the home town paper
January 30, 2020
In this age of information, it is undeniable that our relationship with local print newspapers has changed. While many of us still enjoy pouring over the local going-ons with a cup of coffee in hand, the explosion of the internet in the 1990s increased the range of media sources available to the average reader. Now most of us get our daily news straight to our smartphones, while the print newspaper industry has experienced a significant decline.
Before the advent of the internet, the local newspaper held an almost reverential position as the hub of community conversations. This was made obvious in a 1948 mini documentary produced by the National Film Board and directed by Morten Parker, called “The Home Town Paper.” Over the course of twenty-two minutes, narrator John Drainie, speaking with that polished, flourished language one expects from the time period, introduces viewers to a successful community newspaper—the Vernon News.
Vernon News press room with staff about to print, 1920
Click here to view the NFB documentary on the Vernon News, “Home Town Paper”!
While the scenes of the physical printing process of the newspaper is fascinating in and of itself, the true beauty of this documentary is the look it provides into everyday life in mid-century Vernon. In the bright Vernon News office, beside neatly-stacked piles of paper, editors pour over the next day’s edition, only to be interrupted by a tap at the window. It’s a popular garage owner, all smiles with two large trout he caught earlier that week at Mabel Lake in hand (turns out, they’re actually salmon imported from the Coast for the role, but the illusion still stands). As the narrator notes, this is the stuff that will make the next day’s paper. The footage captures other issues of the day—the loss of the British fruit market, still caught up in post-war austerity, the City Council’s discussions of the need for a new, larger City Hall, and the city band’s upcoming concert.
The Vernon News started in 1891 as a five-column, eight page paper, with articles of mostly agricultural topics. Despite some significant obstacles along the way (including the destruction of the entire office to a fire in 1897), the paper dominated the news industry for years in Vernon. The National Film Board documentary highlights not only the importance of the Vernon News to our community, but the slower, congenial pace of life in Vernon at the time.