Still independent and innovating 50 years on
When my father, Jim MacNeill, started The Eastern Graphic back in 1963 he probably never envisioned it lasting 50 years. But here we are, five decades later a living testament to the determination – some would say stubbornness – to make it work.
And work it has.
From very humble beginnings my father, with an equal measure of support and effort from my mother Shirley, worked to build a community paper that reflects life in Kings County ‘warts and all’ as dad would say. Creating a business was secondary.
Today we strive to honour that founding principle. Some weeks are better than others, of course, but the goal is always the same.
In 1963 community newspapering was the domain of family owned operations. It’s different today. Of the 70 member papers of Newspapers Atlantic, two corporations now own 54 of the titles.
We think that makes what we do even more vital. Independence is not a right; it is an honour and a trust. We greatly respect the privilege of providing news and commentary on issues and stories big and small. Community events, graduations, minor hockey tournaments are as important to us as the latest council meeting or political scandal. Why? Because The Graphic is about people: what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the impact decisions have on ordinary Islanders.
We try to bring that focus to all our papers: West Prince Graphic, Island Farmer and Atlantic Post Calls.
I am proud to say our independence has also allowed us to be the driving force behind initiatives important to the community. Two examples: The Rotary Toonie Draw is an idea hatched in our office that in the first 18 months has raised more than $180,000 for Kings County charities and an equal amount in winnings. It is a perfect example of a community newspaper partnering with a community organization to benefit the whole community. The Georgetown Conference is also an idea of ours. It is turning into a major initiative spurring dynamic discussions in communities throughout the four Atlantic Provinces on how our rural communities can succeed into the future.
We didn’t need to vet our participation through a corporate head office. This is not a criticism of corporations; it is reality. We saw a need and an opportunity to help and we jumped in with both feet.
This is what makes community newspapering so exciting.
My father had a vision for what a community newspaper should be. And he stuck fiercely to it. If a nuclear bomb dropped in Charlottetown, he said, The Graphic is only interested in the fallout.
When dad passed away 15 years ago it fell to my sister Jan and I to carry on. We’ve succeeded thanks to the dedication of a staff that is second to none. Our editor Heather Moore has worked with us for 40 years. She knows more about what The Graphic should be than any other. But she is far from alone. We are blessed to have many dedicated staff, many you know. Others toil behind the scenes in production, accounting, front office and circulation with equal dedication to the final product.
We are very lucky.
Through the years The Graphic has embraced technology as a means of improving the end product. This week we are adding the latest advancement, a marvel of technology called Layar. It is also being rolled out in The West Prince Graphic, as well as the next editions of Post Calls and Island Farmer.
Layar is a truly unique product. For the first time, a reader can use the print edition of the paper to generate a much broader experience that encompasses radio, television, video, social media and the internet. It is an experience driven by the power of print.
To start, download the free Layar app to your smart phone or tablet, then scan any page featuring the Layar logo. It’s that simple. A world of extra information - from Twitter feeds to Facebook pages, from television and radio commercials to menus and the ability to buy a product or service directly – is available to you.
Only the power of print can bring all these mediums together. Radio can’t. Television can’t. The Internet and social media can’t. Print can.
The Graphic is one of the first papers in the country to adopt Layar technology. We are proud of that. It is good for advertisers and good for readers. Community newspapers have always been innovators and early adopters of technology. This is still a vibrant medium. And I’d like to think my dad would be proud of that.
Jim MacNeill, who passed away in 1998 at 62, founded the Eastern Graphic in 1963. The paper is still owned by the MacNeill family and is celebrating 50 years of independent publishing. Noted photographer Sherman Hines took the photo in the mid-1970s.