October 2013

Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill among 10 Canadians featured in ‘A Good Day’s Work’

October 23, 2013

Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill is the focus of a chapter in a new hard-cover release written by John Demont.
The best selling, and award winning author is eloquent in his choice of words to describe everyday Canadians and their professions in the 284-page, ‘A Good Day’s Work.’

In his 30-year literary career Mr DeMont has reflected on the very wealthy and now, in this book, he tells the stories of people devoted to a way of life that is slowly disappearing from the landscape of Canadian’s memory.

“Armed with the idea that a person’s livelihood should bring them a sense of accomplishment and every joy, Mr DeMont travelled across Canada to capture, in words, jobs that may soon be lost to history. A milkman, a blacksmith, a cowgirl, a travelling salesman and a drive-in movie operator are among his subjects,” says a promo for the book.

“These are less famous people – they’re not rich, or famous,” Mr DeMont said. “I didn’t purposely go out to find people who really like their jobs – it just happened that they all really, really like their work. They’re not looking at the clock all the time.”

In Chapter five titled, “Every Jeselly One Of Them,” a phrase often used by Graphic founder Jim MacNeill is reminiscent of a time when an error in the newspaper’s headline caused an uproar and involved dealings with lawyers.

But, that’s history and now Mr MacNeill, who is described by the author as “a big dog in a small town,” is publisher of the award winning Eastern Graphic – a position he has held since May 1998.

The author tags along with Mr MacNeill, while he is making his rounds on a January day in 2010, which starts in the morning with a Tim’s coffee, followed by time in the office, a stop at the Post Office and plenty of conversation along the way. The publisher theorizes about the newspaper industry and shares some background about his time working with his dad in the business before heading off to college to study journalism, later landing a job on the mainland and then coming to The Graphic to work.

“I don’t know if I’d call the way I work a process as much as a way of life,” the author quotes Mr MacNeill. “I’m forever scanning the news, talking to folks. I don’t really look for ideas. They just tend to naturally flow based on what I’ve read and who I’ve talked to.”

The chapter provides a neatly written recount of how Jim MacNeill and his wife, Shirley, ended up in Montague, how the paper got started, and how it has evolved since the first press run in December 1963.

The author talks about the small town of Montague and some of its characters including close friend of the MacNeill’s, well-known entertainer Dennis Ryan. In weaving local colour into the story Mr DeMont mentions long-time Graphic employees, editor Heather Moore, who has worked at The Graphic for 41 years, Hugh Graham, who has been associated with the paper in one capacity or another since its inception, Mary MacCormack who has been on the job for more than two decades, and sales rep Sharon Riley.

Other names and events pop up in the chapter including the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, Joe and Nora MacDonald of Cardigan, along with some people who frequent a local coffee shop.
Mr DeMont said the book, was about four years in the making. In a sense, he said it mirrors his passion for his own chosen profession.

“It covers 10 occupations, which is a good round number, but there are a million other jobs to write about,” he said.

John DeMont, an Atlantic Canada journalist, has published six books in all. He is also senior writer and columnist for The Chronicle Herald in Halifax. He has established himself as one of Canada’s finest journalists. Marked by a rare combination of reporting chops and beautiful writing, his work has appeared in such publications as Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Canadian Geographic, The Financial Times (UK), Men’s Journal, Reader’s Digest, Toro and The Walrus. He has covered everything from wear, national and international politics, law, sports and crime to health, science and the environment.

His books include the critically-acclaimed The Last Best Place: Lost in the Heart of Nova Scotia and the number one best seller Citizens Irving: The Irvings and New Brunswick, as well as Cold Black Heart: The Story of Coal and the Lives it Ruled.

A Good Day’s Work, In Pursuit of a Disappearing Canada is available at Indigo in Charlottetown in both hard cover and ebook.

Graphic publisher Paul MacNeill is the focus of a chapter in Atlantic Canada author, John DeMont’s latest release ‘A Good Day’s Work.’

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Community Newspapers Key to Success of Georgetown Conference

October 23, 2013

The Georgetown Conference was different. 250 ‘doers and producers’ came from all parts of Atlantic Canada, bringing their passion for rural communities. The King’s Playhouse was packed to capacity for every session; delegates weren’t slipping out to make phone calls or catch up on e-mails. Doug Griffiths said the dining area at Georgetown was “the noisiest lunch room I’ve ever heard.” Griffiths should know. He visited more than 400 Alberta communities while writing his Thirteen Ways to Kill Your Community, and has given keynote addresses at events throughout western Canada and the U.S. Participants at the Georgetown Conference were enthusiastic and engaged. They brought commitment and experience; they were happy to get to know each other better and build networks.

The passion for rural communities that was readily evident in the lunch room at Georgetown had its impetus with the community newspapers of Atlantic Canada. Collectively they comprise 70 weekly papers, with a combined distribution of 735,000, serving communities from Labrador to Yarmouth to the Acadian Peninsula. In January 2012, Newspapers Atlantic undertook to sponsor a conference dedicated to “Redefining Rural”. They agreed to put up $25,000 in cash. In the words of Paul MacNeill, Publisher of Island Press on PEI and the original proponent of the Conference, “It’s time to hit the re-set button for rural Atlantic Canada.”

The theme “Redefining Rural” was self-explanatory to the ‘doers and producers’ who understood the need for the Georgetown Conference, and to the generous firms and individuals who joined Newspapers Atlantic as sponsors. To get the word out, the weekly newspapers contributed advertising space, wrote editorials, and encouraged the nomination of community leaders as delegates. The administrative offices of Newspapers Atlantic served as the organizational headquarters of the Conference. Led by Executive Director Mike Kierstead, they put together a web site, plus Twitter and Facebook accounts and discussion forums. Between January 2012 and October 2013, Newspapers Atlantic supplemented their original cash contribution with in-kind support and sweat equity.

At the local level, newspapers joined with their communities and municipal governments to organize town-hall style meetings. An early meeting in McAdam, NB, initiated by the Saint Croix Courier, drew more than 235 people, in a community of 1,400. Participants brought energy, ideas and goodwill. These gatherings became styled as “The Road to Georgetown”. At a meeting sponsored by the Annnapolis County Spectator in Lawrencetown, NS, the “Road to Georgetown” concept proved so infectious that three people decided to walk 500 kms from Yarmouth to Georgetown. They became the inaugural recipients of the “Spirit of Georgetown” Award. Community brainstorming sessions organized by the Inverness Oran, the Antigonish Casket, the Enfield Weekly Press, PEI’s Eastern Graphic and many other papers throughout the region created a wave of grassroots interest in “Redefining Rural”. This collaborative effort was exemplified in Yarmouth, where the Vanguard and the Town came together to promote a spectacular citizen-engagement initiative called “All Hands on Deck”, which was selected for recognition in the Conference’s “Atlantic Canada Great Ideas Exchange”.

The connectedness of the community newspapers helped in other critical ways, notably in reaching out to Conference speakers. Editors at the Gander Beacon, the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Labradorian, and the Baie Verte area’s Nor’wester were instrumental in connecting with Chief Simeon Tshakapesh of Natuashish and Shaun Majumder of Burlington. Further afield, Kelly Clemmer, Editor-in-chief of the Star News in Wainwright, Alberta, helped to extend the invitation to his co-author Doug Griffiths. These networks and connections enabled the Georgetown Conference to bring together a rich diversity of inspiring speakers.

Newspapers Atlantic’s ultimate contribution to the Conference came through the newspapers’ core function of content and coverage. A number of papers generated a series of “Georgetown Letters”, bringing together views and debates about the future of rural communities. There were editorials in papers throughout Atlantic Canada, commenting on ‘redefining rural’ from local and regional perspectives. In Newfoundland and Labrador, there was timely coverage of “Air Georgetown” a charter flight organized to bring delegates from St. John’s, Gander, Deer Lake and Labrador. Newspapers throughout the region contributed significant advertising space to promote the Conference and to recognize the generosity of sponsors. The papers helped to reach out to prospective youth delegates, with the result that at least one-quarter of the Conference participants were 35-and-under.

By October 3, the first day of the Conference, there was an unstoppable wave of enthusiasm and goodwill. Still, it was essential to get the word out, and to disseminate the energy and ideas from Georgetown. Newspapers Atlantic selected a group of seven senior writers from papers throughout the region to cover the Conference. This talented group, which became known as ‘The Posse’, under the leadership of Brian Lazurri, Editor of the Antigonish Casket, generated material that was readily available to Newspapers Atlantic colleagues and to other print and broadcast media organizations. These articles constitute a rich account of the formal and informal interactions of the Conference. Other media organizations, including CBC, Transcontinental, Brunswick News and the Chronicle Herald, dedicated significant coverage. Eastlink TV recorded the Conference from beginning to end, for broadcast on regional cable programming, to be shared with communities served by Rogers. The Conference was live-streamed on the internet, with more than 2,000 viewers. This level of interest would not have been attained without the original commitment and coverage of the community newspapers.

With the success of the Georgetown Conference, the challenge now is to spread the message and the ripple effects of “Redefining Rural”. In his October 16th column, Paul MacNeill emphasized: “Now the real work of Georgetown begins.” There will be meetings in and among communities throughout Atlantic Canada. All municipal councils and councillors in eastern PEI are coming together in Montague on October 26, on MacNeill’s invitation, to consider how carry forward the momentum of Georgetown. In early November, the annual convention of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador will consider “Redefining Rural”, with Shaun Majumder as guest speaker. Yarmouth Mayor Pamela Mood, whom delegates at Georgetown found so inspiring, will return to PEI on November 21st as guest speaker at the annual awards dinner of the Eastern PEI Chambers of Commerce. There will be other gatherings, in all four Atlantic provinces, with active involvement by community newspapers.

The reputation and brand of the Georgetown Conference are already reaching further afield. In June of 2014, the Georgetown Conference will be replicated in the Kootenays Region of British Columbia. Chuck and Karen Bennett, publishers of the community newspapers in the Kootenays, were delegates in Georgetown. They are leading a community initiative to organize a regional conference dedicated to “Redefining Rural”, to be styled as “Georgetown Conference, Kootenays Edition”. In September 2013, Paul MacNeill and I were invited to present a paper on the Georgetown Conference to a Symposium on “Newspapers and Community Building”, held in Phoenix, Arizona in conjunction with the annual convention of the National Newspapers Association of the United States. The Georgetown brand is spreading. Now, the real work begins.

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Celebrating newspapers: A letter from the publisher

October 8, 2013

It’s National Newspaper Week, a time when newspapers are in the spotlight and deservedly so.

Your hometown newspaper, like the one you’re reading, continues a long tradition of bringing news to the communities it serves.

The earliest reports of a newspaper covering a community go back to 69 BC when a sheet was issued in Rome called Acta Diurna (acts of today). Newspapers have come a long way since then and today a newspaper is not merely a product on newsprint. The industry has quickly embraced the digital age and newspapers of all sizes have a well-defined web presence, as does the newspaper you are reading today.

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NL delegates encouraged by Georgetown conference

October 7, 2013

GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. — Two women from Carbonear attending the Georgetown Conference this week both agree the event was worthwhile, and should serve as a catalyst for renewed hope and energy for those who believe there is a future for rural areas of Atlantic Canada.

Kerri Abbott and Florence Button have joined some 250 other so-called “doers and producers” from Atlantic Canada at this quaint, picturesque town in King’s County, on the eastern edge of P.E.I.

They are part of a solid contingent of some two dozen people from Canada’s most easterly province, all of whom share a view that there is a future for rural areas, but also understand the challenges are substantial.

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Georgetown Conference puts rural needs in the spotlight

October 7, 2013

Hundreds of people from across Atlantic Canada are on P.E.I. for the first Georgetown Conference, a meeting dedicated to saving the region’s rural communities.

The mood outside the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown is a picture of rural calm, but inside there’s a flurry of activity.

The conference’s organizer said change is in the air.

“We can’t assume that the way we’ve thought for the last five years or 10 years or 30 years is the way to think going into the future. We all have a different reality and we have to embrace that,” said Paul MacNeill.

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Future of rural areas in hands of the people, says Don Mills

October 7, 2013

GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. — Questions about how to inject new life into rural areas of Atlantic Canada have been generating plenty of discussion and debate during a unique three-day conference in this small community.

But at least one expert presenter at the Georgetown Conference — Rural Redefined said those seeking answers should not necessarily look to the provincial or federal governments.

Don Mills said answers have to come from the grassroots level.

“It’s up to us to figure out a strategy,” chairman and chief executive officer of Corporate Research Associates said. The company bills itself as a leading public opinion and market research firm.

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