A month or so ago, I received an email from a publisher of a new weekly newspaper in Alberta, the Whitecourt Press. She wanted me to include her new newspaper in the Alberta Media Directory. I wrote her back and asked her a few questions which she quickly answered. I was particularly interested in her publishing background and what inspired her to publish a weekly newspaper in a relatively small town in which another weekly newspaper, The Whitecourt Star (now owned by the Sun Media/Quebecor), had been publishing since 1961. Had she worked for them and then decided to start her own newspaper? What made her decide to be a go-it-alone publisher? Had she worked for or published a newspaper before? How did she finance the start up phase? This is the response she sent by email:
You asked about my experience in publishing…I worked at a paper about five years ago for a very short time doing the accounting. My interest in becoming a go-it-alone publisher comes from being a single parent for 18 years. I had a health scare where I thought I would only live for a year or two, I had to wait a month or so for the results, and this scared me. Everything turned out good with the results, thank god, I decided to take a chance and create a newspaper, something that was above and beyond what I have seen for newspapers. I have loved newspapers all my life.
As for how many hours a day I put in… I haven’t had a day off in over two years. I work on average 16 hours per day. I do everything from stuffing, publishing, editing, accounting, all of it. The only thing I don’t do right now is take photos, and write, although I have done a bit of writing including a weekly column.
Soon after I started publishing the paper, I switched from paid to free distribution which turned out to be a good idea. The newspaper is available in 87 locations including Whitecourt, Blue Ridge, Mayerthorpe, Sangudo, Rochfort Bridge and Fox Creek. My competitor, the Whitecourt Star, is available, I think, in about 15 locations. Our circulation figures are about the same.
The most interesting thing I think abou the Whitecourt Press is the quality and the local content. I brought this paper together as a platform for our community to communicate. I’m sort of a humanitarium. I feature such things as suicide, bullying and missing persons. I put my humanitarium efforts into the paper. Each week I give a free full page to nonprofits. I try to use the paper as a tool to help others and keep others informed, and reminded of what we have compared to a lot of othe people in the world.
My paper is larger than normal 15 inches long, with large type and produced on high quality newsprint. I have a commitment to keep the paper at 40 pages. That seems to be the best page count, all things considered. It’s not your average paper. I will send you a copy!! I have compliments from people everywhere that they read my paper front to back, and look forward to it every week, I have been told some of my front page photos should be entered in a contest.
As for my connection to Whitecourt, I moved to Whitecourt when I was fifteen, have seven brothers and sisters, and two children aged 17 and 18. In terms of staff, I have a full time production person, two part time reporters and one full time advertising sales person.
I started the newspaper with no money in the bank and no financial backing. The Press will be two years old in December.
Next time you’re in Whitecourt, please look me up.
July 11, 2013.
Valerie did send me a copy of her last newspaper. I reviewed it to see it what ways it might be a newspaper like no other, especially against the Whitecourt Star. I concluded that Valerie is indeed on to something. The newspaper has a distinctively humanitarian slant. In addition to LOTS of local news, columns include: Pet Connection, Dear Abby, Horoscopes, Lovescopes, Everyday Living Tips, Recipes, Kids Corner (crossword puzzles, mazes, word search, etc), careers, sports and, of course, a classified section.
See more about the Whitecourt Press at www.whitecourtpress.com.