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From the Editor’s Desk – Use it or lose it.


René J. Roy is an award-winning photojournalist and the editor-in-chief of the Wreckhouse Weekly. His book, Reflections, is available at wreckhousepress.com and at regional retailers.

Running a newspaper can be a challenge, even during busier news weeks. There are always issues with trying to get accurate information included on a tight deadline, or speaking to the right people, or getting a relevant photo. These difficulties are probably as old as journalism itself, and the way a news organization gets information has adapted thanks to social media and the World Wide Web. It used to be simpler. I used to love a show called Hell on Wheels. It followed a tough hombre in the old west as he tried to build the transcontinental railway in the United States. What always caught my attention about the show was the way that the news was portrayed. The reporter had the letterpress machine, and would do the typesetting himself, while he had one of those little green bill hats on. It was a nice little visual on how it used to be. And then there was the weird movie Cowboys and Aliens, a fun bit of nonsense. They had a news person too, a nerdy little fellow who came along on the adventure and found his courage. The news in these examples serve as a reminder of the way it used to be. People would actively involve their reporters, inviting them to join in on the event, or allowing them to be part of the group without a second thought. I can tell you now, speaking from experience, that those days are long gone. Now the reporter is a second thought, if thought of at all, or an outright nuisance. We have to hunt out stories like a moose in the woods and follow the slightest clue to see where it leads. All too often we have no leads to follow. People use social media as a news provider, mistaking mere gossip and fringe lunatics who are spreading hate and misinformation to push their own agendas and ideologies. If false information if your thing, then Facebook is the place for you. But if you enjoy actual information then the news is the only place to go, and despite what the criers would have you believe, there is no secret plot by legitimate, accredited news organizations. Not enough people come to the media to offer leads, share information or go on the record. Every single day we encounter comments like “I don’t want to start any trouble” or “Don’t use my name”. If you don’t contact us to let us know something is going on in your community, then there is no way that we can know what’s happening if only because of the sheer geography of this region versus our small news team. We might know a lot of people, but we sure don’t know everyone, so without leads, tips, or suggestions, your stories are forgotten. Do you really think in 100 years anyone is going to scroll back that far through your social media feed to find out what you accomplished or what you had to overcome? It’s already too much to go back far and even a search for a specific detail can prove futile and frustrating on social media platforms. We recently did a story on water pressure in Grand Bay West. That came about by way of somebody reaching out to us to see if we could get information for them and their neighbours, and happily we did find a lot of answers. Such is the power of the media when it comes to digging up the facts. This week, the paper has perhaps less impactful stories in it, because the leads never came in, though we’ve had people stop by and wonder why a particular story wasn’t in the paper. We told them that we have no way of knowing about it unless someone calls us up. Reaching out once in a blue moon about a small fair or some little event is great, and truly always welcomed, but that’s not a news story. Without relevant content your local newspaper becomes nothing more that a pamphlet of events and calendar dates. Unless the local citizenry becomes more involved, and more interested in what happens in this community, then the harsh reality is that the local paper will struggle and strain against the rising tide of social media misinformation and vitriol, until finally it can’t struggle anymore, or doesn’t see the point in even trying.

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