This is a reprint from a 1979 Montreal Star article. I would comment, but I believe it speaks for itself. Scroll to the bottom and there’s a second article from The Gazette:
The Montreal Star, Saturday, July 14, 1979
By Trevor Rowe
Notorious for lurid pictures and blood-drenched headlines, the weekly tabloid Allo Police has come to be regarded as Quebec’s unofficial gazette of the criminal world.
Over the years, as detailed accounts of robbers, murders and beatings have helped make it must reading among police and criminals alike, and one of the province’s most popular weeklies.
“The underworld reads it to find out what the police think and the police read it to find out what the underworld is doing” Allo Police publisher Andre Parent said during an interview in his office at 1809 Parthenais street.
Allo Police has not always been recommended reading in all quarters. In the 1960s people who either read or sold the paper were threatened with automatic excommunication by priests scandalized by its gory and sensational content.
The paper’s status in the criminal world has also produced some unexplained events for Mr. Parent. Criminals have suddenly burst into the newsroom late in the evening intent on getting the newspaper straight on a particular story.
“There have been guys come in here, hardened criminals, who just want to tell us exactly what happened” Mr. Parent said. “They walk in, it’s like they are at home, they seem to know all our names”.
“Sometimes they don’t want us to publish anything they say, they just have a need to tell their story. At other times, they want to set the record straight so there are no misunderstandings with the police and the underworld.”
“In one case there had been a triple-murder, and the guy came in and told me everything about it. He warned me not to tell anyone the details. I was scared. If any of the information ever came out he would have thought I talked”.
But Mr. Parent’s big concern these days is maintaining the paper’s popularity. “It was an overnight success. when launched in 1953, and circulation reached a high of 180,000 at one point.” Today sales hover just around the 100,000 mark.
In an effort to hold its market, the paper has changed in the past few years. It has tried to change its scandal rag image with what Mr. Parent calls a more objective approach.
These days the lurid pictures of corpses are gone. Though some headlines have retained their gory [nature].
This has not stopped the paper from producing in-depth coverage which has made it respected…
“In the 1950s, murder was a big thing because it was rare.”, he said. When Allo Police started covering criminal activity, it was denounced by the clergy and the right-wing. The disliked the macabre photos and crime stories.
“Some priests went so far as to threaten excommunication on anyone who either sold or read Allo Police. In Rimouski, a bylaw was passed forbidding the sale of Allo Police, and one man spent a few hours in jail for selling it”.
Mr Parent says the only reason the paper wasn’t closed down by then-premier Maurice Duplessis was that it projected a good image of the police.
Although the attacks from the ring-wing have subsided, Mr. Parent said they have been replaced today by criticism from left-wing political groups.
“They accuse of writing articles that incite repressive action, of creating an atmosphere of revenge against those who break the law. Others say we deny criminals the right to rehabilitation because we have pictures of them in the paper.
We are also accused of being the instrument of the police and the ruling class. This is totally false. Their only valid argument is that exposure might hamper rehabilitation, but that’s the fault of the law which allows newspapers to print this type of material.
A journalist will always stay within the limits of legality but he will try and get as much information as possible. It’s not up to him to make the laws that govern information.”
Mr Parent, a former reporter at the now-defunct daily Montreal Matin, dismisses the left-wing groups as defenders of ‘pseudo-rights’. His aim, he said, is to provide information on relevant issues to his readers.
The paper’s new approach, he said, resulted in giving top play to stories like the case of the paraplegic sent to jail for selling pencils, or that of a man erroneously convicted of murder.
The paper is still popular with police and criminals, although it is banned in certain penitentiaries, he said, but the typical readers of Allo Police today are parents worried about what is going on in the outside world and about their children.
Apart from coverage of crime, the paper offers it’s audience a large games section with crossword puzzles and quizzes. Mr Parent said the section is so popular that Allo Police gets from 30,000 to 60,000 letters a week submitting solutions to the games.
Also popular is a recently introduced pen-pal service to help prisoners communicate with people outside.
Leafing through a pile of letters, Mr. Parent picked one out and opened it. It was to be forwarded to a convict who had written to the newspaper. It was from a young woman and read:
“I am 17 years old. I am understanding and I will give all of myself just to listen to him (the convict). I will give all my friendship because I am lonely and I can tell you that you don’t have to be locked in to feel a prisoner.
I may be young for him, I I would know how to give him the moral support he needs as well as friendship.”
“I find these letters very touching.”, Mr Parent said. “The ones from the convicts are equally soft and romantic.”
“The only thing that worries me is if one of the pen-pals becomes involved with someone who is in the process of committing a criminal act or who would involve a person in one.”
But there is another thing that bothers Mr. Parent – it is that Allo Police is still considered a sensationalist paper despite its changes.
“But what is sensationalist?” he asks. “when all the newspapers carry pictures of the ABC newsman being shot in Nicaragua and the television stations carry film of the shooting nobody says anything
“But if we run a similar picture of an event that took place on St Catherine St. we are accused of sensationalism. Where does sensationalism begin and end?”
If you ask the guy at Le Devoir, he’ll say sensationalism begins at La Presse. If you ask the guy at La Presse, they say at the Journal de Montreal. If you ask the Journal they say at Allo Police, and if you ask us we say at Midnight, and if you ask a moralist he’ll say, ‘the minute you write a headline’.”
Mr Parent said he resented the fact that whenever anyone started talking of sensationalism they instantly referred to Allo Police, even if they hadn’t read it.
For Mr. Parent, the big question now is whether Allo Police can survive in its new style without being forced back to sensationalism. The present approach, he said, is a gamble.
And here’s the interview with Parent from The Gazette in 1978: