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Sylvan Lake News Publisher caps off nearly 30 years in newspapers

Sylvan Lake News and Eckville Echo Randy Holt has been serving multiple communities throughout Alberta
Happy Retiree - Randy Holt finished off a near 30 year career in newspapers in December. (L-R) Todd Vaughan

Since the Fall of 1989 retiring Black Press Publisher for the Sylvan Lake News and Eckville Echo Randy Holt has been serving multiple communities throughout Alberta in the newspaper publishing industry.

His journey began with a simple hockey locker room chat between friends after a game, when he was employed as a manager for the Central Alberta Co-op.

“We played hockey together and in the dressing room after a game he asked me If I was interested in the newspaper industry and I said ‘I’ll take a look at it’,” Holt said. “I ended up working for the Central Alberta Advisor.”

Holt at the time was looking for a reprieve from the evenings and weekend work that was required of him at Co-op. What he probably didn’t realise at the time was that his new job with newspapers would begin a near 30-year career serving many Albertan communities including Red Deer, Rimbey, Canmore, Sylvan Lake, Castor, Stettler and Eckville.

While much of his career would be spent in advertising and sales, Holt would also have a short stint for the Central Alberta Life as a weekly columnist.

“Back then I had quite a bit of interest in rodeo so I wrote a weekly column for a period of time,” Holt said. “That appeared in the Central Alberta Life and I got to interview a lot of Canadian Champions back in the day. It was fun.”

Holt spent most his career forging relationships with community members and clients to help produce accurate publications that told the story of the communities they represented. In this time, Holt hopes that the people remember him as “honest, straight forward and up front with details.” An honest character that assuredly allowed him to travel throughout Canada selling National Ads for Alberta.

“I used to do national sales for the Alberta division of Blackpress,” Holt said. “I would travel to Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg and meet with national clients such as Sears and Wal-Mart.”

Since 1989, Holt has had a unique an encompassing view of how the newspaper industry has changed. Holt remembered one of the first changes he saw, which included loading times that would seem archaic by todays standards.

“I remember back at the Advisor when we got our first fax machine,” Holt said. “Back then, you used to have proof all ads for clients and then fax machines allowed us to send out proofs in that way. We got our first electronic ad sent from Loblaws that was sent by a modem system that took hours to download.”

He added that at the time new technology seemed novel and helpful and that most people didn’t see how It could negatively affect the industry as online advertising in some ways has.

“Back then we didn’t see it,” Holt said. “It made our life easier and at that time.”

Once publications started to realise they needed to adapt the changing online climate of publishing, Blackpress entrusted Holt as one of the first ‘New Media Managers’. The issues that Holt faced at that time are still keenly relevant today.

“Online was the Number 1 challenge and it probably still is today,” he said, adding that “another struggle for large media corporations is that they are up against things like Facebook, who may not have much skin in the game but are distributing and aggregating news.”

During his time in the industry, one of the most rewarding things for Holt was the relationships he gained.

“Getting to meet people,” he said. “I was able to make a lot of friends and the last few weeks I have heard from lots of people that I have dealt with over the years. The staff that you work with day in and day out has been the most rewarding.”

Another rewarding aspect of Holt’s career was the communities he worked with and served. Holt was always pleased to see how smaller centers embraced their newspaper as their own.

“In the local papers - they really take their local paper to heart and appreciate it,” he said. “They see it as theirs and they take ownership of it. I appreciated that more after looking after other communities.”

Holt doesn’t believe he would do things any differently and would advise his younger self to stay the course with the newspaper industry.

“I had no idea that would take me into the roles that I did - going out and servicing communities,” Holt said. “Just have an open mind to what possibilities are out there.”

Holt is keeping his future plans close to his chest, however he does plan to take the Winter off before he starts something completely different in the Spring.

Thank you Randy for years of service from all of us at the Eckville Echo and Sylvan Lake News and good luck with your future endeavors.