With a single tweet, the 83 year-old newspaper in my community disappeared. Of course this is nothing new, it is happening in communities across North America as the newspaper business continues to search for its place in the digital world.
Community newspapers don’t get enough credit for the important role they play with our school system. They are so often our storytellers. They tell the narratives of our kids, our teams, our musicals, our art shows, our academic success and our commitment to service. They also keep us honest and tell our stories of controversies like bus service changes or school closures , budget decisions and staff misbehaviours. Community newspapers connect schools to community. In the district I work, we lost one of our two local newspapers last year with the closing of the North Shore Outlook and now this past week, the community I live in has suffered the same fate with the closing of the Richmond Review.
I have tagged more posts “Change” than anything else on my blog. I champion change. And we are seeing this change play out in almost every industry. It is why, I believe, sometimes change in education is so hard. With so much change in our world, people often hold onto the traditions of school hoping that at least they will stay the same – romanticizing the world we used to have. And I kind of get it – we are all in favour of change, expect for the things we don’t want to change. Some of the change feels more like loss.
The Richmond Review felt like more than a community newspaper. I remember the excitement growing up seeing my name in the paper for something to do with school or sports. It was great moments of pride for kids and families if their name was in the newspaper. While I will read the Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun and Globe & Mail on an almost daily basis, I would read the community newspapers where I lived and worked cover to cover – I would love seeing stories of people I knew or better understanding the views of those I lived and worked with.
Over the years I developed wonderful relationships with several people who worked at the Richmond Review. In particular Sports Editor Don Fennell became a friend. I first spoke to him as a high school student, and then probably hundreds of times over the twenty-six years he spent at the paper. Whether we hadn’t spoken since last week or last year, he had that great ability of picking up a conversation and making one feel so comfortable. I love his quote in the final edition of the paper, “I don’t like good-byes; I love Richmond.” Don and the others at the paper made the community better.
Of course earlier this year when a deal was announced that saw the other local paper the Richmond News and the Richmond Review come under one owner – it was clear something was going to change. This story has been repeated across North America. And while I might be a little jaded thinking how unfair it was to kill-off an 83 year-old community paper with two days notice in the middle of summer, it doesn’t change the fact that despite the greatest efforts newspapers have been unable to transition into a viable economic model in the new digital world. Surviving, not thriving describes most of the local newspaper that continue.
But this blog is largely about education and what does this change have to do with education? Actually a lot!
If teachers, coaches, principals, schools and school districts need yet another reason why they need to be storytellers in the digital age this is it. Local newspapers have long been our storytellers and these stories are important. We need to tell them. It is not enough for our websites to be information rich, they need to be rich in stories of the people. If the North Shore Outlook and Richmond Review are not around to tell stories of our great young soccer players, or the high school performance of Grease, or the students going to Africa to build a school we need to tell these stories.
So, you want another reason to start a blog or change your website? We can no longer rely on the traditional community media to tell our stories. And people still want to hear these stories. We need to tell them.
We need to write, photograph and video what is happening in our schools and then bring it to people’s attention. Kids still want to see their names in the newspaper – we just need to figure out what that looks like in our world.