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Celebrating 115 years: sharing stories with a past publisher
Living in the Elk Valley for over 20 years, Cindy Gallinger has worked several different influential jobs within Fernie, Sparwood, and Elkford. She has spent time working at the mines, served on City Council, and gone on to launch her own interior design business, Designs by Cindy.
Proving herself to be a successful business woman within the community, Gallinger also worked as the publisher of The Free Press from 1993 to 1998.
Originally working for Kootenay Promotions out of The Free Press basement part-time, Gallinger didn’t have much experience in the newspaper business. When the publisher at the time left, she was asked if she would consider taking over the position.
“I said, ‘well I really don’t know anything about papers and the newspaper business’, which I didn’t,” explained Gallinger. “But I thought it would be a challenge and I’d like to try, so I did.”
She went on to say, “It was a steep learning curve, but fortunately the people that were there, who had been there for quite a while, they knew what to do. So they taught me.”
It was not an easy job and Gallinger had taken on the position at a tough time.
“The paper had kind of gone down,” she said. “Together with all the staff we had, we resurrected it, and I think it was a pretty good paper.
“We covered as much local news as we possibly could, including at the time with the courthouse, covering court.”
Including residents’ names in the court stories the paper published became a controversial issue, and it wasn’t the only struggle Gallinger dealt with.
“That’s when the strikes were happening. It was painful, you couldn’t give an ad away because nothing was happening with all of the businesses.
“The Elkview mine at that time, they were locked out. That were a lot of people who were out of work. Fording River had been on strike for eight months, and they had just gone back to work. Then the Greenhills mine were picketing Fording River, and then the teachers went on strike. It was just a lot going on. It was a challenge that’s for sure.”
Gallinger began writing editorials about the ongoing strike action and how it was affecting the community. Her editorials resulted in plenty of feedback, the majority of it negative, and The Free Press office even saw some picketers outside its doors.
But that didn’t stop Gallinger from voicing her opinions. She remarked, “I still continued to write editorials, I had fun with it.”
While the job certainly had its challenges, Gallinger said it wasn’t without its perks.
“The best part for me over the years, was the people I worked with,” she commented. “We worked together, but Friday nights we’d get together afterwards and we did a lot of fun things together too. It was a really good group.”
Today, Gallinger continues to run Designs by Cindy and also works as a representative for Budget Blinds. She is still actively contributing to the Elk Valley as president of the Elkford Chamber of Commerce and a board member for Columbia Basin Trust.