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The North Shore News says community newspapers still matter

March 8, 2011 1 comment

In the trend of local community reporters playing defence for their profession, Deana Lancaster of the North Shore News has a long piece on the continuing importance of print media, especially community papers.

Those who said newspapers were finished are finding themselves backpedalling. The old model is irreversibly changed, it’s true, and no one knows exactly what the new one will look like, but print is still here and it’s still relevant.

That is nowhere more accurate than it is in community news.

“One of the big terms being thrown around in media these days is ‘hyper-local,’ ” says George Affleck, general manager of the British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspapers Association. It’s an online buzzword that refers to fine-grained information about cities, towns, even neighbourhoods; information that’s interesting to both residents living there and advertisers trying to reach them. It’s all about relevance.

“That is exactly what community newspapers do,” says Affleck. “Community newspapers have been doing hyper-local since they opened.”

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As I started reading this, I thought it was just a happy promotional piece for community newspaper (sorry Deana). But the further in I got, the more I started nodding in agreement.

By the time I finished the following section, I was in total agreement with the gist of the piece.

“If there’s a model that needs to be fixed, let’s talk about that,” says Roberts.

To improve the bottom line, some of these major players have slashed budgets, cut staff and tightened editorial percentages across the board at their papers, regardless of performance. Meanwhile. independent newspapers have the advantage of being more nimble, responding quickly to a rapidly changing industry and can devote more resources to quality content and their online editions.

“The real challenge is to be part of these larger corporations . . . the problem is not that people don’t want and support newspapers,” concludes Roberts.

Unfortunately, she’s too right. The news that community newspapers provide is still important. Print is important (in part because it’s impossible to ignore a paper on your doorstep every week). Yet, advertising revenue has disappeared. Independent newspapers do seem to be better set up to deal with the future of the industry. And still, community newspapers aren’t going indie and probably never will.

Solutions? I have none and neither does Deana. We are, therefore we will continue to be. God help us.

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This blog had more visitors in February than any previous months. It’s still a one man show, though, so any help would be great. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Gators, pinball wizards, school boards and animal people

February 28, 2011 Comments off

Lotsa stuff from around the Lower Mainland last week. (Two more posts coming later today).

Superb story, in the Burnaby Now, by Jennifer Moreau on an autistic pinball genius and aspiring poker king.

Robert’s latest passion is poker. For the past three or four months, he’s been teaching himself how to play by watching YouTube videos and has already ranked No. 11 in one of B.C.’s amateur leagues. With his natural ability to handle numbers, statistics and probabilities, Robert seems cut out for the game.

“If you ask him, ‘What are the chances of getting royal flush?’ He’ll probably say, ‘One in 650,000,’ ” Maurizio says. “He tells me this stuff, and it goes over my head.”

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The poker thing blows me away because it’s generally assumed that a large part of that game is the ability to read competitors’ intentions. And yet, a major symptom of autism is the inability to pick up such social cues.

Also in the Burnaby Now, Janaya Fuller-Evans reports on allegations of bullying, infighting and other alleged misdeeds that one normally expects to see in the arts community, rather than among animal lovers.

Arnold noted many instances of harassment, from board members directly confronting her over issues to moments where she felt threatened, including when her truck was vandalized while parked at the association’s barns.

more…

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The new Black Press front pages are improved, but the stories themselves badly need paragraph breaks. I imagine someone’s working on that. Meanwhile the WordPress Theme for Black Press blogs is truly horrible and gloomy and makes me not want to read on even when the content is quite good. Please change it.

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The phrase “board of education” sounds stupid. They’re school boards, they should be called as such.

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I just noticed the sleazy weekly editorials in the Delta Optimist. How do you get your editorial percentage when the copy is so obviously an advertisement? The Optimist is the only Postmedia paper with a business column down the right hand side of its news page. Why? Why? Why?

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A crazy crime spree in the Chilliwack area included, as Robert Freeman of the Chilliwack Progress puts it, “one woman’s emergency 911 call, one vehicle burning under the Agassiz/Rosedale bridge, one dust-up with a Chilliwack car dealer, one startled shopper in the Chilliwack Safeway parking lot – and one alligator.” Oh, yeah, and there was a marijuana grow-op involved (although I guess the presence of drugs isn’t all that surprising).

In a similar vein comes this beauty of a headline from the North Shore Outlook: “Stinky thieves steal laundry loot.” And yes, the thieves were actually smelly.

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Two stories — one in the Richmond News, the other in the Coquitlam Now — about stutterers are hooked on last night’s Oscars and The King’s Speech. I think a smart PR person is probably behind each, given that they both mention Columbia Speech and Language Services, but that’s OK; the stories are good.

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The Richmond Review has published its 30 under 30 section. These features about all these high-flying young achievers always depress the hell out of me, but are fun to read anyways.

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Your webinar of the day:

Be like Delta Leader photog Evan Seal and turn your camera on an angle.

This Tri-City News file photo of an ambulance at a hospital is awesome. File photos don’t have to be boring.

And for some reason community newspapers forget that the simple Q and A format can make for great reading and very easy writing. Marisa Babic of the Surrey Now puts questions to under-fire Vanoc head John Furlong.

(One thing, though: we Canadians don’t have a timid sense of patriotism. We just like to pretend we do. If we weren’t patriotic Molson’s I Am Canadian commercials wouldn’t be so successful. Hopefully the Olympics ends the charade.)

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Nice story (and lede) by the Vancouver Courier’s Naoibh O’Connor on a First Nations school that has rebranded itself as an “Earth School.”

Rainwater drips like a broken tap off the corner of the First Nation long house roof into a concrete barrel. Droplets barely ripple the surface of six-inch deep water pooled above a bed of rocks, sand and debris. Fidgety Grade 2 and 3 students gather around Brent Mansfield on this cool late-January morning at Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh elementary. Mansfield, the school’s garden project coordinator, hoped for more of a downpour for today’s lesson, but a drizzle will do.

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Finally, in case you missed the Black Press shuffle, the North Shore Outlook and WestEnder have got new editors.

Photo by Ryan Somma via Flickr.

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That was a pretty good post, eh? Or not? Either way keep them coming by helping me out. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll shamefully update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!


North Shore Outlook, WestEnder get new editors

February 27, 2011 Comments off

I’m slow off the mark on this, but whatever: big personnel changes earlier this month at three Lower Mainland newspapers.

Michael White, editor of Black Press’s alternative weekly the WestEnder has left to edit a magazine (I’m not sure what magazine.) Justin Beddall, who was editor of the North Shore Outlook, is taking over the WestEnder, with Martha Perkins, editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent, taking over Beddall’s former post.

Martha will also continue to edit the Undercurrent because, as we all know, community newspapers don’t replace journalists, they only give them more shit to do.

Here’s Martha’s very positive column on the changes.

I am going to continue to cover the Monday night council meetings. Oddly enough, it’s something I enjoy doing. I’ll also be covering other news events on the island, just not as frequently.

As well, I’ll be on the island a lot as a cottager of sorts. My husband and I have a sailboat at the Union Steamship Marina, and absolutely love this new aspect of our life here.

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And here’s a story in the Outlook.

Congrats and good luck to all.

Bipolar comedians, Mt. Everest and a brief physics lesson

January 26, 2011 Comments off

The must read story of the week comes from Hannah Sutherland of the Peace Arch News who speaks to a woman widowed last week when her husband was killed in a horrific crash with a dump truck. A super photo by Doug Shanks of the woman at the scene sets up the story and Hannah does the rest of the work. It closes:

The weekend before the crash, Michie said she and Neiss were watching a news story about a man who died earlier this month in a Tucson, Ariz. shooting, after pushing his wife out of the line of fire.

Neiss told Michie he had been wondering what he would say to her if he was that man, and only had moments to live.

“‘I’ve been thinking about it and I’d tell you thanks for loving me’,” Michie recalled him saying. “And I said, ‘well, thanks for loving me.’”

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Alan Campbell of the Richmond News reports on a local mountaineer and adventurer (who’s aspiring to walk from Richmond to Mexico) in style:

The wind was howling at gale-force and even more deadly weather was creeping closer by the hour.

Darrell Ainscough and his two Sherpas were sitting tight in a frozen camp, just shy of Mt. Everest’s peak, as the final window of opportunity to reach the Summit of the World was just about to slam shut.

Everyone else had either reached the 8,850-metre summit or had given up, when Ainscough suddenly became aware that he and his native guides were the last group on Earth’s most revered mountain.

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THAT’S how you start a story.

Jessica Kerr of the Delta Optimist reports on a family that is P-I-S-S-E-D after finding their runaway dog with another owner downtown. Even though the dog was tattooed with identification, it ended up at an Abbotsford adoption pound from where it was adopted. The family can’t do

In a Langley Advance story on that reckless dump truck driver, a cop is paraphrased as saying “two cars, each going 60, can hit at a total speed of 120 km/h, causing a tremendous impact.” Until a couple months ago that made perfect sense to me. Then I saw a Mythbusters episode that explained that this much-repeated “fact” is wrong (follow link for some formulas and stuff I don’t understand but assume to be true). According to something or other called physics (?), the total speed may double, but so does the mass of the two objects. That means that a crash between two similarly sized cars travelling at the same speed shouldn’t result in much more destruction than if one of those cars had just driven into a brick wall. (I’m not sure about the physics when the two vehicles have different masses, as was the case in Langley.) Something to remember.

Todd Coyne of the Tri-City News profiles a local bipolar comedian:

Before J. Peachy reinvented himself, people knew him as Geoffrey and he seemed the very image of success.

He had a wife, they owned a home, he had a nice car and he managed a successful telecommunications portfolio that included highly sensitive military contracts.

Then, on a work day like any other in November 2004, Geoffrey got up from his office desk and retired to the bathroom never to re-emerge.

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I know Maple Ridge is dealing with a bad-ass cougar, but I don’t think it has telekenetic powers as the Maple Ridge Times seems to claim with the headline: “Cat thought to kill horse.” Just sayin’.

A better headline from the North Shore News: “Appetite for construction.” Yes it’s easy. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I smiled.

Great story and photo by Rebecca Aldous of the North Shore Outlook on all the money spent by the local library in the past year. Instead of leading with a whole bunch of dollar amounts she ledes with a nice personal moment at a local library.

Jenny Benedict pulls a comment from a wall dotted with green and blue sticky notes.

The rectangular area, which was left free to celebrate West Vancouver Memorial Library’s 60th anniversary, is a space where people can leave tidbits on their experience and memories regarding the facility.

The slip in the director of library services hand reads, “I love the library because it feels like coming home.”

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THEN come the numbers.

Finally, the Surrey Now re-introduces new publisher, and former editor, Marlyn Graziano.

Photo by Joe Hastings via Flickr.

Pissing matches, insane divers and the search for Christ: roundup

January 12, 2011 Comments off

 

First the good news, then the bad in your Lower Mainland roundup.

Very nice story by Abbotsford News reporter Rochelle Baker on the 100th anniversary of the first Sikh temple in the area and on one of the first Sikh pioneers in the Fraser Valley. Who knew there was anything historic at all about Abbotsford?

The Abbotsford temple is the oldest, and longest standing building of its kind in North America, and the only gurdwara to have a national historic designation outside of India and Pakistan.

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James Weldon‘s lede in the North Shore News: “A North Vancouver parish is looking for the public’s help to find Jesus.” Bravo. Read on…

Who knew tap water could be such a controversial issue. It is in New Westminster, according to an article by Royal City Record reporter Niki Hope.

Maria Spitale-Leisk of the North Shore Outlook tells a marvelous (and quite long) tale about local insane free divers who swim underwater with no oxygen for as much as four minutes.

Approximately four minutes have sluggishly passed since Yoneda gulped in the biggest breath of air she could muster and disappeared under the water. She isn’t wearing an oxygen tank.

The explosion of colours that surround Yoneda – the beds of strawberry sea anemones and starfish dressed in brilliant hues of red, orange, yellow and pink – slowly blur together as her vision narrows.

Now her chest is tightening and the contractions in her diaphragm begin. Again, Yoneda tunes out what she calls the “bad monkey” on her shoulder. Relaxing during the contractions is the trick because you can still squeeze a bit more oxygen out at that point.

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Maybe that “bad monkey” has a point. Just sayin’. Nice mermaid statue-inspired photo by Rob Newell.

A crazy pissing match in White Rock that began with the mayor spouting off to the Peace Arch News has concluded with that mayor being forced to read a letter rebuking her at a council meeting, Tracy Holmes of the News reports. The issue had led to the resignation of the city’s communications officer.

The website of the Hope Standard has a great video on the Highway 1 rockslide featiromg an interview with a truck driver who narrowly escaped. I’d like to see the guy’s comments written up in a story, though, beyond the one-paragraph paraphrase. Very rarely do I click on video because I figure it’s not worth it the minimal effort it takes to find my headphones, and turn on my sound. (You could argue, I suppose, that by including exclusive stuff in the video, I”m more likely to actually watch the next video I come across. Which is true. But I’m a print guy. That’s why I read newspapers.) All that said, it’s very possible that the print story will make an appearance in the print edition because The Standard is a weekly and the video was put up shortly after the slide.

I don’t like this unbylined Delta Optimist story on an everyday Mark’s Work Wearhouse.

Point Zero, Powder Room, Ripzone and Dickies.

Those are just some of the clothing brands Ladner Mark’s Work Wearhouse owner Elliott Graham chooses to stock.

“The neat thing about this business is there’s not many franchises left, they’re mostly corporate locations. Being a franchise owner … I carry everything a corporate store would carry but on top of that I’m able to carry stuff that suits the needs of our customers in Ladner,” said Graham. “I can bring in some niche products that our Ladner customers are inclined to purchase. That’s what makes it a little bit special.”

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Sorry Mr. Graham, it doesn’t make your store special enough to warrant a story in a decent-sized paper like the Optimist. They ran another story that is just as unworthy. Give an inch, the salespeople will take a mile. Just say no. This sentence is for an ad, not a story: “No matter the size of the job, every customer receives the personal service many long-time clients have come to expect.” (The Optimist is a Postmedia newspaper).

Photo by Liz West via Flickr.

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Help keep this blog running for weeks to come by becoming a link farmer. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com. Also, take the poll on the right. It’s free. Lucky you.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Steal (or borrow) these ideas

December 20, 2010 Comments off

A full-tilt Lower Mainland roundup today.

John Van Putten‘s photo in the Maple Ridge News of an up-and-coming goalie employs a great and simple concept. I’m not going to try and describe it, so just click through. Story by Grant Granger is also a solid read.

Need another photo lesson? Here’s one in the North Shore News by Rob Newell. He makes a portrait of a guy standing in front of some banners infinitely better just by rotating his camera a few degrees. Granted, his flash lighting doesn’t hurt either.  Story, by Sean Kolenko, is also great.

There’s a lesson to be learned here. When you have one person dedicated to writing the story, and another concentrating all his or her efforts on coming up with a solid photo idea, the result is a good photo and a good story, rather than a story with a photo that may look tagged on.  Alas, not all papers have the resources, but one can dream. In lieu of that, it’s probably worth thinking up some photo ideas before heading out to an interview, rather than improvising when you get to the meeting spot. (I write this as someone who has, on a couple of occasions, entirely forgot that a photo is required).

I’ll stick with the North Shore News to point out Greg Hoekstra‘s excellent feature on how local police try and round-up suspects when they have fled the city, the province or the country. The story is another great win-win concept: the cops get a chance to highlight the city’s most wanted and the work they’re doing; the reporter gets significant access to and understanding of the behind-the-scenes process, which makes for a great story — if you write it as well as Greg (I’m going to start referring to people by their first name now, just ’cause).

The Langley Times runs a timeline of the convoluted and controversial building of that city’s hockey rink (does that make it a Timesline? I’m sorry. Real Sorry.) Timelines are easy, but underused (I think we just forget that we can do them).

Michelle Hopkins of the Richmond News investigates if anybody really likes to receive gift cards. Great Christmas story. After all, when you buy a gift card, you’re simply putting a limit on how that money can be spent. Cash would seem much more logical. But many like them, Hopkins finds. (It seems to me that they’re an easy way to give, and ask for, something almost as universally handy as cash. That can be handy because of the taboo against giving cash at Christmas time.)

Diane Strandberg of the Tri-City News and John Kurucz of the Coquitlam Now both have good stories on a nurse whose life-saving treatment by a doctor at her hospital will be documented on a television show.

Tracy Holmes of the Peace Arch News with some good ol’ fire reporting:

Marc Hiatt and his family lost everything when he and five others escaped a fire at their heritage home in South Surrey overnight Friday.

But it will be a good Christmas nonetheless, Hiatt and his son, Rob, said later that morning, after surveying the remains of the 13951 Crescent Rd. house.

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Need some more good ideas to steal? Glad you asked. The Richmond Review’s Kudos page deserves kudos and theft. The page showcases local good deeds through photos and gives a dynamic look to grip-and-grins and the like.

And finally, the Surrey Leader (using Google Maps) has a superb online map of that city’s best holiday light displays.

Photo by Andy Rennie via Flickr.

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Help keep this blog running for weeks to come by becoming a link farmer. It’s easy, quick and the pay is shite. E-mail bclocalreporter (at) gmail (dot) com . Also, take the poll on the right. It’s free. Lucky you.

Have I made an error? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leave a comment and I’ll duly update the post.

We’re making inroads into our census of B.C. community newspapers, but there are still a lot of blanks in the Journo-lust Spreadsheet. How many journalists work at your paper? How often do you come out? Who’s your publisher? Participation is free! The benefits unlimited! The exclamation points boundless!

Musical movies

December 1, 2010 Comments off

Chilliwack Times reporter Cornelia Naylor is midway through a multi-part series profiling the players of the Chilliwack Symphany Orchestra, and, in particular, the instruments they play. Each of the first three segments of the series has featured photos, a story and a video. The videos, have been especially good; this type of story seems tailor-made for the medium.

The first three videos can be found here.

Part one focused on a violinist, part two on a trumpet player, and part three on a celloist (the photo for which is stunning).

The pieces are running each Friday.

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Great football photo by Blair Sheir of the North Shore News. Also from the NSN, a great guest column/poem by Kate Zimmerman titled, wonderfully, “Now is the winter of our web content.

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