Red Deer Advocate publisher Mary Kemmis, who is also president of the Prairie division of Black Press Media, is returning to her roots in British Columbia.
Kemmis was recently appointed to the position of vice-president of the company’s BC North division.
Kemmis will be based in Terrace with direct focus on all aspects of the Terrace, Prince Rupert and Kitimat papers and revenue development for BC North.
“I’m leaving because of an opportunity to work where I grew up, where my family is, came up,” said Kemmis who grew up on a farm near Smithers, B.C.
But she said in many ways it will be hard to leave central Alberta.
“I certainly enjoyed getting to know people in central Alberta. I have really grown to appreciate the fierce independence.”
And she will miss driving through Alberta’s countryside.
“I have really enjoyed just getting on the open road in Alberta. It’s stunningly beautiful. I am going to miss those great big vistas, the canola fields that are almost neon in the summer.”
She said Black Press is committed to finding a leader for the Prairie division who will be a good fit for the team and region.
“It’s going to be very important to us to find somebody who appreciates the uniqueness of central Alberta and continue to grow the work everybody involved with Black Press has done so far and continue to evolve as our audience evolves,” Kemmis said.
Josh O’Connor, co-chief operating officer of Black Press, said work is underway to attract qualified candidates for the position.
“Ideally we’d like to try to get someone in by Dec. 1 which is when Mary moves onto her next adventure,” O’Connor said.
“We’re committed to replacing her with somebody that is going to continue to be able to make a commitment to central Alberta and help move these communities forward and also our business.”
He said Kemmis is a phenomenal media executive and she will be missed in central Alberta.
“One of Mary’s big strengths is she’s a big team builder and she was able to come in and in a short period of time build a sense of team. She’s also a staunch supporter of journalism and we saw a really great improvement in the quality of our products.”
While in central Alberta, Kemmis has been giving back to the region as a member of the Red Deer and District Health Foundation board, becoming vice-president.
“I certainly recognize I’m privileged and I think we all just owe it to give back in some way, whatever way we can — small, big — whatever you can do.”
She also shared her media knowledge as president of Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association, and received the 2020 Women of Excellence award for Business and Professions, presented by the Red Deer & District Community Foundation.
In 2019, Kemmis was named one of Langara College’s 49 alumni who are making an impact in the community in recognition of the college’s 49th anniversary.
During her time at the Advocate, Kemmis said she was proud of how digital had become an integral and connected part of the print publication.
The Advocate is also very aware of its responsibility to its audience, she said.
“We have to protect the fact that we are a very trusted source of information. We’re very mindful of it especially with what’s going on in the world today.”
She said the pandemic highlighted the importance of media.
“Our audiences are bigger than they’ve ever been. Because of that we have an incredible social responsibility to get it right.
“The difference between us and some blogger is people know where to find us. We have to walk down the street and we have to see people in grocery stores so we have to get it right.”
She said the Advocate faced many of the same challenges as other businesses during COVID. It helped that Black Press was already in “full pivot” making a lot of changes to the business.
She also credited Advocate employees for their efforts to make sure that central Albertans knew what was happening during the pandemic.
“We were considered an essential service and we had to keep going, and with often a lot of negative energy coming our way. Personally I think for our staff it was hard. We had to see a lot of negative comments on social media and I am just so impressed with the way everybody just kept moving forward, held their head high and did their jobs.”
Other milestones through the years for Kemmis was the integration of operations between local community newspapers and the Advocate, and launching the lifestyle magazine Prairie Living.
“With Prairie Living we can have more of a focus on all of the positive things that are happening and there are so many positive things are happening even in today’s world.”