History of the Red Deer Advocate
The Red Deer Advocate has grown with Red Deer, participating in the small settlement's growth to the city of today. "It has long been recognized as one of the finest quality daily newspapers in Canada for its size and the population of its city", states Michael Dawe in Red Deer:
The Advocate continues to set a strong pace in the transition to newer technologies and production methods. This newspaper, with its dedicated staff, has also won many awards over the years gaining regional, national and international recognition.
The early days of newspapers in Red Deer are tangled. The community's first newspaper, the Red Deer Review, was founded by D.H. Murphy when he arrived in Red Deer in 1894, says Ted Meeres in his book The Homesteads that Nurtured a City. The Edmonton Bulletin reported that year that "a copy of the first number of the Red Deer Review has been received by the Edmonton Bulletin.
"It is a 24-column, four page weekly. It is well edited and presents an excellent array of local news ... Red Deer is to be congratulated on having secured such an efficient exponent of its news and views. D.H. Murphy is the publisher."
By April, however, Mr. Murphy was having financial problems and closed the newspaper. A second newspaper - probably the Alberta Independent - was started in 1898 but closed the next year.
The Wetaskiwin Free Lance, owned by George and Orville Fleming, began printing supplements entitled The Red Deer Gazette and the Lacombe Advertiser around the same time, 1898. In August of 1900, the Flemings, father and son, purchased a press and young Orville began publishing the Red Deer Echo in March, 1901. In July, 1901, when Red Deer's population was 323, the Flemings built their own building for the Red Deer Echo on Ross Street. But all was not well.
In 1902 the Board of Trade requested "the Echo be greatly improved or an option of purchase be given of the plant." The Flemings bowed out and The Echo was leased to O.A. Butterfield. On May 1, 1903, it was announced the Echo would thereafter be known as The Alberta Advocate.
Why the Advocate? One story has it that John Moore, Red Deer's first great entrepreneur, one of the owners of the paper, and later the first member of the new Alberta Legislature for Red Deer, decided that he would not be an "echo" of anyone.
So The Alberta Advocate was born. In August, 1903, Mr. Butterfield sold his interest in the paper to the Advocate Publishing Co. Ltd. Eventually, after two editors had come and gone, one of the owners approached F.W. Galbraith of the Guelph (Ontario) Mercury and asked him to become the editor and manager, for the princely sum of $96 a month.
Mr. Galbraith went one better, and offered to buy the paper, which he did in November of 1906, and also changed the name to The Red Deer Advocate in March of 1907. He also offered a statement of the newspaper's goal: "to promote the peace, welfare, and prosperity of the people of the district and town of Red Deer." "
The Advocate at that time had a circulation of 600 to 700," Mr. Galbraith wrote in The Red Deer Advocate later. "It was supposed to be issued on Friday mornings, but the foreman, who had not been on the job at Red Deer much longer than a year, and Mr. Cowell, who was not experienced, did not always make the grade: the week before I came in I believe most of the issues went out on Monday morning. We had a regular outside helper to turn the wheel on the newspaper press and he had varying assistants.
That office, much expanded, was home to the newspaper until 1972, when the Advocate moved a few blocks to a larger, new building at the corner of 47th Avenue and Ross Street.
The Advocate is now in its fifth home in Red Deer, having moved in June of 1980 to the present building on Bremner Avenue. Mr. Galbraith's hand-cranked press has long been gone, and in its place is a single large printing press.
In the past few years the Red Deer Advocate has become a major press centre for newspapers throughout Central Alberta as well as papers from British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Advocate runs two press shifts seven days a week. Technology has allowed newspapers to transmit complete pages, including full colour, to us electronically over the internet as PDF files.
From a weekly with about 700 subscribers, the Red Deer Advocate has grown to a daily with around 16,000 subscribers. The Advocate employs over 160 people who work shifts around the clock.
There are around 450 independent newspaper carriers who deliver the paper in the city and communities in Central Alberta. The distribution area stretches to Ponoka in the north, Rocky Mountain House in the west, Olds in the south and Stettler in the east.
The weekly tradition is carried on with the Red Deer Life on Sundays, which is distributed to households in the city. The Advocate also publishes Central Alberta Life which is distributed on Monday's and Thursdays to over 33,000 Central Alberta rural homes.
Although the Advocate has maintained a basic website for several years, the paper took a massive step into the online world in February 2008. The new-and-improved reddeeradvocate.com has become the top website in Central Alberta and boasts a growing audience of about 70,000 unique visitors (1.5 million pageviews) each month. The Advocate's web staff publish thousands of stories and dozens of videos online each month, allowing readers to comment and discuss almost every article.