Opinion teaser

From the basement to a career in journalism

Looking back on over 25 years with Barriere’s North Thompson Star/Journal

I reached a personal milestone last week. One that actually surprised the ‘you know what’ out of me as I had no idea how long I have been a part of this newspaper until Black Press congratulated me on 25 years with the North Thompson Star/Journal.

It truly was a jaw dropping moment when our publisher, Martina Dopf, stopped in at the newspaper office to present me with cards of congratulation, a bouquet of flowers, lunch, congratulations from those further up the ladder, and a Black Press watch to mark the occasion.

Where did all that time go?

Seems like only a few years ago that I was head of the newspaper’s mailroom. Our mailroom ran out of the basement of the old forestry building on Borthwick where the Yellowhead Star resided before it became the Star/Journal. Tim Francis was owner and publisher at that time, and when I applied for the job I remember him clearly saying to me that he was looking for someone long term for the position – who could of guessed where that would lead.

My mailroom job was overseeing a group of collators one day a week who came in early on Sunday mornings to stuff flyers into the newspaper, and then get them out for delivery from Heffley Creek to Blue River every Sunday. I think we were a pretty motley crew back then, but we had a great time chatting it up while everyone stuffed the flyers into the papers and I then tied them into bundles of 10 or 20 for the delivery driver and for the post office.

We often had potluck lunches that we shared and enjoyed down there in the basement, we told stories, talked about the highs and lows of our lives, and made many friendships that have lasted to this day.

Tim sold the newspaper 25 years ago to the company known today as Black Press, and we continued to be ‘The first word in the Valley’ for our readers.

At some point in time the gal in reception moved on, and when that happened I moved to full time with the newspaper by taking over the reception position. I still ran the Sunday mailroom, but I did love getting out of the basement.

I especially loved the opportunity to learn how a newspaper is built from scratch every week, and I’m pretty sure this was the beginning of my journalism career.

When the current issue was finally all printed out from an office printer, then pasted up onto big sheets called flats (no such thing back then as sending the newspaper by email to the press), it was boxed up and put on a Greyhound bus to Vernon to be printed into a newspaper.

One time that box of flats went to Spokane for some unknown reason, and another time I don’t think it ever was discovered where the box eventually ended up. That meant the whole crew had to rush back to the newspaper, and redo everything that had taken about two days to prepare in no more than three hours.

Then someone had to jump in a vehicle and beat it to Vernon to make the press deadlines and then beat it back to Barriere with the finished product for our readers.

It was also a time when if you had a page with colour ads or coloured photographs on, you had to print four different coloured sheets from the little newspaper office printer for each photograph. These sheets were colour coded in a way that told the printing press what the colours would be in the photographs or ads.

Unfortunately, back then the office printers were just starting to be able to handle this job, and although they were able to do it, the time it took to print out four tabloid sheet sized pages to create the colour pages in the newspaper was incredible.

The most memorable of those events was one December when staff had rushed to get the newspaper ready to go early so we could all attend our annual Christmas party at the Station House Restaurant that evening. However, as this newspaper was our special Christmas issue it had numerous colour pages, which meant overworking our poor little printer to the point where it was barely able to work at all.

Amazingly it took something like five hours to print out those sheets, which meant we had to keep sending someone from the party back to the newspaper to see how the printer was doing. Then, when it had completed one set of four pages, you had to tell it to start the next set.

As the evening wore on, and the party drinks flowed, it was actually pretty incredible that any of us could find the newspaper or the printer by the end of the night. Fortunately, the Christmas issue made the newsstands on time, and no one was the wiser.

In later years I moved into the advertising and production department. What a fun place to work when it came to letting your creative juices flow in ad design and promotional materials. It was also a gigantic leap into the world of computer programs, and of course the internet and digital photography were also improving.

I moved into a corner of the editorial department when I began paginating pages for our editor Ann Piper. Paginating is when you take the story, the photographs and the advertisements and place them onto a page so that everything fits and is in the spot where it belongs. For many years most of this was done by physical cut and paste methods, but thank goodness computers came along and they now do the job for you.

During this time I started doing some reporting and photography for the Star/Journal as well, and I even did a stint as the editorial cartoonist for about a year.

In 2004 Ann Piper retired and I moved into the editor’s chair. What a ride that has been and continues to be to this day.

Being an editor means you find the stories, take the pictures, inform your readers, and embrace the pulse of your community. Together we have been through good times and bad. We have laughed together and cried together. We have fundraised, protested, and made our voices heard at the right time and in the right place to help our community grow, prosper and continue to be a ‘great place to live and raise a family’.

We have weathered floods, ice storms, and wildfires. In fact, during the McLure Wildfire of 2003 the only living being left on duty at the Star/Journal when Barriere was evacuated was my budgie! Yep, my budgie.

The poor bird couldn’t handle the smoke that was so heavy in the air during the evacuation, and my husband and I were some of the last few to leave the community. Our only option was to leave the budgie in his cage on a table in the cool smoke free basement of the Star/Journal with plenty of food and water to see him through.

Our hope was that the building would still be there in the morning and so would the budgie.

It was actually 24 hours before we could get back in, but their was the newspaper building and there was the bird cage in the basement on the table – and the budgie was just fine!

That’s something like the Star/Journal, it will always be here – and it’s just fine as well.

Thanks for listening and being constant readers, hopefully I can continue to inform, entertain, and be your voice for a few more years yet.



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