Former Free Press publisher Chris Nickless. (Submitted photo)

100 Mile Free Press turns 60

Past publisher and editor reflect on their time

The 100 Mile Free Press turns 60 years old this week. We interviewed a former publisher and former editor about their time with the newspaper.

Chris Nickless

Q: How long were you at the 100 Mile Free Press and in what role(s)?

A: I was publisher/sales mgr. for the FP from 1997 to 2017.

Q: How do you look back upon your time at the Free Press?

A: I truly enjoyed my dual role as it allowed me to manage and grow the Free Press, move from film photography and darkroom to digital photography and create the Connector with the paper’s owner Black Press. As sales manager I was always in close connection with our local retailers and community groups and we were able to adjust to their needs in getting their message to our community. I really appreciated being a part of this community and the support I was shown. I am proud that the paper was able to support so many local groups and events through editorial coverage, complimentary advertising and posters.

Q: What was the biggest story during your time at the newspaper and can you recall any instances where the Free Press made a difference?

A: Although there were many, many stories covered by the Free Press when I was publisher,both good and bad, a few stand out including the successful fight to keep the Forest Grove school, the beautification of our main street with flower beds and hanging baskets and the new library and South Cariboo Rec. Centre. Another great part of the community is sports and we were pleased to cover the development of our Wranglers Jr. B hockey team which went all the way in 2016 to win the western Canada championship.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

A: In closing, I wish to thank our South Cariboo community for your great support of the Free Press and me while I was publisher.

Ken Alexander

Q: How long were you at the 100 Mile Free Press and in what role(s)?

A: I was the 70 Mile House/South Green Lake correspondent for the 100 Mile House Free Press in the late 1970s.

I wrote the column under the pseudonym of Wilbur Warthog.

It was fun. They published my columns for more than a year without paying me because they didn’t know who I was. When I needed parts for my broken down vehicle, I went to town, introduced myself and we talked about newspapers. Then they cut me a cheque, I got the parts and thought newspapering was a pretty good gig.

After trying a few seasonal jobs, I was hired as a full-time sports writer/editor at the Williams Lake Tribune in 1980 and worked my way up from there.

I had three great mentors — Diana French, Clive Stangoe and Alex Whitecross – who taught me among other things that a “good community newspaper writes the history of a community in a fair and accurate manner and supplies the fridge art [photos and stories].”

Then after 30 years, my newspapering career went full circle when I was hired by the 100 Mile House Free Press in 2009.

Q: How do you look back upon your time at the Free Press?

A: I enjoyed my time as editor of the Free Press because I was surrounded by a lot of incredibly talented people.

Unfortunately, we were often short-handed in the editorial department due to illnesses, but the team members always pulled together to help wherever they could.

We won a few individual and team newspaper awards, and I believe we provided a good service to the people in 100 Mile House, as well as our surrounding communities through our correspondents.”

Q: What was the biggest story during your time at the newspaper?

A: There were a number of big stories in the Free Press while I rented the editor’s chair.

The series of stories that stands out for me is the one that got the most readership and hits (worldwide).

Reporter Arlene Jongbloets wrote a few stories about a mature bull elk that was dominating a domestic herd of cows at the 100 Mile Ranch in the fall of 2012.

The bull became an instant celebrity attracting locals and tourists who parked their vehicles on the side of Highway 97 and Canim-Hendrix Lake Road in hopes of getting a glimpse or a photograph of the love-sick elk.

Unfortunately, the bull became very aggressive with his harem and any male calves that got near them. He started breaking down fences and driving cows through them. For safety reasons, it was decided the amorous bull elk had to be tranquillized by Conservation officers, crated and moved it to the outback where he came from.

For me, the two other big community stories were about the 100 Mile House Wranglers Junior B Hockey Club, which became a spark of identity, hope and a rallying point for a community that was suffering from the downturn in the forest industry.

The first was the Wranglers being approved as a franchise for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) on Dec. 6, 2012.

The second was the story about the Wranglers winning everything it could in 2016 – the division, conference, KIJHL and Western Canada titles — in the third year of the Junior B hockey franchise.

Q: Can you recall any instances where the Free Press made a difference?

A: The answer may be just as simplistic as my definition of what makes a good community newspaper.

I believe every edition of the Free Press makes a difference for our readers.

Whether it’s a story [or photo] about them, their family members or friends and neighbours; information in a news story; or a celebration of community members’ accomplishments, talent, skill, athleticism or the life of someone who has passed, the Free Press is the knot that binds the community together.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thank you to everyone who allowed me to tell your story and/or take your photo!

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Former Free Press editor Ken Alexander. (Submitted photo)

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