POST SCRIPT: Chilliwack Times publishes final edition
I can’t deny a piece of me died last Wednesday when the suits came to deliver the final blow to the Chilliwack Times. We saw it coming a long way out, but that didn’t make it any easier. And now, this final column as editor of the Chilliwack Times feels a little like delivering the eulogy at my own funeral.
After 31 years of serving the community, my beloved Chilliwack Times has published its last, the victim of a changing media landscape. Black Press, the parent company of both local newspapers since 2013, is calling it a “merger.” A buzzword to be sure, but if you’re looking for me to tee off on the company that shut us down, you won’t find that here. Since the switch in 2013, Black Press has been nothing but fair and decent and they continue to be as we navigate new waters.
This isn’t a eulogy about what went wrong at the Times. There are no good guys or bad guys, just characters. Most of them funny, some of them crazy, none of them forgettable. But that’s newspapering. It’s intense, it’s relentless and once the ink is in the veins, it never leaves.
While I worked as a journalist for five years before coming to the Chilliwack Times in 1990, the Times will always feel like the true beginning of my newspapering career. Everything good in my life stems from this newspaper and by extension, this community.
As the longest-serving Chilliwack Times editor (almost 20 years in total), I owe a great debt of gratitude to many people both inside and outside of the industry. I’ve served under an amazing list of publishers, starting with my all-time favourite, Andrew Yeates.
Back then, Andrew was a chain-smoking, 10-cup-a-day coffee drinking dynamo who taught me a great deal about community newspapering . . . but even more about life. He was the best man at my wedding, later became a business partner in another newspaper we owned together, and remains one of my dearest and most loyal friends.
I’m forever indebted to another publisher, Randall Taylor, for bringing me back to Chilliwack after a short stint owning and running papers in the Interior. Nobody knew how to treat his employees better than Randall. He was the master of celebrating your successes and the Times Christmas party of ‘99 will go down as the greatest ever, not solely for the table we set on fire at the former Rhombus Hotel, but for a bar bill that pretty much explains how a table fire could have ever occurred in the first place.
The longest standing publisher of the Chilliwack Times was former CFL great Nick Bastaja. For more than a decade, Nick kept a firm, if not shockingly large, hand on the rudder.
As any good editor will tell you, you’re only as good as your people—your reporters and photographers. And over the years, I’ve had the privilege to work with the industry’s very best. Right from the very beginning, the Times was an award-winning community newspaper thanks to writing and photography from the likes of Matt Plumtree, Sabrina Draper, Troy Landreville, Paddy Treavor, Marcus Olyniuk, Patty Hutton, Jill Bryant, Nancy Lees, Lisa Morry, Toby Gorman, Melissa Shaw and Robyn Chambers.
Some reporters, Dale Cory and hometown hero Mike Chouinard, have even done double tours of duty.
There’s an undeniable connection between the Grand Forks Gazette and the Chilliwack Times that most readers will never know. Many of my best hires have been reporters that once worked there. Chouinard was one, but so too were Darren McDonald and Paul J. Henderson.
Darren worked here for a few years before leaving and coming back as the editor of our then sister paper the Abbotsford Times. I felt enormous pride and joy when he became an editor. Darren was one of the great wits in the community newspaper business, immensely talented and funny as hell.
No one laboured harder over a story than Cornelia Naylor. Nobody impressed me more straight out of the box than Tyler Olsen. The year he won awards at the BCYCNA, the CCNA and the Websters was the single greatest accomplishment I’ve witnessed as an editor. He continues to amaze while working at our sister paper, the Abbotsford News.
Greg Laychak has been with us for just “four months” but it certainly felt longer. Amazing shooter, friend and rabid MMA fan.
But, for more than a decade, my greatest privilege has been to work with Paul J. Henderson. He’s simply the best. For an editor, he’s the complete package. He can pump out quality copy, shoot amazing photos, and, when I was on vacation, he could even do my job.
There isn’t enough room to mention all the other amazing people I’ve been blessed to work with, but Jeff, Brian, Arlene, Marni, Betty, Donna, Tara, Kim, Michelle, Shannon, Lisa and Ross, you know who you are.
Even my wife, Ann, put a number of years into the Chilliwack Times. She’s been with me every step of the journey. My good luck charm.
When a cancer-stricken Warren Zevon was asked by David Letterman if his condition had taught him anything about life and death, he replied, “How much you’re suppose to enjoy every sandwich.” Wise words. I’d like to think I have as editor of the Chilliwack Times.
Thank you for allowing me into your home each week. Thank you for everything.