The Philadelphia Journal is a very unusual newspaper: The readers write all of the editorials, the editor-in-chief and general manager writes a sports column, and everybody is working a six-day week.
But what is even more remarkable about the racy morning tabloid is the fact that a month ago it was only an idea with no employees and no offices - and today it became the first new metropolitan daily newspaper in the United States in many years.
The brainchild of brash 52-year-old Canadian Publishing magnate Pierre Peladeau hit the streets of Philadelphia like a storm today, with a bold color photo on 200,000 page ones, and 64 pages devoted mostly to sports (30 pages). crime news, entertainment and photos.
And it is only the beginning of what Peladeau promises will be a new era in American journalism. He talks vaguely about plans to enter other citles. But other sources report that the plans a Boston paper within three months. After that: Los Angeles, Detroit and Atlanta.
The Journal's offices which were rented only last Firday and still say "A&P" and "for lease" on the outside, were in chaos on Sunday night as the first edition was being prepared.
Peladeau proudly walked among the wires, painters, telephone boxes, dust, workmen and general disarray. He was confident that he had pulled off a major coup in getting his new venture off the ground. He said he did it all in one month deliberately.
"I didn't give anyone a chance to stop me," he said.
He moved with lightening speed, renting trucks, signing contracts with three suburban newspapers to print the Journal on offset presses that are normally idle during the evening hours and arranging for the rival Philadelphia Bulletin to set type for the Journal on its off hours.
Unlike many who tried to launch big city newspapers before him - with large cash outlays and fancier operations - Peladeau has successed in at least getting on the street.
He shuns the obvious comparison with Australian press lord Rupert Murdoch, who recently purchased the New York Post and has spiced it up considerably.
"He likes features." Peladeau says of Murdoch. "I like news. Any my papers don't take political stands."
Though there were problems on the first night with missed deadlines, communicatins breakdowns, late deliveries and general chaos, the presses printed Volume One Number One of the Philadelphia Journal about 3 a.m.
On the surface, Philadelphia seems the least likely place to start a new daily. It is one of only a few cities in the country with three daily newspapers.
But Peladeau says Philadelphia was the best market for his new paper because "people here love sports, and that's what we'll be best at."
He is so confident that he is charging 25 cents for his paper, which is only available on newsstands, while the other papers in town sell for 15 cents.
At least two of the three competitors have already begun to react to their feisty new competition.
The Daily News (circ. 240,000) is the only other tabloid, but is published in the afternoon, as is the Evening Bulletin (circ. 531,000). The Daily News is owned by the Knight-Ridder chain, which also owns the morning Inquirer (circ. 424,000) and prints both out of the same plant.
In a staff meeting last Tuesday, Daily News Executive Editor Gil Spencer told his staff that he would be adding seven reporters to the staff of 85, and the paper would increase its emphasis on sports and local news.
At the morning Inquirer changes also have been made. More racing results were added and more features - like a new column by wives of athletes - were ordered. The sports section was given another full page.
"Both the Inquirer and Daily News have been gaining in circulation." says Gene Roberts. executives editor of the Inquirer, "so I don't think either of us are vulnerable. I don't see what they are giving the reader that we aren't, and we both have later deadlines."
Still, Roberts has in recent months added a gossipy people column and he acknowledges that the sports changes were a response to the coming of Peladeau.
"If it takes 30 pages of sports to survive in this town, then we'll have 30 pages of sports." he said. "But I'm not convinced that's what people want."
"There were no super surprise." said Gil Spencer of the Daily News while glancing over Monday's Journal, "but it is a damn good effort, with good display and a load of sports. And he offset printing makes those headlines stand out."
At the Bulletin, there have been no noticable changes. Many journalists in this city believe the Bulletin has welcomed the new tabloid because it gives the other two papers more direct competition: The Daily News because both have the tabloid format and serves similar markets and the Inquirer because they are both in the morning.
But Bulletin executives will only say they are setting type for the journal because it makes sense financially. The new computerized typesetting equipment at the Bulletin sits idle much of the night, and the extra income is welcomed in the competitive market of urban journalism.
The only full-time employee Peladeau has brought with him from Canada is editor Jacques Beauchamp. The 50-year-old white-haired editor has left his spot as vice president and general manager of Peladeau's Montreal Journal to take over the new venture.
Beauchamp said he will bring many of the Montreal paper's features to Philadelphia: Two full pages of sports pictures in the centerfold, daily: the photo of a beautiful woman on page 7 every day; his own daily sports column.
He says his staff is eager, if fairly small. "The average age is 27 or so, and we picked the best people around - there were more than 600 applications."
'All I ask of them is hard work, honesty, team spirit and sobriety."
The circulation staff came almost entirely from the Inquirer.
The formula is a simple one: sports, local news, and lots of photos - including some cheesecake.
Says Doug Bailey, the 39-year-old former Associated Press bureau chief here who took the job of managing editor: "On our good days, when we're really cooking, national news will start on page 12."
Bailey has assembled a staff of 55. Most are in sports (23), with 22 on the news side, seven photographers and five entertainment writers and editors.
Salaries are equal to the other Philadelphia dailies, but Bailey's staff is working a six-day week. The Journal does not publish on Sundays.
"Yeah, we're gonna have some cheesecake," says Bailey. "But we're going to have a lot of news, too. And it's going to be interesting. We are writing for the broadest possible audience."
Peladeau has spent $300,000 here in the past two weeks promoting the new paper, but says he won't have to spend more than $1 million total, "to get things going."
"I expect to break even in a month," the brash red-haired publisher says of his low-investment proposition. There is good reason to believe him. He started from scratch more than 25 years ago to build a $100 million publishing empire called Quebecor, which is listed on the American Stock Exchange. He is a millionaire, many times over.
His French-language daily. The Montreal Journal is, at 300,000 circulation, the second large French language daily in Canada. And he has another daily in Quebec, 16 weeklies, and "about a dozen" magazines in the United States that deal with such topies as wrestling, boxing and the wild west.
Peladeau is printing his paper at three small suburban newspapers: The Trenton (N.J.) Times: Delaware County News in Primos, Pa.: and that Vineland (N.J.) Times-Graphic.