Gazette history minute

Looking back and moving forward

The North Island Gazette is the North Island’s longest-running newspaper with a deep history more than 50 years long.

Over the years we have published thousands of stories — celebrating the North Island’s many successes and the news and views you’d expect from a vibrant community such as ours.

And 50 years ago, you can bet our founding publisher had never heard of a pixel or Google, but now our stories are being read online tens of thousands of times per month, with more than 30,000 page views in the last month alone.

Since moving to our new location, we at the North Island Gazette have been looking through old documents uncovered in the move and reflecting on where we came from.

Before the Gazette existed, there was the Hardy Bay News that first published in 1913. However, the Hardy Bay news might not have been a newspaper at all.

It was published in Vancouver, and distributed in Port Hardy. It had all the appearances of a news paper, local and international news, advertisements, however, it had ties to an alleged group of real estate swindlers who were trying to lure people to the area by claiming it was a pastoral paradise.

The North Island Gazette on the other hand, has been a family and community centred business even before it was known as the North Island Gazette.

In 1946, Ron Shuker, an Alert Bay merchant with a tremendous sense of community responsibility, began a publication called the Pioneer Journal, which he published regularly until his death in 1960. His widow and two sons, Ronald and Reginald, continued the publication until 1963.

Two years later, the Alert Bay Board of Trade asked Neville Shanks, who was the editor of the Campbell River Courier, to move to the community and begin a publication called the North Island Gazette.

They eventually moved the paper to Port Hardy once the commercial centre of the North Island shifted from Alert Bay due to new roads and a change in economic activity.

Neville Shanks worked as the publisher and editor, his wife Regina was the advertising manager, and his son Roland was business manager and photographer. The physical printing of the paper was even looked after by the Shanks other son, Hugh.

In 1974, Neville Shanks was bought out by his son Roland and his partner Ross Mavis. The two men left a rich legacy behind them.

They were the founding members of the kinsmen club, which helped set up ambulance service to the community and it was Mavis who designed the half eaten carrot to accompany their open page letter to the minister of highways, campaigning for the completion of the highway.

Shanks was staring out the window at the Gazette Office on 7305 Market Street when he noticed a kid struggling to start the outboard motor on his skiff, and ran down to help the boy. The engine kicked in and the rescuers arrived just in time. Whenever anyone commented on Shanks habit of staring out the window, he would comment “I’m just keeping my eye out for rescue work.”

The Gazette is proud to continue our legacy of being a strong presence in the communities throughout the North Island.

What are your favourite memories of the North Island Gazette? Email us at editor@northislandgazette.com to tell us your story.

– With files from Paper Trails: A history of British Columbia &Yukon Community Newspapers