This newspaper began its life in 1845 as the Bytown Packet, as Bytown was the original name for Ottawa. Like many other major papers of central and eastern Canada, the Citizen, as it was renamed in 1851, is older than Canada (by 16 years).
The recent history of the Ottawa Citizen includes a certain amount of controversy and some major changes in editorial perspective. Long owned by the Southam family, it was sold in 1996 to the Hollinger empire of Conrad Black, then sold again to CanWest Global in 2000, about five years before Black was first sentenced to a jail term in the U.S. for fraud in 2005.
Under Southam ownership, the paper had a liberal leaning and opposed free trade, a contentious Conservative policy of the late 1980's. When Conrad Black owned it, the paper supported the ultra conservative Reform Party of Preston Manning, and in 2006 it actually went so far as to endorse the Conservative Party.
In 2002, publisher Russell Mills was dismissed after an editorial calling for then Liberal P.M.'s resignation. In 2004, the paper was caught red-handed by the CBC after changing the wording of a press release put out by Associated Press. Substituting the word "terrorist" for the words "insurgent" and "militant" used in the original story, the Ottawa Citizen caused a furore when the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations accused the paper of being anti-Muslim.
In 2010, PostMedia Inc. purchased the paper. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it enjoys a circulation of 140,000.
Early archives of this early paper from Canada's capital are now available online through the Ottawa Public Library.