The Glengarry News

Reflections on the passing of the owner of The News

sean Apr 26, 2017 - 10:50am
Kevin Macdonald

Technically, Kevin Macdonald was the boss at this paper. But his management style was definitely not bossy. As president of The Glengarry News, the buck ultimately stopped with him. As the principal owner of the business, he had the biggest financial stake in the enterprise. And he loved his paper.

Kevin, as everyone here called him, gave his employees a free rein. He never interfered in the daily operations of the business, nor did he attempt to influence the paper’s content. That hands-off approach bespoke of the confidence he had in his many long-time employees, some of whom have been here at The News for most of their working lives. They knew what had to be done.

“What does the paper look like this week?”

That was how he would start most of our weekly conversations. The talk would briefly involve the outlook for the upcoming publication, how many pages we expected, what promotions we were working on, how the staff was doing. But eventually, our “business” meetings would veer off to cover Shakespeare, civil rights, baseball, The Band, Levon Helm, current events, history.

Worldly, well read, he could intelligently discuss any topic.

When we talked shop, it was clear that Kevin believed in the strength of the community press as a positive force, as a proverbial agent of change. For example, when The News covered the arrival of a Syrian refugee family in Alexandria, he expressed the hope that locals would remember that they were descendants of immigrants, who, like the new Canadians, had come here from afar in search of a life.

Kevin’s people emigrated from the highlands of Scotland in 1786, aboard a ship christened The McDonald.

He was also convinced that our constant harping about the importance of shopping locally was warranted.

Proud of his roots, he also was cognizant of the need to keep moving forward.

Kevin was protective of the archival copies of the paper. At one time, all 125 years of back issues were stored in the basement of our office. Much discussion preceded the transfer of aging, fragile copies from the office for safe and permanent safe-keeping at the Glengarry County Archives. The move came about after Kevin was convinced by archivist Allan J. MacDonald that his precious treasures would be handled carefully and would be protected at the archives.

Kevin was overjoyed when Mr. MacDonald finally located a copy of the very first edition from February 4, 1892, and he was justifiably proud when we reproduced that inaugural paper February 8.

“How many businesses have been around for 125 years?”

Kevin took pride in all of those years, come hell, high water, fire, power outages or deaths in the family, The News always got out. 

Since 2003, Kevin had been principal owner of The News, which was established by his grandfather and had been run by his late father, Eugene, for about three decades. He and his three brothers had been fielding offers since it was announced in January of 2002 that the newspaper would be available for sale.

At the time, Kevin commented: “We had several serious bids to consider. But when it really came down to accepting one of those offers, there was a strong desire within the family not to sever our connection at this time.”

Tradition and loyalty were of paramount importance for Kevin.

During one of our final conversations, we discussed the paper’s 125th-anniversary celebrations. His prime objective was to come up with an appropriate way to show the employees that the company appreciated their dedication.

Kevin had undergone a minor medical procedure but he had said he was looking forward to making the drive from Ottawa to Alexandria.

So naturally, we were all shocked when we learned April 17 that Kevin had passed away. As we came to terms with the sad news, we were assured that there would be no changes at The News, that Kevin’s brothers Neil and Alan will continue the family tradition.

But April 17 was a Monday, a busy production day here. We could grieve a little later, after the paper had been put out. Kevin would have wanted it that way.

Richard Mahoney, publisher of The News