Expositor editor wins international scholarship

Alicia McCutcheon, editor of The Manitoulin Expositor, shows off her Brian Mazza Memorial Scholarship, gifted yearly to one weekly editor from Canada, with fellow scholarship winner Roisin McGroarty, editor of the Irvine Times in Ardrossan, Scotland, who received the Greenslade Bursary, awarded each year to a weekly editor from the United Kingdom. The pair, along with over 100 other editors, publishers and their family members, attended the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors conference in Durango, Colorado late last month. photo by Aaron Case

MANTOULIN—Expositor editor Alicia McCutcheon was inclined to dismiss the email in early 2012 informing her that she had been chosen to receive the 2013 Brian Mazza Scholarship from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) as some sort of marketing ploy. “I thought it was spam. I get a lot of that sort of thing every day,” she said. But something about the email tweaked her curiosity. “I researched it a bit and found out it was legitimate,” she said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

Albertan newspaperman Brian Mazza died suddenly in 2007 and not long after his family provided an endowment to the ISWNE Foundation to bring a Canadian editor to each year’s annual ISWNE conference.

Mr. Mazza had been an avid supporter of ISWNE, hosting two conferences, one in Calgary in 1994 and another in 2005 at Edmonton and Fort McMurray. “He loved the time he spent at ISWNE conferences and always returned home filled with enthusiasm for his writing and many stories about his renewed friendships,” said his sister Gail Krabben, production manager at the family owned weekly in Rocky Mountain House, as quoted on the ISWNE website. Like Ms. McCutcheon, Mr. Mazza grew up in a newspaper family; he was only six when his family purchased The Mountaineer.

Ms. McCutcheon had no idea that she was even in the running for the scholarship; east coast newsman Jim McNeil, publisher of Prince Edward Island’s Eastern Graphic newspaper, researches potential recipients from across the nation and had nominated her following a recommendation from Ontario Community Newspaper Association executive director Anne Lannan. “I hadn’t even heard of ISWNE,” laughed Ms. McCutcheon. But after meeting the folks at the conference, it is an experience and an organization she will not soon forget.

Although she received the scholarship in 2013, and felt deeply honoured, Ms. McCutcheon said that she felt she could not attend that year. “The annual event was at the same time as Bridgefest, last July, and I really felt that I should stick around,” she said. “After all, something like that only happens once every hundred years.”

Ms. McCutcheon contacted the organizers fully expecting that she would be declining the award because of the conflict over timing. To her surprise, that was not at all how things turned out. “Being an association of community newspapers, they understood the issue completely and were fine with my needing a bye for a year,” she said. “They told me ‘you can come to Durango next year’.” Last year’s conference was held in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In travelling to the ISWNE conference Ms. McCutcheon discovered a community of fellow travellers in the newspaper business that pride themselves in providing a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at their conference.

“New members wear a distinctive yellow badge, so everyone knows that you are new to the conference,” she said. Upon arrival at the registration desk, Ms. McCutcheon was greeted with a hearty hug and an exclamation of “you must be Alicia!” “They make a point of coming up to you and shaking your hand,” she said.

As a veteran Expositor staffer, Ms. McCutcheon is also a veteran of many Ontario Community Newspaper Association conferences, but those gatherings have become much more formal over the years. “It was a lot like what I remembered the OCNA being like when I first started going,” she said. “They told me that they were experiencing the same kind of thing at their state organization meetings, but they pride themselves in their welcoming nature. It is probably an aspect of being community newspapers.” The vast majority of the 100-odd members in attendance (there are 300 members of the organization) were smaller than The Expositor in circulation. “Ours was one of the larger papers there,” she said.

While at the conference Ms. McCutcheon took in a number of workshops and small discussion groups—in one workshop she attended there were four newspapers and two university professors. It was the editorial critique session. “That was really the heart and soul of the conference,” she said. Each of the participants had been supplied with editorials from the other papers which were then critiqued. “They said that they found our material very interesting, although a bit long,” said Ms. McCutcheon. “I explained to them that this was our style and that if they knew my father (Publisher Rick McCutcheon), they would understand,” she grinned.

“One of the professors remarked that he wished that his community had such a ‘smart, educated paper’,” she said. The detail and in-depth reporting of The Expositor impressed the others around the table.

One of the key elements of the community that The Expositor serves provided a significant point of interest for many of the other papers at the conference: the balance of First Nations stories and the apparent close relationship that was not at all common with other newspapers.

“I explained how Manitoulin Island is made up of almost 50/50 Native and non-Native populations,” she said. “I was really quite proud of the way in which our paper serves all of the Island communities the way we do and the relationships we have with every community.”

Another particular aspect of the discussions that took place at the conference really struck a note with Ms. McCutcheon. “Not once did we discuss social media or the Internet,” she laughed. “It was all about content, not the method of delivery.”

“It was also interesting to see how community newspapers do a better job of covering global events that happen on our doorsteps,” she said. Citing the coverage of the Santa Fe paper of the prison riots that captivated the globe in 1980 as an example given by its publisher at the conference. “The world media descended on the community to cover the story, but it was the community newspaper that looked beyond the trite and the cliché to dig deeper into the story and look at it from a different angle,” she said. “I think it comes in part from our publishing once a week. We have to go deeper and look further to differentiate ourselves from the pack.”

One speaker at the conference was David V. Mitchell, the retired publisher of the Point Reyes Light, one of the few community newspapers to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. The Light won the Pulitzer Meritorious Public Service gold medal for an exposé of Synanon Incorporated, a former drug-rehabilitation program that changed its name to the Church of Synanon and morphed into a violent cult.

Ms. McCutcheon was able to proudly declare that the Expositor had garnered Canada’s top award for journalism, the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, which was awarded to The Manitoulin Expositor in 1983, the first time the award had recognized a community newspaper. The Expositor was nominated at that time for a series of sensitive articles the paper had done on the issue of suicide in the community. The result of the stories was a local public response that was credited with intervening in several suicide attempts through the establishment of a telephone hotline where troubled people could call and talk through their depression with trained counsellors, the first such time a service had been available to Manitoulin Island.

The attendees of the conference were remarkably well distributed across age and gender, noted Ms. McCutcheon. Far from being an old boys’ club, the conference was remarkably well-balanced in demographics.

It wasn’t all ink, critique and debate at the ISWNE conference, however. The attendees took in an old-time vaudeville play where “we hissed and booed the villains and hoorayed on the heroes,” she laughed.

They also travelled to a local American Indian cultural centre, (the tribe there is the Utes) and took in an old mining community that has been turned into a living museum. “We travelled back on an old narrow-gauge railroad, the Durango and Silverton narrow Guage Railroad,” she said. “It was drawn by a coal-fired steam locomotive that dated back to 1882.” The community newspaper there is actually run by the local historical society.

As she travelled over the railway, taking part in the lively discussions during the three-hour journey back to Durango, Ms. McCutcheon took in the landscape passing by outside the window. The mountains were awe-inspiring and more than a little frightening at times.

Manby Michael Erskine

MANTOULIN—Expositor editor Alicia McCutcheon was inclined to dismiss the email in early 2012 informing her that she had been chosen to receive the 2013 Brian Mazza Scholarship from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) as some sort of marketing ploy. “I thought it was spam. I get a lot of that sort of thing every day,” she said. But something about the email tweaked her curiosity. “I researched it a bit and found out it was legitimate,” she said. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

Albertan newspaperman Brian Mazza died suddenly in 2007 and not long after his family provided an endowment to the ISWNE Foundation to bring a Canadian editor to each year’s annual ISWNE conference.

Mr. Mazza had been an avid supporter of ISWNE, hosting two conferences, one in Calgary in 1994 and another in 2005 at Edmonton and Fort McMurray. “He loved the time he spent at ISWNE conferences and always returned home filled with enthusiasm for his writing and many stories about his renewed friendships,” said his sister Gail Krabben, production manager at the family owned weekly in Rocky Mountain House, as quoted on the ISWNE website. Like Ms. McCutcheon, Mr. Mazza grew up in a newspaper family; he was only six when his family purchased The Mountaineer.

Ms. McCutcheon had no idea that she was even in the running for the scholarship; east coast newsman Jim McNeil, publisher of Prince Edward Island’s Eastern Graphic newspaper, researches potential recipients from across the nation and had nominated her following a recommendation from Ontario Community Newspaper Association executive director Anne Lannan. “I hadn’t even heard of ISWNE,” laughed Ms. McCutcheon. But after meeting the folks at the conference, it is an experience and an organization she will not soon forget.

Although she received the scholarship in 2013, and felt deeply honoured, Ms. McCutcheon said that she felt she could not attend that year. “The annual event was at the same time as Bridgefest, last July, and I really felt that I should stick around,” she said. “After all, something like that only happens once every hundred years.”

Ms. McCutcheon contacted the organizers fully expecting that she would be declining the award because of the conflict over timing. To her surprise, that was not at all how things turned out. “Being an association of community newspapers, they understood the issue completely and were fine with my needing a bye for a year,” she said. “They told me ‘you can come to Durango next year’.” Last year’s conference was held in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In travelling to the ISWNE conference Ms. McCutcheon discovered a community of fellow travellers in the newspaper business that pride themselves in providing a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at their conference.

“New members wear a distinctive yellow badge, so everyone knows that you are new to the conference,” she said. Upon arrival at the registration desk, Ms. McCutcheon was greeted with a hearty hug and an exclamation of “you must be Alicia!” “They make a point of coming up to you and shaking your hand,” she said.

As a veteran Expositor staffer, Ms. McCutcheon is also a veteran of many Ontario Community Newspaper Association conferences, but those gatherings have become much more formal over the years. “It was a lot like what I remembered the OCNA being like when I first started going,” she said. “They told me that they were experiencing the same kind of thing at their state organization meetings, but they pride themselves in their welcoming nature. It is probably an aspect of being community newspapers.” The vast majority of the 100-odd members in attendance (there are 300 members of the organization) were smaller than The Expositor in circulation. “Ours was one of the larger papers there,” she said.

While at the conference Ms. McCutcheon took in a number of workshops and small discussion groups—in one workshop she attended there were four newspapers and two university professors. It was the editorial critique session. “That was really the heart and soul of the conference,” she said. Each of the participants had been supplied with editorials from the other papers which were then critiqued. “They said that they found our material very interesting, although a bit long,” said Ms. McCutcheon. “I explained to them that this was our style and that if they knew my father (Publisher Rick McCutcheon), they would understand,” she grinned.

“One of the professors remarked that he wished that his community had such a ‘smart, educated paper’,” she said. The detail and in-depth reporting of The Expositor impressed the others around the table.

One of the key elements of the community that The Expositor serves provided a significant point of interest for many of the other papers at the conference: the balance of First Nations stories and the apparent close relationship that was not at all common with other newspapers.

“I explained how Manitoulin Island is made up of almost 50/50 Native and non-Native populations,” she said. “I was really quite proud of the way in which our paper serves all of the Island communities the way we do and the relationships we have with every community.”

Another particular aspect of the discussions that took place at the conference really struck a note with Ms. McCutcheon. “Not once did we discuss social media or the Internet,” she laughed. “It was all about content, not the method of delivery.”

“It was also interesting to see how community newspapers do a better job of covering global events that happen on our doorsteps,” she said. Citing the coverage of the Santa Fe paper of the prison riots that captivated the globe in 1980 as an example given by its publisher at the conference. “The world media descended on the community to cover the story, but it was the community newspaper that looked beyond the trite and the cliché to dig deeper into the story and look at it from a different angle,” she said. “I think it comes in part from our publishing once a week. We have to go deeper and look further to differentiate ourselves from the pack.”

One speaker at the conference was David V. Mitchell, the retired publisher of the Point Reyes Light, one of the few community newspapers to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. The Light won the Pulitzer Meritorious Public Service gold medal for an exposé of Synanon Incorporated, a former drug-rehabilitation program that changed its name to the Church of Synanon and morphed into a violent cult.

Ms. McCutcheon was able to proudly declare that the Expositor had garnered Canada’s top award for journalism, the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, which was awarded to The Manitoulin Expositor in 1983, the first time the award had recognized a community newspaper. The Expositor was nominated at that time for a series of sensitive articles the paper had done on the issue of suicide in the community. The result of the stories was a local public response that was credited with intervening in several suicide attempts through the establishment of a telephone hotline where troubled people could call and talk through their depression with trained counsellors, the first such time a service had been available to Manitoulin Island.

The attendees of the conference were remarkably well distributed across age and gender, noted Ms. McCutcheon. Far from being an old boys’ club, the conference was remarkably well-balanced in demographics.

It wasn’t all ink, critique and debate at the ISWNE conference, however. The attendees took in an old-time vaudeville play where “we hissed and booed the villains and hoorayed on the heroes,” she laughed.

They also travelled to a local American Indian cultural centre, (the tribe there is the Utes) and took in an old mining community that has been turned into a living museum. “We travelled back on an old narrow-gauge railroad, the Durango and Silverton narrow Guage Railroad,” she said. “It was drawn by a coal-fired steam locomotive that dated back to 1882.” The community newspaper there is actually run by the local historical society.

As she travelled over the railway, taking part in the lively discussions during the three-hour journey back to Durango, Ms. McCutcheon took in the landscape passing by outside the window. The mountains were awe-inspiring and more than a little frightening at times.

Many of the discussions that took place in the conference centered on the ethics of reporting the news. “We discussed the reporting of names in the Law and Order section of the newspaper,” she said. “I explained how we usually do not report the names of people charged because we simply do not have the resources to follow up the results of all of the charges that are laid.” She discovered that many papers do the same, while many others simply do not report on the charges at all—for the same reason.

It is also in the realm of ethics and reporting that the ISWNE organization truly shines once the attendees have returned home.

“There is an email discussion group that a lot of people are active in,” she said. “Someone will pose a question about how to handle an issue and people at other papers will give suggestions as to what they would do. That goes on year-round and is worth every penny of the $60 annual membership fee.”

As for her trip to the ISWNE conference, Ms. McCutcheon discovered that the fellowship she was awarded covered conference registration fees, most food and accommodations during the event.y of the discussions that took place in the conference centered on the ethics of reporting the news. “We discussed the reporting of names in the Law and Order section of the newspaper,” she said. “I explained how we usually do not report the names of people charged because we simply do not have the resources to follow up the results of all of the charges that are laid.” She discovered that many papers do the same, while many others simply do not report on the charges at all—for the same reason.

It is also in the realm of ethics and reporting that the ISWNE organization truly shines once the attendees have returned home.

“There is an email discussion group that a lot of people are active in,” she said. “Someone will pose a question about how to handle an issue and people at other papers will give suggestions as to what they would do. That goes on year-round and is worth every penny of the $60 annual membership fee.”

As for her trip to the ISWNE conference, Ms. McCutcheon discovered that the fellowship she was awarded covered conference registration fees, most food and accommodations during the event.