By Trevor Busch
In celebration of National Newspaper Week (Oct. 1-7), News Media Canada has launched a new digital book, “Champions”, highlighting outstanding individuals throughout Canada’s media landscape that help advance the flag of truth.
The limited-edition bilingual publication launched this week and features 24 inspirational stories focused on notable Canadians from the news media industry. Those singled out are a diverse collection of hardworking individuals who have shown their commitment to championing the truth by providing people in Canada with trustworthy, accurate news to keep them informed and communities connected.
“So we’ve been involved with producing our National Newspaper Week programmes since 2018. Now this is the 83rd National Newspaper Week, so it’s not new. And we really decided back in 2018 to make it a much larger project and try to get newspapers across the country involved in celebrating and raising the awareness on the public side about newspapers,” said Kelly Levson with News Media Canada. “So our goal every year is really to recognize and celebrate the role of newspapers. And this year, our approach was to take a look at the people behind the news. And that was the impetus for the Champions book.”
Featured prominently as one of the Champions in the book is former Taber Times publisher Coleen Campbell, who spent more than four decades working in the industry, initially as a 20-year-old cub reporter for the Times in 1975 before moving up the ranks to sales and then group publisher for the Alta Newspaper Group.
News Media Canada, which serves as the voice of the print and digital news media industry in Canada and represents hundreds of trusted titles in every province and territory, wished to focus on leaders in the industry in 2023.
“We apply for funding every year from the Department of Canadian Heritage. So they support our programmes with funding,” said Levson. “And so we went to them and said, ‘we have this idea for Champions of the Truth. And the idea is to really bring the people behind the news to the forefront’. So part one of this programme, last year, was developing a font called ‘Champions’. And then this year, we extended that to produce the book, which is produced with the Champions font, about actual champions. So last year, it was all about the power of words and download our free Champions font. And this year, it’s let’s look at the people behind the news, the champions of the truth themselves, and really spread the word to the public.”
“Since I think 2019, we’ve been focusing on giving the public something tangible, to show their support with so in 2019, we partnered with a fashion designer, and we created tote bags and t-shirts. And then the next year, we partnered with an artist and we created an art print. Then we did the font, and this year, we have the book.”
Any profits or revenue derived from sales of the book is being directed to First Book Canada in support of literacy.
“This is designed to give people a way to show their support. Supporting newspapers is different in every market, they’re all different. There’s thousands of newspapers across the country. So we partner every year with a charitable organization. And this year, it’s First Book Canada. And all the proceeds from the sale of the book, go to First Book Canada. And the book is really just a mechanism for us to spread the word about newspapers, and this year is the people behind the news, specifically about newspapers, which is kind of new for us,” said Levson.
Campbell was selected to be profiled in the Champions book from a field of 113 candidates, with a panel of judges making the final selections.
“So we went out at the beginning of the year, there was an open call for nominations to the industry,” said Levson. “We had 113 nominations, we had a panel of judges, a selection panel that reviewed all 113 of them. And they selected the 24 stories that you’re going to see in the book (this) week. So we’re really highlighting people from across the country in our industry. We’ve tried to make it a very diverse list. So the judges were tasked with making it representative and diverse. So we have representation across geography, across different roles in the industry, languages, cultures, gender. It’s a very diverse group of champions.”
Included with each Champion is custom profile artwork produced by illustrator Rachel Joanis.
“She used elements of their profiles to create the illustrations,” said Levson. “And so when she did the initial draft, she sent them to us. And she included her notes on why she included this and why this colour is important and what this symbol means. And it was incredible, like the thought and the attention to detail that went into it was amazing. So we decided to include an artist statement with each illustration so the readers can understand why she included certain elements. And I think that’s important too, because graphic arts is a huge part of newspapers as well. So we obviously have journalists, we have publishers and editors, we included a photographer and a cartoonist, but I thought this was a perfect complement to the many different roles at newspapers, to include some of the thought behind the graphics that we featured.”
School book readings are planned to accompany the launch, says Levson.
“One of our goals is to inspire the next generation, and to really highlight the many different roles there are in the newspaper industry. So we originally thought to target this book to ages 12 to 24, or to their parents to really excite the next generation. So as part of that we are doing school readings through First Book Canada – they have a network of schools and we’ve selected five or six of them right now for some schools to do virtual book readings. The inspirational angle is, I think, really important because a lot of kids don’t necessarily know all of the many different facets of our industry. So to find out that you could be a publisher, you could be a cartoonist, you could be a photographer, a journalist, there’s so many different stories out there.”
With the media industry struggling to maintain sustainability in 2023, it has never been more important to celebrate the contributions journalists and media luminaries make in Canada each and every day.
“It’s more important than ever, there’s never been a better time I think to elevate the profile of these Champions of the Truth. There are so many people in this industry, giving their heart and soul to it, bringing the news and factual information to the people in their communities. And in some of these communities, the newspaper is the primary source of information. There’s so much disinformation out there in the world, the newspapers in some of these markets are where people turn when they want to find the truth, when they want to know what’s really going on. And the people that we are profiling are the ones who make that happen. And so I think now is the time for the positive message to remember how important newspapers are in every facet of our lives. In markets that are large, markets that are small, there are people who are dedicating everything they have to bringing factual information to their community,” said Levson.
The Champions book will be available for download starting Oct. 1. To purchase a copy visit championsofthetruth.ca. All proceeds will be donated to First Book Canada.