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Colfax Record owner receives Suburban Newspapers Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Brehm Sr., who purchased publication in 1983, given organization's highest honr
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The man at the helm of the company that owns the Colfax Record was recently honored with a national award for his life’s work. Bill Brehm Sr., chairman of Brehm Communications, Inc., received the Dean Lesher Award, which is the Suburban Newspapers of America’s highest individual honor. The award is given to those “who truly ‘give it all’ to the suburban and community news media industry.” The SNA is a nonprofit professional trade association and its members include 2,000 newspapers across the country and in Canada. Brehm purchased the Auburn Journal in 1965 and the Colfax Record in 1983. In 2003 he led a dedication of a $1 million expansion to the Journal’s press room to show the company’s commitment to printing its local newspapers. Hundreds attended the invitation-only event that included a tour of the building. The following is an excerpt from the SNA’s September newsletter, which includes a feature on Brehm. Where it all began Brehm began his career in 1946 as a “printer’s devil” for The Industrial Post in Bell and his ambition launched him quickly to bigger responsibilities. By 1950, he became a publisher in the company, soon took over the corporate role of general manager and in 1960, upon the death of the owner (and his father-in-law), became president. When he took the reins, the group consisted of four failing Los Angeles area newspapers; by 1981, Brehm and his wife Mona grew them into a successful group of 19 suburban weeklies and two small dailies. Involved in the acquisition and ownership of over 100 newspapers over his career, Brehm has become well respected for his knowledge of suburban newspapers and combining paid, free and controlled circulation products. His understanding of zoning and household penetration and sharp business acumen has guided his company to great success over his tenure. BCI remains on the cutting edge of change and now has an Interactive Media Division to help guide their more than 60 publications, 40 websites and seven printing sites into the future. According to his son and BCI President Bill Jr., “Dad accomplished his success through guts, innovation, group marketing skills and, of course, with negotiation skills in purchasing newspapers that fit the group.” At 85, Brehm remains active in his company as chairman of the board of BCI, based in San Diego, and in some aspects of the business. BCI Vice President/ General Manager Tom Taylor reports that “Bill still enjoys the art of a good ad sale or the development of new products to meet the needs of both readers and advertisers. He remains active in the communities his newspapers serves and is (currently) developing a multi-use park, with fields for children and adults in the Yucca Valley.” Guiding Principles Mr. Brehm points first and foremost to the foundation of strong local news and commitment to the community as the driving force behind his success. “BCI’s community newspapers must champion the local community and earn its trust through honest, responsible reporting of local news,” says Brehm, who added that his company emphasizes their commitment to the local community by way of a Community Service Award, given each year to the publisher who sponsors and contributes to the best permanent project that betters their community. Every year, every newspaper in BCI is charged with the task of selecting a project or event to sponsor in their community. The Journal takes this directive seriously as a major sponsor for at least a half-dozen annual community events including the Gold Country Fair, Auburn Home Show, the Auburn Community Golf Classic, the Community Festival, Party in the Park and more. The Colfax Record presents its annual Scoop Thurman Community Service Award, to honor an individual who is making a difference in the community. The award is named for Allen “Scoop” Thurman, editor and publisher of the Colfax Record from 1918 until his death in 1954. Now and Beyond While BCI is clearly committed to the digital evolution, Brehm is skeptical of an all-digital future. “Contrary to some opinions, we do not see the community newspaper becoming completely electronic,” says Brehm. “The printed word will always be important to many as a validation of events and reports and the availability of more in-depth articles than are produced on the Web.” Brehm received his award at the annual awards luncheon held during the SNA Fall Publishers’ & Advertising Directors’ Conference in Phoenix Sept 15.