The last edition of The Surrey Leader will be hitting the doorsteps on Friday (March 31).
The city’s newspaper of record marked its 88th year in publication this year.
Informed of the newspaper’s looming demise on Wednesday, many members of the community expressed shock and sadness at losing what they say was a part of the fabric of Surrey..
Longtime former Surrey mayor Bob Bose said he is deeply troubled about the demise of The Leader.
“I’m concerned about the loss of what I’ve always considered my primary local source of discussion for civic news,” Bose said Wednesday. “It’s meant a lot to me.”
Bose, part of a long line of Surrey pioneers, said his family has read the paper since it was launched on July 17, 1929.
“It remains, for me, the newspaper of record,” Bose said. “In its absence, I think we will be the poorer for it.”
Dianne Watts, Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock and former mayor of the city, said The Surrey Leader will be greatly missed.
“Over the past two decades, I have certainly felt that The Surrey Leader has contributed in a number of different ways,” Watts said, noting the paper often acted in support of a number of community events and causes.
“But also too, I really appreciated the type of reporting,” Watts added, “the balanced perspective that one would expect from a quality newspaper.”
Moving forward, the absence of The Leader will be felt, Watts said.
“Over the years, there’s been a certain expectation and a brand that’s been related to The Leader newspaper, and with that not being there any more, it certainly will be missed by the community, without a doubt.”
Laurae McNally, a Surrey Board of Education trustee since 1979, missing only five years from 1988 to 1993, said The Leader has been a strong, reliable voice for the residents of the city.
“When I first moved down here from Penticton (in 1963), my friends and family told me The Surrey Leader was where you get all your news, and it was true,” she said.
“(The Leader) was sort of my lifeline with the community because I was new and I really didn’t know a lot about the community… seeing it go is so sad.”
Over the years, the paper has built strong relationships with various charitable organizations, including the Surrey Food Bank, giving a voice to those in need.
“The Surrey Leader has been an instrumental part of why we have such a caring community,” said Surrey Food Bank Executive Director Marilyn Herrmann. “They took the time to capture warming stories of those who live here and they shared those stories with heart,.”
“They willingly and enthusiastically took time for the Surrey Food Bank, always excited to learn how our community is helping the most vulnerable residents.
“Thank you to The Surrey Leader’s amazing staff for your help in raising our profile for so many years and doing it with such professionalism and kindness. It’s a sad day, we say goodbye, good wishes to all.”
Sue Hammell, NDP MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers for 22 of the past 26 years, said The Leader was the go-to paper for many.
“It’s the oldest paper in Surrey and what I will remember is it is what I would read to learn about what’s important (in the city). And (it) always did a fabulous job.
“When I first came here, The Leader was what you read to learn about Surrey and get a sense of community. And you continued to read it to learn more and more about the issues and what’s important.”
Dave Hayer, who served as a Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead for a dozen years before stepping down in 2013, called the closure of the newspaper “a sad day for democracy.”
“The media is what keeps democracy alive and keeps the politicians honest,” said Hayer, son of assassinated journalist Tara Singh Hayer. “We need a strong media, to report on what the parties and politicians are doing.
“People need that information when they decide who to vote for at all three levels of government.”
Hayer, who worked as an assistant publisher with the Indo-Canadian Times, a newspaper established by his father, praised The Leader for its involvement in the community.
“At any event I went to, The Leader was always there, telling the stories,” he said, noting the paper would also honour people and businesses for their achievements with programs such as The Community Leader Awards.
“I know how proud people were when they were recognized for their service to the community,” said Hayer. “It’s something unique that you don’t see every day.”
The Surrey Now-Leader begins publishing on Wednesday, April 5.
Below: The Leader’s newsroom staff on final production day, Wednesday, March 29, 2017 (from left) Kevin Diakiw, Rick Kupchuk, Boaz Joseph, Paula Carlson and Evan Seal.