-83.

“I grew up with socialist politics in my blood. My parents married very young, and left for Israel [then known as Palestine] in the 30s. They returned to Toronto in 1937, and I was born here in 1939.

“In the 1970s, I became very involved in the reform movement. I lived on Hampton Avenue in Riverdale for a few years and then moved to Don Vale – in those days it was still Don Vale, it was the real estate community that changed the name to Cabbagetown later, but the Cabbagetown that Hugh Garner wrote about in his book was where Regent Park is now. From 1980 through 1984 I lived on Sumach.

“I did design work for many political figures in the 1980s, for Bob Rae when he first came back from Ottawa to run in Ontario, and afterwards I did fundraising for social causes in the area and finally sat on the board of Seven News in 1982-84.”

Kaplansky, now in his late 70s, continues in graphic design, and did the early brochures for the Regent Park redevelopment. He now lives in the Annex.

In the period when he was on the board, Seven News underwent some design and layout changes, and one of them was the regular inclusion of line drawings of local landmarks by a talented local artist Joe Houston. At first the idea seems to have been that he would be an editorial cartoonist, but after an issue or two at most his work went in another direction. Here are a few samples:

April 6, 1983

April 22, 1983

May 8, 1983

It’s not that long ago, but it’s a different city now.

There are many people in the community who were involved with Seven News in its 15-year lifespan, and we would love to hear your reminiscences – contact me for coffee! info@cabbagetowner.com.

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