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						Lögberg-Heimskringla • Föstudagur 8. apríl 2005 • 7

Bob Johnson is a third-generation
newspaperman — and loves it
Icelandic blood
David Jón Fuller
Foam Lake, SK
If Bob Johnson has ink on
his hands, he also has it in his
Johnson is the owner of
three Vatnabyggð weekly
newspapers — the Foam Lake .
Review, the Wynyard Advance
Gazette, and the Ituna News.
The only one he doesn't also
edit is the Ituna News.
Johnson is of Icelandic
and English descent,(and it's
on the Icelandic side that he
comes by his publishing career.
His grandfather Ernst Johnson
was born in North Dakota, but
moved with his family to North
Wynyard, SK at the age of two.
Ernst bought the Foam Lake
Review in the mid-1930s, and
sold it to his son Karl in the
early 1960s.
Karl and his wife Velma
started the Ituna News in 1969,
and sold their shares in both
papers to Bob in 1998. Karl
passed away later that year.
Velma, who is of English heri-
tage, continues to work at the
Review to this day.
Bob's father had a unique
perspective on changes in the
newspaper industry. "He said
he could remember getting
the linotype in and he said
that was really technology, at
that time," says Bob. "He went
from block setting type and hot
lead to linotype to computers."
Karl left one major change for
Bob to oversee — the transi-
tion to entirely digital produc-
tion of the three papers, which
Bob hopes to complete by June
this year.
Bob started working at the
Foam Lake Review as an after-
school job 30 years ago and has
been involved ever since. In
2002 he bought the Wynyard
Advance Gazette from Bowles
Publishing, and he now spends
part of each week in Wynyard
and part in Foam Lake, pre-
ferring to take a hands-on ap-
proach to each paper.
In addition to editing, he
also writes for the papers, cov-
ers events, and takes photos.
Between the three papers, he
employs nine full-time and two
part-time employees. He also
hires freelance writers, such
as Joan Eyolfson Cadham, no
stranger to readers of Lögberg-
Though some days are
stressful, given the pressures of
publishing three papers a week,
he says what he really en-
joys is getting to know people
— something he has many op-
portunities to do as he pursues
stories, and doing commercial
print work.
As a side business to púb-
lishing the papers, his com-
panies also produce posters,
calendars and other materials.
Some of the machinery still
being used dates back 40 to
70 years — and is still in good
working condition. It's clear
from the way Bob speaks about
his work that he enjoys know-
ing how everything is put to-
gethere, whether the technol-
ogy is new or old.
His roots are something
he has taken a greater interest
in in recent years. At a fam-
ily reunion last year, he visited
his grandfather Ernst's original
homestead for the first time.
It was a powerful experience
to see the actual site, original
buildings intact. "It seems the
older you get, the more impor-
tant your history, or your past
becomes," he says.
Bob is also involved in
the local chapter of the Ice-
landic National League, the
Vatnabyggð Icelandic Club. He
has been to their þorrablót a
few times, but isn't complete-
ly won over by the traditional
þorramatur. He is happy to
make rúllupylsa, and has fond
memories of eating harðfiskur
as a child after beating it with
a hammer, but prefers to avoid
the hákarl (fermented shark).
As if he didn't already have
enough to do, Bob is also may-
or of Foam Lake. He served on
the town council for 12 years,
and ih 2003 he was elected
mayor. His current term lasts
until 2006.
Politics is also something
that runs in the family; his
mother held the same office
from 1984 to 1987.
When asked how he bal-
ances the roles of publisher and
mayor, Bob says, "Very care-
Bob Johnson is the publisher of three weekly newspapers, two of which he also edits.
fully." Their are demands on
his time and attention, but he
says, "Being mayor is not sup-
posed to be a full-time job. And
it isn't. It's basically a volunteer
position. There are times when
you don't have to deal with
anything town-related — but
not lately. We're a very aggres-
sive council. We're looking for
economic development for our
town. And we're going after it
very hard.
"As far as time goes, you
just make time. I'm fortunate
enough that if I have to take a
couple of hours off [from the
papers], I do, but then you have
to make that up either in the
evening or on the weekend."
On covering local politics
in the paper, he says, "If there's
anything controversial, I don't
touch it. I get Joan, as freelanc-
er, or someone else, to do the
news coverage of it. It's just the
way it has to be. It's a very fine
lirie — it doesn't matter what
you do, someone's not going
to like it. And if I start deal-
ing with controversial issues ás
mayor and as newspaper editor,
someone's going to perceive it
as some type of a cover-up or
some type of conflict [of inter- same time, we certainly don't
est]. The farther I stay away avoid contentious issues in the
from that, the better. But at the    paper."
36íh /          JAL INL oí NA CONVLNTION

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Late registration: $125 CAD
Includes continental breakfast, lunch Friday and Saturday and Þorrablót
Joan Eyolfson Cadham 306-272-4994 / cadham@sasktel.net
Dave or Audrey Shepherd 306-554-4131 / ol.shepherd@sasktel.net
Registration form avaíláble at www.inlofna.org or www.lh-inc.ca
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