November 1983. President Reagan signs a bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In Tripoli, Syria and Saudi Arabia declare a cease-fire in the PLO civil war. The Toronto Argos win their first Grey Cup victory in 31 years. And Tempo, a bilingual community forum, is launched in Town of Brome Lake. It’s driving force, Claire Kerrigan.
No hard-bitten, ink-stained journalist, Claire Kerrigan is a mother of four. In the 60s, with the kids off at school, she went back to McGill to resume her studies as a social worker, specializing in community organization. Claire did field work here in Brome County, gaining unique insight into the community. She was involved in the organization of Brome County Family Services (precursor of the CLSC), then turned her attention to the news of the day.
Fostering and informing community
“There was very much a felt need,” Claire said in a recent interview. “You’d read The Gazette and learn about what was happening in the Middle East, but you knew nothing about what was going on down the street.” Together with retired journalist Angela (Bunny) Kerrigan (a cousin by marriage), she approached the municipality and the Sherbrooke Record. But neither had any interest in covering the doings of our small town. Clearly, if Lac-Brome was going to have a newspaper, it wouldn’t be a business venture. Fortunately, she wasn’t alone in her desire for a local news vehicle. The Knowlton Lions Club suggested a volunteer effort and offered to finance the start-up to the tune of $2,000, starting with $500. Claire and a small group of like-minded citizens took up the challenge. Among others, the team included PR- man Dennis Rogers, who would serve briefly as Editor, Elliot Newman, an experienced journalist, and Helen McCubbin, who had a computer. “We worked at Dennis’ kitchen table,”
Claire remembers. “Helen entering stuff on the computer and Elizabeth (Libby) Johnson trying to cut and paste things together.” In less than a year, they had repaid the $500 to the Lions and Tempo was on its way.
Right from the start, Tempo was bilingual. “I think by and large we get along pretty well in this community,” she said. “Of all the things about Tempo, I’m most pleased that we have continued to publish in both languages.”
In addition to being bilingual, Tempo is a non-profit organization, operated largely by volunteers and financed by ad revenues. “The number of ads determines the number of pages. That’s how we control what the paper costs,” explains Claire, adding that 60% advertising content – somewhat lower than most newspapers – covers costs and allows Tempo to bank a small financial cushion.
Advertising has always been about more than paying the bills at Tempo. “We were really trying to help our businesses, too,” says Kerrigan. Proof of the paper’s success in that regard lies in the fact that from early days Tempo rarely had to sell ad space. Loyal advertisers continue to place their ads monthly, knowing the benefits of being seen in this unique publication. Bilingual, local and printed in a handy magazine format on high-quality paper, once Tempo is read it’s rarely used to light the fire or wrap fish. It lives on the coffee table all month long, serving as a phone book and reference guide for local businesses, events and activities.
40 years of friendship and leadership
While many volunteers have come and gone over the last 40 years at Tempo, a stalwart crew remains. When asked what has kept them going, they speak of friendship, of fun despite the hard work, and of pride in a quality product that serves the community. They also speak of Claire Kerrigan. Of her clear vision and strong guidance, her dedication, diplomacy and kindness, and the inspiration she has so consistently provided.
As we celebrate Tempo’s 40th year, we salute Claire Kerrigan for the leadership that has kept Tempo true to its founding objectives.
- To foster a greater sense of community in the diverse parts of the Town of Brome Lake and neighbouring communities.
- To keep residents better informed of the workings of municipal governments and of the various organizations and individuals in the area.
- To support business activity in the area.
- To provide a medium for the publicizing of the area to
investors, tourists, visitors and new residents.
- To publish in French and English in order to serve both language groups, and to promote a better understanding between them.