Remembering Chetwynd’s former newspaper

Archival efforts are underway by the Chetwynd Public Library Association to preserve the town’s newspaper, which sadly closed its doors in 2016 – a publication responsible for chronicling 57 years of local history. 
A wooden Welcome to Chetwynd sign with carved wooden bears.
Welcome to Chetwynd sign. (District of Chetwynd, Facebook)

CHETWYND, B.C. — Archival efforts are underway by the Chetwynd Public Library Association to preserve the town’s newspaper, which sadly closed its doors in 2016 — a publication responsible for chronicling 57 years of local history. 

Plans have been made to create a digital archive of The Echo online, allowing everyone to access the pages from virtually anywhere, with the ability to search keywords — making the paper and the history inside its pages even more accessible. 

Former Echo publisher and editor, Naomi Larsen, said it was a sad day for the Chetwynd community when they closed, but she was proud to have been at the helm of the homegrown newspaper. 

“I definitely, definitely miss that whole environment, and I miss being able to go out in the community as much as I did,” Larsen said, noting that she enjoys liaising in her role as the executive director for the local chamber of commerce. 

It was the chamber who started the newspaper back in 1959, she explained. Covering local beats and treating them with equal importance was essential to her role. 

“The seniors holding a spaghetti dinner to raise funds was just as important to have as the construction of the new municipal building or the kids doing fundraising at schools or their Christmas concerts,” Larsen said. “All that equal importance within our task because it’s such a small town, and everybody knows everybody.” 

The last issue was in January of 2016 and was a send-off to both the paper and the community, noted Larsen. 

“It was basically a farewell to community type of issue, where we had letters from community members, we had memories and flashbacks,” she said. “We kind of kept it like the normal issue of the week, but also the final issue of the last 60 years.” 

Larsen said she’s happy to see the newspaper being preserved through the public library, a natural fit for The Echo. 

“I hear a lot from seniors, and I hear a lot from people, they miss the newspaper,” Larsen said, who gets frequent questions about whether she’d be interested in starting another local paper. 

Larsen got her start in journalism at the Dryden Express in her home province of Ontario before coming to The Echo as a reporter in 1996. 

She then moved on to work for newspapers in Creston, Sparwood, and Fernie but returned in 2006 and shortly became both editor and publisher, holding those roles until the closure in 2016. 

Mike Carter was the last reporter to come through their doors, said Larsen, with the publication unexpectedly closing not long after.

The Chetwynd Public Library has been safekeeping the massive 49,089-page collection since the paper closed, ensuring its immense social value is available for the public to browse.  

Both the hospital foundation and the local figure skating club are celebrating 50 years, and are two of many organizations wanting to explore the town’s past through the newspaper, noted Library Director Melissa Millsap, with residents often coming to browse the pages for family connections, important historical events, and more. 

Looking after the materials and getting ready to have them archived has been a team effort, added Millsap, with Assistant Director Kyla MacDonald very involved with the initiative. 

MacDonald says the archived papers are well-loved by the community and an opportunity to socialize. 

“We have long-time community members that just come to just have a peek, and if not, they’re sitting there and catching up. They are getting looked at all the time,” she said. 

The newspapers will be shipped to an archival service, as there are no local facilities with scanning tools suitable to meet the needs of the materials being scanned. They’ll be sent to the World Archives to be processed, which will host them on their website in addition to the library’s. 

“We thought at first we could just scan them, but that was very difficult, time-consuming, there was potential for pages to get lost,” said Millsap. 

Grant funding for the archival work has been requested through the Peace River Regional District, asking for $26,218.56, which Area E has agreed to fund. Another half is expected to come from the District of Chetwynd – the total cost to create the digital archive is $53,113.13. 


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