Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Sept. 3 marked a dark day for journalism in southwestern Manitoba after Glacier Media announced that it is permanently shutting down four regional newspapers: the Reston Recorder, Melita New Era, Souris Plaindealer and Deloraine Times & Star.
The news hit Deloraine Times & Star editor Judy Wells especially hard, since she has been single-handedly carrying this publication on her back for around a decade as its only employee.
Talking to the Sun on Sept. 6, Wells reveals how she had to fulfil the role of reporter, editor, photographer and even salesperson throughout that time, which was a simultaneously stressful and rewarding experience.
"It was busy and I had to be resourceful, I guess, but I did like that," she said. "I was definitely my own boss, too, which was nice. As long as the work got done, I could come and go."
Wells originally got into the news business in 1992 as a staff member of the Melita New Era, even though she previously studied social services at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon.
Even without a formal education in journalism, Wells made such a good impression at the New Era that members the Times & Star invited her to join their crew in Deloraine that, in 1999, consisted of five people.
However, over the years, the Times & Star staff eventually got whittled down to just Wells herself, but she was determined to keep the paper alive despite the persistent cuts in resources.
After all, the paper was first established back in 1887, making it one of the oldest continuous businesses in the area.
Even with this impressive legacy to live up to, Wells said she thoroughly enjoyed covering news in Deloraine for more than 20 years, especially if the stories involved local students, sports, arts or veterans.
And despite her status as a one-woman show at the Times & Star, Wells said she could always rely on members of the community to supply story ideas or provide her with feedback when it became time to pick a front-page photo.
"I worked in an office with some lawyers, in the same building, so I would often take the photos over to them and say ‘what do you guys think?’"
Wells revealed that her fellow "Corner Pocket" publications from Reston, Melita and Souris also served as a good source of sharable news content and professional camaraderie, which makes their closure earlier this month even more tragic.
"I did depend on them for moral support," she said. "Just even a phone call where I said ‘I don’t know what to do about this’ and they would say ‘oh, you can try such and such.’"
Despite all her hard work, Wells figured the writing was on the wall for the Times & Star back in the spring, when Glacier suspended their publication of it and the other "Corner Pocket" papers due to the economic uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since April, I held out hope the entire time that it would open again," she said. "But in my heart I kind of knew closure was a big possibility."
Thankfully, Wells revealed on Sept. 10 that she’s been hired on as a reporter for the nearby Boissevain Recorder, and will try to maintain all her regular beats through that community publication.
Additionally, editor Lorraine Houston told the Sun that she’s thinking of expanding the Recorder’s regional coverage to help fill the void that was left by all the recent Glacier Media closures.
But whatever the future holds, the last editor of the Times & Star is still immensely proud of everything she has accomplished working for this 133-year-old paper, including all the personal connections she has made along the way.
"I do consider it a privilege to bring the local news to everybody, to attend all the local events and be part of their lives," she said.
The Deloraine Times & Star first began appearing on newsstands in November 1887, although it was originally known as the Deloraine Weekly Times and Turtle Mountain and Souris River Gazette.
» Twitter: @KyleDarbyson
As we navigate through unprecedented times, our journalists are working harder than ever to bring you the latest local updates to keep you safe and informed.
Now, more than ever, we need your support.
Starting at $4.99/month you can access your Brandon Sun online and full access to all content as it appears on our website.Subscribe Now
or call circulation directly at (204) 727-0527.
Your pledge helps to ensure we provide the news that matters most to your community!