This year marks the 130th anniversary of The Chilliwack Progress. In celebration of the occasion, we asked four former editors and publishers to submit feature articles on their years at B.C.’s oldest community newspaper founded in 1891.
By Paul Bucci
The Chilliwack Progress has been remarkably nimble since its inception, using the best of technology whenever it became available.
But little did we know, back in the day, that our content would be consumed by millions of readers, both local and around the world, and our main platform would be on some future version of the brick-like cell phones we used to lug around.
And that in many ways, The Chilliwack Progress would be an early adopter of online technologies, becoming one of the first community newspapers to do so.
When I first walked into The Chilliwack Progress, the hot lead linotype machines were essentially still gently smoking, having only recently been replaced by new and better technology.
Reporters were hunched over green screens with white characters, diligently punching in typesetting codes that told a mainframe computer how to render stories and headlines.
Reporters said things like “F1, Delta F Delta Delta,” as they talked to each other about story formats, sounding more like aircraft controllers than journalists.
In a back room next door, more than two dozen compositors waited for strips of “cold type” to come out of a large industrial printer. Long strips of type printed on a special kind of paper were run through a machine that used melted beeswax as an adhesive. Those strips were placed on a paper “flat” the same size and shape of two newspaper pages. Workers used scalpel-like utility knives to slice the text into columns and press them onto thicker pieces of paper.
That process was revolutionary at the time, recently replacing a system where newspapers were produced with “hot type,” where molten metal, usually lead, was injected into a typesetting machine and used in the pre-press process.
A few years later, desktop publishing revolutionized the newspaper world again, and suddenly cold type was consigned to the dustbin of history, with few, if any of us, shedding a tear for its demise.
We were feeling pretty smug about being at the forefront of technology, once again, when the internet happened.
We knew we had to be there.
We registered theprogress.com on July 30, 1997, and brought it online shortly afterwards.
We were ahead of the curve – even the venerable New York Times had only been online for just 18 months.
Moving online immediately made The Progress more competitive. Until then, newspaper journalists have always been a little envious of broadcast news outlets and their ability to break news in real time.
With the flick of a switch, that competitive advantage was gone.
And The Progress’s edge – good, solid, accurate, fair and engaging journalists, began to pay off more and more in the online world.
The Progress now employs veteran multi-media journalists, adept at digital news gathering and publishing on a variety of online platforms.
And Black Press Media over the years has grown into an online community news powerhouse, with the Canadian network getting more than four million unique visitors per month and more than 270 million pageviews annually.
While my time at The Progress is now over, I’m confident that the news organization will continue to publish for generations to come, taking full advantage of any technological change it can.
It was ever thus.
Paul Bucci has been a frequent employee of Black Press Media over the years as a reporter, editor, interim publisher and digital sales and editorial strategist. He was editor of The Progress from 1994 to 1997.