I’m new here. Here in the West Kootenay and here in your newspaper.
I step to the plate as editor — and reluctant columnist — with two strikes already against me: Opinions are cheap and I’m bad at introductions. Worse, probably, at analogies.
Nonetheless, I, and we, have arrived at an auspicious time for this part of the country. Next week, Canada legalizes marijuana, the unofficial Kootenay cash crop. Three days later, British Columbians cast ballots in municipal elections. Not 48 hours after that, we open a referendum that could forever change how we elect politicians in the province. All that on the heels of the most destructive wildfire season in provincial history.
But with all that going on, many in my rough trade took to their columns last week to badger readers about the importance of newspapers. I was urged to do the same.
Why? Because it was National Newspaper Week, that seven-day campaign of self-congratulations cooked up, I presume, by a back booth of tabloid hustlers in an effort to earn another week’s reprieve on the bar tab.
“Now, more than ever, newspapers matter,” reads the official decree from the folks at News Media Canada.
They’re not wrong. But now, more than ever, you have options.
Trust in the news media last year reached an all-time low. Today, fewer Canadians than ever say they can distinguish between legitimate news media and fake stories, while more Canadians are worried that fake news has been weaponized against us.
Of course, mistrust in the media is nothing new.
In 1894, Gilbert Malcolm Sproat, the Scottish colonist tasked with divining a capital for the Kootenay County, wrote of Nelson, “My dream was that here, where nature is so bountiful, there might be, could we but keep out newspapers and lawyers, the town of all towns for civilized habitation.”
He published his wish, ironically, in The Miner, the first local newspaper of the day. Three years later, the paper would report on its founding editor’s inauguration as Nelson’s first mayor.
I have no designs on political office, nor any desire to rise above my present station — for which I am grateful to you, our readers.
I come to the Kootenays from CBC News in Edmonton. I’m here to edit five Black Press newspapers — the Nelson Star, Castlegar News, Rossland News, Arrow Lakes News and West Kootenay Advertiser. More importantly, I come to the Kootenays to be in the Kootenays. Never have I been anywhere as deliberate in its community-mindedness as here. You likely made career sacrifices for it. I did too.
Of course, there’s no faith quite like that of the new convert. I’m aware I’m preaching to the choir and I’ll put all this boosterism to bed in a moment.
But let me say this: As your editor, I’m not interested in serving as a mere chronicler of day-to-day doom and gloom, any more than I’m interested in counting, like a sundial, only our region’s unclouded hours. What I am interested in is your stories — connecting them with our readers, with our history and with our shared future.
Many of you have already come by the newsroom to say hello, and I promise that as long as we are here, our door will remain open. But we recognize that now, more than ever, your time and attention are precious. And now, more than ever, what “matters” is up to you.
So, in the spirit of open doors, convenience and accountability, feel free to call or text me anytime about anything you see — or don’t see — in this paper and on our website. My personal cell is 778-962-0222.
Please no calls after midnight — unless you’re buying a round.