Don Kendall has no shortage of good memories after more than four decades in journalism.
“I was fortunate to have a career that covered a lot of different aspects of the business. I was continually learning,” said Kendall. “They say that ink gets in your blood, and I think I am the living proof of it.”
Kendall, a former publisher of the Penticton Western News and a longtime member of the Black Press team, is being honoured with the Eric Dunning Award for Dedication and Service to the Community Newspaper Industry at this year’s B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Awards.
Kendall started working at weeklies in circulation and sports writing while he was still in school. From 1973 to 1988, Kendall worked for Thomson Newspapers, before co-founding the Vernon Morning Star and becoming a publisher when he was 34.
“A highlight I will never forget was in June 1988, when I watched the first edition of the Vernon Morning Star come off the press. That will always be stuck in my mind,” said Kendall.
The paper sold to Black Press in 1989, with Kendall continuing as the publisher through to 1997.
“Twice we were the runner-up for the Canadian Community Newspaper Association award for best all-around paper in Canada,” said Kendall. “It was one of the most successful community newspapers in the country. That was a great thing to be part of.”
With Black Press, Kendall held a number of positions: publisher, regional manager, vice president and president for a variety of divisions. That included two stints as publisher of the Penticton Western News, first in 2003 when Black Press purchased the paper, and again in 2013 until his retirement in 2015. He also supported the industry as a member of the BCYCNA board from 1996-2000, with the last two years as president of the organization.
Over the years, Kendall was involved in a number of startups and acquisitions for Black Press, including a post as interim publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and 18 months in Washington State as vice-president of Sound Publishing. During that time 13 community newspapers were acquired or started in the King County area.
”More than anything, he’s been a great ambassador for our papers,” said Rick O’Connor, president and chief executive officer of Black Press, adding that Kendall deserved to be honoured for his achievements. “This is a terrific award for him. He truly deserves it.“
Kendall said it was rewarding to go in and work with the teams in various markets and bring them on board.
“Some newspapers that were either struggling or for a variety of reasons that weren’t successful, we were able to go in and make them a vibrant part of the community,” he said.
Another moment that remains etched in Kendall’s memory came when he was the publisher of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, which Black Press acquired in 2000.
“Being in Hawaii, being a publisher of a major American daily on 9/11 was a period I will never forget,” said Kendall. “Our paper put out three editions that day, and we had the first edition on the street about 10 a.m., Hawaii time.”
But for Kendall, being in the journalism industry was about more than covering the big events.
“I really enjoyed being out meeting people in the community. I never was a manager who spent a lot of time behind my desk or spent a lot of time doing reports. I enjoyed being out, meeting people and working with the staff,” said Kendall. “As time went on, I learned to appreciate that even more. It’s pretty hard to find the pulse of the community when you are sitting behind your desk in your office. I always felt that if you want to find out what your readers are thinking, go ask them.
“That was one of my philosophies that worked well for me. Everybody has their own style, and I certainly had my own style.”
Another part of Kendall’s “style” is his involvement in the community.
“Giving back to where you live and work is important. In Vernon, I was president of the Kalamaka Rotary Club, I was a Paul Harris Fellow, I was named as Vernon’s Good Guy of the year. I’ve worked on numerous boards and charities over the years,” said Kendall, who is president of the Penticton Peach Festival, the largest free festival in Canada, a position he has held for the last nine years.
He has also been a member of Penticton’s Economic Development Committee, and the advisory committee for the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Kendall said the people he worked with and met through the papers played a role in why he stayed with the industry.
“I really had the pleasure of working with some great people and meeting with a lot of people in the communities over the years. That made it rewarding,” he said.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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