After almost six years as editor at the Revelstoke Times Review, and almost eight as editor/managing editor at the Arrow Lakes News, (for a total of about 680 issues combined) it’s time to stop the presses.
April 16 will be my last day at the Revelstoke Times Review, and will also mark my last issue.
I’d like to thank everyone in Revelstoke and beyond who’s been a part of the newspaper during my tenure. I’d like to thank my colleagues here at the Times Review, especially. I’ll do my best to thank everyone personally.
Life as an editor is two-thirds drudgery (writing, organizing, laying out the paper, reading, researching, editing, web publishing, planning, investigating, chasing down interviews, meetings galore, hunting for stories, and more teeth-gnashing office-type stuff), and one-third really fun stuff: actually getting out there and being a meaningful participant in community life.
As you may have observed, I’ve been the only person in the editorial department for a couple of months. Due to business conditions, the plan for the time being is to operate the Times Review as a one-person newsroom. The plus-side is that doubles the fun stuff to two-thirds of my schedule. The downside is that means four-thirds drudgery, too.
As a direct result, I’m leaving the Times Review on good terms.
Since I’m not leaving Revelstoke, it’s not time for a retrospective. For my going-away column, I’ve decided to boil it down to one thing, one observation.
Revelstoke: a resilient, self-reliant community
Work as a community journalist exposes you to different sides of the community every day. On an average day, you could be at a cultural event, a city meeting, talking with the authorities about a tragic incident, meeting with a marginalized community member, then going to a sports match. The next day, after the snow-globe of life shakes itself again, there are four or five more happenings to explore.
This social mobility through the sub-communities of Revelstoke this work provides is unique.
What I’ve observed is a community that is, for the most part, doing fine. Our health outcomes are good. Our youth education results are good. Per capita incomes are good. For a smaller, rural community, employment options are fairly good. Our hockey team used to be great, and will be good once more. In fact, in the many databases measuring quality of life here I’ve looked through over the years, Revelstoke usually does really well in comparison to other B.C. communities.
These outcomes are the result of a lot of hard work, often from individuals and organizations banding together to achieve them. Revelstoke, especially in volunteerism, has a robust can-do attitude about solving its own problems.
So, close the book, walk away, all’s well that ends well? Not quite.
Historically and currently, Revelstoke’s successes and problems have been, for the large part, driven by external forces.
A national railway created us. A national highway redefined us. One year, the forest industry is doing a smokin’ trade because the U.S. housing market is on fire. The next, it’s barely alive because of a housing crash. One year, you can’t find a place to live because we’re building a highway, a tunnel, a dam or a ski resort. The next year, you can’t give away your home because everyone’s pulled up stakes. One year, the bank manager is practically calling you up with a loan, the next, financial markets seize up and you can’t get a dime.
Revelstoke’s success as a community has been its ability to adapt to these ongoing, externally-driven challenges, often by coming together.
Therein is my point: through the social mobility afforded to me through work as a community journalist, I get the experience of many communities living together, but often apart. There are many overlaps – school, work, cultural organizations, sports – but sometimes it can feel like a coalition of disparate interests united only by geography, instead of by community.
For me, travel through intergenerational segments of the society reinforces this feeling the most.
So, what’s the solution? For better, and for worse, citizens’ trust, reliance and engagement with traditional institutions has waned over the past 40 years. The influence of levers that once ran the socio-political machine don’t work like they did before. Our social structures truly are changing, often atomizing.
In the coming years, Revelstoke as a community will undoubtedly experience more shocks brought on by forces mostly outside of our control. Climate change, mountain caribou, backcountry tourism and the forest industry are interconnected, for a specific example. Our nascent ski resort and the macroeconomy go hand in hand. Infrastructure deficits will proliferate. Shocks nobody can foresee will challenge us.
But when we feel the effects of these shocks, it’s too easy to point our fingers at our neighbours, and find they’re the cause of the problem. For example, the local newspaper editor’s job is often focused on the local and regional political sphere. Crumbling asphalt streets? It’s easy to blame the latest council, and ignore big declines in infrastructure funding from the federal government. Property taxes up? Is that caused by sloth and overspending here, or downloading of provincial services?
There are and always have been pervasive forces aligned against a healthy, functioning democracy that strives to serve all. They can be external, or malignancies from within. Those forces hope and count on our disengagement, our urge to cynicism. They thrive on it.
It will be our ability as a community to unite, to come together that matters. This doesn’t mean direct political action – community is built in so many other ways – but the realization that the personal is political and the political is personal. It means coming together reinforce and reaffirm the basis of our community, together.
It’s up to Revelstoke to unite to meet our challenges as a resilient, self-reliant community.
Allow me the last word; I’m going to close online comments on this. So long! I owe so many thanks – I’ll try to deliver them to everyone in person.