Twenty-five years ago, two Nanaimo men took a chance and started a new paper in the Harbour City.
A desire to work in the city they lived in and the chance to start something of their own led Nanaimo News Bulletin founding fathers Roy Linder and Tom Thomas to start what is now a thrice weekly, national award-winning newspaper.
“We were told it couldn’t be done and it just gave us a bigger challenge,” remembers Linder, former publisher.
In the years leading up to co-founding the Bulletin, Linder, who started his career in the newspaper business in Ontario in the 1960s as a salesman and then ad manager, spent six years at the Nanaimo Daily Free Press as ad manager and then did a stint with the Alberni Valley Times before taking a job with the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
From there, he became publisher of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach News, a new paper started by Rollie Rose, then-owner of the Chronicle.
Thomas, the Bulletin’s former sales manager, originally had his eye on the other side of the newspaper business.
He went through BCIT’s broadcast journalism program and then worked at radio stations in Courtenay and Port Hardy before returning to Nanaimo in 1981 to broadcast on weekends for CKEG.
But the part-time radio gig wasn’t enough and Thomas ended up working in the advertising department of the Nanaimo Daily Free Press, where he met Linder. When Linder took the publishing job at the News, he brought in Thomas to replace him at the Chronicle before hiring him as ad manager in Parksville. He spent the next few years selling ads in the region and was hearing from many people that they wanted another paper in Nanaimo.
He and Linder thought that with their combined contacts in the area, they had an opportunity to create something new.
“It was my idea, but I had to recruit somebody else to help me,” said Linder. “Tom was there right from the get-go. We thought we had enough loyalty from the people we knew in the business.”
The pair were going to do it themselves, but with young families to support, they chickened out, said Thomas.
By that time, Rose had sold the company that included the Chronicle and the Parksville-paper to David Black.
So Linder headed to Victoria to propose the idea to George Manning, then vice-president of Island Publishers, which later became Black Press.
“It took some convincing,” he said. “There was a daily here that was 80 years old and then a once or twice – quite successful – weekly.”
Thomas remembers the competition trying to convince him to join them, telling him the Bulletin would be out of business shortly.
“It gave [me] an incentive to do whatever [I] could do to prove them wrong,” he said.
The company was skeptical that a third paper would survive, but Linder and Thomas came back with a business plan and a host of advertisers that had committed to advertising once a week for three months, so the paper would be making money right from the start.
The first Bulletin was a 16-page shopper published May 2, 1988.
Over the years, the paper started to contain more news, editorials and sports and went to a bi-weekly publication in 1994, then a thrice-weekly paper in 2004.
Thomas remembers some long days, especially in the earlier years – he used to say in his 30-year career, he worked about 40 years.
“I’ve always been so proud of Roy and I starting that paper,” he said. “It’s always something special that we did. There’s lots of good memories from clients and staff.”
Linder retired on Dec. 31, 2006 after 18 years with the paper and Thomas left in 2008 to take over as publisher of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach News before retiring in June of 2011.