I grew up in a small town in southern Quebec, pre-Internet, pre-college radio, pre-anything, but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on our local newspaper each week. Local politics, gossip and strange news that was dismissed as an amusing curiosity by my Grandparents. Where else would we find out who got arrested at the local watering-hole or whose lawn-ornaments were missing that week?
Even though large newspapers are losing money, the local weekly small-town newspapers still manage to survive. Why? Because the local population depends on their weekly words and supports them. But who in their right mind starts a newspaper these days and lives to tell? Let me introduce you to the Riendeaus.
Over a decade and a half ago Rob and Kris Riendeau had a dream. A dream of a newspaper that carried arts, entertainment and ideas serving the the communities west of Ottawa. Their newspaper, called theHumm, would feature articles on upcoming events and a comprehensive calendar for the communities of Almonte, Carleton Place, Perth, Westport, Arnprior, Smiths Falls and Lanark Highlands in Ontario, Canada.
Rob, the former techie and his wife, former teacher Kris, banded with three other families and began theHumm with no more than spit and a BIC pen in 1998. Immediate reception to the new paper was not great as no one could seem to figure out why they needed a second newspaper in town. After all, the Almonte Gazette had it all down pat, or did they? With newcomers moving into town they were not only bringing their families but also their artistic talents to blend with the original townsfolk. Suddenly, there was a tsunami of entertainment that needed to be covered as well as Almonte’s burgeoning puppet community.
The first newspaper was born with four local advertisers on a back page that a few still support them to this day. Running a newspaper is difficult and time consuming and their partners soon realized that they could no longer spare time away from their families, so Kris and Rob took over and never looked back.
The first few issues were done by hand and printed on legal sheets and basically used the technology of old newspapers. Eventually, the paper grew big enough to print their newspaper at Performance Printing where other local papers are printed. What’s nice to hear is that the printing company treats them like they are rock stars and in today’s day and age that is to be commended.
Don’t think running a newspaper is easy and forget all those ads you see on the internet. The Riendeaus have to go out and connect with the community and sell ads to business people who want to reach potential customers in the area served by their paper. Mix that with interviews, changing ads, building new ads, and other things that pile up through the month. They also need time to produce the articles, arrange the material on the pages: placing articles, ads, photos, and other items of interest. Bill Gates once said: “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow” and theHumm is now expanding their website in the near future to reach more readers.
There is no way this paper can be run by two people and that is where Rona comes in. What is “a Rona” you ask? After speaking with her for awhile last week I’m still not sure, but she definitely runs circles around me without batteries. Rona is what I would call my worst nightmare as she is a stickler for details. While I was writing this article my word program crashed and I figured it was Rona sending me telepathic messages to do it over and get it right.
This ‘jack of all trades’ is also responsible for the monthly community calendar. I don’t know if she has 6th sense or she sees dead people, but she is just like Santa. Santa knows when you are sleeping and Rona knows when you have submitted the wrong information to theHumm. Just because Rob has the biggest MAC computer screen in the office– does that make him the “big fish” of theHumm pond? I left their offices knowing what was really going on, right Rona? Hummmmm….:)
The deadline crunches at the end of each month are brutal and finally it’s off to see the printer. Then Rob and Kris load the finished newspapers into their car and start the two-day, 500 KM journey of delivering them to the retail establishments, restaurants etc. that agree to carry them. There is no doubt in my mind the duo go above and beyond to anyone that supports their paper. Rob is the inner mechanic like The Wizard of Oz that keeps theHumm humming and Kris is the heart and soul of the newspaper. Add a gallon of enthusiasm and you know why the paper has become an important part of the community.
It has been said many times that a streak of rose quartz runs under the small town of Almonte where theHumm headquarters exists. The stone is believed to bring comfort to the aggrieved, alleviate depression, cure migraines and headaches and bring release from addictions. Could it be the rose quartz that makes theHumm so popular? No, the only way for newspapers to meet the competition of radio and television is simply to get out better papers and that is what theHumm does. It gives the public what they want with dedication, talent, and so much love.
“Respect the deadline!”- Kris Riendeau Hansen
Tilting the Kilt, Vintage Whispers from Carleton Place by Linda Seccaspina is available at Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street, the Carleton Place Beckwith Museum in Carleton Place, Ontario and The Mississippi Valley Textile Mill in Almonte. available on all Amazon sites (Canada, US, Europe) and Barnes and Noble