When I heard that The Question was going to become “a community paper” I was a little surprised. The reason? I already thought it was a community paper. It hits all hallmarks of the genre — an abundance of opinion, numerous stories about community events and organizations and a mandate to support community initiatives through participation and sponsorship.
The recent changes at The Question and The Pique have a lot of people scratching their heads, gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands. Change more often than not generates concern and these changes have been significant. Change? I say bring it on. This is not to say that I wasn’t a bit apprehensive when I first heard about the new direction the papers were taking, but then I took some time out to really think about it and came to another realization: whistler would now have two unique products, published on different days which would afford opportunities to get more information out to readers.
There’s no reason for Whistler to have two papers offering parallel content when there are so many stories to be told. By fully embracing the concept of “community first” this paper is making its mandate clear. And that, to my mind, is a very good thing. But then, I’ve always had a thing about community newspapers.
I started my writing career in community newspapers. For about a year I was the youth columnist contributing a monthly column to The Aldergrove Star on some burning issue my 16-year-old else felt needed to be addressed, from youth exclusion in politics to smoking on school grounds. As I laboured over the 450 words I was required to provide, I would dream of being the next Woodward or Bernstein, taking down a government, proving once again that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Journalism school changed all that. Once I knew what serious, investigative journalism entailed I lost all interest in working for a daily. It just sounded plain stressful and I knew intrinsically that I simply wasn’t up for the level of conflict that would arise along the way to toppling a government. I knew I was better suited to writing about people helping other people, organizations that improved lives and events that engaged.
But since my cynical younger self could not quite accept that I actually wanted to write positive pieces, I shelved the idea of working for newspapers for almost 10 years. Then I drifted back, eventually helping to lay the foundation for Xtra West, Vancouver’s first professionally operated gay and lesbian newspaper. Although I was the editor, I had little idea what I was doing, so I modeled this new product on what I had learned from community newspapers. And it worked.
People like to see themselves reflected back in what they read and community newspapers serve this function very well. The issues of a community, the ones that reach beyond council meetings and police reports, are important. When you think of Whistler do you think of zoning by-law amendments or do you think of the awesome people that make this place great? Is it the story about the car break-in at Marketplace you talk to you friends about or are you more inclined to chat about an upcoming theatre piece at Millennium Place?
Whistlerites are among the most generous and civic-minded people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The people who call this place home have a tendency to put community first and The Question is now enthusiastically building on this value by committing to do the same. What an opportunity to celebrate who we are!