Vancouver Sun celebrates its own 100th anniversary - in Juneau

Newspaper staff on Alaska cruise with subscribers, advertisers

The Juneau Empire isn’t the only newspaper in Juneau celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

On Friday, Holland America Line’s MS Volendam brought 17 members of the Vancouver Sun’s staff, including publisher Kevin Bent and more than 550 other passengers, including newspaper subscribers, advertisers and family members, to Juneau as part of the Sun’s own 100th anniversary celebration.

“It’s been really great,” said Bent, who is president and publisher of Canada’s Pacific Newspaper Group, shortly before tucking into dinner at the Gold Creek Salmon Bake Friday evening. “It’s been absolutely fantastic.”

Both the Empire and the Sun were founded in 1912, at opposite ends of the Inside Passage.

The idea for the seven-day cruise, which goes from Vancouver, B.C., up to Juneau and Skagway before returning by way of Ketchikan, came from Sanjay Goel, president of Vancouver-based cruise retailer Cruise Connections.

“I’ve been a longtime supporter of the Sun, an advertiser for 19 years,” said Goel. “And they came to me late last year and said, ‘Hey, these are the things we’re thinking about for our 100th anniversary. Would you like to be part of one of these programs as an advertiser?’ And I said, ‘You know what, after all these years, I’m kind of surprised — 100 years doesn’t come around so often, you know. Why not do something a little more dramatic?’ And I pitched them this idea.”

“We’ve had a whole bunch of different events in Vancouver celebrating, but we wanted to do something that was really sort of interesting and special for both our readers and our advertisers and some key marketing partners,” Bent said. “And this notion of an Alaska cruise for 600 people was born.”

Kelli Grummett, president of Alaska Travel Adventures, which hosts the Gold Creek Salmon Bake, said she was glad to host the event.

“The cool thing is that they decided to choose to come to Alaska for their anniversary, and they chose to have their big event in Juneau at the Salmon Bake,” said Grummett.

Editor Harold Munro said he wasn’t sure at first that the cruise idea would take off.

“I must say, my initial reaction was, ‘We offer something like this — what if no one wants to go?’ That’d be really embarrassing,” Munro laughed.

But in the spring, the newspaper advertised the opportunity, and Munro said the Sun’s readers responded.

“We put it out there, 300 cabins, and they were gone in four weeks,” said Munro.

Roak Citroen said that the opportunity to learn from Sun reporters and columnists, as well as the Alaskan setting, enticed him to sign up.

“We love Alaska,” Citroen said, adding that he has been to the state five times now. “It’s always been fabulous.”

Another cruise-goer, Kerry Dawson, described herself as such a loyal reader of the Sun that even after moving from Vancouver, where she was born and grew up, to northern Vancouver Island, she still rushes to the store to pick up her morning copy of the Sun, which she said she cannot have delivered to her home in Comox, B.C.

“I’ve been reading the Vancouver Sun for 25, 30 years,” said Dawson. “When you read a paper for many, many years, the journalists that you read daily, that help you to shape your view on the world, become part of your family.”

Dawson said she often takes advice from the Sun’s columnists, shopping for wines and going to movies that they recommend.

“When I heard that they were having this cruise, and that all those people were going to be on board the ship — Vaughn Palmer, the political analyst, and the movie critic, and the wine critic — I was like, ‘I’ve got to be there.’ Here’s a chance to hang out with these guys, right?” said Dawson. “And I’ve always wanted to do an Alaska cruise.”

Newspapers will end up moving toward alternative forms of engagement with their readership, like the Sun’s anniversary cruise, in order to remain relevant to their communities, Goel predicted.

“Newspapers do have a great future, but it’s going to need more things like this. It’s going to need more opportunities for the guest to engage with that journalist like they haven’t before,” said Goel. “The industry’s evolving and changing very quickly, and this is part of it.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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