Over the last year, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing a monthly history column highlighting some of Airdrie’s most historic people, places, and things. Some of my favourite topics covered have included the history of the 1928 Nose Creek Bridge to the Elevators, the Airdrie Water Tower, and Western RV’s notorious Western Wayne statue and his right-hand rooster.
Regrettably though, like most good things, my monthly column is coming to an end. I can’t say for sure if our team will ever resurrect a local history column, but for now, we are laying it to rest to make way for a new dawn in both my and the paper’s story.
For my final edition of A View to the Past, I would like to investigate the history of the Airdrie City View – a local paper whose history spans two decades. The timing is perfect, as the paper is celebrating its 20-year anniversary this week.
Though I have only been with the paper for one year, I have witnessed first-hand how the publication has evolved to meet with the changing times, including the shift to accommodate an ever-changing technological landscape and media culture.
The Airdrie City View’s publisher Cameron Christianson started the paper in 2002 after working for a period of time for the Sundre Round Up newspaper between 1998 and 2002. It was at that time when a friend of his – Cochrane resident and local legend Jack Tennant – started up a paper in that town, called the Cochrane Eagle.
According to Christianson, Tennant’s paper stood out in Cochrane as a free periodical competing against a paid one, and it quickly grew in popularity among residents. Similarly, Christianson was inspired to bring a free paper to the bustling bedroom community of Airdrie, where one was lacking at the time.
“We had felt in Airdrie it was a similar market [with] a paid paper with a small circulation and it was quite a growing city,” Christianson said. “We thought Airdrie would be a logical location for a free distribution newspaper.”
Christianson packed his bags and moved to Airdrie shortly thereafter, and found an office space at 213 Main Street. He quickly hired some staff – including reporters, editors, an accountant, and production team – brought in some computers, and started up the newspaper.
He added the highlights of the first six months included finding an office, hiring staff, and getting to know each other – a memorable time for the members who were on the Airdrie City View’s first payroll.
Challenges faced included uncertainty during the first year of business, which brought lots of sleepless nights and long hours to ensure the paper was sent off to the press in time.
The City View quickly outgrew the first location and within a few years, staff were on the hunt for a larger office space to accommodate a growing team. In 2007, the paper moved to its current location on Kingsview Boulevard, where they have remained for the past 15 years.
Shortly after moving to the new location, Great West Newspapers – a newspaper publisher headquartered in St. Albert – purchased the Airdrie City View in the fall of 2008. They merged the existing Rocky View Weekly newspaper together with the Airdrie City View, and Christianson became publisher of both.
Business chugged along for the next decade-plus, and then in 2020, Great West Newspapers purchased Here’s the Scoop from Airdronians Al and Lois Jones, who also joined the team as members of the City View's production and sales staff.
“Al was one of the first people I met [when I moved to Airdrie],” said Christianson. “He had already started his delivery company in Airdrie and he approached me about delivering the newspaper.
“So, it became a good partnership.”
According to Christianson, over the years, being a part of the big things that go on in Airdrie have made starting up the paper and the earlier challenges faced in the first years all the worthwhile.
Memorable events over the years have included Airdrie’s centennial celebrations, the city’s hosting of both the Alberta Winter and Summer Games, and the development of new and improved infrastructure.
“[Along with] working with numerous councils throughout the years and different staff members to [document] the growth of the city going from 20,000 people when I moved here to [74,000 today],” Christianson said.
He added after all this time, he still enjoys interacting with the community, delivering the news, and keeping local readers informed about everything that's going on around town.
“We still value the accurate journalism that we offer,” he said.
With regard to challenges faced over the years, Christianson said the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest hurdle to overcome, along with the loss of advertisers, and economic downturns.
He acknowledged that a continued shift toward doing things online is necessary to keep pace with the changing times in the world of local journalism.
“I understand and I accept the world is going more digital. We have a strong digital component to our paper with the AirdrieToday website,” he said. “We have a lot of followers that go there, and I hope to grow that, and hope people still value the local news.
“People want to be involved and they want to speak out when they can – and following accurate journalism is important.”