Today we mourn: A crack in the heart of New Westminster

Julie Maclellan

I got up this morning and knew that the newspapers I work for, the newspapers I love, are still running. I got up this morning and knew, hey, chances are good I still have a job.

It didn’t make me particularly happy.

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Because I know that, across town, the news is different. We’ve learned that our sometime competitor-turned-sister-paper, the New Westminster and Burnaby News Leader, is shutting down after its Oct. 1 editions. Over in Coquitlam, so is our sister paper (and sometime officemates) the Tri-Cities NOW.

It just sucks.

There might be more elegant ways of phrasing it, but at the moment I can’t think of any.

Sadly, it’s not a particularly new story: the closure of newspapers, and of community newspapers in particular, has become far too common a headline around B.C., across Canada and beyond.

I get it. Newspapers are a business, and that business isn’t as profitable as it used to be. Across the board, media outlets have thus far failed to “monetize” the vast promise that the Internet brought to the news industry, and page views haven’t yet turned to profit.

It’s paper that’s paying the price for that failure.

What we’re seeing now is a cascading series of losses that begin with the people who are about to be thrown out of work.

In New Westminster, in Burnaby, in Coquitlam, people who have dedicated their lives and their hearts to telling the stories of their community are going to lose their jobs.

Those losses alone are reason to mourn.

But the loss is so much bigger than that. So big it hurts.

It hurts when a community loses a piece of itself – and that’s what community newspapers are.

We’re the place people come when they want to know what’s going on.

When they want to find out what’s happening at city hall, at the theatre, on the high school sports field. When they want to know what kids are up to in school, how local leaders are spending their money, why traffic sucks and why taxes went up and what’s being built on that empty lot down the street.

We’re the place business owners come when they want to get the message out to the community about their new shops and restaurants, when they want to promote the great deals and amazing finds people can discover right here in our own backyard. We’re the place groups come when they need help promoting awesome local festivals and events.

We’re the ones who ask why when things go wrong, who demand answers from the powers that be and who do our best, every day, to hold leaders at all levels accountable for the decisions they make that affect the citizens of our communities.

(I could go on about this at length – and have. See a past blog post I wrote about the very subject of the role of community newspapers.)

It’s not enough just to say: oh, there’s still a local paper. There are still bloggers. There’s still Twitter. People can still find out what’s happening here. So who really cares?

We all should.

We all should if we care about our communities. If we care about the decisions that are being made that affect the lives of the people in them. If we care about the businesses that grow and thrive here, about the families who raise children here, about the roads and parks and sidewalks and green spaces that make up the environments in which we live.

Every time we lose a community newspaper, we lose a place where people can go see their community reflected back at them – and to change that reflection if they don’t like what they see.

Every time we lose a community newspaper, we lose another voice in the conversation. Every lost voice means a little little less transparency. A little less accountability. A little less democracy. A little less of what makes us citizens of the communities in which we live.

In oh so many ways, community newspapers are the very hearts and souls of the cities, towns and villages of this country.

Every time one is lost, those hearts and souls crack, just a little.

So today we mourn, even as we move forward.

The Record and Burnaby NOW have lived to fight another day.

And fight we will. We will be out there in the trenches doing what we’re all here to do: reporting on the news of our communities – in words, in pictures, on social media, in print, online.

We will work to do what needs to be done to make these newspapers thrive so that we can keep doing the job we’re here to do – telling the stories of our community, and making a difference in the lives of the people who live here.

We will do our damnedest to carry on the legacy we have built and to do justice to the work of those colleagues whom we’ve lost.

Please help us do that. Call us. Share your stories. Promote your businesses. Come to us for help with your festivals and events. Hold us accountable for what we do – and what we fail to do. Let us know that you know how important community newspapers are – and how much our community matters to all of us.

And, please, take a moment today to mourn for what we have all lost.



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