With the proliferation of social media as an alternative source for “news” and the persistent rhetoric of “fake news” from the Republican administration in the U.S., continued access to local news is as concerning as ever. Many newspapers are facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. Many communities are losing their local papers and more importantly, they are losing the journalists who brought them that news.
It’s with this cocktail of threats always on the edge of our minds that we are so grateful to be able to continue doing our jobs here on Bowen.
There were many changes at the Bowen Island Undercurrent in 2018. Meribeth Deen resigned her editor-reporter role after many years and Chantal Eustace did a brilliant job of picking up where Meribeth left off, keeping us all reading through the spring. In May we were lucky enough to have Bronwyn Beairsto join us and bring new, fresh ideas from her education at Carleton University and her Yukon roots.
We are proud of how our team has rallied over the past year and thank you all for your lively participation. In submitting great local stories. In buying ads. In buying subscriptions or in buying single copies every week. It has been an encouraging year.
Late last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government pledged significant support for the local news industry. The feds are developing a funding program of upwards of $600 million over five years. It is still unclear as to how that may or may not help the Undercurrent. We weren’t looking for this type of support and are unsure of how it might actually support us here on Bowen.
The Bowen Island Undercurrent has received a small but important grant from The Department of Canadian Heritage since our early days. That grant is meant to ensure access to local newspapers in small and rural markets. It has been in place since before Confederation. It is widely expected that newspapers that draw on that grant won’t get any further help at all. As such, we do not expect the government to somehow miraculously change the reality in front of us.
What we did hope that the government might actually do, is to move its advertising spend back to Canadian-owned, tax-paying organizations like the Undercurrent. Instead they continue to spend their ad dollars with Google and Facebook, feeling they get more “bang for their buck” there. We also hoped that they might level the playing field and ensure that the duopoly of Google and Facebook collected and paid taxes from its business activities in our country. We are significantly disadvantaged as advertising bought from those international players is not taxed with the GST. Any advertising we sell has GST applied to it by law.
Local news continues to be under enormous pressures. During 2018, Bowen Islanders stepped up and supported the Undercurrent more than in recent memory by purchasing more subscriptions, more single copies at the General Store (and other locales) and more advertising. This is how we will continue to survive and serve our community. By your support and caring. Keep the flow of stories coming and simply make sure to buy the paper every week, by mail or at the store.
Through our greatly-expanded circulation over the past year, we have been able to provide greater value and audience access to our advertisers and sponsors.
You have been encouraged to shop locally and support those local businesses that support our community in so many ways. It is very encouraging but just the start.
Bowen is great because of its residents, politicians, media, community groups and very importantly its business community. Without them, who would pay the taxes, hire the young people, sponsor events and support every team. Before you get on the ferry to go shopping, think of how important community is to you, and make sure to support the local businesses that support all of us in this great community.
As such, today marks another occasion when we are mailing a copy of the Undercurrent to every household on the island. We want you to know what a great local paper is and we encourage you to follow through on buying the paper next week and every week. It is critically important for us all.
We do have a special offer on all new subscriptions this week. Bring in a receipt from any advertiser in this week’s paper for a $10 discount on your annual subscription. Come on by and sign up today.
We look forward to “reflecting” our community in our pages for many years to come.
Peter Kvarnstrom, Publisher