Bill Draayer Award 2009

Given in recognition of outstanding personal contributions to the progress and development of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association.

Written by Richard Holmes, recipient of last year's Bill Draayer award

Tonight (Sept. 12, 2009) the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association honours a man who for many years has provided vision, courage and a steadying influence to the board of directors and the industry as a whole.

The 2009 recipient of the Bill Draayer Award, presented annually to a weekly newspaper person for outstanding contribution to the progress and development of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association, is Barry Hibbert, publisher of The Sylvan Lake News.

In 1983 during AWNA's annual convention, longtime member of the association and everyone's favourite newspaperman Howie Bowes became the first recipient of the Bill Draayer Award. Thus began a strong tradition of honouring people who have worked tirelessly for the betterment of the association.

The intent of the award is to recognize a member who has served the AWNA without thought of recognition or reward. The criteria to be used in our selection process was as follows:

  • Innovative development of a service policy that has proven beneficial to AWNA and its individual members.
  • Individual diligence in pursuit of a successful objective that enhances efficiency, profitability or public image of weekly newspapers in general and in AWNA in particular.
  • A member who has a record of reliability in performance of volunteer or assigned association projects vital to its present or future success.

  • The criteria does an excellent job of describing Barry Hibbert. Barry began his newspaper career in the daily newspaper field at the Edmonton Journal in 1970, a job he took out of desperation after returning from thumbing his way around Europe for 9 months. He worked his way into a senior management position but was feeling the pangs of more excitement.

    He left the Journal in 1990 to join the staff as the Marketing Director of AWNA. He knew he was into a different and exciting new world when he witnessed his first board fight between Butch Treleaven and Jack Gorman. He never saw that in the dailies, and knew he was in for a different kind of newspaper experience. Barry quickly met with ad agencies throughout Canada and:

  • was successful in bringing auto dealer associations on stream with weekly newspapers after about one year of sales efforts and,
  • created a market plan called "cluster marketing" which helped ad buyers better target their selected market purchases. This turned out to be a primitive precursor to what the Market Analyzer and GIS systems are today, the two cornerstones that ADWest uses very effectively.

Barry eventually left the employ of AWNA in 1993 and purchased the Sylvan Lake News, becoming an actual AWNA member. Then in 1997 he founded two new AWNA member newspapers, the Rimbey Review and the Eckville Echo, a project he has referred to as the smartest thing he’s ever done and also the dumbest thing he’s ever done. All three newspapers have since won numerous awards. The Rimbey Review was sold in 2004.

He joined the AWNA board of directors in 1994 and remained on the board for 10 years. He sat as Chairman of the Advertising Committee for three of those years, Chairman of the Government Relations Committee for one year and as a member of the Membership Committee for three years.

In 1998 Barry became the President of AWNA without serving as First Vice. During his tenure as President he lead the board in a complete update of the AWNA bylaws. As usual, in the Past President position he served as Chairman of the Executive Committee and the Nominating Committee.

After serving as Past President of AWNA, Barry joined the CCNA board of directors as one of the representatives of Alberta and AWNA. It was a busy time for CCNA and Barry was a part of many accomplishments:

  • He sat as Chairman of the Verified Circulation Committee for two years, leading the committee to update the circulation bylaws and eventually bringing in tighter qualifications for audits including “on-site” audits when necessary.
  • He sat on the CCNA board during the creation of the ComBase readership study.
  • He sat as a judge in newspaper competitions numerous times. He has often claimed that his largest CCNA accomplishment was just surviving three exciting years with Joyce and Colleen as co-members.

Barry left the CCNA board in 2004. While sitting on the CCNA and AWNA boards he was also busy back in Sylvan Lake. He sat on the board of directors of the Prime Stock Theater group in Red Deer and co-created a Shakespeare Theater Festival in Sylvan Lake. He sat on the Sylvan Lake Lions Club board, the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce board and currently sits on the Sylvan Lake Heart of Town board, revitalizing the downtown core of Sylvan Lake.

In 1999 Barry was a founding member of the Rotary Club of Sylvan Lake and has sat on the board ever since. He became President of the Rotary Club in 2004. As an active member of Rotary both locally and internationally, Barry helped facilitate a container of wheelchairs to take to Huatulco, Mexico in 2003 and in 2006 he was joined by his wife Darlene in taking another container of wheelchairs to the Philippines.


In 2001 Barry was contracted by the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression to travel to Sierra Leone, Africa. He was to help rebuild some of the newspapers in the capital of Freetown and to assist in re-establishing a free press there after 10 years of devastating civil war. He was there for a month. Roger Holmes also made numerous trips to Sierra Leone under the same arrangement.

Barry has now come full circle by joining the board of directors of ADWest, the marketing agency that represents Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to advertising agencies across Canada. After sitting on the ADWest board for two years he remains there, still representing the interests of AWNA.

Barry has been married to wife Darlene for 35 years and has three children; Colin, Ryan and Jillian. Barry and Darlene have three grandchildren; Colin, Garrett and Ayva. This usually results in constant travel as their children live in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, respectively.

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