When I was hired to be editor of Beach Metro News in 1995, I knew I had some very large shoes to fill. Joan Latimer had been editor of the paper almost from the beginning, and it was largely her vision that made the paper an institution in the East End.
Joan said that she was a mother of two small children when she heard that a new paper, the Ward 9 Community News, was starting up in the area. She was so pleased with the prospect of a local newspaper that she wrote an article on the history of Kew Gardens for the second issue.
Joan had studied journalism at Ryerson and worked at home on two publications, Marketing Magazine and the Eaton’s company magazine.
She began to devote more and more time to the fledgling paper “burning the midnight oil” with many other active volunteers. Those first few years were difficult, Joan said. Finances were always a struggle, particularly after the initial LIP grant was not renewed. None of the staff received a salary. “It was touch and go,” said Joan, “and a tribute to the community that they made it happen.”
Joan said that there were so many people who helped out in the early days. She particularly noted the assistance of Reg Haney, who not only taught the volunteers how to layout the paper, but was a “genuinely nice guy.”
Joan said that she enjoyed editing the paper, especially when it got large enough to include more types of local news. She also liked the fact that, once she was hired on as the official editor, she was in a position to “run the whole show.”
The mandate of Ward 9 News was to focus on local issues and people. It was also to be apolitical. She is very proud of the paper’s now unique status as a non-profit owned by the community.
Joan believed that people would be more interested in reading the paper if it included some lighter features. “I wanted to make it as representative as possible, not just the same old stuff.” She remembered covering one story where a local person had reported an alien landing in his back yard. And who can forget the photos of the cat wearing glasses and Brandy, the Saint Bernard.
Under Joan’s leadership the paper grew in size and distribution becoming the go-to source of local information. Joan used her knowledge of local people and institutions to keep the paper on top of important local issues.
And what’s changed, other than the technology to produce the paper, since she retired in 1994. “It’s a different community today. So many people have moved in from outside the area and have different interests.”
As it moves into its 40th year, Beach Metro will continue to make a difference far into the future.