Categories: 50 Years of Excellence

The family that works together produces a newspaper

The Jamison family are partners in Great West Newspapers

Printer’s ink may run in the Jamison family members’ veins but it’s blood that’s kept them living, loving and working together at the St. Albert Gazette.

“It’s not a job. It’s a life,” said Sandy Jamison, who joined the fray in 1975, when she married Duff.

No other Jamison can remember a time when newspapers didn’t dominate every discussion and every meal.

Ernie and Shirley Jamison were part owners of the Ponoka Herald before purchasing the Gazette in 1966, when siblings Duff and Mary Jamison were in junior high school. Sarah (Jamison) Kosloski was born in St. Albert and the Gazette was always part of her life. Similarly, Evan Jamison, Duff and Sandy’s son, remembers as a small boy, staring in wonder at the waxed strips of paper that were hanging in the old typesetting room, before computer technology simplified that aspect of newspaper production.

“We used to put you in a playpen while we put the paper together,” Sandy remembered.

There was no getting away from the news of the day, ever.

“We were constantly being taught local and world current events; grammar, sentence structure, how to express yourself. That was instilled early on,” Duff recalled.

Family members agree there were perks in having a dad in politics and a mom who was a voracious reader and a journalist.

“I used to get 100 per cent in social [studies]because all the way to the lake, I’d have to recite the premiers of each province or the capital cities,” recalled Sarah.

Duff is now CEO and president of Great West Newspapers; Sandy manages the pre-press department; Evan is assistant plant manager, Sarah is human resources manager, and Mary has retired from her long-time role of sales manager.

When they recall the early days of the paper, family members also remember the long nights when production didn’t finish until after midnight. Then someone had to drive the paper into Edmonton to the printing office. Once it was printed, the paper had to be driven to newsstands and corner stores throughout St. Albert, Morinville and Sturgeon County.

“I remember one time driving to Edmonton at 3 a.m. with the paper, but I had forgotten a whole page Safeway ad. I had to turn around and come all the way back to St. Albert to get it,” said Mary.

For a period in 1978, five Gazette staff members — including typesetter Lorraine Mitchell and Jamison family members — produced a daily newspaper for the Commonwealth Games. It was a marathon achievement that the Jamisons remember with pride.

“It was the wildest time and we did it for 10 days. We’d start the Commonwealth Games paper at 10 p.m. then drive it into Edmonton to be printed and then take it to all the venues, including all the Edmonton hotels by 8 a.m. Then we had to come back and get the Gazette out,” said Duff.

The little Gazette had produced a daily paper but everyone in the family remembers it as a supreme accomplishment.

“We were involved and it was like being in the big time,” said Duff.

As they heard Duff talk about the ‘big time’ everyone in the family laughed, albeit somewhat ruefully.

“Remember when we had one phone in the office and we passed it around when someone phoned to make it appear as if there were more of us. We’d put the phone on hold, say, ‘just a minute’ and then pass it to someone else, as if we were a big newsroom. Oh, we had a lot of fun,” said Sandy.

Of course there was bickering but there was laughter too. The transition from generation to generation was gradual and necessary, the Jamisons agreed, as they recalled that Sandy was the one who finally decreed there would be no discussion of the paper, at least on Christmas Eve.

Even as they gathered for an interview, the paper — today’s paper and today’s advertisers and today’s production — was first. The Jamisons still dine together often. They live near each other. They work together every day and if there is time for fun, they golf together and holiday in the same area, and they probably talk shop when they are there.

“I don’t think a marriage would last if you weren’t working together on the newspaper. There’s such an appreciation of what the other person has to do. No one says, ‘Oh my god! You have to work late! Again!’ Because they know,” said Sandy.

“It’s that ability to work and a bond and trust that we had to have because we are all in it together,” said Duff.

Next spring the Gazette will move to its new building on Carlton Drive and the Jamisons are justifiably proud and excited. The family business has come a long way from those early days on Perron Street in 1966. But as they donned hard hats and pointed to the places where newsroom reporters will grind out the stories and to the place where a new big press will churn out the magical pieces of paper, they couldn’t help but be reflective.

“Imagine what Ernie would say if he saw this,” said Duff. “He would be so pleased!”

Yes, Ernie would be pleased. And Shirley? She’d take out a scrap of paper and tot up the pennies in the coffers to make sure it was a viable business deal. Then she’d write the story.

“Ernie was the salesman. He was passionate about the newspaper,” Sandy said. “But Shirley was the brains behind the business.”

Susan Jones: Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.