Possibly some readers of the Times have heard a rumour that your editor plans to retire soon.
It’s true. After about 30 years of working for the newspaper, my last day of work will be Tuesday, May 29.
I started working for the Times in the fall of 1983. I was looking for work and went around to every business in Clearwater to see what I could find.
The newspaper’s owners, Frank and Christena Tonge, were looking for someone to typeset. It just so happened that typing was the only course I took in high school that I just about failed but that didn’t deter them. They hired me to come in a few hours a week to set type for the newspaper.
Back in those days typesetting was done with a primitive form of computer. There was a standard keyboard but the screen was maybe five cm wide by one cm deep. You could only see a few letters at a time and heaven help you if you had to make a correction.
The lines of type were printed onto ribbons of paper that then needed to be processed to be made visible. The strips of paper were pasted with wax onto sheets of cardboard called flats. Corrections were made by cutting out errors with an Exacto knife and replacing them with corrected type.
Before too long, Frank asked me if I wanted to do some reporting and take some photos. After a while, I was running the darkroom as well, processing film and making prints to be placed onto the flats.
For quite a few years it was just a part-time job and I supplemented my income through substitute teaching (back in the days before you needed a certificate), silviculture contracting and other odd jobs. Eventually it became full-time and I was named assistant editor.
In 1993 the newspaper changed hands and I was laid off. I worked for the Star/Journal in Barriere for a while, then did a variety of other jobs for a period of five years, most notably teaching adult education to inmates at Bear Creek Correction Camp north of Clearwater.
In 1998, shortly after Black Press bought the Times, I was hired back to be editor.
Carol Gardarsson was publisher at the time and her husband, Gardar Gardarsson was the sales manager.
I remember going in for an interview with Carol. It didn’t go well and she told me at the end that she preferred to hire someone with a journalism degree. However, she added that Ann Piper, the editor of the Star/Journal, had told her that she should hire me and so she decided to give me a chance.
Ann gave me plenty of help after I started back. She had to. I had forgotten quite a bit, technology had moved ahead and I needed to learn a whole new set of skills.
Frank Ritcey was a big help as well. He had been publisher of the Star/Journal for a while and he and I did a head-to-head column, each of us arguing on opposite sides of a different question each week. It was a popular feature that helped increase our readership. A former resident of Upper Clearwater and Clearwater, he now lives in Kamloops and is the provincial head of WildsafeBC.
The first few years were a learning curve, as they say, and I was a bit surprised in the year 2000 to find the Times a top-three finalist for general excellence in B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s annual competition (this was for work done in 1999, the year after I started as editor).
We placed third that year. In the years since then the Times has been a top-three finalist with BCYCNA 12 times and has won first place three times. We have also been top-three finalists with Canadian Community Newspaper Association a number of times and have won first place with CCNA twice.
BCYCNA hosts all the finalists at an awards gala. I took my mother that first year and she surprised me by telling me that several of my relatives on her side of the family had been in the newspaper business.
Up until that time I had not known that. “The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree,” as they say.
While on the topic of BCYCNA awards I should mention David Black, the owner of Black Press. The Times has been a pretty consistent finalist with BCYCNA and for the first few years I continued to take my mother to the awards gala. Black often attended as well, and when he was there he made a point of coming over to say hello to her and ask how she was doing. She appreciated that and so did I.
So, what are my plans for retirement? I would like to travel a bit and maybe live in a different environment for a while. I don’t anticipate leaving Clearwater, however. After so many years, I have pretty deep roots here and am happy to call this place my home.
Black Press has hired a new editor to take my place. Jaime Polmateer comes from Ontario and has worked for small newspapers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He has a diploma in journalism from Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario and is expected to arrive in Clearwater in mid-May.
It can’t be easy being a new newspaper reporter in a small town. After all, your job is to try to find things to tell people about their community that they don’t already know.
I hope everyone will give Jaime a cheerful Clearwater welcome and offer him all the help he can use.