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Local paper's journalists, with almost 100 years combined experience, recognized with medals

Norm Park, David Willberg and Brian Zinchuk were among the 55 medal recipients.
From left, former Mercury editor Norm Park, current Mercury editor David Willberg and former Pipeline News and current Pipeline Online editor Brian Zinchuk were awarded Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee medals for their contribution to local journalism.

ESTEVAN - The Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal presentation on Thursday was a milestone for many individuals and organizations in Estevan.

It was a very special night for the Mercury and the local journalism community as well, as three newspaper journalists were recognized for their decades-long services.

Out of 55 Estevan medals, three were for services in journalism. The recipients were the Mercury's current editor David Willberg, the Mercury's former editor Norm Park, and Brian Zinchuk, Pipeline News' former editor, who also for years contributed to the Estevan Mercury newspaper, and who is currently the editor of his own project Pipeline Online, Saskatchewan Energy News.

At this time, these three journalists have 99 years of combined experience (Park with 52, Zinchuk has 25, Willberg 22), most of which they acquired covering the local, regional, federal and international news out of Estevan.

Willberg has spent his entire career as a reporter and editor in southeast Saskatchewan.

He started working for Estevan Lifestyles in September 2000, often serving as the paper's only full-time reporter. He became the editor in February 2009. The stories he covered for Lifestyles, the people that he met in the community and the people he worked with at the paper all contributed to his decision to make Estevan his home.

In May 2015, the newsrooms and the other departments of the Mercury and Lifestyles were merged together, and so he became a reporter for the Mercury and the editor for Lifestyles.

When Park retired in February 2017, Willberg was promoted to editor for both papers.

Since April 2020, the Mercury has been the lone paper in Estevan.

He has also contributed sports stories for Weyburn This Week, and also serves as the editor of the Carlyle Observer.

"This is a tremendous honour," he said. "I want to thank Estevan MLA Lori Carr for nominating me. It's particularly meaningful to be recognized alongside Norm and Brian. And it's humbling to be recognized alongside these other recipients, many of whom I've respected and admired for the past 22 years."

Park began his journalistic career in southern Ontario in 1965 with the tri-weekly Trenton Trentonian, as a reporter and then sports editor in a six-person newsroom.

Three years later he moved to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to pursue an editorial consultant role with the Guardian newspaper. That didn't pan out due to union conflicts, but the visit lasted for a good part of a year.

A return to his home province of Saskatchewan led to a sports and general reporting gig with the Estevan Mercury in 1969.

Marriage and short-term employment with the daily P.A. Herald as city editor then led to the purchase of two weekly newspapers, the Wynyard Advance and Hi-Way 15 Gazette, and the start-up as a partner in another. After selling these papers seven years later, he returned to the Mercury, where he always felt at home.

Tours as reporter and editor ensued. That included being a four-time winner of the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper (SWNA) Columnist of the Year Award, Best Sports Photo and Top News Story along the way, with several other individual and Mercury team wins. He wrapped up a 52-year career in 2017.

The career involved on-scene coverage of the first major Hercules air crash at the Trenton CFB transport command that claimed six lives. That was a difficult one, Park noted.

"I know I'm name-dropping, but in what other profession can you get the opportunity to visit with five prime ministers, seven premiers plus the likes of Gordie Howe, Ted Williams, Bing Crosby and yep, even the real Col. Sanders of KFC fame, along with many others. Some of whom are still alive," Park said. "A wonderful ride."

Zinchuk grew up in Hyas and Yorkton. He attended the University of Saskatchewan's College of Engineering, but that didn't pan out, so he went to work as a pipeliner, eventually becoming an excavator operator. Over the next several years, when he wasn't pipelining, he worked as a reporter for the Saskatoon Journal, Rosetown Eagle and Battlefords News-Optimist.

After five years with the News-Optimist, Zinchuk was recruited to become the editor of Pipeline News, Saskatchewan's petroleum monthly newspaper. In 2008, it was reformed to be provincial in scope. During the next 12 years, he wrote about every aspect of the Saskatchewan oilpatch, from drilling to fracking, refineries to pipelines.

He visited nearly every oilpatch community, and either wrote or edited stories about most of the companies within the Saskatchewan oilpatch.

Pipeline News stopped publishing when COVID-19 hit, and Zinchuk did some short-term consulting and then spent nine months covering provincial politics as a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.

He left that position in May 2021 to launch Pipeline Online in October 2021. Pipeline Online is Saskatchewan's energy news, but in a completely online format. There, Zinchuk has continued to focus on in-depth coverage of energy issues, from oil and gas to lithium and power production.

Zinchuk married Michelle Steciuk in 1999. She is a registered nurse in the St. Joseph's Hospital emergency room. They have two children, Katrina and Spencer.