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Remembering John Tompkins

John Tomkins, former editor of The Campus Resident, was a believer in local newspapers. In this piece, UNA director Bill Holmes pays tribute to a pioneer of journalism in the university neighbourhoods.

With the relaunch of The Campus Resident, it is fitting to remember the paper’s longtime editor and publisher, John Tompkins. John died Jan. 29, 2022.
John started The Campus Resident in May 2010, in partnership with the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA). The paper was published monthly for most of its existence and delivered by Canada Post to every household in UBC neighbourhoods. Until 2017, it was also delivered in the University Endowment Lands and nearby Vancouver communities.
The paper described John’s role as editor and business manager. That was an understatement. John was responsible for all aspects of the paper. He solicited and edited articles, and handled the design, printing, and distribution of the paper.
He was also the paper’s reporter. He was diligent in carrying out that role, faithfully attending UNA board meetings, UNA annual general meetings, and community events such as Lunar New Year. He would sit quietly, observing the proceedings and watching out for stories.
John provided an invaluable service to the UBC neighbourhoods. The Campus Resident informed us of local issues and events, helping to create a greater sense of community and making us feel more connected.
It also provided a forum for residents to express views and debate issues, a role for the paper that particularly pleased John. Even though the paper was funded by the UNA (in part from advertising revenue), John was a stickler for maintaining its independence. The high regard that UBC residents had for The Campus Resident was evident by the outcry and the letters of appreciation John received when, in 2017, the UNA temporarily suspended the newspaper. The paper was reinstated in 2018.
John gained his experience in the newspaper business in the 1970s as a reporter for the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun. After a few years, he moved on to the business world, where he worked in public relations for several corporate startups, using his persuasive speaking and writing skills. Remembering John Tompkins
In 2002, while living at Hampton Place, John saw a need for a local newspaper. Being entrepreneurial, he started a business of publishing a community newspaper for UBC residents. Longtime residents may remember The V6T Community News, which began publication in January 2003. (Canada Post permission had to be obtained to use “V6T” in the name.)

(Photo: Supplied)

The paper’s initial circulation of 3,500 quickly grew, reaching 17,500 in April 2007 as the distribution of the paper expanded to eventually include the University Endowment Lands and nearby Vancouver communities.
In May 2007, John changed the paper’s name to The Hampton Journal, under which name it was published to June 2008. The first issue of The Hampton Journal had a circulation of 18,000. From its outset as the V6T Community News, the paper was funded solely by advertising and had no connection with the UNA.
For a brief period in 2009, John published The Wesbrook Journal. This was as much a marketing piece for Wesbrook Place as a community newspaper.
In 2010, the UNA decided to introduce a monthly community newspaper to replace a UNA newsletter. Given his experience, John was the obvious person to take on the venture.
Fortunately, when approached by the UNA, he agreed, and The Campus Resident was born, with its first issue published in May 2010. The Dec. 20, 2021 issue was the last, appearing just days before John went into hospital.
I was a frequent contributor to the paper and so came to know John. One day at lunch, we discovered our paths had once crossed. In my last year of high school on Vancouver Island, he was a new teacher at the school. That was 1968–69, two years after he had immigrated to Canada from the U.K. Among the courses John taught was Physics 12 (he had a B.Sc. in physics).
Although I took that course, I was in a different section, so just missed having him as a teacher for the only year he was at the school. After I discovered this connection, John was invited to join lunches with a few students who had been at the school during his year and a former teacher who had been his fishing buddy.
John believed in the power and importance of a community newspaper. His dedication and commitment to serving the UBC community for nearly 20 years were remarkable.


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