The Burnaby Mirror, part 6 … THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

A confession and a surprise.

Calories, alcohol and a bolt from the blue

After six months or so, The Burnaby Mirror not only survived … it showed signs that it might actually be viable!

Part of its vitality was attributable to a significant increase in placements from ad agencies. These ads were pure gravy for newspapers, if you could get them. But in order to get them, you had to provide the agencies with evidence of your publication’s effectiveness.

In order to prove the Mirror’s efficacy, I decided to create a research company. I called it Caxton Banns (in honor of William Caxton the first English printer, and banns which were the church’s medieval public readings advertising pending marriages of parishioners).

The mechanics were simple. I gave my wife a short script, with which she spent a few mornings calling Burnaby residents at random. I compiled the results, printed them with graphs and analyses which indicated that a significant number of Burnaby households were not receiving a newspaper (other than the free distribution Mirror, of course).

I then took these official Caxton Banns’ certified results to various Vancouver ad agencies. This brainstorm actually worked to a surprising degree, providing a steady flow of screened slicks (ready-to-print ads) for publication … a real cash flow bonanza!

Ostensibly to celebrate The Mirror’s astonishing signs of life after its embryonic stage, Gord invited me to his Vancouver West End apartment for dinner and drinks. But there was much more than calories and alcohol in store for me that night.

Like so many old-school hard drinking, hard driving, heartless newspapermen, Gord had a secret inner life, one that occasionally sprung from its hermitic confinement and betrayed his hard-nosed public persona. Those brief paroles given his feminine side (usually accompanied by a martini or two) would expose, for all the world to see, an almost tender, caring nature.

This night Gord gave his softer side an unexpectedly extended furlough.

After a few drinks, looking at me with large puppy eyes, he said, “Son, it’s time I leveled with you. I’m headed back to Toronto.”

That sobered me up instantly, “Oh?”

“Look, to be honest, I started The Mirror simply to get enough money to skip town and get back to where I belong.”

Close to speechless, I replied, “Yeah?”

“Yeah. But now, after everything you’ve done, I can’t do it. I know you might not think it’s not like me, but the way I see it, I owe you big time. You’ve done an fantastic job for me!”

Gord Dancey ... hustler, newsman, mentor. Thanks for everything Gord!

Gord Dancey … hustler, newsman, mentor. Thanks for everything Gord!

“Thanks Gord, but …”

“Look. You and Kevin (our fan-dancing editor) have worked your butts off. So I’m going to take $1,000 from our account and scram. And, I’m giving you and Kevin The Mirror 50/50!”

Stunned, shocked, taken aback and confused, but no longer speechless, I asked him, “When are you leaving?”


And that was that. In fact, it was the last time I saw Gord. He left the appropriate corporate ownership transfer documents at The Mirror, and, to the utter astonishment of Kevin and me, enough capital in the paper’s bank account to continue publishing!

Thus, in six months time, I’d become a micro media mogul!

I felt a real sense of pride about my progress in the business, but, as my wife reminded me, pride won’t pay the bills. So beginning that Monday, it was back to pounding the pavement with my haiku and draft ads, but with the renewed vigor that only a sense of ownership can instill.

Joe, micro media mogul!

Our hero, an aspiring media mogul!

And so ends the saga of The Burnaby Mirror, which lasted approximately six more months until I ran into Peter Speck, a car radiator repair shop owner whose radiator business had gone bankrupt.

His forty thousand plus free distribution publication in North Vancouver, called The North Shore Shopper, had also gone bankrupt, but had just come out of bankruptcy in tact.

I felt it showed great promise. I found Peter’s concept compelling, the market mouthwatering and the potential rewards far, far greater than Burnaby could ever offer … but that’s another story.



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
This entry was posted in How To Sell A Newspaper Subscription To A Blind Man, The Burnaby Mirror. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Burnaby Mirror, part 6 … THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

  1. Ched Miller says:

    Great story, Joe. Well done … again.



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