Ponoka News editor George Brown has been honoured for his years of volunteer service to the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA).
On May 6, at the 91st annual convention of the association, he received the Bill Draayer Award, which recognizes members who have made a considerable investment of their time, energy and ideas for the betterment of the AWNA.
Draayer was a newspaper editor and publisher, and the long-time secretary-treasurer of the AWNA.
The award was presented by Barry Hibbert, owner of the Sylvan Lake News, himself a past Draayer Award winner.
Hibbert’s association with Brown goes back to at least the early 1990s when Hibbert offered to buy the Sylvan Lake News and learned there was an outstanding liability on the books — an overlooked lawsuit against Brown.
“George was editor of the newspaper and it appears he wasn’t content to just think the guy was a crook, he had to put it in writing,” Hibbert joked.
The suit was dropped when the businessman was found guilty of theft.
Hibbert said Brown’s interest in the AWNA was piqued in the early 1980s when he met a “wild assortment of mavericks and renegades” who were the industry leaders of the day.
Brown’s service to the newspaper association was recounted by Hibbert and includes being chairman of most of the board’s committees. “Needless to say George has made a significant impact on AWNA.”
At newspaper conventions across Canada and into the United States, Brown is known for distributing jars of his homemade horseradish. Hibbert said.
Premier Ed Stelmach has received jars of the condiment in appreciation for attending the AWNA’s political bear pit sessions.
“Maybe that’s why he quit,” Hibbert quipped.
Brown served as president from 2008-10, after the AWNA had to face the bankruptcy of a major advertising agency that depleted the association’s reserves.
Hibbert said it was under Brown’s leadership that a strategic planning workshop was organized to consider new models to manage the association; the AWNA emerged with a “re-invigorated relationship with its members and a clearer role of the association’s leadership in the industry.”
It was as a proud president in 2010 that Brown cut the ribbon to open the AWNA’s offices in a building it purchased.
In 2006 Brown received a Silver Quill recognizing 25 years in the newspaper business. He has also won awards for Outstanding Editorial Writing from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) in 2006 and 2008.
Brown and his newspapers have won several awards for excellence from provincial and national associations over his 30-year career, Hibbert added.
Brown credits colleagues for encouragement
“I think it’s true to say that every newspaper in every community I have worked in — whether as a reporter, editor or publisher — has a long history of support and involvement with the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association,” Brown said.
“It would have been difficult for me not to have developed an appreciation for what the AWNA means to its members and to the industry.”
“It would have been difficult not to answer the call to serve.”
Brown said for 30 years he has enjoyed the encouragement and inspiration of his colleagues, the directors he serves with on the AWNA and Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA) boards of directors, and the support of AWNA central office staff.
“My work with you has helped me to become a better newspaperman, a leader in my community and a voice in our industry.”
Brown was the editor of the Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser from 1989 to 1996. Bill Draayer operated the Wetaskiwin Times in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.
“Mr. Draayer was a little guy in stature but a giant in his community and a legend in the development of the AWNA. I had the honour to meet him at my first AWNA conference in 1979 or 80 while I was a journalism student at Grant MacEwan Community College. Who could have imagined that I would go on to serve the association and my community in a way that would be recognized with this prestigious award.”
Now the editor of the Ponoka News and the Rimbey Review, Brown follows in the footsteps of two other newspaper legends.
“Jack Parry in Rimbey, and Ernie Jamison in Ponoka, served as presidents back to back in the Sixties. Today I am the editor of the newspapers in those two communities. Mr. Parry was a Bill Draayer Award recipient in 1986.”
Brown concluded his remarks by recognizing his service to the newspaper association could not have been possible without the sacrifices of his co-workers over the years.
“Thank you to my publisher, Fred Gorman, and our staffs in Ponoka and Rimbey who have to work around my AWNA and CCNA schedules. I do appreciate the extra work you do to cover for me.”
Ponoka News recognized for excellence
At the annual convention of the AWNA, the Ponoka News earned two second place honours. The paper was judged to have the second best editorial page in its circulation class and it was judged the second best overall in its class. First place honours went to the Rocky Mountain House Mountaineer.