Columbia Valley Pioneer staff

The Pioneer will ring in the new year with some big changes.

The biggest of those will take effect on Feb. 1, when longtime associate publisher Amanda Nason becomes the Columbia Valley Pioneer’s new owner. That same day, the Pioneer will move its office from the current location, where it has been for more than a decade, to a new spot on the same block just a few doors away.

“It’s exciting and scary all at the same time to become owner,” said Nason. “Nothing grows without change,” she added, noting however, that the Pioneer is keeping its current team intact and that readers and customers will continue to enjoy the aspects of the Pioneer they love for years to come.

Nason, who has been working remotely from Hinton for the past year and a half, will return to live in the Columbia Valley as a full-time resident once again. 

“It’s good to have feet on the ground . . . and the Columbia Valley is such a beautiful place. There’s something about it that always stays with you once you’ve lived here,” Nason said of her move back to the valley, adding it will help the Pioneer keep the hyper-local focus that has been its strength for years.

Outgoing owner and veteran newspaper publisher Robert Doull is excited and proud to hand over the Pioneer to local ownership, something he predicts people will see more of in print media’s future.

“We already see some communities experimenting with co-operative ownership and others with a non-profit model,” he said, noting that readers want verifiable news and engagement with local stories.

Doull has always held the Pioneer close to his heart. “It is a great paper with great staff. It has its own personality, its own look, it is fun and interesting to read, and it is fully engaged with its community. It doesn’t model itself on any other paper; it is entirely its own being.”

Doull said Nason is a creative problem solver with a strong background in sales and understands that without revenue, nothing else matters. “She is highly motivated and having her back in the community will be a net positive for everybody. She knows exactly what is needed to carry the paper into the future.”

Speaking of his own career, Doull started as a freelance reporter in the early 1970s and worked his way through various positions, eventually managing Alberta Report Newsmagazine in Edmonton during the mid-1980s.  

From there he bought his first newspaper, and over a period of 12 years he built the company into a group of 24  newspapers with a central press plant and distribution centre. He subsequently sold that company in 1998 and moved to the Okanagan where he started buyings papers again as a retirement hobby. At its high point his company (Aberdeen Publishing) consisted of 14 papers in B.C. and Alberta, including the Pioneer (which Doull has owned since 2010). 

“The highlight for me was being able to meet an astonishing diversity of people and hear their stories. I have learned never to prejudge and always try to integrate, and fairly represent, different points of view,” Doull said.

He noted the world is vast and you start to grasp the enormous scale of what you don’t know. 

“If you walk out on the street you can stop any person and, if they are willing to talk to you long enough, you will eventually hear some astonishing stories from their past. You never stop learning and that makes the work exciting.”

As an independent publisher, Doull eventually found himself in a bit of a tight spot. He didn’t have the scale of Black Press or Glacier Media but had to maintain a lot of fixed overhead costs to provide services to the papers.  

“We eventually decided that these papers would be best back in the hands of independent operators who could function with a smaller footprint. Essentially we are returning our community papers to community-based ownership,” he said.

Nason brings plenty of experience in the newspaper industry to her new role as owner: she began working in sales for the Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1998. From there she worked in several different roles and departments with Brunswick News (the Gleaner’s parent company). 

“It was a different world back then for newspapers, but it taught me a lot,” said Nason.

In 2013 Nason moved to the Columbia Valley. She started working at the Pioneer in sales a year and a half later in early 2015. In 2019, Nason became the Pioneer’s associate publisher.

“I look forward to the days, months and years ahead,” said Nason.

Starting on February 1, the Pioneer will be located at 1014 8th Avenue in Invermere – the office that is currently home to local Internet, wifi and telephone services company Devtel Communications. The move will be a straightforward office swap, with Devtel moving into the Pioneer’s current space at 1008-8th Avenue.

Long-time newspaper publisher Robert Doull has sold the Columbia Valley Pioneer, which he says is in very good hands locally.
(File photo)