Former Comox Valley Record publisher Grant Lawrence has been named the recipient of a prestigious B.C. community newspaper award.
At the Ma Murray Awards on April 26, Lawrence will be presented at the River Rock Casino in Richmond with the BC Housing Eric Dunning Award for Dedication and Service to the Community Newspaper Industry.
“It was a real surprise and it’s certainly appreciated,” Lawrence said Tuesday.
From red On Air signs, to the Yellow Pages, to the Green Sheet (Comox District Free Press), to Black Press – Lawrence’s 47 years in the media industry have been colourful indeed.
It began in the early 1960s at a radio station in Weyburn, Sask., where he was an announcer. A move to Vancouver Island in 1963 included stints with radio stations in Courtenay and Campbell River.
In the mid-’60s Lawrence left the radio station in Campbell River to take a job in sales at the Campbell River Courier newspaper.
In 1970 Lawrence moved to the Lower Mainland, where his career in newspaper sales continued and he also added a job with the Yellow Pages to his resume.
A return to the Island in 1975 saw Lawrence work at the Arrowsmith Star in Parksville before coming to Courtenay to lead the sales department at the Comox District Free Press, dubbed The Green Sheet for the colour of its front and back pages.
After the Green sheet closed, Lawrence joined the Comox Valley Record, a Black Press publication, in 1993. After two years as sales manager, he was named publisher, a post he held until semi-retiring in late-2008.
After working for Black Press from home for a year, he officially retired in 2010, putting an exclamation point on a successful career of media and community involvement.
Record publisher Zena Williams says Lawrence was an “invaluable adviser” for the 18 years she worked at the Record’s sister paper in Campbell River.
“When I was given the opportunity to move to The Record this past July, I was confident that the foundation set by Grant was well-entrenched and on firm ground,” Williams said. “I have no doubt that this award is well-earned, and will be forever grateful to him for always showing integrity and sharing his wisdom.”
Sales manager Joanna Ross, who preceded Williams as publisher, has known Lawrence for upwards of 30 years, 22 of them in the newspaper industry.
“I was fortunate enough to have Grant as both a friend and mentor,” Ross said. “His honesty, reliability and fairness both in business and life were qualities that I have throughout my career, aspired to live up to. ‘Doing the right thing even when no one is looking’ are words that I think best describe Grant, as a publisher and as a person.”
Black Press owner and founder David Black congratulated Lawrence this week for being named the Dunning Award recipient.
Lawrence’s notable newspaper achievements include guiding the Record and the Courier to numerous provincial and national awards, including a 2010 BCYCNA Ma Murray award for General Excellence to the Record.
“It’s been a great 40-plus years to have worked in this industry, and to have seen all of the changes, especially the production changes from when I started when they were still working with hot type,” Lawrence said. “Seeing that progress to where we are today — absolutely amazing.
“But I am a very strong believer that community newspapers are here to stay for a very long time,” added Lawrence, a longtime Kinsmen (now in Kinsmen K-40) and a member of the Courtenay Rotary Club.
He also has a long association with volunteering to assist law enforcement agencies. His many years with Comox Valley Crime Stoppers includes several terms as president.
“He’s always been very involved in the community,” his wife Kathie says.
Now 70 years old, Lawrence has not taken up fishing or golfing in his golden years. However, Kathie notes he took flying lessons when he lived in Campbell River. Could the wild blue yonder be the next hue on Lawrence’s palette?
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The Comox Valley Record is a finalist in three other Ma Murray award categories.
Erin Haluschak is one of three people in the running for the TD Feature Photo Award in the Record’s circulation class for her aerial picture publicizing the 2013 Comox Air Show.
The Record has a chance to receive a Special Publications Award for the winter issue of Trio magazine.
As well, the Record is a finalist for the Safeway Ma Murray Community Service Award for work to publicize the Boys and Girls Clubs’ Christmas Village.
Ma Murray Awards are presented annually by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspaper Association.