From Eastern Ontario to BC's rainy Pacific coast
There was a time when paperboys delivered the local daily after school. The press ran in the afternoon and people read today's news in today's paper. In Prince Rupert, up north on BC's Pacific coast, either time has stopped or the good old way is still the best way.
In this era of convergence and intense competition among media outlets, the Prince Rupert Daily News keeps being the first one to bring out the news. This afternoon paper is just one of the numerous examples of how local media in small markets manage to service their community better than a lot of their big-city counterparts.
As the Eastern Ontario regional correspondent for Le Droit, an Ottawa-based French language daily, I thought it would be most interesting to go and check out how Anglophones run a daily paper in a regional market. I applied for the Greg Clark Award and it seems I naively struck that Canadian unity chord.
In Quebec, the smallest French daily is La Voix de l'Est. It is based in Granby, population 40,000. Out west in Prince Rupert, the Daily News survives with only 9,500 people left in town. It sells 3,000 copies a day.
During my stay, I tagged along with all three staff reporters. I also had long chats with editor Earl Gale, who explained to me how slow news days just never occur in Prince Rupert. Fisheries, forestry, the someday to be reopened paper mill and First Nation claims are just one part of the everyday menu.
Publisher Lynda Lafleur took me to a First Nation book launch that turned out to be more of a feast, with dancers and delicacies like herring egg. More than half the population in Prince Rupert is Ts'msyen and Mrs. Lafleur insists that it somehow be reflected in the paper."It's all about local content. People want to read stories about people in their community", she said to me.
From my own observations, I concluded that "Ruperites" have such an interest in the well-being and the future of their community that they can't help but glue their eyes to their local paper for half an hour every day. All are concerned with jobs to be lost or gained and issues like the sustainability of the downtown core.
Tradition is also important. The Daily News has been around since 1908. Radio and television have never really been able to deliver local news more efficiently.
In Prince Rupert, Natives and Non-Natives are neighbours. Children go to the same schools and most of the time, everyone gets along. It is a little like Eastern Ontario, where Canada's French and English cultures meet. But sadly, peaceful cohabitation most often rhymes with cultural assimilation. It was with great joy that I witnessed the Ts'msyen people celebrate their pride in the art, language and sociology classes that are now part of regular school curriculum.