Ode to Ma Murray and the Alaska Highway News

Written By Tania Finch, Special from The Broken Typewriter

After 80 years in Fort St. John, 80 years of informing the city and surrounding area about news, events, births, deaths, job opportunities, new businesses and so on, the Alaska Highway News is no more.

This week they’ll put out the final edition.

The digital era has put an end to community newspapers as we knew them in Fort St. John.

Back in 1943, when Margaret “Ma” Murray established the Alaska Highway News, she created “The only newspaper in the world that gives a tinker’s damn about the North Peace.”

Undated photo of Ma Murray reviewing the Alaska Highway News. [Photo Fort St. John North Peace Museum]

Over the years, she and her publisher/politician husband George also owned or edited several other publications, including the Fort Nelson News, which closed its doors last month.

For most everyone who grew up here, the Alaska Highway News is woven into the fabric of our lives.

Our birth announcements were in it. When we graduated from North Peace Secondary School, the paper put out a Grad Supplement and we were all in it. When we started businesses, we advertised in it or had new business profiles written about our ventures.

The life of the energetic city was covered by the intrepid staff at the paper.

When the Queen and Prince Phillip came to town, the Alaska Highway News was there.

When the WAC Bennett Dam was built, and later the Peace Canyon Dam, the Alaska Highway News covered both.

When Linda Johnson made the Olympic Speed Skating team, the Alaska Highway News wrote about it and when Darryl Mills became a World Champion Bull Rider, the Alaska Highway News wrote about him too.

When Fort Bowling Lanes burned down, and rebuilt, the Alaska Highway News covered it.

When the North Peace Leisure Pool was built, the Alaska Highway News was there. When the new hospital was built, the Alaska Highway News was there too.

Almost any event you can think of in the last 80 years of Fort St. John’s history, you will find a record of it in the Alaska Highway News.

Ma Murray’s dedication and determination created a newspaper that gave a damn about what happened in the North Peace for 80 years.

It’s a testament to the community that a small business could last so long. Yes, it was owned by various newspaper conglomerates over the years, but it still had the spirit that began with Ma Murray – a community-centred spirit that cares about the lives of the people who live in Fort St. John and the surrounding area.

I’m both grateful for, and proud of the time I spent as a reporter at the Alaska Highway News and The Northerner.

The people I met, worked with, and the things I learned, have shaped the writer, photographer, and editor I am today – someone who gives a damn about the North Peace.

I will be forever thankful I cut my journalistic teeth in Fort St. John at the Alaska Highway News.

For more news on the BC North Peace, read Tania Finch‘s independent news source, The Broken Typewriter.