By Trevor Busch
Former Taber Times publisher Coleen Campbell has stepped back from the media industry enjoying a well-deserved semi-retirement, but her more than four decades serving newspapers in Western Canada are never far removed from her mind.
“We enjoyed that adrenaline with deadlines and complicated stories and everything else. It was challenging for sure. But that’s enjoyable.”
To celebrate National Newspaper Week (Oct. 1-7), News Media Canada has launched a new digital book, “Champions”, and Campbell is featured as one of the 24 industry moguls detailed in the publication.
Campbell recently sat down for an interview with Southern Alberta Newspapers, and you can still sense the rising tide of enthusiasm in her voice as she hearkens back to those early days starting out as a cub reporter for the Times.
“I started in Taber, I got my journalism diploma at SAIT and started right off the bat and stayed there for a long, long time – over 40 years. I started with reporting and went into sales and management and then publisher. So it was a good career, it was a good time when you look back at those years, it’s a lot different, exciting. And it was a great, great job. Knowing people’s stories, being in the middle of everything, that meeting people, constantly learning from people, whether it’s fellow staff members or the industry people.”
Campbell’s storied career in media spanned 1975 to 2016, and saw her climb the ranks from reporter to sales and finally to group publisher for the Alta Newspaper Group. Being included in a book like “Champions” feels a bit like icing on the cake.
“It’s a huge honour. I was so surprised, I didn’t know anything about the book,” said Campbell. “But I was very surprised that I was included. And it’s humbling, and it’s exciting and a big honour for me. I haven’t been in the industry for seven years, (but) it’s a lot of my heart still in it for sure.”
During her career, Campbell served in various roles with national and provincial media organizations, such as the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA).
“The mentorship you got from that, as well as all the bosses. We’ve always had quite a few ownerships, and different ownerships, and totally learned lots from people. The communities we serve are so great. They were always pro newspapers, and we felt that they had our backs for everything we did. This honour, there’s so many more deserving people, or as deserving or more deserving, than me to be on it.”
Despite everything she has done to advance the interests of newspapers, it’s hard for Campbell not to sound humble.
“I didn’t do anything to achieve in order to be remembered for anything, or that was my purpose for doing it. Although I think I did a lot of good things, I didn’t do them for that. There were so many great milestones there. So I’m proud of being in the industry for the length of time that I did, and just the memories with people that you make.”
In an era when journalists can be viewed more as pariahs than public servants, community journalism still retains all the hallmarks of an ethos largely forgotten in today’s world of talking heads and 20 second soundbites.
“I would say the community – not the geographic community, but the people of the community, the vibes of the community. We felt like we were part of it. We weren’t looking in from the outside, all our stories we did. We were part of that story in a sense of being able to tell it and ask the right questions. And you’re part of a community,” said Campbell, pausing wistfully for a moment. “I think that’s really all there is to say.”
The “Champions” book was available for download starting Oct. 1. To purchase a copy visit championsofthetruth.ca.