Editorial: Many milestones to mention as the year end draws nigh

Shutterstock

Things remembered, traditions recalled at this time of year: 51 years ago, in mid-December 1968, a young Rick McCutcheon was managing the affairs of The Expositor. He’d been at the paper since late February, so this would have been his first Christmas cycle.

The late Mrs. Etta Boyter had come to Manitoulin as a war bride and had worked at the paper as bookkeeper and general knowledge-keeper through three managers, including this one who was new in 1968.

“You have to thank all the people who have helped us in the Christmas paper,” she told her new boss, and he agreed.

Would he have thought of this himself? Who knows. The point was, he didn’t have to because the wise Mrs. B. (as she was affectionally known at the Expositor Office) pointed the way and so he has done this important task for almost all of the ensuing half century at Christmastime.

Fifty-one years ago, The Manitoulin Expositor was already an old paper that was looking at celebrating its 90th year of publication the next year.

This year, on May 24, The Expositor celebrated 140 years of service to Manitoulin Island. The paper also holds the record of being the oldest newspaper published in Northern Ontario.

May 24 also happened to be the first day of the Manitoulin Trade Fair so that was The Expositor’s booth’s theme, at least in part.

Looking ahead is far more important than looking back and so on that same May 24, at the Trade Fair, the paper launched a new tourism website for Manitoulin Island, ExploreManitoulin.com. This has already proven to be an asset for the tourism industry here, in particular the hospitality sector, so that was the paper’s birthday gift to Manitoulin Island.

Since then, the paper has worked hard to ensure other important areas of the Manitoulin Island economy have all possible publicity and so The Expositor’s own website, Manitoulin.ca, now features a just-in-time events category where the same information regarding upcoming events that has been posted as display ads in either The Expositor or the Manitoulin West Recorder is available for anyone with access to the World Wild Web. The paper has done the same thing, in its own category, for posted notices and tenders to enhance their reach.

And, as of the first Friday in December, the paper’s editor writes a weekly Friday newsletter which is sent (free) by email to people who have subscribed to receive it. This bonus feature summarizes the events scheduled for the weekend, offers a weather outlook for Manitoulin and gives a short synopsis of some of the stories editorial staff is working on for the upcoming paper. 

Have we diverged from the previously stated intent to carry on the tradition of acknowledging the folks who help us publish a newspaper every week? Not really because these digital initiatives have been created in-house by Expositor production manager Dave Patterson, with graphics assistance from Kendra Edwards (the other half of the paper’s production department) and editorial content (for the tourism website) created by the Expositor’s editorial staff (with the rendering of archival files into digital format by Debbie Bailey). Thank you very much for all of this extra work!

Fifty-one years ago, it was the aforementioned Rick McCutcheon’s job at the paper to cover the news, sell ads, address the printed papers to subscribers and organize the bundles for the store sales, lay out the paper, hire staff, make sure bills were sent, write cheques for payroll and printers’ payments and other overhead, chase delinquent accounts and do anything else that came up.

Altogether, it was a wonderful experience for a young man who was 22 when he took on the job.

Things are more complicated these days, of course, but the same basic functions remain (reporting the news, selling the ads, sending out subscriber papers, paying the bills, laying out the paper, hiring staff as necessary and chasing delinquent accounts).

The responsibility for doing or ensuring these tasks are done has been passed now to Alicia McCutcheon (who is also the paper’s editor) putting The Expositor among a small group of independently owned community newspapers where the proprietorship has remained in the same family for two, three and sometimes four generations.

In the early winter of 2020, the proprietorship of The Manitoulin Expositor in the same family will reach the half-century mark as the McCutcheon family had the good fortune to be able to purchase the paper in 1970.

Milestones: veteran staff member, accounts manager Kerrene Tilson, celebrated 45 years of continuous employment with the paper this past fall and Tom Sasvari has been writing news for the Manitoulin West Recorder for 32 years.

We like to believe the advantage of stable and multi-generational ownership of The Manitoulin Expositor and, since 2001, the Manitoulin West Recorder, has enabled stories and, indeed, legends to be passed on to successive editors and reporters in order to maintain, as much as we are able, the ongoing story of Manitoulin Island in a seamless manner.

And, just as Mrs. Boyter gently instructed a neophyte newspaper editor/manager over a half-century ago, we wish once again to acknowledge the solid contributions of The Expositor’s country correspondents.

In Tehkummah, Pat Hall has diligently recorded the news of her community’s coming events for many years in the aptly titled Tehkummah Talk and Times. Through Pat’s writing, we all know that the Tehkummah Triangle Seniors Hall is the busiest community hall on Manitoulin.

In Providence Bay, thanks to Ingrid Blay and Cheryl Sheppard who only have recently retired from the Providence Bay News, there is interest from the community, though, in maintaining this historic link.

On Page 6, a double column of bold-faced sports news is also in its second generation, although with a slight name change. André Leblanc has penned ‘Ice Chips and Canoe Quips: Manitoulin Sporting Life’ for many years as did his father, Larry (whose column was titled ‘Ice Chips and Divots from Other Sports’). Between father and son, they have dutifully reported on Manitoulin Island sporting highlights for over 25 years.

Thank you very much, André and thank you too, Larry. That is a major accomplishment and had led to oh-so-many keepsake clippings as permanent records of personal and team achievements.

A column that also records sports and other activities as well is Rachael Orford’s ‘Kids in the Hall’ weekly piece from and about student activities and accomplishments at Manitoulin Secondary School. This is the school’s 50th year of servicing Manitoulin Island so this is a significant year for MSS news. Thanks, Rachael. Your work is first rate, as is Mackenzie Cortes’ ‘MSS Player Profiles’ where this young scribe introduces us to a new Mustang every week. Thank you, Mackenzie and Rachael.

Lakeview School at M’Chigeeng also produces news of school activities. This year, it comes from the fertile pen of Aspen Debassige through the school’s column ‘Lakeview Leading the Way.’ Good work, Aspen.

For people who have pets, the advice in Dr. Janice Mitchell’s column, ‘Paws for Thought’ is invaluable. Thank you, Dr. Janice, for the useful and thoughtful tips.

A highlight in the paper is ‘Rose’s Recipes,’ the weekly feature of kitchen tested, timely and healthy recipes provided by Rose Diebolt, the 28-year-long owner-chef of Garden’s Gate Restaurant, perennially listed in the ‘Where to Eat in Canada’ guide. Thank you, Rose for your diligence over many, many years.

Petra Wall responded, many years ago, to a short letter to the editor lamenting the absence of personal stories of older Islanders’ experiences here in decades past.

She agreed this was needed, began to interview people and write their stories, once a month, about 15 years ago.

That’s a lot of stories and accompanying photos, a lot of words and a lot of history.

In next week’s paper, on Petra’s Page 5 spot, you can read of veteran commercial fisherman George Purvis’ interesting life in Petra’s column ‘Now and Then.’

Thanks so much, Petra. This has been another invaluable feature and asset not just to the paper but to Manitoulin Island’s recorded history.

This year, Petra also published her biography of the late medical pioneer Dr. Jack Bailey to a very appreciative audience. Thank you for that work as well, Petra.

Manitoulin’s reading public is also well served by the outreach efforts of two community librarians who take the time to write reviews of selected books from their respective collections. We would like to acknowledge and thank Claire Cline, Central Manitoulin Librarian, who pens the Mindemoya Book Mice Column and Debbie Robinson who brings readers the Assiginack Library News.

Both are excellent features. Thanks so much.

The NEMI Public Library, too, offers  a column that highlights the many goings on at this busy library in Little Current. Thanks to library board member Marian Barnett for taking this on.

Where would we be without the hard work of our hospital auxiliaries? These dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that our two-site hospital has the best of the best. They even find time to pen columns for this newspaper. Thank you, Laila Kiviaho and Judy Mackenzie for your respective columns and for the work that you do in our communities.

John Savage’s birds and beasts are known the world over. This nature photographer doesn’t miss a beat and always seems to be at the right place at the right time. Thanks, John for continuing to snap for us some truly amazing photos.

And freelance writers help very much to get the job done.

Chief among these is Betty Bardswich of Mindemoya who is regularly called on to turn her hand to covering the widest variety of topics imaginable.

Lori Thompson of Kagawong similarly helps out as a talented freelancer and her work is, likewise, much appreciated.

Dr. Joe Shorthouse, Laurentian University Professor Emeritus, has a particular interest in Manitoulin’s unique natural features and we are pleased that he often shares them with our readers in feature pieces.

Our communications colleagues in Manitoulin’s three police forces are a vital link between the community and its important law enforcement agencies. We wish to acknowledge the help of Ontario Provincial Police Constable Marie Ford, United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishnaabe Police Constable Murray Still and Wiikwemkoong Tribal Police Services Chief Terry McCaffrey for their assistance.

Thank you as well to our Island postmasters/postmistresses and their staffs, together with the rural route mail delivery contractors for getting the papers delivered week after week in a timely fashion.

And thank you to the thousands of readers, hundreds of letters to the editor writers and to those who helpfully pass on news tips.

It has been a hectic year. It began with The Expositor winning the awards for Best News Story and Best Website in open competition among Ontario’s community press and is ending with the newly launched Friday newsletter (as previously noted).

The news business is unrelenting, but the staff named below does the work as a commitment to the unique community of Manitoulin Island.

Best wishes from us all for a safe and 

Happy Christmas.

Sincerely,

Alicia McCutcheon
Kerrene Tilson
Marilyn Harasym
Dave Patterson
Robin Anderson
Michael Erskine
Warren Schlote
Debbie Bailey
Kendra Edwards
Julia and Rick McCutcheon
Rosemary Debassige
Kate Thompson
Jake McColman
Jaime Rowntree
Tom Sasvari, from our 
Western Manitoulin office