ELK POINT – For 42 years, Vicki Brooker has been reporting on the events of Elk Point and sharing the stories of its residents.
Entering the journalism profession later in life, Brooker knew she wanted to be a reporter since she was just 10 years old. When she left high school, Brooker considered writing for a southern Alberta newspaper but changed her path because of societal pressures at the time.
“My mother said, ‘Oh, no, that's not a proper job for a lady, because you meet such peculiar people,” recalled Brooker. She decided to put that dream away and focus on having a family instead.
It wouldn’t be until Brooker was 37 years old that her first article was published in the St. Paul Journal.
Noticing there was no reporter to cover a bonspiel event, Brooker used the notes her daughter had taken for a high school internship at an Elk Point newspaper to write her own article and sent it to the St. Paul paper.
“I got a letter back from the publisher who sent me a cheque and said, ‘If you want to keep contributing, we’ll be happy to pay you’,” said Brooker, looking back.
That was in 1980, and today Brooker continues to report on the Elk Point and St. Paul community for the Lakeland This Week newspaper.
On Dec. 1, Brooker received a monumental Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for her four decades of service to the Elk Point community through her journalism and volunteerism.
At the awards presentation ceremony in Bonnyville, MLA David Hanson recognized Brooker as a contributing author of Elk Point’s history.
"As a newspaper reporter, she is the local historian. Vicki is young at heart and her love for the community is relentless,” stated Hanson.
When Brooker received the letter informing her that she was selected as a recipient for Her Majesty’s Jubilee medal, she said it wasn’t too much of a surprise.
As a seasoned community reporter, not a lot goes on that Brooker does not know about well in advance.
“I don't miss a whole heck of a lot,” she said. “You’ve always got to have your ear to the ground.”
Brooker heard rumblings that she was put forward as a nominee, but believed it was because of her volunteer work with the local 4-H club.
In fact, Brooker was nominated for the award by Town of Elk Point’s CAO Ken Gwozdz on behalf of Mayor Parrish Tung and council.
“Vicki is one of our town’s ardent supporters,” Gwozdz told Lakeland This Week. “An extraordinary volunteer with our Canada Day celebration and numerous other organizations. In short, if there is a need within the region, she will be the first to volunteer.”
The CAO added, "As our local reporter, she has faithfully reported our affairs without prejudice, which is greatly appreciated by council.”
Gwozdz also noted Brooker’s dedicated involvement with the community’s library both locally and at the county level as another factor in her nomination.
Brooker was a member of the St. Paul library board for 28 years and has been on the Elk Point library board for about nine years.
“It's a worthy endeavour because libraries are very important,” said Brooker.
Celebrating her 79th birthday this month, Brooker said she has no plans of stepping back from any volunteer boards or laying down her pen.
“Not as long as I can keep writing, anyways,” she said. “It's my community. It's important to keep it going. I do all I can to keep the community informed and in the eye of the public.”
For Brooker, community newspapers are vital because they are how people find out what is going on in their communities – but acknowledged that the industry is facing tough times.
Local businesses and municipalities have a role when it comes to keeping local journalism alive and running, she said. “If we don't have advertisers, we don't have papers.”