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Trail Blazers: The changing face of newspapers

Trail Blazers is a weekly historical feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Trail Times linotype operators Phil Smith, Dave Balfour, and Milt Cummings, in 1935. Photo: Trail Historical Society

The term “hot off the press” is something that Trail Times linotype operators Phil Smith, Dave Balfour, and Milt Cummings took very seriously.

Here the trio works away in the back room of the Times’ Cedar Avenue office, circa April 1935.

“These linotype operators were professionals at their job since these large linotypes are extremely complex,” says Addison Oberg, collections coordinator for the Trail Museum and Archives. “Even the chairs that they sat on to work the machine were custom.”

Oberg adds, “Modern equipment has changed newspaper printing practices so we are lucky to have these pictures in our archives.”

All production ceased at the Trail Times many years ago, so all traces of the equipment in this photo are long gone.

Big changes happened on July 2, 2010, when Victoria publisher David Black expanded his newspaper empire in B.C. with the purchase of 11 publications from Glacier Media, including the Trail Daily Times.

Besides the Times, Black also bought the Creston Valley Advance, the Fernie Free Press, the Grand Forks Gazette, the Nelson Daily News, the Weekender, the Prince Rupert Daily News, the Quesnel Advisor, the Cariboo Advisor, the 100 Mile House Advisor, and the Coast Mountain Advisor.

At the time, Black (Black Press Media) also owned 100 Mile Free Press, the Quesnel Cariboo Observer, the Trail-Rossland News, and the Nelson Star.

The “daily” cut Monday editions around 2013, publishing Trail Times newspapers only Tuesday to Friday.

The next edition-change happened in April 2020, four months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, when the newspaper shrank to two editions each week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Perhaps the biggest change begins the first week of March — the Trail Times newspaper will be published only once a week on Thursdays.

Trail Times today

There are presently six Times employees: one publisher; two sales representatives; one part-time office administrator; one sports and news reporter; and one news reporter who doubles as the editor. Reporters are also responsible for daily maintenance of the Times website: and, until Bill C-18 was enacted in 2022, all social media accounts.

When the newspaper first started in 1895 and up until around 2015, all staff had to be housed under one roof to make it work.

Now, staff can work from anywhere using sophisticated software, provided there is an internet connection. Paginators (persons who layout the pages with stories) work in digital “hubs.” For West Kootenay papers, the hubs are located in Nelson, Grand Forks as backup, and the Okanagan.

Production staff communicates electronically and sometimes by phone with editorial staff, but do not work in the same town.

Times pages, for example, are laid out in the Nelson hub and for several years, digitally sent to a press in Cranbrook for printing.

The newspapers are then trucked back to Trail for delivery. The Kootenay Pass can get jammed with traffic delays throughout the year, which is why the Times’ twice weekly editions were sometimes delayed.

The latest shift — last week — was to close the press in Cranbrook and print all papers in the Vernon hub.

Read more: Trail Blazers: Lauriente’s kept locals dressed in the finest fashion

Read more: Restored photos give a glimpse of Trail history

On Jan. 15, 2024, Black Press Media announced it is seeking a sale to new ownership as part of a corporate restructuring transaction.

The ownership group would include Canadian institutional investors Canso Investment Counsel, Deans Knight Capital Management and Carpenter Media Group.

As part of the restructuring, the company filed for creditor protection in the B.C. Supreme Court and intends to seek recognition of such proceeding in the United States, in Delaware. The company said it intends to continue operating its publications during the restructuring process.

“This plan will lead to a stronger, more sustainable Black Press that will continue to provide by far the best local Canadian and American news coverage in our markets and the best ways for advertisers to reach their customers,” Glenn Rogers, chief executive officer of Black Press, said in a statement. “Canso, Deans Knight and Carpenter Media have been true partners throughout this process as we’ve built a plan that we believe is the right way forward for Black Press.”

The Jan. 15 filing came on the same day Black Press Founder David Black’s retirement was announced.

In a separate statement, the Black family said, “The Black family is confident that the restructuring of Black Press announced today will be successful and enable Black Press to continue to provide high quality community journalism, and that the proposed new owners will be excellent stewards of Black Press’ treasured publications.”

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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