The Brooks Bulletin is an independent weekly newspaper published in Brooks, Alberta since 1910. At that time, the population of the hamlet of Brooks was growing as business interests started up grocery and hardware stores, lumber yards and rooming houses. The residents incorporated the hamlet as a village named after CPR employee Noel Edgel Brooks. Businessmen wanted to attract the business of the homesteaders so they formed a Board of Trade and elected E.O. (Bert) Coultis as editor to start up a newspaper for circulation throughout the area. Coultis solicited advertising, wrote general news items and then had the paper printed in Medicine Hat.
In the fall of 1910 a man named Calvin Goss came to Brooks with the intention to start a newspaper; his arrival was welcomed by Coultis whose principal job was to operate the Bowman-Sine Lumber Company. Goss started his four-page newspaper, all of which was made up by the use of hand type, which means each letter was picked out of a case by hand, and ran it for a year and one-half when he sold out to Leonard D. Nesbitt for the sum of $500. The name of the paper was changed from the Banner back to The Bulletin, which Coultis had named.
Business was good in the early years. In the printing office about four days were devoted to publishing the little newspaper and two days to commercial printing. Homesteaders often lost their horses and this provided business for the printer at a rate of $2 for 100 small hand bills on which was a description of the horse and brands if any. Rents were comparatively cheap; a small building 16 by 24 feet cost $10 a month – it was the whole printing plant.
World War One caused a slump in the town’s economy because of several leaving to fight and the stoppage of work on the irrigation project. Towards the end of the war, times got better. The railway brought in extra personnel to expand the operation of the irrigation district and settlers moved in from far and near to take up irrigated land.
In the early days the editor and one printer managed to publish the paper with the help of a young man known as the “printer’s devil”. Thus the staff at The Bulletin remained fairly constant until after World War Two. Labour saving machines such as the Lynotype, which set type in blocks of hot lead, and semi-automatic presses took up the slack.
Right from the start it was customary for community papers to appoint a correspondent – usually a farmer’s wife – to write the small happenings and the comings and goings of the resident in each community. Over the years, a number of the Nesbitt family, including Leonard’s brother Howard and sons Clive and Lee, edited and published The Bulletin until 1954 when Jim Nesbitt became publisher. Today, Len Nesbitt’s grandsons Jamie and brother Jon have taken over the day to day operations of the paper.
Today The Bulletin occupies a modern 10,000 square foot building in downtown Brooks with 12 full time and 14 part time employees. Along with a news-gathering staff of three, there are 21 country correspondents and several contributing columnists through syndication services. The paper is published every Tuesday of the year regardless of holidays and enjoys a circulation of some 5,000 newspapers delivered through the mail and sold over counters in several locations throughout the district.
Office and production areas are fully computerized with separate systems handling the invoicing, subscription and payroll records and all typesetting for newspaper and commercial printing production.
The paper is printed on a seven unit Goss Community newspaper press right in the shop each Tuesday night. The press will print a 16 page section at speeds close to 15,000 sections per hour. The paper averages 40 broadsheet pages each week making it one of the largest weekly papers in the country.
The Bulletin uses close to 80 metric tonnes of newsprint a year and up to 250 gallons of ink. Newsprint arrives in 20 tonne shipments from mills in northern Alberta and is stored on the premises.
The Bulletin is a member of the Alberta Weekly Newspaper’s Association and also the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.
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