After 43 years behind the scenes at The Free Press, Bonny McLardy is retiring.
You might not see her picture in print (by design), but McLardy’s name has been there on page six for a very long time.
McLardy began at the newspaper in 1979 at the front desk, before moving into production where she was part of a team that created ads and laid out the newspaper every production day. Today, (until October 21), she’s The Free Press’s long-time production manager, designing ads for clients.
When asked how different it was working at the newspaper in 2022 vs. 1979, McLardy said the big difference was the number of people.
“In my department in ‘79 there were five people doing cut and paste, running around in circles around layout tables.
“The editors typed out stories, then we had to type them into compugraphic typesetting machines…. they were typed on photographic paper and then we had to develop that paper, and when they did a dummy (layout sheet), the editor (Lloyd Phillips at the time) would indicate what stories went where,” she described of the elaborate process, which involved fitting everything together to bring all the news of the week together into one paper.
Despite all the work, McLardy said production was pretty quick. “During our layout day there were three or four people working on pages, we had to put the pages on the bus (to be printed in Nelson at the time), so we could never be late.”
The biggest change and most interesting part of her job was the technology, from manual input machines to the computers of today.
“When we started with cut and paste the compugraphic machines were really big. When you were doing creative you couldn’t see it on the screen, it was just a string of letters, when you did point sizes it was just a tab that you flicked, and you wouldn’t see the actual size until it was developed. We had graphic books where you looked for artwork and cut them out and pasted them.
“After we used compugraphic machines we started with one Macintosh computer, and we had to share it with editorial.”
These days, her work is all on one computer, and she does the work of a department in ‘79. Today The Free Press directly employs five people, and when McLardy started it was more than 15.
Ownership of The Free Press changed three times while McLardy was employed at it. She began at the paper when it was independent and community owned, and stayed on when it was bought by Hollinger, then switched to Glacier, and most recently bought by Black Press in 2010.
McLardy said that the experience working under The Free Press had been completely different when it was independent. “It was way more part of the community than when it was bought. It was first bought by Hollinger, and it was what it was, but it definitely changed.
“We went through so many editorial people, it was hard to keep editorial people because most of them came from the east. They’d come out here, and then go on to something else.”
Over her 43 years at the newspaper (and yes, only the one newspaper in her career in media), she said she’s worked with well over a hundred people.
“I’ve worked with at least 12 different publishers, and of course editors are probably twice as many if not more, and reporters twice as many again.”
McLardy said that what kept her at the same newspaper through the 43 years was the ever-changing nature of her work.
“Even though I was always in creative, each ad is different, technology changes and that has always been interesting.”
When asked if she’d miss the work, McLardy said she had mixed feelings about stepping away from something she enjoyed, but that she needed a break after so long to focus more on her personal life.
McLardy said she believed there was still a place for print and local news.
“I think people would be sad if they didn’t have a local newspaper … I think if they didn’t have a local newspaper they’d notice. Even though there’s stuff on Facebook and everywhere else, they still know the newspaper is credible because it has to look at facts and talk to people, it’s not just hearsay.”
McLardy’s home is here in Fernie, so she said she wasn’t going anywhere in her retirement. “I’d like to thank all my amazing co-workers over the years, and Fernie for being the great community that it is.”
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