Community newspapers play an important roll in the life of the communities they serve.
They provide residents with information about local charities, business initiatives, upcoming events, and municipal council decisions and all of that information plays an important role in the daily life of the community.
But in an ever-changing media environment, the role of community newspapers has evolved and it should be recognized that they are far more than a community calendar or a narrative of what occurs at community events.
A community newspaper has the responsibility to go beyond the press release and apply the ethical standards of investigative journalism to the treatment of stories, even if those stories are difficult to tell.
When the RCMSAR boat crash occurred in February of this year, the Sooke News Mirror went beyond the official press release. While other media reported the official version of the accident, it was the Mirror that revealed the concerns of ex-crew members regarding the culture of the RCMSAR organization in our backyard.
We later followed up with a piece that balanced those concerns with an article about the dedication of the bulk of the RCMSAR service volunteers.
In a piece that addressed a press release regarding measles outbreaks in the province, we focussed on the opinions and concerns of the people in this region, providing a local perspective on a larger problem. The piece generated a plethora of trolling responses from across North America that, in and of themselves, highlighted the insidious nature of anti-vax propaganda for the people of Sooke.
And, although we have published countless articles regarding the good work of the community’s schools and how those school initiatives have made Sooke a richer place to live, we did not shy away from highlighting a recent failure to adequately deal with a case of cyberbullying. For that piece, we were alternately praised and pilloried, but in the end, we did our job of informing the public and starting a discussion about the issue.
Of course, we love to report good news stories and it’s a pleasure to provide features that reflect the rich diversity of amazing people in Sooke. But if, as some would have it, we limit ourselves to those articles and forgo the difficult stories the paper would not be fulfilling it’s journalistic responsibility and would be no better than the host of community web sites that exist in every town