Newsletter: Can journalists do a better job covering the Cowichan Valley?

Former reporter says there’s a deficit of news coverage in this community — especially when it comes to the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit.

Last week I attended an open house hosted by the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit (VIMC). They hosted it to inform the public about their plans to expand their facility into about 265 acres of land behind the existing track.

Owners of the circuit have applied to the Municipality of North Cowichan to rezone that land so that it can accommodate more paved track, an off-road section of track, a golf course and other amenities. This event was one of two open houses designed to tell the community about those plans, answer questions and receive comments. According to VIMC, about 500 people attended over the two events.

I took a short tour of the facility with about 20 other people, led by a staff member, Jaxon. He introduced us to the track and to the cars that drive around it, owned both by members and the facility. He answered questions — many related to sound levels generated by cars driving around the track. Nearby residents in the Sahtlam neighbourhood have complained about noise since the circuit opened in 2016.

Inside the clubhouse, professional consultants took questions about the proposed expansion of the facility. Community members asked biologist Sarah Bonar about the implications for wildlife habitat — preliminary drawings show new track making seven crossings of fish-bearing streams. The answer, in many cases, was that we don’t know yet. At this stage in the rezoning process, all that’s required is an assessment of what environmental features exist on the property today. That report is available online.

I also met Peter Rusland, a former reporter with the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, which shut down in 2015. He told me of his concerns about the proposed expansion of the track, and we also talked about journalism. 

Peter Rusland, right, chats with Natasha Horsman, communications manager with the Municipality of North Cowichan, at an open house hosted by the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit on Tuesday last week.

“If you want to talk about the press coverage, where is it? You’re the only one that’s here,” he said. “I wonder where the Times Colonist is, and the Cowichan Valley Citizen, who wrote stories about this track — glowing stories — when they opened. Where are they tonight? Where are they?”

He added, “It’s the biggest story in the valley — among others. There are others, but this is certainly one of the biggest.”

The conversation with Rusland, and others I’ve had in recent weeks, has got me thinking about the state of community media in the Cowichan Valley. I’d love to know what you think.

Are local news outlets doing a good job covering your community? Have you noticed changes in the last three years? How could journalists do better?

What do you think of the coverage of Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit you’ve seen? What questions do you have that haven’t been answered?

You can reach me by email or on my Facebook page. If you find this newsletter valuable, please share it and ask people to subscribe. [end]

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