Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/2/2021 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Eugene Derksen went to the podium to receive the trophy as the best weekly newspaper in the province, a short five years after the Carillon News was launched in 1946, the judge cited excellent photography, good reproduction of pictures, and numerous feature articles of local interest as reasons for his choice.
In making the award, J.J. Sherritt, who had judged the 30 newspapers in the same circulation class as the Carillon News, stressed particularly the initiative taken by the publishers in turning out an interesting weekly newspaper.
Eugene Derksen, at the time, said his staff should not only be proud to have won the coveted newspaper award, but could also boast of the fact that the Carillon News now stood in third place in circulation in the English-language weekly field.
"We must be doing something right."
In 1950, the Dauphin Herald led all weeklies, with a circulation of 3,200 and the Neepawa Press had 2,600 subscribers, closely followed by the Carillon News with 2,500.
Before the 1950’s were over, the Carillon News had won the title of best all-around newspaper in Manitoba four more times and was judged the best weekly in all of Canada, once by the Canadian Weekly Newspaper Association in its "Better Newspapers Competition."
Carillon News writers won awards for the paper’s style, and its adherence to the facts in giving people the news while it still was news.
Through the sports coverage in the Carillon News, people in this corner of the province were kept up to date, not only on Steinbach’s teams but of all the teams in the newspaper’s huge circulation area.
At the same time, the Carillon News was earning a reputation of being the strongest medium in which to advertise the $18 million worth of merchandise Steinbach merchants put on the market each year.
But the Derksen brothers realized that "Rome was not built in a day" and asked from Day One for subscribers to be patient in watching their weekly newspaper develop to the point where every district, every village, and every hamlet, had its own community news correspondent.
Gerhard S. Derksen created more than just a successful printing business when he moved his young family to Steinbach and changed career paths to become editor of the German-language Steinbach Post.
Derksen brought home to his family, his enthusiasm and love for the role of the community newspaper in people’s daily lives. That enthusiasm prompted his three sons, George, Eugene and Bruno and son-in-law Ernie Neufeld, to start an English-language community newspaper of their own.
The Carillon News made its debut February 21, 1946 and the Derksen family continued to publish their German-language paper as well.
The founding publisher and editor of the Carillon News did not take long to let new subscribers of the newspaper know what its goals and aspirations were. An advertisement promoting subscription sales mapped out clearly the mission of the community newspaper.
"Local news begins to play a part in a man’s life with the announcement of his birth. Progress in school, participation in sports, engagement and marriage follow, each likely to figure somehow in local news.
"Then comes the upward climb in business, perhaps an entry into politics, almost certainly some activity in civic, religious or social affairs. And each step is productive of news of interest to family, friends and fellow townspeople. So it goes, until death writes the final chapter.
"Only the hometown weekly newspaper can satisfy the craving for this kind of news and curiosity of what goes on close to home.
"To help bring about neighborliness among our communities, and to promote individual and community enterprise, shall always be the guiding principles of the Carillon News."
And while the Carillon News set the bar as far as coverage of local community news was concerned, the Derksens also embarked on an ambitious project to produce the best pictures possible in their weekly newspaper. Eugene Derksen was a believer in the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words", and staff spent the first decade improving their photo engraving process.
On the occasion of the publication of a 10th anniversary edition of the Carillon News, Derksen reflected on those first 10 years.
"Looking back to those first pictures, it is evident they were a far cry from today’s clear, well-printed photos. But it was a start, and the staff in all departments of the plant co-operated to bring the pictures up to a high standard."
And the photos were a major attraction for subscribers and provided a weekly challenge for staff photographer Bruno Derksen.
He was on the alert for photo opportunities day and night. He climbed the highest forestry tower to get a picture of a fire lookout in action. During the flood of 1950, he spent days in a boat and took to the air in a small plane to take aerial shots of area villages for a contest in the newspaper.
It is interesting to note, Derksen was quick to point out, that most pictures were routine, but at the same time played an important role in chronicling the development of the Southeast.
His comments, back in 1955, about how new roads and improving telephone service were a great help in producing the type of paper that is interesting to all parts of the area it serves, would bring a chuckle from today’s readers in the digital era.
But the aspirations of three generations of the Derksen family built a foundation and a model for what a community newspaper should be, and the more things change, the more some things remain the same.
And the slogan "News that Matters to People" holds just as true today as when it was coined back in the 1950’s, along with "Steinbach the Automobile City."
Though the family has not been at the helm for the better part of a decade, new ownership of the Carillon continues to follow a path mapped out by the Derksens, building on a foundation of success since 2011.
The parent company of the Winnipeg Free Press, FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership, took charge of the Carillon and the printing plant that went with it, in March of 2011. At the time, new ownership expressed enthusiasm about the acquisition of a business with "a strong reputation in community newspapers and commercial printing."
"We have a lot to learn from you ", Winnipeg Free Press Publisher Bob Cox told staff, praising them for their part in building and maintaining the local business, "We’ll get started tomorrow."
While the community has seen astonishing changes in the past 75 years, nowhere is the advancing technology more evident than at 377 Main Street. And that would continue under new ownership, willing to invest in the community and the community newspaper, to continue its award-winning tradition.
Believing it was important to carry on the legacy of the Derksen family that built the business, FP Newspapers Inc. invested over $2.5 million to the company during its first four years.
In 2014, the community newspaper and its commercial printing operation was awarded business-of-the-year honors by the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce.
Building on the past, while looking to the future continues to be the order of the day. The Carillon has a long history of awards for the quality of journalism and the quality of the overall product, says publisher Laurie Finley.
"Over the past couple of years, we have seen not only the continuation of this tradition, but indeed increased accolades among our peers. In 2018 and 2019, The Carillon was judged the best newspaper in all of Canada in our classification, and most recently in Manitoba not only the best in our classification but the best all-around community newspaper in the province."
The awards reflect the dedication, skills and community pride of all our employees, Finley adds.
Editor Greg Vandermeulen said the awards are not only a reflection of the dedication of staff, but the willingness of the community to partner in sharing the stories that matter.
"We are fortunate to live in a community, a region, where so many great stories are waiting to be told."
Finley says quality of printing, as well as content, is important and The Carillon continues to make strides in design and production to ensure the best product possible.
"The news media business continues to evolve and it is important that The Carillon makes continuous changes to stay relevant in today’s combination of print and digital news worlds.
"The Carillon had included full digital access to all subscribers, as a weekly newspaper needs to be able to provide breaking news on an immediate platform which we do on www.thecarillon.com and our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds."
The retirement of long time pre-press staff has led to moving of layout and pagination work on The Carillon into the more automated workflow at the Free Press.
The Carillon retains all content production on both editorial and advertising at 377 Main Street.