If 2020 felt like an eternal groundhog day, perhaps you will know how I’ve been feeling for the past four years as I’ve been boomeranging from Hope to the Northwest Territories and back again.
I began working as the Hope Standard’s writer in January 2018, one of my first assignments being the Jan. 1 polar bear swim where a bunch of wild, brave souls dove into water filled with chunks of ice and snow bobbing around ominously. From that moment until the end of 2018 it was a wild ride, with more news to report than there was time in the day.
I said it in 2018 and I’ve said it again many times throughout 2020, this little town has a lot of things going on. Perhaps that’s what drew me back here again this year, although equally important were my colleagues at the Standard who created a work atmosphere that really was the best I’ve known so far. Office mamas Pattie and Janice, I am forever grateful for your kindness and support. It’s also been a pleasure putting news on the page with editor Ken Goudswaard and all of the paper carriers who come around the office Thursdays (now Fridays).
So what am I reflecting on as I prepare to put my final edition of the Hope Standard ‘to bed’, as we say in the industry?
The tragedies always stay with you – I spent 2018 reporting on the disappearance of Shawnee Inyallie up until the point that her family laid her to rest. And this year, April Parisian’s family are still mourning and searching for their loved one. It’s a weird position to be in, to be a fly on the wall as family experience the deepest and most intimate emotions of crisis and grief. I’m humbled and grateful to those loved ones who opened their lives to me at such a traumatic time.
A community is nothing without its artists, entrepreneurs and special ‘characters,’ as well as those who just decide one day to do something out of the box. These are lovely stories I’ll carry with me.
This year, Ray Slanzi’s COVID steampunk statue was so much fun to photograph. Lloyd the ‘social degenerate’ cat who lived a more exciting life than most of us non-felines was a fun dispatch, and how about the two seven-year-old entrepreneurs Briella Rodney and Kaylin Kjemhus who blew us away with their Christmas fundraising.
Dylan Andrews’ balcony trumpet concerts as well as all the ways Hope residents found to connect with their neighbours during the pandemic – from drive and honk birthdays to parades of all kinds to drone videos of Hope Secondary grads – these stories warmed the heart and reminded us that connecting with one another is an innate human need.
And really anyone who trusted me enough to tell their stories publicly, whether informative, uplifting or heartbreaking. It takes a leap of faith to trust that some random stranger will get right what is most important to you, so thank you for that.
It’s pretty hard to sum up all of the memories of being your community reporter, lucky for me this ‘rough draft of history’ is forever saved in print. Years from now I’ll have to return here and flip through the back issues, reminiscing about the years I spent hearing from the people of this town, up the Canyon and Sunshine Valley.
As I prepare to hand over the keyboard to my colleague Adam Louis, fresh off of a year reporting for the Agassiz-Harrison Observer, I hope that you continue to engage with your local news source.
Rather than being an aloof and elitist institution, a community newspaper is very much a mirror of the people it serves. Community news is best when people engage by sending photos, writing letters, sharing news tips and expressing their pleasure, or outrage, over stories we write. It bears repeating that we reporters are human and fallible, but we must know when to acknowledge mistakes and move quickly to correct and clarify.
A community newspaper is nothing without the community, whether you like the news or not.
Take care of each other this year, and don’t hesitate to get in touch – I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org – with updates about your mountain town as I prepare to take off again for parts unknown.
– Emelie Peacock was the Hope Standard’s reporter from March 2020 to January 14, 2021.