Odd Thoughts: Two great traditions preserved

A little bit of Langley newspaper history from a longtime editor and reporter.

When I started working at the Langley Advance more than 40 years ago, it was pretty much the only game in town.

There was the Fraser Valley News Herald, but it was in slow but steady decline following the unexpected sudden death of its founder, a former employee of the Advance, and by the time I graduated from being a junior reporter to taking on some editing responsibilities, it had ceased publication.

In its day, it had given the Advance serious competition – a situation that Advance publisher Jim Schatz proudly noted had been unique since his start as a reporter at the paper more than three decades before.

In fact, the Advance’s only real competition up to that point had been the Columbian, a New Westminster-based daily that served as a community newspaper up and down the Fraser Valley since 1859. (Interesting fact, the Columbian was originally called the Times.)

It was because the Columbian was published outside of Langley – in New Westminster – that a newly formed group of local business people, the Langley Board of Trade (now the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce) enticed a young printer from Abbotsford to start a newspaper that would be about and operate entirely in Langley.

The Langley Advance’s first edition hit the streets on July 23, 1931, and after a few years of fierce competition with the Columbian – this was in the very depths of the Great Depression, remember – the Advance emerged as Langley’s de facto community newspaper.

And it remained that way, aside from the News Herald and a few lesser blips along the way, until 1981 when the Langley Times emerged on the local scene.

It was not unusual until then for a community to be served by one local newspaper – it was actually the norm, except for an occasional (and often unsuccessful) foray by a newcomer… in other communities.

But things changed in the 1980s. Longstanding community newspapers were being challenged by competition. And the new reality, in Langley as elsewhere, involved two community newspapers, sometimes living as harmoniously as competition for advertising dollars would allow, sometimes at each other’s throats.

Now reality has changed again. Competition has been redefined by the Internet’s information explosion, and most communities enjoy more sources of information, local and beyond, than ever before. And singular print community newspapers are again the norm.

While competition between the Langley Advance and Langley Times got downright fierce from time to time, Langley was lucky that both proved to be exceptional adversaries – both won numerous regional and national awards and accolades for news reporting, feature and opinion writing, photography, and especially, community service.

I’m mostly retired and no longer on the inside, so I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. But I think it’s fitting that the names of two excellent community journals are preserved in the Langley Advance Times.

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