The newspaper world is one that seems to be highly suited to those who tend to leave things to the last minute.
That’s not to say that we’re unorganized, and I would argue that the flexibility engendered by this way of living is actually a strength in this business, even for those of us whose deadlines arrive only 23 times a year rather than daily.
With that thought, I find myself, at almost literally the last minute, composing my farewell editorial.
When I first arrived at Beach Metro News in late 1999 as a recent photojournalism graduate as the new reporter/photographer, things were a bit different than they are today. We had no web presence to speak of. The entire office shared one email address (firstname.lastname@example.org, for those keeping score). Bill Suddick’s cartoons – which we’d been printing for less than 20 years at that point – were delivered on paper. Photos were taken on 35mm film cameras, and we still had a functioning darkroom. I also had less hair on my face and more on my head, though my fashion sense remains as hopeless today as it was then.
The news industry as a whole was going strong. The Beach had several community newspapers, most of which have since been bought out or closed up shop. Beach Metro News had a waiting list for advertisers, since increasing our page count would have required the approval of all of our amazing delivery volunteers.
Some things have changed since those days. These days we’re online, we tweet, we post to Facebook, and everything happens digitally (although we still have a box of paste-up equipment hidden away in the basement). A surprising amount of work is done on phones.
Other things haven’t changed, at least not completely. While Bill Suddick’s cartoons now arrive via email, his talent and sense of humour remain undiminished. We still exist to tell the community’s stories, to let our readers know what’s happening and why, to point out the good, the bad and the interesting.
As with every print publication, the future is uncertain (though we’re certainly as strong as a community newspaper can reasonably expect to be in 2016). The business is changing, and quickly, and despite some pundits’ claims to the contrary, I don’t think anyone really knows what the news business will look like in 10 years.
One certainty, though, is that community newspapers are more important than ever. For those who tire of Facebook gossip, it’s reassuring to know there is a small but dedicated group of professionals whose job it is to find out the truth.
So what I ask of our readers is to remember the value of what Beach Metro News does. It is a rare privilege to have such a dedicated staff of people providing news that you won’t find anywhere else, specifically about the area you’ve chosen to live in. It might not always be glamorous, but it’s a necessary and vital service for the health of a great community. And it’s been an honour to take part in that service here for 15 years, despite – or perhaps in part because of – the occasional complaint, periodic nasty phone calls, the surprising amount of people who believe they best know how to run a newspaper, and the odd attempted coup.
It’s been a blast. Try to be nice to each other and remember how lucky you are to live here – but not so much so that you forget to fight to make it better. Leash your dogs, or don’t. Just don’t hate each other over it. Be kind to your local underpaid newspaper staffers – they’re here because they love and believe in what they do. Trust me, it’s not for the money.
In the words of the late Douglas Adams, “There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.”