30 years at the helm: Sproule on her time at The Review

Par Antoine Messier
30 years at the helm: Sproule on her time at The Review
Après plus de 30 ans à la tête du Review Newspaper, Louise Sproule a décidé qu'il était temps de mettre les voiles et de quitter le journalisme. (Photo : Antoine Messier, EAP)

After more than 30 years at the helm of The Review, Louise Sproule decided it was time to set sail and depart from journalism. On May 1, long-time journalist James Morgan and another partner, Stephen Yantzi, became co-publishers and owners of The Review.

Sproule started working at The Review in the mid 1970s when still attending Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute. The Review was for its ex-owner not only a business and a career, but a sort of alma mater where she learned the tools of the trade.

As a teenager, Sproule dreamed of becoming a writer so she decided to apply to the publication, previously situated at 41 High Street in Vankleek Hill. She had to apply not once but three times before the owner at the time, Jean Paul Boyer, finally hired her.

Although she dreamt of becoming a writer, she explains she didn’t have the confidence to write. Her time at the Review was spent learning page design, correcting articles, working the reception, and acquiring every skill necessary to run a newspaper.

In 1977, Sproule left The Review to go to university where she studied psychology, returning in 1992 after seeing an advertisement announcing a job opening at The Review – instead of taking up the job offer, she bought the paper right in time for its 100th anniversary.

Time as owner

Sproule recalls covering many important topics in her time as owner, one of which being the Ice Storm of 1998.

“It’s like the world came to halt,” said Sproule.

Sproule explains that the newspapers were the only source of local information at the time, as the internet was still in its early stages, long before the invention and adoption of social media. She decided to use the newspaper’s company van to give water and food, and, most importantly, circulate the newspaper to shelters where electricity was taking longer to come back for people to be informed. She also recalls publishing government forms for urgent relief for people in need to apply.

Other topics she remembers having an impact on her career as a journalist are the Lemieux Landslide in 1993, the closure of the CIP, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personal tragedies and death were topics she said she had more difficulty covering, but also a subject with which local papers can make the biggest difference. Sproule recalls with teary eyes discussing with the family of a man with Lou Gehrig’s disease and helping with the organisation of a fundraiser for accessible housing, or receiving letters from the widow of a man who died in car accident asking for traffic lights to be installed at a dangerous intersection.

The future of local journalism

Sproule explains she has seen many changes in the field of local journalism since the early 1980s. “There are more ways to get information, but people are less connected” she said.

She believes with the advent of social and mass media, many people have forgotten the importance of local newspapers and independent journalism, adding that local papers are the closest to people’s realities.

Paired with an increased distrust in news media and journalism, it has become harder for local news organisations to stay afloat, according to Sproule. She explains newspapers can only have as many pages as there are ads, and journalists need to be paid.

“Local papers need to offer something people can’t get somewhere else,” she said. “For the first time in 50 years, papers have to convince readers to subscribe.”

Though Sproule said there is a danger for local journalism, she believes people are starting to realize the importance of local news again.

She added that newspaper companies may need to find diverse sources of income such as a printing press, ads, flyers, online revenues and book publishing to stay alive in the current journalistic landscape.

The next steps

After just a few days of being free from her position of editor and publisher of The Review, she says it feels strange to not be a journalist anymore.

“I still see stories everywhere,” she said. “I still recommend stories to the new owners.”

Sproule wants to stay involved in the community. She will be organizing the first Christmas home tour since 2019 in Vankleek Hill in early November.  She will also be helping organize a new event called Fiber Frolic, a gathering of artisans selling clothing, knitting and other handmade products in Vankleek Hill next fall.

Sproule is also part of the Vankleek Hill Business and Merchant Association, the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society which organises the Vankleek Hill Fair, and Co-chair of the Higginson Tower Committee. She has also started practicing real-estate three years ago, and will continue her career in real-estate.

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