“Welcome to the Bronze Age,” my good friend Glenda Bartosh quipped after the BC & Yukon Newspaper Community Association Awards hardware had been handed out.
Her’s was a wry reference to the fact that we’d made it to the foot of the podium, only to watch the competition climb the steps and grasp the shiny metal: Glenda took Bronze in the Feature Writing under 25,000 circulation category; the Chronicle Bronze in the B Category as a B.C. Newspaper of Excellence.
I am honoured, and like everyone else in the room, clapped enthusiastically for the Oliver Chronicle, which took the Gold, and the Revelstoke Review, which took Silver.
But I was disappointed I wouldn’t get to deliver the few words I’d been polishing as I watched community journalists from throughout the province accept awards for the work they do – the important work they do, it was emphasized by many of my colleagues.
What I wanted to say, in those few seconds when the spotlight would have been on me, was thanks to Publisher Teresa McKinley, for believing in the editorial integrity of the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle, while charting a course through the financial shoals; to Production Manager Doug Kent, for putting the paper together each week, often saying something can’t be done, then doing it; to Kara Olson and Deb Bradford in the front office, who manage so many of the other jobs that need doing to keep a community newspaper afloat; and to Black Press for keeping the presses running.
Of course I have to thank my wife and family for supporting me, and understanding the long hours and sudden changes in schedule that are the reality of a community editor’s job.
Most of all, though, I practised a few words to the Chronicle’s communities for making it so interesting and easy to come up with a story lineup each week.
That’s what drives community journalism: the joy and responsibility of revealing, in our haphazard way, the never-ending story of a community continuously remaking itself politically, artistically, socially and historically.
After 30 years writing about community – 15 of them in what a companion Bronze Ager at the BCYCNA soiree referred to as my sojourn on the ‘dark side’ as communications manager with a B.C. school district – I have never run out of stories to tell, or tired of telling them.
Like every other media sector, community newspapers are going through a period of unsettling change. It’s been difficult for many in the industry to adjust, and some have either lost their jobs or left in frustration.
But the bedrock of community journalism remains solid. There will always be a need for professionals in every community to cover the news: to get inside issues and present all sides and perspectives on a story; to check facts and cross reference statements; to look for the extraordinary in the every day.
There are those who think we live in an age when we get plenty of information via web sites and social media. That’s true. In fact, we are inundated with information; what’s needed more than ever is a cadre of trained journalists to synthesis and clearly present information in ways that capture the essence of our stories and make sense of the torrent.
In that role, I think community journalists will be accepting awards for years to come, and I think there will be plenty of up-and-comers to take on the job.