Question sold to Central Canada chain Bowes Publishers buys WestMount Press By Chris Woodall The Whistler Question newspaper has been sold to Bowes Publishers, itself part of a mega-newspaper chain. As one of 19 weekly newspapers owned by WestMount Press Ltd., based in Cochrane, Alta., the Question becomes part of a much larger newspaper empire stretching across the Prairies and throughout Ontario. The announcement came from Bowes Publishers Ltd., based in London, Ont., operator of several city and farming magazines in that area. The purchase price has not been disclosed, says a press release from Sun Media Group. Bowes is owned by the Toronto Sun, which in turn is part of the Sun Media Group, self-described as the second-largest daily newspaper group in Canada. It has five large city dailies (including the Sun family in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa), five smaller dailies, 80 weekly community newspapers and shopping guides in Canada and Florida, and 17 farming and other specialty publications. Question staff were told of the sale Wednesday morning, Feb. 11. Publisher Bryce McGregor told his employees the sale takes effect in April. It will be business as usual with no changes in staffing as a result of the sale, according to McGregor. McGregor was telephoned several times by Pique Newsmagazine for comment, but did not return any calls. A rumour had been circulating for the past two weeks that the Question was up for grabs, along with the Squamish Chief and the Lillooet News. "I'm surprised, but I'm not surprised," says Paul Burrows. He founded the Question back in 1976 with the stated aim to report on Whistler's news. Burrows maintains a weekly column in the Question. Burrows sold the paper to Glenda Bartosh in the early 1980s, who then sold it to Bob Doull in the mid-1980s, his first newspaper buy. Doull has been busy since then, buying up weeklies in this area as well as at Revelstoke, Banff, Canmore, and into southern Alberta. "I am delighted that our newspapers will be acquired by Bowes," Doull, WestMount's president, said in a release. WestMount Press says it has a total paid circulation of 73,000 among its 19 papers, giving it an average 3,842 weekly circulation. Pique Newsmagazine, by comparison, publishes 9,000 copies every Friday that are distributed free throughout Whistler as well as Pemberton, Mount Currie, downtown Greater Vancouver and Squamish. The WestMount purchase solidifies Bowes's position in Alberta, where it has several weeklies, but most importantly, the purchase gives it a foothold in British Columbia, says Bill Dempsey, CEO of Bowes Publishers. "If it means the survival of the newspaper, I'm happy," Burrows says. The Question is unionized as a local of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, based in Vancouver. The Labour Relations Act section dealing with successorship says the collective agreement transfers to new owners. "There's no question there's been some tension between staff and management," Burrows observes. "If the purchase means that management will get along better with staff, I approve of the sale." There are some pitfalls to a massive newspaper chain owning a local newspaper, Burrows says. "In a chain there's a tendency just to move people in. They'll have to watch that. They have to keep a hands-on approach and keep some continuation," Burrows says. "I'm concerned that the chain keeps a home-grown hands-on attitude that Whistler requires. As the newspaper's founder, Burrows sees the purchase as part of the times. "I think (the recent purchase) is part of the rationality of all businesses," Burrows says. "If the big boys have decided that it's worth buying, then the (WestMount) chain must be doing well. "The integrity of the newspaper, and reporting the news of Whistler, is more important than who owns the Question," Burrows says.