Editorial – Community Newspapers

The editorial for Jan. 14 focuses on the place of community newspapers in the changing media landscape.

Community news is an interesting communication medium. In the dying days of traditional journalism tools and the increased dependence on digital mediums, community newspapers are an anomaly. Many thought they would be the first casualties in the switch to digital, yet that’s not the case. More communities are holding on to their newspapers.

This is on the forefront of my mind this week. I spent the weekend in Toronto, speaking at a conference on how to get into community newspapers and how those newsrooms differ from other media. The conference is an annual tradition, gathering university press members from across the country for seminars, meetings and networking.

I wanted to speak at the conference because community news is a great place for budding journalists to utilize their educations, gain experience and diversify their portfolios. After working in the industry for nearly half a year, I wanted to encourage others and answer any questions as honestly as possible.

Someone asked if I thought community press is in the same danger as other traditional media outlets, and I had to say that I don’t think they are.

There is an element of danger as the industry is going through a growth spurt, but I think community news will find its place amongst the changes. Communities still have stories unique to them. They have characters and star athletes and community events that aren’t covered by other media sources. They are a communication tool between the citizens, the local governments and small business. And while new communication tools are rapidly advancing, they don’t have the same access to the community as local newsrooms do.

I spoke with one student after the presentation who told me he came to my talk because he wanted to start a newsletter for his strata building. The board, who collected monthly fees, wasn’t being transparent about how they were spending the money. No other media outlet would give attention to it, so he wants to start a small publication that will. That story epitomizes the place of community newspapers.

The Elk Valley is home to a collection of distinct communities, all with their own histories, loyal residents and stories. In my time with The Free Press, I have barely scratched the surface of them, but I will continue to look, in hopes of telling them to the very best of my abilities.