Newsletter: I hear you, Cowichan needs more local reporting

In my last newsletter, I asked if media organizations are doing a good enough job providing Cowichan Valley residents with the information they need to be engaged citizens of this region. I also asked how people think local journalists are doing covering the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit specifically.

I received more than a dozen responses by email and through Facebook, and they all expressed some level of concern with the state of journalism in this valley, especially in light of the newspaper closures of recent years.

Here are some things that I heard:

  1. Local news is focused on advertising: “The Cowichan Valley paper is really nothing but advertisements for local businesses both overt and covert,” Debby Smith told me in an email.
  2. We need more “place-specific” reporting: “There’s a real lack of good Cowichan Valley coverage, especially given how fast the community is expanding and changing,” Sarah Boon wrote on Facebook. “I hope The Discourse will cover more of our local news in the future.”
  3. Newspaper closures have an impact: “When we had two local papers coverage was, for the most part, more well-balanced and in reasonable depth,” wrote John Scull in an email. “With the loss of the News Leader we are left with only the Citizen, which is not a very good paper but seems to be gradually improving.”
  4. It’s frustrating to live in a vacuum: Lia Versaevel emailed me and said, “Jacqueline, it is so frustrating to live in a vacuum, which is how I feel about getting information in the CVRD, North Cowichan, Duncan or anywhere north of the Malahat region. Please keep plowing ahead.” 
  5. The Motorsport Circuit issue demands deeper coverage: Cindy Williams said in an email she’s “surprised there has been no coverage of the ins and outs of how the track got approved.” 

Thanks to everyone who offered comments and input. I appreciate all the feedback.

Snapshot

I’ve been learning a lot about the recent history of media ownership in the Cowichan Valley. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far:

  • In late 2014 Black Press bought the Cowichan Valley Citizen from Glacier Media, while reporters at its paper, the Cowichan News Leader Pictorial, were on strike.
  • Black Press took over operations at the Citizen in March 2015, and shut down the News Leader the month after.
  • For a time, the Citizen was the only newspaper specifically devoted to the Duncan area, until Warren Goulding, publisher of the Chemainus Valley Courier, launched two monthlies, the Duncan Free Press and South Cowichan Echo.
  • In May 2017, Goulding sold the Courier to Black Press, and the Free Press and Echo folded. Black Press hired Goulding as group publisher for its Cowichan and Chemainus publications, and he remains in that role today.

Please stay tuned — I expect my first article, which will probe into these issues more deeply, to be published with The Discourse in the coming weeks. Be sure to like my page on Facebook to stay up to date and if you know of someone who you think should read this newsletter share it with them.[end]

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