Jack Murphy was a home-grown Alberta newspaper man who set the bar high for future generations.
Murphy was honoured this month for his 33 years at The Macleod Gazette with a prestigious Silver Quill Award from the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to men and women such as Jack Murphy, who led by example, who showed grit and determination to keep putting the newspaper on the street each week, and who set the bar high for the rest of us,” said Frank McTighe, the present-day editor and publisher of The Macleod Gazette.
The Silver Quill, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the Alberta newspaper industry over a period of at least 25 years, was presented to Murphy at the AWNA’s annual convention.
More than 130 people attended the president’s banquet at the Calgary Radisson Hotel where Murphy received his Silver Quill.
“When he looked back in 2001 on his career after selling the paper this is what Jack said: ‘The town has to have a paper, and if the only legacy that I leave is the paper was still running when I sold it, I could go to my grave happy’,” McTighe said. “Well, despite his modest claims, Jack left a much bigger legacy.”
That legacy consisted of dedication and selfless service to his home town; a commitment to editorial excellence; and commitment to community. “Through the years Jack wrote for the paper, chasing fire trucks, attending council meetings and writing any stories that needed telling,”
McTighe told the audience of newspaper people from across Alberta. “He said this about his reporting career: ‘There probably wasn’t much I didn’t write. They were all good stories, and I never tired of writing them’.”
McTighe told the audience that Murphy’s philosophy of newspapering — to chronicle every little piece that went on in town, all the triumphs and tragedies — stands today as excellent advice for the latest generation of newspaper men and women.
“Fort Macleod had its share of big stories . . . but Jack believed that every story was important,” McTighe said. “In fact, when pressed to recall some of the stories he covered in his years at The Macleod Gazette, Jack’s mind turned to some of the more tragic ones — the deaths of his town’s young people.”
“Those were not the recollections of a hard-nosed newspaper man in love with sensational headlines to help sell papers,” McTighe added. “They were the recollections of a man who loved his community and the people in it, and felt every success — and every tragic loss — very personally.” The 19-year-old Murphy left a job in 1968 boxing groceries at the White Hall Grocery Store to join the staff of The Macleod Gazette. There he found a willing mentor in Cliff Moses, who in 1975 convinced Murphy to become his partner and buy the paper from the Jessup family. Murphy moved from bookkeeper to printer, to ad salesman to reporter. “Cliff kept putting responsibilities on the table and Jack kept walking by and picking them up,” McTighe said. “They shared a laugh about that some years later.”
The two partners guided the paper through technological changes that went from hot lead to cold type and finally to desktop publishing. When Cliff Moses died, Murphy formed a partnership with Cliff’s daughter Allison Moses, and eventually became sole owner.
In 2001 Murphy sold the newspaper to Frank and Emily McTighe to spend more time with his family. Murphy continues to operate Great Impressions Printing from his Fort Macleod home.
“Jack didn’t realize he was setting the course for his life’s work that day in 1968 when he contacted The Macleod Gazette about a job in the front office,” McTighe said. “Jack wound up with more than a job 38 years ago. He found his life’s calling.”
Jack’s wife Florence, their daughter Rhonda Goulet and her husband Todd, and former employees Sharon Monical and Joan Blunden and her husband Bryan attended the banquet.