Why we do what we do

May 23, 2024, 1:59 pm
Kevin Weedmark


In an age when headlines scream for attention and stories can be lost in the unending scroll, the value of a good community newspaper shines brightly as a beacon of connection and cohesion for its community. It is the local stories, the ones that hit closest to home, that truly resonate with readers and foster a sense of belonging and identity within a community.

A good community newspaper serves as more than just a source of information; it is a vital thread that weaves together the fabric of a community like ours. By shining a spotlight on local events, issues, and achievements, a community newspaper provides a platform for residents to stay informed and engaged with what matters most to them. From coverage of town council meetings to profiles of local businesses and individuals, a good community newspaper’s stories serve to inform and empower readers, giving them a voice and a stake in the collective narrative of their community.

But the impact of a community newspaper goes far beyond simply relaying information; it fosters a sense of connection and camaraderie among residents. In an era where digital communication can feel impersonal and fleeting, a good community newspaper can serve as a reminder of the bonds that unite us. Whether it’s flipping through the pages over breakfast or sharing articles from our website, the act of reading a community newspaper becomes a shared experience that strengthens the social fabric of a community.

Moreover, a good community newspaper plays a crucial role in promoting civic engagement and accountability. By keeping a watchful eye on local government and institutions, journalists help to ensure transparency and accountability, holding those in power accountable to the communities they serve. Through investigative reporting and in-depth analysis, community newspapers shed light on issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, sparking dialogue and prompting action among residents.

In times of crisis, a good community newspaper becomes the hub of information for the region. At a recent RCMP open house, Sgt. Damien Grouchy spoke about how much RCMP rely on the World-Spectator to keep the community informed, and the newspaper’s website and social media channels to get important news out immediately, including a case where the Spectator got the word out about a missing youth, and the individual was found very shortly by someone who had seen the post.

From emergency alerts to community fundraisers, to raising awareness of people in need, the newspaper serves as a rallying point for residents, helping to co-ordinate efforts and provide solace in times of uncertainty.

I was thinking last week about what makes our little newspaper tick. Three little incidents in three different areas of what the newspaper is brought home to me how unique we are.

First of all, on Friday, May 10, we sent a 52-page World-Spectator to press. On Monday, May 13, we sent a 120-page Summer Tourist Guide to press. That is the biggest tourist guide we have ever done. Last year’s was 112 pages. The same day we sent a 56-page Plain and Valley to press, bigger than last May’s Plain and Valley. So over 228 pages in two business days. That tells you that this is a vital, growing business that is connected to its communities and serving an important role.

Secondly, we learned last week that we have won many provincial newspaper awards again this year. We won First Place for Best Photo Essay for Sunnette Kamffer’s photos of the Twin Valley Rodeo, First Place for Best News Story for our coverage of the last Census that led to revisions in local census counts, First Place for Best Advertisement for an ad for the RCMP Musical Ride in Virden designed by Olha Volokh, First Place for Best Series of Ads for Samantha Seagris’s ads for Kari’s Kloset, Second Place for Best Overall Newspaper, Second Place for Best Editorial Page, Third Place for Best Feature Photo for a harvest drone shot, Third Place for Best Wildlife Photo for a shot by Alvin Nixon, and Ashley Bochek placed fourth for Columnist of the Year for some of the first pieces she wrote for us (I would have given her First Place if I was the Judge—the writing is phenomenal!) That tells you we are good at what we do and are recognized for that by our peers—and I am proud of every member of our staff for those awards.

Thirdly, Bill Thorn dropped into the office to let us know that he has had tremendous response to an article that Ashley wrote about his family’s experience living with Alzheimer’s Disease. There have been lots of donations to the local Alzheimer’s Walk since the article, and a longtime family friend of the Thorns who read it decided to donate $100,000 to the cause. $100,000. Wow. What an amazing, generous donation.

And as much as it’s great to see the business doing well, and our page counts going up continually, and as much as it feels great to win awards, it’s the impact of our stories on people’s lives, the impact on important causes, seeing successful fundraisers we have helped promote, seeing the community rally around people in need we have featured, seeing Moosomin come in with the highest fundraising total for Smile Cookie sales yet again, seeing people get the solutions they need to their issues, that is the reason we do what we do. (Well, that and the fact that none of us on staff quite made the cut to be an NFL quarterback!)

In essence, a good community newspaper is more than just ink on paper; it is a living, breathing testament to the strength and resilience of a community. It is a mirror that reflects the hopes, dreams, and challenges of its residents, and a catalyst for positive change and progress. In an increasingly interconnected world, the importance of maintaining these local connections cannot be overstated, for it is within the pages of a community newspaper that the heart and soul of a community truly come alive.