Marking a black day in Nelson newspaper history

Marking a black day in Nelson newspaper history

One year ago today the voice of 109 years of history in Nelson was silenced.

Bought by its competitor Black Press — which owns the Nelson Star — a few weeks earlier, the Nelson Daily News had a colourful and tumultuous path to its too-soon demise.

Although its financial history eventually became its undoing, a river of type about its people contained in 109 years of daily print were the real story.

Through dozens of editors and reporters over the span of its existence, the Nelson Daily News gave Nelsonites that daily window on their community, gave them a soapbox for their voice on the issues, and accorded them special status as the smallest community with a daily newspaper in Canada.

Former NDN staff reporter and now Vancouver Sun columnist Don Cayo said it best when he wrote on the loss of the paper one year ago:

“To this community, the loss is historical, social and political. The reader-contributed words that dominate the final edition, which hit the streets Friday, mostly rue the slashing of an important tie that helped bind together what is an unusually diverse community of hippie or yuppie newcomers and those with older, deeper blue-collar roots.”

His sentiment was echoed by Coun. Robin Cherbo, one of the last City councilors to write a column for the newspaper:

“Some people may not think it is a big deal, but is an end of the historical paper and a break with our historic past. Love it or hate it, the Nelson Daily News will be missed; whether to criticize the editorials or argue a point of view or to put in a letter to the editor on any issue of the day or to see who passed away or who was born …”

The Museum would have very little in their archives if it weren't for the accurate record of Nelson history provided by the NDN, said former reader Rowena Ramsden.

“News is only news when it is reported within the day. When it takes three or more days to tell the news it then becomes stories about the news. That's why it was called the Nelson Daily News. They reported the News as they saw it.”

Even though other enterprises have sprung up in its wake — including The Nelson Daily, an online daily news source — to deliver the news, the loss of a daily print publication was a devastating blow to many of the city’s seniors.

A letter from the Langlois family on the eve of the last printing of the NDN illustrated this loss:

“The other day my Mom expressed sadness at the thought of not holding the paper that she has been reading daily cover-to-cover for over 30 years. This sadness really seems to be the sentiment of many, as we experience the end of an era and the loss of a piece of the heart of our Nelson.”

But the final word in the newspaper — as it had for years — belonged to the NDN’s managing editor at the time, Bob Hall.

In his last column for the final issue of the paper on July 16, Hall asked (rhetorically) how to lay to rest a great newspaper like the NDN. Although Hall had pondered for weeks since the announcement of the paper’s closing was made in June, 2010, he found the task too daunting.

He said Nelson could not do the paper justice in closing, the stories being too numerous, the people too special and the shadow of the newspaper simply too long.

“The Daily News will live on,” Hall wrote in his last column. “Years from now when some have forgotten, a young researcher will be in the musty basement of Touchstones looking for that vital nugget of information to help tell a story of our past. Like so many have done over the last 109 years, they will turn to the Nelson Daily News.”

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The Nelson Daily News was born on April 22, 1902, successor to John Houston’s Nelson Miner which began publishing June 21, 1890.

In March, 1900 the Miner had purchased for the princely sum of $8,300 a Cotterell-Babcock flatbed printing press run by a Pelton Water wheel which turned out 3,500 four-page papers per hour.

This was the press first used by the Daily News until sold in 1907 to be replaced by a press which at that time was the most modern and efficient of any newspaper office in the interior of British Columbia.

However, within four years, growth of circulation and advertising patronage made it necessary for the installation of a still more modern, still more efficient printing press.

Therefore, on March 11, 1912 the Daily News announced “ Today The Daily News is printed on a splendid 20th Century Angle Bar Duplex Press, capable of printing, folding cutting and delivering 6,000 4, 6, 8 0r 10 page paper  per hour.”

This press was followed in 1930 by a Straight Line Goss rotary press, which was about 30 years old at the time, was purchased from the old Vancouver Star.

The last issue off this press was Oct. 27, 1970, when it was succeeded by the new Goss Community Press, making it an age of about 70 years when replaced, 40 of those in the service of the Daily News.  The press itself was moved two years before the newspaper closed in 2010.

— Information drawn from historian Greg Scott’s article on the last running of the press.