By: Laura Keil
Styles change, but some things stay the same.
That is one of the impressions Matthew Wheeler has from the Century of Valley Newspapers exhibit at the McBride Museum & Archives.
May 2014 was the real anniversary of the 100 years of the first Valley newspaper The Journal, published in 1914 in McBride. Since that time, there have been no fewer than 15 publications and many more ownership changes.
Wheeler says one of the interesting things about the Valley is how it has supported up to five or six print publications at a time.
“It’s a very lively print newspaper community even though electronic forms of communications have taken over so much of Canada,” Wheeler says.
Wheeler was personally responsible for rescuing some of these newspaper archives in recent years. He drove to Victoria to pick up newspaper records for the local museum, records which likely would have been destroyed. Many are on microfilm. Now Wheeler and Robert Frear (a former newspaper editor) are in the process of digitizing the earliest microfilm files to make the actual newspaper texts searchable online. When they’re done, they’ll have the 1914-1942 newspaper records uploaded to the Valley Museum website for people to browse.
Wheeler points out that for many years in the Valley’s history, newspapers are some of the only remaining records. Newspapers have contained birth, death and marriage announcements, community activities, major milestones and stories of people who have called the Valley home.
“It’s an interesting job newspapers have – what makes them important is the week they come out, what they’re saying about the week before and how they cover that. That’s all that matters at that point. But you get to see that growing bud on a tree – sifting through archives, you get a long view of it, and you see how important the accurate recording of history is.”
People like Valley Sentinel founder and former publisher Maureen Brownlee recall the painstaking typesetting they did in the 1980s which was later replaced by computer software.
Wheeler noted, with delight, that the earliest newspaper and the most recent newspaper’s first edition (The Rocky Mountain Goat) both had trains on their front covers.
He adds that the advertisements are fun too.