Carol Picard ain’t no puff piece. As an editor, Picard was never afraid to kill a story. And as a reporter, she threw mean hooks and was known to bust an all caps in her assignments. Basically, she’s the original gangster of journalism in the Bow Valley.
For the record though, Picard’s best feature is her ability to listen during interviews and to thoughtfully weigh both sides of a story. A lifetime of bylines in the morgue (that’s street talk for newspaper library) stand as testimony to how trustworthy, reliable and straight-up smart she is.
Throw it back to 1991 when a young yet veteran journalist originally from Winnipeg joined the Canmore Leader on a one-year trial basis. It was post 1988 Olympics, and Canmore was shifting from a sleepy coal mining town to a tourism destination. Picard would go on to spend the next two decades reporting about the after-effects of this transition: developers versus environmentalists and businesses versus government. She continued her commitment not only during her time at the Canmore Leader, but at a weekly community newspaper that she would create in Canmore: the Rocky Mountain Outlook.
“There’s nothing more gangster than starting your own newspaper. Think about it: the Fourth Estate is the only true way we, as a democracy, have to question those in power, and they have to answer,” says Tanya Foubert, a RMO reporter mentored by Picard. “Questioning power is in and of itself a rebellious act.”
Growing up, Picard knew all she wanted to do was to write. Starting her journalism career at the Winnipeg Tribune in 1977, Picard also did two CBC stints, and seven years at the Edmonton Sun where she says she was a “round peg in a square hole” as a lefty feminist. Tired of identifying who she was by who she worked for (and also tired of serial dating), Picard packed up and moved to Japan for two years in 1988.
Returning to Canada, her life’s path opened up to her. She worked at the Canmore Leader for seven years, married a local locksmith named Robin during the 1994 Canmore Folk Music Festival (they have volunteered at the folk fest every year since), and had a daughter named Sam. And in 2000, she started crafting the business plan for the Rocky Mountain Outlook, sharing it with soon-to-be business partners Bob Schott and Larry Marshall.
After a 37-hour shift spent behind the keyboard, the inaugural issue of the Rocky Mountain Outlook hit the stands on Sept. 20, 2001, just nine days after the World Trade Centre fell in New York City. The business model — an advertising-based model that allowed the Outlook to provide the newspaper to the community for free, unlike the other papers in town — was in jeopardy. Advertisers held tightly onto their wallets as tourism in the valley virtually came to a halt following the attacks. In fact, the paper was just one payroll away from closing its doors above the Canmore Rose & Crown.
But after this rocky start and a lot of hard work, the model clicked. In a short time, the Outlook had gained credibility within the community for its hard-hitting news, and the phone started ringing. Advertisers as well as sources began to call. Picard’s dark, sleepless-nights-turned-4 a.m.-mornings at the desk had paid off.
Since selling and then later retiring from the Outlook, Picard has served as a trustee on the Canadian Rockies Public Schools board and has helped host Food and Friends at St. Michael’s in Canmore every Monday. She has also inspired the next generation of journalists in the Bow Valley and beyond.
“Carol taught me so much and continues to inspire me to fight the powers that be through my work,” says Foubert. “Who else but a journalist actually gets do that?”
IN HER OWN WORDS
What to ask you about if someone were to meet you:
So how ’bout them Liberals?
In one sentence, how would you describe yourself?
Still looking for what I want to be when I grow up.
What are some of the struggles you find yourself facing in the Bow Valley?
I actually have few. Middle aged, middle class, solid in the housing market and able to afford the groceries. I guess my biggest struggle would be in finding ways for the generations right behind me to be able to say the same.
Who is someone you admire? Why?
Oh my. So many from which to choose. If I had to pick just one it would be Sue Panning, the Artistic Director of the Canmore Folk Festival. I had the opportunity to work intimately with her over the last six years through a very intense period of highs and lows for the festival. I have never had a more rewarding collaborative relationship with anyone, and perhaps never will again, but she taught me so much about leadership, personal communication skills and having the courage of your convictions. My second choice would be Kim Bater, the former chair of the Canadian Rockies Public Schools board, for all of the above.
What keeps you here in the Rockies?
Community. People. Funny question. I yearn for a lake or an ocean, and here I am surrounded by what I see as a granite fortress. Within a few years of my arrival in 1991 I was 3M — Married, Mortgaged and Maternal. And the decades flew by. The landscape doesn’t speak to me as it does to most, but I am deeply dug in now, and deeply connected to this amazing community, even though my feet rarely leave the pavement.
What is a vice of yours?
Just one? Smoking. Drinking. I swear like a trucker. My office looks like a bomb detonated, and my car looks like it was tossed for evidence. I am highly disorganized.
When are you most content?
Good friends around the dining room table, good food, good wine, spirited conversation. Or several hours on my own with an excellent mystery novel. I’m actually an introvert — less so than Patrick Lamontagne, but I am very much in love with my own company.