“Democracy dies in darkness.”
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
“First they came for the journalists. We don’t know what happened after that.”
Perhaps you have heard some of these mighty sounding quotes before. Maybe they were utilized by a friend of yours, a reporter attempting to impress the importance of their work under threat from those who espouse ‘alternative facts.’
On National Newspaper Week, I guess I could go this route. I could talk about the shaky legs of the ‘democratic stool’ and the importance of journalism in keeping it from falling apart.
While all of this is true, what a newspaper means to a small town is found not so much in lofty concepts of truth and public information, overarching as they are in all we do. The importance of a local paper is found in what it captures in its yellowing pages.
I think of the photos families clip out and pin on the fridge – their children at community events or sporting competitions or just eating an ice cream on a hot summer day. The paper captures these ‘slices of life’ that turn a physical place into a community.
I think of the anniversaries, business openings, buildings being torn down and new roads opened up. The logging trucks that used to roll through Hope’s downtown, replaced by tourists and long haul truckers. The opening of the Coquihalla Highway. These are pivotal moments in a town’s history.
I think of the follow-up stories that a local paper carries months and years following a community-shattering event, long after the large media outlets and their camera crews have departed. The 100th birthday celebrations, the humble origin stories of a sports star or politician who began their life here, the memorials to the dearly departed folks who made this place what it is.
So perhaps, instead of the aforementioned lofty quotes, we should revive the Standard’s old motto: “It’s more than a matter of record, it’s our history in black and white.”
Your local newspaper is not perfect, but it is yours. Read it, critique it, engage with it, because it is a record of your own history.
And should you witness breaking news, know of an issue or an event or a person worth honouring, we invite you to think of us to share these important stories with the community.
Lastly, a quick reminder that you can always access your community history at the Hope Standard office, where we keep physical copies of the newspaper’s archives stretching back to 1951.
Emelie Peacock is the Hope Standard’s reporter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-869-4992.