When former Vancouver Courier publisher Peter Ballard first started working at the paper, he was constantly reminded of the popularity of its Kerrisdale-based predecessor and partial namesake.
"When I started as a sales person in 1975 it was already the West Side Courier," said Ballard, who retired five years ago. "But it was still always referred to as the Kerrisdale Courier. That's how deeply rooted it was in the community."
The Kerrisdale Courier, which became today's Vancouver Courier, launched in 1908 as the Eburne News in the neighbourhood now called Marpole. In 2008, the Vancouver Courier marked that 100th anniversary with a street party, while at city hall that same year, May 27 was proclaimed Vancouver Courier Day.
The newspaper has undergone numerous transitions in its 105 years, including time as the Gazette, Point Grey Gazette and the Weekly Gazette when women took the helm during the First World War. In 1940, the newspaper was re-branded as the Point Grey News Gazette and became the Kerrisdale Courier in the 1950s and the Vancouver Courier in the 1960s.
Ballard said when the Courier went daily in 1978 as a way to steal customers away from the Sun and Province during a lengthy strike at Pacific Press, it's style quickly changed from community notes and "happy events" to a hard-news format. That move drove many longtime customers away.
When that strike ended and advertising sales plummeted, the daily Courier chugged along until Aug. 19, 1978, before reverting back to a twice-weekly publication. But the damage was done, the newspaper went into receivership and the employees were let go. Ballard, by that time the advertising manager, and Phil Hager, an advertising rep, hit the nearby Legion for drinks and brainstorming. They teamed up with reporter Geoff Wellens and together made a successful bid to purchase the paper. In 1979, Ballard became publisher of the Vancouver Courier, Hager was named president of sales and marketing and Wellens became editor.
"But people were disappointed because we'd left that community focus when the paper went daily," Ballard said. "And they showed it. The paper was very, very important to their whole being."
Ballard said today's Courier offers a great mix of community and hard-hitting news. He said its effort shows in the dozens of provincial and national journalism awards the newspaper has won in the past decade. Ballard is also a fan of the paper's recent redesign.
"I love the new look and I know how hard that is to do. We underwent a redesign after the staff came to me one day and said, 'We need to make a change,'" Ballard said, laughing at the memory.
Ballard also commended the Courier's latest owners, Glacier Media, for keeping the Courier's newsroom intact and lauded the addition of a sports reporter during tough economic times. "The Courier is not only better, but it's grown up," said Ballard. "All I can say is keep on trucking."