A newspaper founded by a true pioneer of the BC newspaper world has returned to local ownership.
On July 2, Glacier Media sold the Bridge River-Lillooet News to local staff members, publisher Bruce MacLennan and editor Dennis Stranack, with the paper returning to print publication on July 8 after a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sale allows one of B.C.’s most storied newspaper titles to live on to serve the 2,000 residents of Lillooet.
Community newspaper pioneer Margaret “Ma” Murray founded the Bridge River-Lillooet News in 1934 along with her husband George and ran the paper until her death in 1982.
Along the way, “Ma” became famous for her hard-headed but compassionate style of writing, crossing verbal swords along the way with premiers and prime ministers in addition to local mayors and business leaders, and also for her trademark phrase with which she ended her editorials: “And that’s fer damshur!”
“Ma’s” legacy also led to the BC and Yukon Community NewsMedia Association naming its newspaper awards competition in her honour. Every year, community journalists from across the province vie for the coveted “Ma” Murray Awards.
Glacier Media’s predecessor, Madison Publishing, acquired the Bridge River-Lillooet News in 1998 and Madison and then Glacier published it continuously until the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted advertising revenue across the industry.
Glacier’s president of community media, Peter Kvarnstrom, remains optimistic about the newspaper’s prospects under new ownership and about the future of community journalism in general.
“We feel there continues to be a bright future for community newspapers in Canada as trusted sources of local information and central hubs of their community. Glacier found it more challenging to be able to successfully operate a paper in Lillooet because it is geographically isolated from our other papers in B.C., which makes it harder to share the resources that makes group ownership efficient,” Kvarnstrom said.
“Local owner operators with long experience in the industry and deep connections to the community like Bruce and Dennis are very well positioned to keep Ma Murray’s legacy alive for many years to come.”
“Glacier Media has been a good company to work for, and I understand the challenges they faced here in Lillooet,” said MacLennan. “We appreciate their flexibility in helping us ensure that Ma’s legacy can live on here.”
“A community newspaper reflects the colour of a community, its texture and its character,” said Stranack.
“There are two things that are particularly important to me right now, working at a community newspaper and continuing to live in Lillooet. I just found this place and have no plans to leave.
“That makes the BRLN the only game in town, and I definitely want to be part of keeping that going.”
Kvarnstrom added there may be other opportunities for Glacier to allow discuss local ownership options for community news operations that are more geographically spread out from its network.
“There’s a place for local owners, and there’s a place for group owners like Glacier. In the end, no matter who signs the cheques, a community newspaper belongs to its community.”