Right in the Centre - 25 more years, maybe?


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

It’s been 25 years, as of October 23, since the first edition of the Neepawa Banner was published. We took over the Rivers Banner/Gazette/Reporter a few years later.Time didn’t exactly fly by, but maybe that’s because we weren’t having fun all the time.

Sometimes, during the tough times, time dragged on. So did the sleepless nights. But we made it through. Our biggest challenges were financial and we just about didn’t make it on two occasions. If it hadn’t been for my wife’s ability to manage cash flow, we wouldn’t have made it through the tough years.

This column is approximately the 1,300th one I have written. Some of the things I have learned and re-learned are things that we have tried to stick to for the past 25 years.

They say in real estate there are three things that count: location, location location! In newspapers there are three things that count: content, content, content!  And there are three kinds of content, the three-legged stool of a successful newspaper, editorials, news and and advertising. You need all three, otherwise you have a very shaky stool.

A lot has changed in 25 years. The technology is totally different. We used to do type setting and cut and paste in the day when cutting meant actual cutting with scissors or a knife and pasting meant actual pasting with glue or hot wax. Now it’s totally desktop. We are proud to have been the first rural newspaper to go with digital photography and among the first to have full page digital pagination and among the first to send our pages to print in the electronic format.

There has been huge changes in newspaper ownership. Back in the day when we started the Neepawa Banner, almost all the papers in Manitoba were locally owned. That changed when Quebecor bought about 10 papers in central and eastern Manitoba. It changed again when Glacier bought a pile of papers in western Manitoba. It changed again when the Winnipeg Free Press group picked up about seven locally owned papers. There’s still some independent owners left and we are proud to count ourselves as independently owned. I personally am the oldest newspaper publisher in the province, as far as I know.

In a an article in the Editor and Publisher magazine this month, Tim Gallagher, a former Pultizer Prize winner with the Albuquerque Tribune said, “When I retired, I realized I had been working on Wall Street most of the time.” He worked for corporate share holder owned papers that traded on Wall Street and all they think about is profit. He adds, “To put it simply: A publicly traded newspaper company existed to make money while a locally owned company had a stake in making the community a better place to live.” He further adds, “In the days before newspapers belonged to stockholders, the stakes, rewards, systems and goals were different.”

Ain’t that the truth?

The corporate shareholder newspapers have largely ruined the newspaper business and they are paying dearly for it. Sales are down, page numbers are down, staffing numbers are down. Communities aren’t being well served by corporate papers.  In contrast, this newspaper’s sales and profits are increasing and we are thankful for it.

So what happens in the next 25 years? Certainly we will be more and more on the internet with Facebook, YouTube and web sites. But we will still have a paper product and I hope to be part of it for a long time to come.

I have never intended to retire. Should God leave me on this earth for that long, I hope to be here at our 50th anniversary. I will be 91 years old then but seeing as I have friends who are still working well into their 80s, maybe 91 is reachable. If it’s not, that’s OK too as we have good young people working for us and they can run the paper without us, at least some of the time. 

Another 25 years of writing, selling ads, print jobs and running the papers would be a good thing. At least I think so.