The family of Brian Mazza donated $10,000 to the ISWNE Foundation to establish a Brian Mazza Memorial Scholarship not long after the 45-year-old editor's sudden death on March 4, 2007. Interest from the endowment is used to bring a Canadian editor to the ISWNE annual conference each year.
"We were very touched by the tributes to Brian," said his sister, Gail Krabben, production manager at The Mountaineer, the family owned weekly in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. "He loved the time he spent at ISWNE conferences, and always returned home filled with enthusiasm for his writing and many stories about his renewed friendships."
Mazza served as host of two ISWNE conferences, in 1994 at Calgary and in 2005 at Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta. He was president of the Society in 1994-95.
"We received many, many expressions of sympathy and kind words from ISWNE members," Krabben said. "No wonder Brian thought you were a special and inspiring group of people.
Mazza's career in the newspaper industry began when his parents purchased The Mountaineer in their hometown of Rocky Mountain House in 1967; he was six years old. He spent most of his after-school hours doing odd jobs in the printing plant. By junior high school, Brian was working in the darkroom developing film and photos for the newspaper. His interest in the business quickly expanded to include writing, and he decided to pursue a career in journalism. He attended The University of Calgary and graduated with a political science degree. He worked at the campus newspaper during most of his studies. Before settling in Rocky, he did a brief apprenticeship with Jim MacNeill at the Eastern Graphic in Montague, Prince Edward Island. MacNeill, incidentally, encouraged Brian to join ISWNE.
Brian became editor of The Mountaineer in 1988 after four years as a staff reporter. Politics were one of Brian's greatest interests. His column, "Ink by the Barrel," was topical, well-informed and gave him an opportunity to analyze and comment on politics in depth. He was extremely knowledgeable about Rocky's history and events, and he was often contacted by CBC Radio and other media to provide commentary.
He wrote some hard-hitting editorials when, from his view, things needed to change. Brian took a strong stand in 1997 when the Alberta Government introduced Video Lottery Terminals (or VLTs) in bars across the province. He wrote about his dislike of the whole VLT initiative, asserting that government should not rely on gambling as a source of revenue. He supported a successful petition to have VLTs banned from town.
Brian was deeply dedicated to community service and spent many hours volunteering with a long list of local organizations. He was honoured with the Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award for his work with Rocky's Bicentennial project, and the Humanitarian Award, for giving a voice to humanitarian campaigns and being an advocate for local charities.
Brian was a positive, open, outgoing person with a zest for life. He tackled projects with whole-hearted enthusiasm. He loved talking to people, travelling, photography, books, the arts, cycling, and sharing a good bottle of wine. Family was very important to Brian; he was proud to be part of a second generation family business, and also spent a lot of time with family outside of work. He especially loved sharing time with his nieces and nephew, reading stories, giving rides and playing games.
ISWNE was very special to Brian. It represented a combination of so many things he loved: writing, traveling, sharing ideas and meeting new people. He loved the idea of being part an organization committed to raising the standards of community journalism. He was inspired by the people he met and the ideas and experiences he shared.
Serving as president of ISWNE (which he always pronounced "IceWine") in 1994-95 was a highlight of his career. He was thrilled to wear the Society's Chain of Office, which he spent many hours restoring after years of inattention. Brian deeply valued the friendships which he forged over the past 20 years, since attending his first conference in 1986. He always looked forward to attending the Society's annual convention, and he organized two conferences, welcoming delegates to Calgary in 1994 and Edmonton in 2005.
Recipients of the Brian Mazza Memorial Scholarship:
2008: Derek Kilbourn, associate editor of the Star News, Wainwright, Alberta
2009: Frank McTighe, editor and publisher of The Macleod Gazette, Fort Macleod, Alberta
2010: Bruce Valpy, managing editor of Northern News Services Ltd., Yellowknife, Northwest Territories of Canada
2011: Steve Bonspiel, publisher of the Eastern Door, Kahnawake, Quebec
2014: Alicia McCutcheon, editor, The Manitoulin Expositor, Little Current, Ontario
2015: Brett Hueston, editor, Alymer Express, Aylmer, Ontario
2017: Gordon Cameron, group managing editor, Hamilton Community News, Stoney Creek, Ontario
2018: Laura Button, The Mountaineer, Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada
[Note: If you are a Canadian editor interested in receiving the Mazza Scholarship, please contact ISWNE executive director Chad Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org. It must be your first time to attend an ISWNE conference.]