Straight 50: A tribute to a newspaper, a publisher, and his family

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      On Friday, Georgia Straight staff and friends in the community celebrated the paper's 50th birthday.

      One of the highlights was a free performance in the company's lobby by Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan.

      There will be more about that on this website later this week.

      Coun. Heather Deal also dropped by to present publisher Dan McLeod with a framed certificate from the mayor proclaiming May 5, 2017, as Georgia Straight 50th Anniversary Day.

      As the editor, I gave a short speech to let people know a bit more about the man who's been at the helm of the Georgia Straight since it was founded.

      I could have blabbed on about his lifetime achievement awards from the Western Magazine Award Foundation and the Jack Webster Foundation, but I preferred to focus on who he really is. Those who weren't at the party can read the transcript below:

      "What can I say about Dan McLeod? There are lots of words that come to mind: journalist, equal-rights advocate, freedom lover, math whiz, family man, father, and grandfather, ardent environmentalist, animal lover, poet, food and wine connoisseur, visual-arts buff, film expert, Canucks fan, and yes, Dan’s a bit of an introvert.

      "He has the soul of an artist and the mind of a grandmaster at chess.

      "It’s why he worries so much about the state of the planet. He knows in his heart and in his mind how climate change could affect his kids and his grandkids.

      "And you know what? Dan knew this back in 1967 and 1968—and it was written about in the pages of the Georgia Straight 20 and 30 years before it showed up in some other newspapers.

      "He was decades ahead of his time.

      "For Dan, the paper always took precedence. He doesn’t seek out the limelight. Even today, on the 50th anniversary of the paper when CBC came calling for an interview, Dan emailed me and said… 'Can you talk that guy?' So I did.

      "He also said he didn’t want any long speeches. So I’m going to have to be concise. 

      "Here are some other things I appreciate about Dan: he has an encyclopedic mind, he’s a circulation genius, technology enthusiast—a real and true friend of the little guy—and at times, he’s been the most fearless publisher in Canada.

      "Who but Dan would have published the FLQ manifesto during the October crisis? Who but Dan would be willing to go to jail to defend his right to distribute his newspaper? Or take on the pharmaceutical industry or the oil and gas industry?

      "Dan also has a wicked sense of humour. A finely tuned sense of outrage. And an uncanny ability to discern BS, particularly in the world of politics.

      "He also has an open heart for the less fortunate. And nurturing arts and culture has been at the core of the Straight’s mission for the last 50 years.

      "Dan’s outlasted some pretty deep-pocketed competitors, like the Southam family, Conrad Black, and Izzy Asper.

      "He did it with the help of his wife Yolanda, who used to write health columns and who was the hardest working and kindest circulation manager in Canada. Daughter Sonya has done many jobs over the years. She’s written articles and worked in sales.

      "And Dan’s lucky to have a son like Matt, who stepped up as general manager and made major business decisions involving the building and the printer. And he did it while also designing so many of those covers that the public likes so much.

      "Through the McLeod family’s hard work, intellect, and persistence, many of us have enjoyed lives we never dreamed of. Staff and contributors have won awards, bought homes, raised children, and become productive members of society.

      "It’s all thanks to this hippie radical who ran a hippie newspaper that wasn’t supposed to last more than a few weeks.

      "On behalf of everyone who has benefited from Dan’s dedication to the paper and the city, I want to give a heartfelt thank you. I can’t even think what might have been my fate were I not given this lifeline with the Straight by Dan and [former editor] Charles Campbell to work here.

      "So let’s give Dan a big round of applause for proving that a troublesome hippie can actually make a big difference in the lives of his employees, his community, and the world."