Rick O’Connor, president and CEO of Black Press Media spoke on the importance of supporting local business – including the media – during his keynote address to the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce on June 23. (Contributed image)

Local business and journalism ‘more important than ever’ – Black Press CEO

Rick O' Connor addresses virtual AGM of South Surrey-White Rock Chamber of Commerce

The idea of shopping locally is more important than ever as businesses continue to work to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That was the message from keynote speaker Rick O’ Connor, CEO and president of Black Press Media addressing an online annual general meeting of the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce on June 23.

And part of that, he said, is supporting local newspapers in each community to avoid “news deserts” – particularly in smaller communities which rely on local journalists to tell their stories.

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He shared with meeting participants that Black Press Media is Canada’s largest privately-owned community media organizations, operating more than 150 media businesses in Canada and the US, including local publications serving more than 80 communities in B.C. – the Peace Arch News among them.

“Our primary source of revenue in Canada is advertising,” he said. “While print advertising still works very well, there is a perception that ‘print is fading, digital advertising is growing’.

“While that is a true statement in terms of numbers, the fact is that our digital transformation gives local advertisers a quality of audience in print and digital platforms that has seen exponential growth. No other media provide the audience quality and reach that comes with our media platforms.”

O’Connor said that even with a digital restructuring of the business and, now, a pandemic, “I’m pleased to report that we are still standing and returning to economic health as our business community begins to open up.”

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Shop-local promotions have been a cornerstone of the community news business for as long as he has been in the industry O’Connor said, in response to a question from outgoing chamber president Adam Smith.

“Through this pandemic, the one thing that struck me is that shopping local is more important than ever, he said

“The supply chains that we do have are very complicated, and the best supply chain is a local supply chain.”

During the meeting the chamber’s new board of directors were also elected for the 2020 to 2021 term which begins on July 1.

President is Patricia Lapeña, BC Regional Director of LegalShield, while vice president is Stewart Peddemors, Realtor and Owner of PREC RE/MAX Colonial Pacific Realty.

Secretary is Grace Cleveland of Cleveland Doan LLP, while Tingting Chi, manager of Private Company Services, PwC was elected treasurer.

Among directors are: Peter Adams, owner of White Rock Beach Beer Company; retired banker Bob Bezubiak; Grady Flinn, CEO and founder of Flinnwest Solutions Inc.; Shelley Grenier, general manager of Oceana PARC; Linda Holmes, investment advisor and financial planner for RBC Dominion Securities Inc.; Ramona Kaptyn, chair of CARP White Rock/Surrey Chapter 11 and Beth Kish, executive director of Peace Arch Hospice Society.

Also elected as directors are: Ernie Klassen, owner of Ashberry & Logan; Kendelle Pollitt, of Pier Law and Mediation; Peace Arch News publisher Dwayne Weidendorf and Maria Zhou, small business account manager for TD Canada Trust.


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