Many people have asked me how it feels to sell the newspaper. After nearly 14 years of weekly production cycles, the highs and lows of running my own business, and the identity that has come with that, the feeling is not straightforward: I am relieved, excited, grateful, and it also feels bittersweet.
The Goat has been my baby for a long time, and my job since the first day I moved to Valemount to start a newspaper with Joe Nusse, a guy I’d never met, but whose job ad I’d responded to. He sought a business partner/editor for a new weekly newspaper, as-yet-unnamed. The idea was we’d live and operate out of his house and split the responsibilities. Essentially I was a “mail-order editor,” and my friends thought I’d gone insane. One warned me to sleep with an axe under my pillow, in case my business partner was actually plotting my murder.
“Job” is a rich word for how we started out – it was an unpaid labour of love with a few thousand in capital and our own computers. In 2010, it turned out that it was both surprisingly easy and hard to start your own newspaper in a town that already had a newspaper. Easy, because we could do it for the cost of our time and the printing bill. Hard because the revenue was nowhere close to what we thought it would be.
But we shared a vision for independent journalism, and we believed this could help move Valemount and the Robson Valley forward.
Despite the hardships and the poverty, those were some of the best years of my life. I fell hard for Valemount, and I fell hard for running my own paper – including the mistakes that were mine to learn the hard way. The personal growth was hard-won.
Throughout my Goat career – all those late Monday nights – I’ve known that one day I’d sell the paper and move on. I almost always pictured another journalist, one who was young and ambitious and a little starry-eyed – like Joe and I at the beginning.
That moment has come. The first day Spencer arrived in town in September to work as the Goat’s civic reporter he told me matter-of-factly that he wanted to buy the paper. I smiled and nodded – wondered if this man had had too many coffees that morning – and thought, let’s just get through your first week.
That resolve, that commitment to a vision even when he doesn’t know what the journey entails, is one of Spencer’s greatest attributes. It will carry him forward at the Goat. He is a natural leader, a compassionate person who has an eye for justice and a great sense of humour and I know he will serve this community well. I look forward to seeing his fresh perspective and supporting him in whatever ways I can. I’m delighted to be handing over the reins to not just a young journalist, but also a good friend.
The newspaper has brought me so many gifts, some of which I’ve already mentioned. It’s allowed me (in some cases forced me) to develop skills in a number of areas and I will take these skills with me in the next phase of my life.
So, what’s next? My lifelong passion: fiction.
A major driver for selling the Goat is to free up time and headspace for writing. I have a dozen short stories awaiting edits and submission and a novel-in-progress that I’m very excited to complete. The novel is historical fiction set in the Arrow Lakes in the 1960s. It follows a young man trying to solve his sister’s killing before his community is flooded by the High Arrow Dam. The book merges the fictional story with the real-life setting. It’s a fascinating and troubling time in history when 2,300 people were forced to leave their homes, farms, and business to make way for this dam (later renamed the Hugh Keenleyside Dam).
You’ll still see me at the Goat in a pared-down role as salesperson and ad manager. I look forward to connecting with you about how you might grow your business via the Goat, which has an outstanding platform both in print and online.
Printed community newspapers are such a special thing, increasingly rare, but not any less valuable than they were 30 years ago. Think about it: a group of people collect information about things going on in the region and issues you should know about, do research, write about it, collect upcoming events and share about ones that occurred and you can purchase all this for less than a cup of coffee. There is no comparable medium where locals are spending their days thinking about what is important to communicate and taking the effort to learn about it and share it publicly. The newspaper is a repository of local: past, present and future, and those who pay attention to the newspaper not only have an advantage when it comes to local happenings, but also in business, real estate, and job opportunities, things that often appear in these pages first or delved into in a way that they haven’t been before.
I encourage you to subscribe, as every paper sold is matched by federal grant dollars. You benefit from the lower price of a subscription while supporting local reporting and the newspaper: a quaint, tactile act of love for the community.
A newspaper is not a solitary venture, and I’d like to thank all the people I’ve worked with over the past decade and more. First, my husband Andru McCracken, who has been a steadfast believer in both me and the newspaper. He has helped me see the light during dark times and shared his time and talent while working as Editor. Joe Nusse for taking a chance on me (and my accordion), devoting part of his house as an office for many years, and beautifying our downtown office among other contributions. Radka Zitkova, my journalism school friend, for keeping my chin up the summer of 2011 when I took over majority ownership and came close to giving up. The first editor and full-time employee I hired, Korie Marshall, for her care, commitment, and storytelling skill. Clair Harford, Alison Kubbos, Michael Jackson, Christine Weenk, Greg Reimer, Arthur Tanga and AJ Bridges who have blown me out of the water with their talented designs and illustrations for the paper. Myriam Medina for being a friend and ally when I had little to offer financially, Linda Goodell for her wealth of bookkeeping knowledge and sales forte, Alicia for being my “rock” in her steadfast and kind way, Rashmi Narayan for her wizardry at creating custom databases, whipping our books into shape, and being a financial mentor, Deanna Mickelow for her sales force and panache and commitment to excellence in sales, Trish Gair for being a fearless ally and keeping the admin and distribution humming, Evan Matthews for moving across the country to be editor of a tiny paper, Thomas Rohner for believing in the Goat and taking creative chances, Harmeet Singh for being both a friend and our first “intern,” Anna Mata for helping me learn how to trust and showing me I can let go, my marketing and office people, Cassandra Knelsen, Sarah Bunch, Laura Cooke, Matthew Wood, Madi Loignon, Danielle Towne, and Brooke Taylor. My distribution people not already mentioned, Dallas Bullock, Violet Crowley, Stephanie Price and Kim Everard. Fran Yanor, the Goat’s first Victoria-based “foreign correspondent.” Frank Green, who moved to McBride from New York City. The Goat’s regular contributors: Pete Amyoony, David Marchant, Sandra James, Leon Lorenz, Rachel Fraser, Jean Ann Berkenpas, Chris Parker, Matthew Wheeler, Raphael Jamin, Mark Monroe, Sydney Philpott, Michael Piasetzki and others not listed here. Sharon Ireland and Spencer Hall, my current rockstar office mates, and last but not least, Andrea Arnold, my right-hand woman and longest-serving employee, whose work and community connections have brought untold value to the Goat.
Lastly, thank you to you, the reader, without whom this publication would not exist. Thank you for committing your money to a local publication that hasn’t always gotten it right, but that has always strived for excellence. May the Goat have many more fruitful years ahead.
Laura Keil, outgoing editor/owner
January 15, 2024