Then & Now: Newspaper world is one of facing new challenges daily

In 1930, Capital News founder Les Kerry started his own newspaper. The inaugural Aug. 30 edition was hand-turned on a Gestetner duplicator.

When it comes to business longevity, community newspapers tend to be at the forefront of that category in most locations.

And the Kelowna Capital News is no different.

In 1930, Capital News founder Les Kerry had a desire to start his own newspaper after working for a daily newspaper in Vernon. He eyed three potential target markets for his journalism enterprise: Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton.

He ultimately chose Kelowna, feeling that community had the greatest upside for growth.

In the years since, his newspaper has evolved in staffing and technology, in ways he probably would never have imagined in his era.

Today, the Capital News has developed into a media centre, distributing two editions a week with a circulation of more than 45,000, along with adapting to the changing ways in which editorial content is shared via social media applications from Internet websites to Facebook and Twitter.

The inaugural edition of the Capital News was published on Aug. 30, 1930, turning it on the dining room table of McCarthy’s Boarding House, using a borrowed, hand-operated Gestetner duplicator. That first edition consisted of four pages on 8 1/2 by 14 inch paper.

Kerry served as his own publisher, editor, reporter, advertising salesman and press man. Some 1,700 copies of that first edition were printed and distributed for free.  Asked why he gave the newspaper the name ‘Capital’ rather than ‘Capitol,’ Kerry said it was because “I was in it to try and make money.”

Eventually, in the 1950s, Kerry turned his newspaper over to the ownership of his daughter, Jane, and her husband, Graham Takoff.

That family connection carried on until the Takoffs sold it to Lower Mainland Publishing Ltd. in 1993, ending 63 years of Kerry family ownership which left the Capital News at that time as the largest privately owned community newspaper in Western Canada.

LMPL would eventually sell the Capital News in 2001 to a quartet of local investors led by Bruce Hamilton, the owner of the Kelowna Rockets junior hockey team.

That group then sold their interest in the business to Black Press in 2003, welcoming the Capital News into the largest community newspaper company in B.C.

In the 70th anniversary special section published by the Capital News in 1990, Takoff was quick to defer the newspaper’s growth under his reign to the newspaper’s staff who worked under his leadership.

“The highlight during the 33 years I was with the Capital News was coming to work every day,” said Takoff, who has since passed away.

“Boy, we had some characters over the years, but we had a lot of fun as well.”

His long-time involvement with the business was also reflected, as it still is today, with many long-time staff members.

Current publisher Karen Hill has worked 22 of the past 26 years for the Capital News, the other four years spent as publisher of the Vernon Morningstar, the Capital News’ sister community newspaper.

Hill said for her, the attraction of working for a newspaper is different challenges on a daily basis, a characteristic that you will find common among editorial, production and sales staff.

“No two days are alike,” Hill said.

She said newspapers are a unique business in that the start of every deadline cycle towards a printed edition is like creating a new business from scratch each time.

She says at its heart, the Capital News seeks to report stories about issues and people in the Central Okanagan from a grassroots perspective, and the staff are committed to that objective.

Teresa Huscroft-Brown began working for the Capital News in 1985, starting out in the production department as a graphic designer, and recently switching into a new career path within the newspaper as a sales representative.

“I like the deadline pressure to get something done and I like working for something that is very involved in the community,” Huscroft-Brown said.

“I like that we keep the community informed and that we have a credibility as an information source.

“Anyone can put anything on the Internet, but I think people still put a trust in what they read in a newspaper, that there is a trust of integrity and ethics that newspapers are held accountable to.”

Huscroft-Brown said she also values the opportunity to have input on new ideas for the newspaper, citing the example of her desire to provide a more accurate  reflection of what students are doing in their schools.

“It started with one school and has evolved since into a regular feature for schools in our school district.

“To see an idea like that brought to fruition and carry on is very satisfying to be a part of.”