Jack Murphy


Frank McTighe presents Jack Murphy with his CCNA Silver Quill award for 25 years of service or longer in the weekly newspaper business on September 17, 2006.

Jack Murphy didn’t realize he was setting the course for his life’s work that day in 1968 when he contacted The Macleod Gazette about a job in the front office.

Jack wound up with more than a job 38 years ago. He found his life’s calling as an employee, partner and the eventual sole publisher of his home town’s newspaper.

Jack was just 19 and boxing groceries in the White Hall Grocery Store when his former math teacher let him know about an opening at The Gazette. That former math teacher, Marg Moses, had an "in" at the newspaper. Her husband Cliff just happened to be the editor.

Perhaps Marg Moses saw the same things in the young Fort Macleod man that high school counselor Roy White had recognized. He told Murphy he would be good at either journalism or accounting.

The newspaper proved a good fit.

A lifetime resident of Fort Macleod, Jack had tried the University of Lethbridge after graduating from high school. He had designs on studying journalism, but his studies didn’t last long; something about a small town boy not finding a comfortable fit in a big university.

Following his counselor’s advice, Jack had passed the entrance exams to become an accountant. But he didn’t follow through. That proved to be Fort Macleod’s good fortune.

Jack worked as a bookkeeper at the beginning of his career at The Macleod Gazette. But it was the goings-on in the back of the shop that clinched his love affair with the newspaper that he grew up reading.

The clatter and clanking of the linotype, and the smell of the ink and melting lead proved too enticing for the young man, who soon migrated to the back shop from the front office and found himself setting type for the newspaper and commercial printing jobs, and hand-feeding paper into the presses.

Cliff Moses was a willing teacher and became Jack’s mentor. Like Jack’s high school counselor, and like math teacher Marg Moses, Cliff must have seen something in the young man because in 1975 he approached Jack with the idea of buying The Macleod Gazette from the Jessup family in 1975.

With ownership, the newspaper became an even bigger part of Jack’s life as Cliff continued to mentor his young partner. As the newspaper business changed Jack took on the roles of ad salesman and eventually began writing stories. Cliff kept putting responsibilities on the end of the table and Jack kept walking by and picking them up. The two shared a laugh about that some years later.

Cliff and Jack worked shoulder-to-shoulder at The Macleod Gazette, leading the paper through the technological changes that saw hot type giving way to cold, and Compugraphic machines surrender to Macintosh computers and desktop publishing.

When Cliff died, far too early, Jack carried on in a partnership with Cliff’s daughter Allison, and then later as the sole owner of The Macleod Gazette, which holds the title as the longest continuing published newspaper in Alberta, having started in 1882.

Through the years Jack wrote for the paper, chasing fire trucks, attending council meetings and writing any stories that needed telling. He said this about his reporting career: “There probably wasn’t much I didn’t write. They were all good stories, and I never tired of writing them.”

Jack’s philosophy of newspapering – to chronicle every little piece that went on in town, all the little triumphs and tragedies – stands today as excellent advice for the latest generation of newspaper men and women.

Fort Macleod had its share of big stories – such as the opening of the UNESCO world Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump – but Jack believed that every story was important.

In fact, when pressed to recall some of the stories he covered in his years at The Macleod Gazette, Jack’s mind turned to some of the more tragic ones – the deaths of some of his town’s young people. Those were not the recollections of a hard-nosed newspaperman in love with sensational headlines to help sell papers. They were the recollections of a man who loved his community and the people in it, and felt every success – and every tragic loss – very personally.

When Jack decided to “downsize” himself and sell the paper to spend more time with his wife Florence and their family, he said what he would miss the most about the newspaper business was the connection to the community that it brought. Jack took with him a lifetime of good memories about The Macleod Gazette and its role in the community.

When he looked back in 2001 on his career after selling the paper, this is what Jack said: “The town has to have a paper, and if the only legacy that I leave is the paper was still running when I sold it, I could go to my grave happy.”

Well, despite his modest claims, Jack left a much bigger legacy, one that includes:

Dedication and selfless service to his home town.

A commitment to editorial excellence, the proof of which lies in the esteem in which Jack has held by the people of Fort Macleod and the many awards the Gazette won during his tenure.


And finally, an example of commitment to community that stands as an example for the rest of us in this business.

We owe a debt of gratitude to men and women such as Jack Murphy, who led by example, who showed grit and determination to keep putting the newspaper on the street each week, and who set the bar high for the rest of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me tonight in celebrating one of the last of that rare breed of home town newspapermen, Jack Murphy.

Top of Page