Expositor staffers lauded for time, dedication to the newspaper industry

From left, Expositor staffers Dave Patterson, production manager, Tom Sasvari, editor-in-chief, Kerrene Tilson, office manager, Rick McCutcheon, publisher emeritus, and Alicia McCutcheon, publisher, attended the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) Independent Publishers Retreat in Muskoka. Mr. Sasvari was awarded with a Silver Quill for his over 25 years in the newspaper industry and Ms. Tilson a Gold Quill for her impressive 50 years in the industry. Mr. Patterson was acknowledged for his volunteer work with the association and lending his digital know-how while Mr. McCutcheon was formally inducted into the OCNA Hall of Fame. Ms. McCutcheon was also recognized for her time on the provincial board, specifically as president.

MUSKOKA—Nearly half the staff (plus one retiree) of The Manitoulin Expositor were honoured at the annual fall meeting of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) held last Friday and Saturday at the Deerhurst Resort near Huntsville. This is a gathering geared almost exclusively for the independent, family-owned newspapers of Ontario’s community press.

Expositor publisher and past president of the OCNA, Alicia McCutcheon, observed that the five Expositor staffers (herself included) represent 170 years toiling in the community newspaper industry. The Expositor staff contingent also represented the majority of individuals being honoured over the weekend.

The Canadian Community Newspapers Association, through regional organizers like the OCNA, recognizes long-serving employees and newspaper proprietors and so it was, last Friday evening during the event’s banquet that Kerrene Tilson and Tom Sasvari were honoured with, respectively, Gold Quill and Silver Quill recognition.

Ms. Tilson received her Gold Quill award for working more than a half-century in the newspaper industry, the last 48 of which have been at The Expositor where she still is a vital part of the accounting department. She had previously worked for the Toronto Star, beginning in 1968, as a classified advertising salesperson.

Mr. Sasvari received his Silver Quill award for working for over 25 years in the industry. In fact, Mr. Sasvari has been a reporter and now editor-in-chief on Manitoulin Island for 36 years. He was hired as a reporter at the Recorder in Gore Bay shortly after completing his journalism studies at Canadore College in North Bay and has been a fixture in the news-gathering business on Manitoulin Island ever since.

In the citation for Ms. Tilson, OCNA CEO Gordon Cameron pointed out that “Kerrene Tilson has done every job at the Expositor in her 48-year tenure except write news stories. When she and her late husband relocated to Manitoulin Island in the fall of 1974, she had seen a classified advertisement in The Expositor offering the job of addressing and bundling the papers for weekly distribution, so she applied for the job. When publisher Rick McCutcheon learned of her previous experience at The Star, he offered her a job of typing news and advertising copy, part of the then multi-tiered job of laying out the pages before going to print. It was noted that while she has never written for the paper, during her tenure as typesetter she caught several potentially embarrassing typographical errors that had eluded the proofreading process.

During her time at the paper, the citation reads, Ms. Tilson has managed circulation and ultimately has been involved with all aspects of the bookkeeping/accounting process.

Ms. Tilson has always been involved with community activities and she remains the founder and driving force behind the Café in the Woods, the folk music entertainment series that brings in talented Canadian musicians to entertain sellout crowds at the Honora Bay Ski Club clubhouse.

She is also a prime mover and perennial treasurer of the Manitoulin Community Fitness Centre, a volunteer-run and not-for-profit facility, located in the lower area of the Manitoulin Welcome Centre near the swing bridge.

These are her current community passions but, over the past 48 years, she had been involved in numerous projects to benefit the Island.

Ms. Tilson said, after reflecting on the event and her 50 years recognition, “it was humbling. I think it’s unusual these days for people to stay in the same profession, let alone with the same employer, for close to 50 years.”

“Fifty years seems like a big number, but it’s gone by so fast, and you remember all of the people you worked with and the friendships you’ve made,” she added.

Mr. Sasvari, as Mr. Cameron pointed out on behalf of the OCNA and the national organization, in addition to being a dedicated reporter and editor, is heavily committed to his community as a volunteer.

He is an active member of the Gore Bay/Western Manitoulin Lions Club and the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club. He volunteers every month at the men’s breakfast fellowship event at the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay and has been recognized for his dedication to making his community a better place by being named the 2018 recipient of the Vivian Levensohn Award that recognizes an individual’s good works, Island-wide.

A decade ago, Mr. Sasvari received the War Pensioners of Canada organization’s top honour at a surprise (to him) ceremony at the national group’s annual meeting held that year in Espanola, given for his work consistent with the War Pensioners of Canada’s ideals and values.

Expositor editor Tom Sasvari said he is “privileged and honoured to receive this recognition.”

“While some may think that 25 years (or 36 years to date) is a long time on the job, to have been in this great industry, when you work with others who spent 50 years or more in it, and to hear of the real pioneers of the community newspaper industry in Ontario, it’s very humbling to be mentioned among them,” he added “especially when you consider that three of these fellow old-timers are my co-workers and friends at The Manitoulin Expositor!”

Gerald Tracey, publisher of the Eganville Leader in Renfrew County in Eastern Ontario was also recognized with a Gold Quill presentation.

David Patterson, veteran production manager at The Expositor will be leaving the newspaper industry this winter after 14 years with The Expositor in a vital management role. He’s not leaving Manitoulin but has other interests to pursue.

During the past decade, Mr. Patterson has acted as a volunteer consultant to the OCNA as the industry, and its individual members, work to adapt to produce digital products that can be monetized.

OCNA CEO Gord Cameron asked Mr. Patterson to stand at the Friday evening gala and thanked him profusely for the generous use of his time and talents to not only assist the organization but also individual publishers who have been welcomed to call and seek Mr. Patterson’s advice and counsel.

Mr. Patterson received thunderous applause in response to Mr. Cameron’s thanks.

“I appreciate the recognition,” Mr. Patterson observed. “I enjoyed working with the industry in Ontario towards a digital network for independent newspapers, although I’m sorry this didn’t come to fruition. It had real potential.”

“I’d like to thank Caroline Medwell (recently-retired CEO of the OCNA) and some of the more forward-thinking publishers” he continued “I’d like to wish everyone the best going forward and I still believe that, in this digital era, there is a need for verified journalists producing important work for citizens’ consumption, through both print and digital platforms,” Mr. Patterson added.

Alicia McCutcheon, publisher of The Expositor, wound up her tenure as chair of the OCNA board earlier this year and was presented with the organization’s traditional parting gifts to outgoing presidents: a mounted gavel with a plaque stating their years as president and framed caricature.

In Ms. McCutcheon’s case, the caricature artist has put her (and her young daughter) in a boat named ‘The 1879’ (the year The Expositor was established) that proudly flies an OCNA burgee.

Ms. McCutcheon joined the OCNA board in 2015, chaired the independent newspapers group within the organization before taking on the vice-president’s and then the president’s roles.

Mr. Cameron noted that, during her tenure as board member and chair, Ms. McCutcheon has been a positive force at meetings and continually raised new and interesting perspectives. He thanked her for her years of service to the industry.

“It was an honour and a privilege to have served as president, and as a board member for several years, of this important association,” said Ms. McCutcheon. “It’s a tough time in our industry and I hope that my ideas and input were of benefit to the OCNA membership, especially the independent publishers, with whom we were celebrating last weekend. I do hope to come back to the board, if they’ll have me,” she laughed.

Retired Expositor publisher Rick McCutcheon was also honoured at last weekend’s event.

Two years ago, the OCNA decided to initiate a “Hall of Fame” and nominated individuals from both the present and the past who they felt had made a useful difference in the industry.

One of the initial inductees was Mr. McCutcheon and he, along with the other nine charter inductees, was recognized last weekend.

About half of this first “class” of honourees are still working in the industry or have recently retired and the other careers covered most of the decades of the 20th century and their contributions were noted posthumously.

At the top of the citation for Mr. McCutcheon was the fact that he had presided over the paper when, nearly 40 years ago, it was awarded the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism, a first for any Canadian community newspaper and that this achievement helped establish that the community press can and does effect change on important issues.

The Michener Award is Canada’s equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service Journalism and was established by former Governor General Roland Michener in memory of his late daughter Wendy Michener, a journalist.

 Mr. McCutcheon’s newspaper hall of fame citation noted that “In the early 1980s, after being concerned for several years about high rates of suicide on Manitoulin, The Expositor published a series of stories that led to the establishment of a 24-hour telephone link to councillors in Sudbury to whom someone contemplating this extreme act could talk. The system was credited with saving two lives.”

The citation also acknowledges Mr. McCutcheon’s long-time involvement with education and tourism on Manitoulin Island.

Mr.McCutcheon said that he is “deeply honoured to be considered in the same company of some past giants in the community press.”

“It’s also been a privilege to ‘do newspapering’ on Manitoulin Island since 1968,” he added. “And I couldn’t have been in better company last weekend with Kerrene, Tom, Dave and our daughter Alicia also being recognized for their individual contributions. It’s them, and many other talented staff members over the years, that have given us any success that we may have had. It was certainly ‘Expositor Day’ at the annual fall OCNA meeting!”