Memories of KT: Former employees reflect on 20 years

By Charlie Senack

As KT turned 20, we asked employees of the past to share their memories of working at the paper. Here is what they had to say.

Mark poses for a photo in the mayors office
Mark Sutcliffe. File photo by Charlie Senack.

Mark Sutcliffe, Founder 2003-2021

When I moved back to Kitchissippi in 1998, I just loved how vibrant and exciting the neighbourhood was. There were so many interesting people, so many great neighbours I was getting to know, so many great things happening. I started the paper because I wanted to capture the nature of Kitchissippi.

Kitchissippi Times took off really quickly in terms of people’s appreciation of it. It wasn’t because of me, it was because of all the people who put in the effort. It quickly became one of the best newspapers in Ottawa. I heard that from people regularly; It really reflected the character of the community. 

We live in a country in a city, but where we really live is in a neighbourhood. We are connected to the shops and businesses; the community centre; the school; and to the recreation facilities and local charities. 

I’m very proud to see KT still printing and I’m happy because I know how much the newspaper means to the residents of Kitchissippi. I always grab a copy when I’m walking down the street and I see a new edition in one of the boxes. It’s a source of pride for me.

Donna poses for a selfie next to a brick wall.
Donna Neil. Provided Photo.

Donna Neil, Associate Publisher, Chief Marketing Officer 2003-2014

Mark Sutcliffe and I had worked together previously and we had talked about maybe starting a newspaper in this growing, prosperous neighbourhood. We just hit the road running. NewsWest was publishing in that neighbourhood for many years, so one of our first steps was to approach them and work out a relationship. 

We had lots of help in terms of time and effort. It was like a small, family business. We’d literally meet in Mark’s living room or at a coffee shop and talk about what the logo was going to look like, or the tag line which was “the spirit of Kitchissippi.”

I hit the streets and I must have walked miles for weeks and weeks telling businesses about what we were doing. I’m sure between us, Mark and I stopped in every single business in Westboro and Wellington West. 

Community newspapers contribute to a neighbourly community feeling. It’s important to do stories that other media isn’t going to cover. We were fortunate enough to have created something that is still embraced by Kitchissippi. To see the paper still going strong is rewarding.

Paula poses for a photo in her backyard.
Paula Roy. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Paula Roy, Writer 2003-2019

In the first year I wrote about everything from political campaigns to sporting events, fundraisers, notable institutions, and condo developments which were big issues at the time. It was always fun to meet new people and do my best to write stories that helped inform people, maybe educate them sometimes, and make them appreciate that Kitchissippi is a pretty incredible place to live. 

In the early days, I was writing a lot of pieces about youth in the community who were doing amazing things. They were musicians, artists, scientists, or athletes going to national competitions and events. I remember how excited the kids always were to be featured. It felt like a real honour to write about them. 

In the very first issue the editor at the time asked if I knew any other writers. It turned out that my son Nick, who was in grade six at the time, had quite an interest in writing. I asked if they’d be interested in having a youth column and so it began for him. He wrote until about halfway through his high school career, when he then handed the baton off to my daughter, Mollie.

Anita poses for a photo at the front door of her home.
Anita Lahey. Provided Photo.

Anita Lahey, Editor 2003-2005

Mark and I had worked together on lots of publications before. When he wanted to start the paper it seemed like a really great fit and I got involved. 

I saw a chance for a newspaper that really contained all the basic nuts and bolts but went beyond it. It reflected the people of the neighbourhood and talked about things people were gossiping about. 

We got to sort through if rumors were true. We got to highlight residents of the neighbourhood who were doing interesting things with their lives. We had a page called ‘Kitchissippi Catch Up’ which was a roundup of what was going on in residents’ lives. The idea was like an old fashioned newsletter. 

I think it’s great that KT is still going strong. Community newspapers are so important for a neighbourhood because it gives people a chance to share their own concerns about things that will directly impact their lives. It tells stories that won’t be told anywhere else. It gives people a sense of belonging, an opportunity to feel like they are part of a place that is more than the walls of their house.

Michael poses for a photo in a kitchen.
Michael Curran. Photo by Ellen Bond.

Michael Curran – President 2010-2022, Publisher 2022-PRESENT

I joined the Kitchissippi Times team in fall 2010, when I started working with its parent company. At the time, the newspaper was led by a terrifically talented and devoted team that included Lisa Georges, Donna Neil and Mark Sutcliffe. 

I was immediately impressed by two things: Kitchissippi Times had the feel of a small town village newspaper. Its unique editorial mission cultivated a real sense of connection between neighbours, specifically profiles of notable residents, volunteers, artists and shopkeepers.

The other thing I noted was its fervent readership. At a time when many people were shifting away from printed newspapers, it was difficult to keep Kitchissippi Times stocked in street boxes and racks located along Wellington Street. The pick-up rate signalled the newspaper’s popularity with readers. 

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many devoted team members. On the editorial side, I have fond memories of Andrea Tomkins and Maureen McEwan. On the sales side, Donna Neil and Lori Sharpe. On the design side, Patti Moran and Regan Van Dusen.

Let me wrap up by talking about the future. These are tough times for community newspapers. Dozens of newspapers have closed since the pandemic. Going against the flow is Kitchissippi Times. A small but mighty team ? maining consisting of Charlie Senack, Eric Dupuis and Celine Pacquette, supported by freelancers and contractors ? throw their energy and creativity into Kitchissippi Times. 

The team is united in its mission to keep readers informed and connected. The end result? A better community.

Patti Moran poses for a photo as a selfie.
Patti Moran. Provided Photo.

Patti Moran – Founding Designer 2003

I was the production manager for all Transcontinental papers at the time. I worked very closely with Donna Neil to come up with a look and feel for the paper that was different. We wanted to make a community paper that didn’t look like a community paper; that looked solid and reliable.

I remember the masthead, the flag of the newspaper, the logo at the beginning, is what Donna was most concerned about getting right. She relied on my expertise to come up with font styles for the body text, headlines, and bylines. We decided right away it would be a modular newspaper which means there is a limited amount of sizes for ads so the pages can go together nicely. It wasn’t a new concept at the time, but it wasn’t always widely used either.

I recently went online and was tickled pink to see Kitchissippi Times is still using the same logo assembly I created!

Sonia poses for a photo on a bridge.
Sonia Mendes. Provided Photo.

Sonia Mendes – Editor 2009-2011

My opportunity with the Kitchissippi times came because I had been working with Mark Sutcliffe on the launch of iRun magazine. KT needed an editor and they asked if I wanted to take on that role. It was a great fit for me. 

What struck me most is what a vibrant community Kitchissippi is. It’s home to so many authors, artists, and volunteers. There was always a real sense they were looking out for one another. 

There is one story I remember fondly. I had the chance to speak with a hockey player named Kyle Lafreniere. Around that time there was a hockey team called the Capital City Condors which gave opportunities to special needs players to participate. He was so incredibly enthusiastic in getting the chance to play hockey. It was the highlight of his entire week. He’d be up at the crack of dawn on days they’d have practices even though he’d have six hours to wait. 

Community news is vital because it makes room for the stories that connect us as humans. Today’s news cycle can be incredibly overwhelming and depressing. We need stories of people who are lifting each other up and making a difference.

Lisa posss for a photo next to a blank wall.
Lisa Georges. Provided Photo.

Lisa Georges – Production Artist 2005-2008, Creative Director 2008-2011, Publisher 2011-2014

I was on maternity leave and I was looking to work from home which was a really unusual thing back then. I put an ad in the Kitchissippi Times for another company at the time, and Donna Neil offered me a job. 

It was a really good time for the newspaper when I came on board. KT started out at 12 issues and soon ramped up to 22 issues a year. 

The evolution of the neighbourhood really influenced the evolution of the newspaper. The mandate for the Kitchissippi times was really strong. The people we featured had to be from the community. The stories we featured had to be upcoming of what was happening in the neighbourhood and not post news. 

Here you have the opportunity to learn about the people and events in your community. That brings people together. By reading you get to find out your neighbour is not just a mother of three but also a published author. Or that the man across the street who you wave to every day was an incredible military officer.

Andrea poses for a photo in a kitchen.
Andrea Tomkins. Photo by Ellen Bond.

Andrea Tomkins, Editor 2013-2019

I always liked the Kitchissippi Times. I thought it was full of good local news. I read it cover to cover, ads and all, because I wanted to know what was happening in my neighbourhood. 

In 2005 or 2006 I offered to write little bits here and there. I think my first story was of Saint Vincent de Paul. I got a tour of the basement where they did all the sorting. 

I was the editor of another local publication owned by Great River Media called Capital Parent. About six months later, Mark Sutcliffe and Michael Curran talked to me about taking on the editor role at Kitchissippi Times. 

One of the features I introduced was ‘Humans of Kitchissippi’, which was inspired by ‘Humans of New York’. My belief is everyone has a story. 

A person told me once he reads the paper every issue, and the first thing he does is look inside to see who he knows. That always stayed with me because that is one of the best things about a community paper is you see your neighbours, even those you don’t know very well.

Maureen poses for a photo next to a mural.
Maureen McEwan. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Maureen McEwan, Editor 2020-2022

It was a turbulent time for my editorship at the start. I had my first April 2020 edition and then production was suspended for two months because of the pandemic. I was particularly thrilled when I got to see the paper back in those gold boxes in August 2020. 

No matter what, the stories were always there because Kitchissippi is a very active community. During my time as editor we had the pandemic going on and we had three elections, one at every level. We had the trucker convoy role into town and the aftermath of that. 

I was really honoured to talk to people like Catherine McKenna for an exit interview when she left the House of Commons. I also sat down with Albert Dumont, the Ottawa poet laureate, about the renaming the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway to something that more reflects Indigenous history and culture . It was a huge privilege for Charlie Senack and I to be there when Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla were in Kitchissippi. 

Kitchissippi Times continues to adapt and give important information to the community. IThere are not that many journalists out there covering what’s happening in this specific ward.

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