Retired Columnist/Editor, Stouffville Sun-Tribune, Metroland
Jim Thomas’ career in the newspaper business spanned eight decades. He still remembers his first story, which was published in the Markham Economist and Sun while attending high school. He hitchhiked to Windsor to watch cars made on the assembly line and wrote a story about it. Although near the back of the newspaper, it was published, and he thought it looked pretty good.
Thomas started writing for the Stouffville Tribune as a part-time sportswriter in 1949. Things were done differently then. He would hand write the stories at home and put them in the mailbox. The mailman, driving a horse and buggy, would pick them up and bring them to Stouffville. Coverages of sporting events were mainly hockey, baseball and softball.
After going to business college, he joined the Tribune full time in 1951 and didn’t turn back. Four years later he graduated to the position of columnist. His opinion package was entitled Sports Shorts.
In 1954, Thomas purchased a Crown Graphic camera for $150, while making $30 a week. A game changer. With the camera, Thomas could cover the stories and take pictures. While working for the Tribune, he also picked up work with the Toronto Telegram and the Globe and Mail.
Sometime in the '60s, his column became a more visible format under the classification Roaming Around and was published on the editorial page.
There have been a few columnized incidents that have raised the ire of readers, to the point of threatened court actions and assaults, but thankfully, nothing of a serious nature ever transpired.
Where the fire engine would go, Thomas would follow. When the police siren would go, Thomas would follow. He always wanted to be first on the scene. That mindset led Thomas to get the nickname Scoop.
Thomas covered council stories in Stouffville, Markham, Uxbridge, Whitchurch and everywhere in between. He retired from his job as editor in 1989. After ‘retirement’ from the Tribune, he immediately joined the rival Stouffville Sun as a featured columnist. He remained in that post after the papers amalgamated in 2000.
Jim has also been busy in the community throughout the years. While at the Tribune, Jim created the popular Whitchurch-Citizen of the Year award program; an honour he would be awarded following his retirement. He also created the Music Town Ontario award and concert and the Stouffville Student Music Scholarship Concert. In the late 1980s, he was honoured during a Town roast.
In 2022, after 65 years and more than 3,300 columns, Thomas finally hung up the pencil/computer after decades of roaming Stouffville. He only missed one column in 65 years, due to a week-long hospital stay after a serious car accident.
Now 94, Jim remains active in the community as a school crossing guard and through his church, St. James Presbyterian, where he still writes for the congregational newsletter.
The OCNA Hall of Fame Award recognizes and celebrates individuals who have made exemplary contributions to Ontario’s community newspapers. Inductees are respected community news professionals who have remained passionate about the industry throughout challenges, opportunities, and changes. They are leaders who have helped community newspapers adapt and grow.