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Newspapering beats the competition

The Kamloops This Week newspaper folded a couple of weeks ago.

That was the paper I worked at for a number of years before I came back up north and eventually landed at the Prince George Free Press.

It got me thinking about my time with community newspapers. By my count, I worked at seven different papers – High Prairie and Grande Prairie in Alberta, and then Quesnel, Kamloops, Burns Lake, Vanderhoof and Prince George in B.C.

In some cases we were the only paper in the community, in others we had competition. A few of my favourite memories are from the first paper I worked at in Alberta.

In High Prairie, I worked at the South Peace News and there was another paper in town. It seemed strange to have two papers in a town with a population of about 1,500, but the trading area was more like 15,000, so it made sense.

We published at our own press in High Prairie, while the other paper was sent out of town to be printed. One Wednesday morning, the provincial building, right across the street from our office, caught fire and was quite badly damaged.

We, of course, were all over the story. We got all kinds of pictures as well as comments from a lot of people, and had it rolling off the press that afternoon.

While I was taking photos, I saw one of the people from the other paper delivering copies of their latest paper, which also came out on Wednesdays. A few weeks later, I was chatting with someone from the other paper, and they said when they went around the following Wednesday to distribute the new edition and pick up the old one, they got back virtually every copy of the previous week’s paper.

People in the town knew we would have full coverage of the fire, so they waited to pick it up that afternoon.

Sometime later, a friend of mine came up from Prince George for a couple of days to visit. While he was there, we went out to an elementary school track meet. I was wandering around, getting pictures, when the reporter from the other paper came over.

“I just got here,” he said, “and I’ve only got five frames left on this roll of film. Where’s a good spot to get pictures?”

We got along well, so I suggested the high jump, since even a less than perfectly timed photo could still be good.

After he left, my friend looked at me and quietly said, “I wouldn’t worry about the competition.”

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