Bill Draayer Award 2002

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



Roger Holmes is no stranger to the world of community newspapers. He was born into a newspaper family. Roger's father was the editor/owner of the local newspaper which he had taken over from his father.


Roger started in the business in the 1960s where he learned to do all phases of letter press printing during the hot metal days. He was involved in the changeover to what was then known as cold type and offset print. His knowledge of the phases of 35 mm photography and darkroom procedures were learned from experience.

In 1970 Roger enrolled in the journalism program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. For some time he edited the student newspaper, the Emery Weal. Following his stint in SAIT he joined his father in the commercial printing industry in Medicine Hat for the next 10 years. During that time his younger brother took over the family newspaper. When the partners purchased a commercial printing company, Roger moved to Calgary. The company sold high quality colour printing for corporations and ad agencies in an extremely competitive market.

Roger returned to his roots in 1990 when he purchased the Wainwright Star Chronicle. Three of the Holmes' newspapers were already being printed in Wainwright. At that point Roger's entrepreneurial spirit came to the forefront and several more papers were acquired resulting in an upgrading of the printing facility.


Roger is truly a leader in the field of technology. He has the distinction of being the first publisher in Canada to install and use a state-of-the-art direct to plate pre-press system with an automated PDF workflow via the Internet from full paginated pages. His web printing plant in Wainwright publishes all the Holmes' newspapers plus 26 additional newspapers on a weekly basis for other independent publishers in Alberta and the NWT.

By the early 1990s Roger's first involvement with AWNA was as a member of the Technology Committee. The AWNA was launching its first electronic bulletin board system at this time. Always on the leading edge of technology, Roger pioneered the use of PDFs for electronic ad transfer. In fact, the intrepid publisher went so far as to run the same Ford ad in his newspaper twice, once using camera-ready copy supplied by the agency and once using a PDF from the agency to prove it actually worked. The PDF printed slightly better than the camera-ready version. This test and training was provided by the Technology Committee when visiting agencies opened the door for electronic ad transfers to the AWNA.

Forever the visionary, Roger converted his newspaper to full pagination in 1991. His eagerness to assist colleagues make the transition from wax and paste-up to take full advantage of the capabilities of the desktop computer benefited other member newspapers.


Roger didn't stop at utilizing what computers had to offer to publishing; he also has the distinction of being an early adapter of digital photography in his publication. Initially he used a frame grabber from a video camera in 1991 and then moved on to one of the first Kodak/Nikon-based digital still cameras. He has been a tireless promoter of digital photography to members of the AWNA in seminars and during sessions at conventions.

In 1991 Roger was also one of the first small market newspapers to run full process color in his publication on a regular basis. He has made many presentations at the AWNA and CCNA symposiums on the use of colour in community newspapers. Roger has been a featured speaker on colour printing and digital photography in small market newspapers at several press association conferences in the U.S. Always there with a helping hand, Roger has assisted many AWNA newspapers in successfully making the transition to full process colour publications.

Passion is Roger's middle name. He is passionate about newspapers, photography and printing. It is this all-consuming passion that has driven him and continues to do so to be a tireless advocate for keeping the AWNA and its member newspapers on the leading edge of technology and in the forefront of positive changes in the industry.

Currently, Roger is leading the Association's charge to create a digital archive system for member newspapers with the potential to move quickly to digital tearsheets, electronic invoicing and electronic payment. Roger has developed a good rapport and relationship with the military, as Wainwright is the home of the Canadian Army Western Training Center.

He is a hands-on working journalist with an editor and sports reporter who report to him. He does a lot of feature photography for the paper and has won several provincial and national photo awards. Roger, who writes feature articles and editorials on a regular basis, has won national awards for his writing. His 12-part account of his participation and experience in the War Correspondents School conducted by the Canadian Army in Wainwright brought him recognition. He won first place in the Canadian Community Newspapers Association feature competition for his piece ‘Good to Go.'

Community is also important to him. He is a past president of the Wainwright Chamber of Commerce and has been involved in many local tourism, Main Street and other community projects.


When it comes to theatrics Roger is a natural. This past year he played the lead role of Professor Henry Higgins in the community theatre production of My Fair Lady. Roger has also participated in other productions either as a thespian, supporter and/or promoter. Roger is a certified scuba diver and holds a private pilots license.

Roger's global perspective has led him to the war torn country of Sierra Leone. His sense of community and a desire to make a contribution to the world by helping others reach their potential knows no borders. He enrolled in a CIDA project to help Sierra Leone rebuild its newspaper industry. Consequently he made two trips to that west African nation; the first to offer editorial training and to write a report on how further training needs should be addressed. During his second trip he spent six weeks in Freetown teaching a digital photojournalism course to ten journalists at five different newspapers.

Roger was elected to the Board of Directors of the AWNA in 2000. In addition to his continued chairmanship of the Technology Committee, he has chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on an Identity for the AWNA which resulted in a new logo for the Association. He is currently first vice-president of the AWNA and is going through the chairs.

Publisher Roger Holmes is a pioneer, an entrepreneur and a man of vision. It is these qualities as well as his desire to help colleagues and to make AWNA a leader technologically which has earned him, and most deservedly so, the prestigious Bill Draayer Award.

The prestigious Bill Draayer award was presented to Roger Holmes by last year's recipient, Joan Plaxton of the Valleyview Valley Views, on Saturday, September 15, 2002.

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