Arnold A. Auguste Biography
Founded 'Share' in His Apartment, Produced Positively Different Paper, Forged Success His Way
When Arnold A. Auguste left his native Trinidad for Canada, he planned on pursuing a journalism career. Unfortunately, he couldn't find a place to work that matched his ideals. "I didn't originally set out to own a paper, I just wanted to write," he told The Eye Opener. Steeped in equal doses of debt and optimism, Auguste began publishing Share, a weekly paper aimed at Toronto's black and Caribbean communities. That was in 1978, and Auguste could afford to publish no more than 2,000 copies per week. But by 2004, Share was pumping out 50,000 copies a week and reaching an estimated 150,000 readers. Share is now Canada's largest ethnic newspaper and a vital component of Canada's media industry.
Founded 'Share' in His Apartment
Born and raised in Trinidad, West Indies, Arnold A. Auguste left the Caribbean nation when he was 23 years old. He arrived in Toronto, Canada, in 1970 and began to contribute columns to Contrast, a politically aggressive paper that had its roots in the black power movement of the 1960s. Eventually he enrolled in Ryerson University's journalism program. After graduating in 1976 he was hired as an editor at Spirit, a paper targeting the black community. The paper soon released him, however, due to budget cuts. He next landed an editorial position at Contrast, another paper serving the black community, but his moderate ideals clashed with the paper's hard-line stance. He was fired within a year.
Just two years out of journalism school and with two lost jobs on his fledgling resume, Auguste decided to do something radical. Unable to find the type of paper he wanted to write for, he decided to create it. In 1978 Auguste formed Arnold A. Auguste Associates Limited and launched Share, a weekly newspaper dedicated to the black and Carribean community of Toronto. The name of the paper captured the tone of the reporting; Auguste wanted his community to share its good news, to share with each other. "Share is not just about news, where as main-stream news is, news only," Auguste told African Canadian Online. " Share's focus is on Toronto. It is a community newspaper which covers our community, what we are doing here, in Toronto. Share is connected to the community at large."
Auguste produced the first three issues out of his apartment. Though initial reaction to the paper was positive, someone did not like what he was doing. Shortly after the third edition hit the streets, Auguste's apartment was firebombed. He lost everything he owned. Though it was a major personal and financial setback, Auguste remained undeterred. He found a new place to live and work and continued producing Share almost without a hitch.
Produced Positively Different Paper
Share was a different publication in a lot of ways. It was the first ethnic paper to be distributed for free in Toronto. Anywhere blacks and Caribbean people congregated, Share could be found—Caribbean and African markets, hair salons, restaurants. The paper also looked different. The front page folded open to reveal a glossy magazine-style cover. In addition Share proved to be the first colorblind black paper. More concerned with quality reporting and writing than any status quo, Auguste did not hesitate to hire writers of any ethnicity. One white writer, hired in 1980, told The Eye Opener that "I think mostly what [Auguste] wanted was to see his community covered thoroughly, and it didn't matter to him what color the reporter was, so long as they could do that for him."
However, what really made Share stand out was its positive spin on the news. "If I want to read about crime in the black community, I'd read the Toronto Sun," Auguste told The Eye Opener. "I'd much rather print a story about a young black man winning an award, than a young black man committing a crime." He continued emphasizing that he wanted immigrants, Carribeans, and Africans in particular "to see that they didn't make a mistake in coming here. There's a lot of good things going on in this community." To that end Share has always focused on positive or neutral stories about the black and Caribbean communities in Toronto. The Share Web site noted, "Our team of qualified journalists, including the publisher, gives our readers a comprehensive view of what our community is all about every week, 52 weeks of the year, together with analyses and commentaries from our community's point of view, in addition to news from the Caribbean and Africa, sports, entertainment, business, religion, etc." The only thing blatantly missing from the paper's extensive coverage was crime, and in a large city like Toronto where crime—particularly black-on-black crime, is high—Auguste's refusal to cover the issue drew criticism from other papers as well as the public. Auguste dismissed the criticism, insisting that the purpose of the paper was to inspire the community to do better.
Forged Success His Way
Auguste himself spoke out against crime and wrote editorials in efforts to stop violence. But as his editorial on Share's 26th anniversary stated: "We believed that positive news would encourage members of our community to excel. We believed that, as we shared our good experiences and ideas; as we shared our successes; as we shared the successes of our children, we would encourage each other, not so much to ignore the negatives that were placed in our paths, but to focus on the potential this city, this province and this country offered." Auguste has remained consistent on these points since he founded the paper.
Auguste has also been quick to point out that his feel-good paper has struck a chord with the public. As of 2002 the paper had a weekly print run of 50,000 and was reaching over 150,000 readers. Though many advertiser-supported papers struggle to stay afloat, Share has never lost money. Advertisers with products aimed at the black and Carribean communities vie for prime ad space. Meanwhile, other papers falter alongside Share. Both of Auguste's former employers, Contrast and Spirit, have long been shut down. Other black-focused publications such as Pride and Caribbean Camera are too small to infringe on Share's market.
Further proof of the power of Auguste's positive approach occurred when long-time editor Jules Elder quit Share. The two men had drifted apart philosophically over the years and Elder finally left in 1998 to work for the Toronto Sun. At that time Auguste took over editorial duties, reinforced his positive approach, and launched an extensive Web site for the paper. As a result, circulation rose by more than 50 percent over the next four years. Auguste was also able to increase the size of the paper from 20 to 32 pages, allowing for more advertisers. Share's success gave Auguste a kind of validation for his approach to the news. As he told The Eye Opener: "We're successful, and we keep growing, so that ought to tell you we're on the right track."
"About Share News," Share, www.sharenews.com (August 14, 2004).
"The Black Press in Canada," African Canadian Online, www.yorku.ca/aconline/literature/press.html (August 14, 2004).
"Negative News Doesn't Get Its Share," The Eye >Opener, www.theeyeopener.com/storydetail.cfm?storyid=71 (August 14, 2004).
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