The lasting power of the local press

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When we look at the state of newspapers today, it’s tough to see much of a bright future for hard-edged journalism. Everywhere we look, large metropolitan papers are downsizing, losing vaults of money, switching to online-only editions or going out of business altogether.

The one area where I believe traditional journalism will continue to thrive, however, is in the community press. People need independent media to investigate and explain what is happening closest to them, in their community. I’ve worked for large national media, but never have I had the feeling that it made the difference in people’s lives that more locally based outlets do.

That’s why working with the Nation for close to 20 years has given me such satisfaction. I know that, at our best, we touch people on important questions. The role we played in sparking a needed debate on the Paix des Braves agreement, revealing the contamination of local waterways near Oujé-Bougoumou and just last fall covering the allegations of abuse by provincial police officers in Val-d’Or are incredibly important. And I’m proud to have done my part in shaping the way the Nation covered these issues.

Most of all, it’s fun. As a young journalist, I was mentored by a colourful, outspoken individualist with a big heart: Sid Tafler. He taught me to throw caution to the wind but to get it right at the weekly Monday Magazine in Victoria, BC. I’ve tried to pass on the lessons he and others taught me to younger writers here at the Nation.

My close friend Will Nicholls is in much the same mould, and we’ve had amazing adventures together. There have been lots of laughs, arguments and even a few tears over the years as we struggled to continue publishing the only independent print media to serve the Cree communities of Northern Quebec and Ontario.

Having a career in journalism recognized by one’s peers in the Quebec Community Newspaper Association – in the form of the Lyndsay Crysler Award – is a humbling experience. I am immensely grateful. Gathering for our annual gala is an important event that I look forward to every year. It’s an opportunity to compare notes, honour each other’s work and consume far too many drinks in a yearly ritual that is vital to our own profession. I’m very proud to be associated with the characters, true believers and fine artisans that compose this community.

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