Why can’t we run a community newspaper like we would a larger journal? April 2017 Editorial

Joe Paraskevas, Editor

Joe Paraskevas, Editor


By Joe Paraskevas, Editor

Why can’t we run a community newspaper like we would a larger journal?

Say, the Citizen, the Globe, or the New York Times.

As my four years of editing the Streeter wind down, I reflect on the many times I asked that very question: why couldn’t I take what I had learned as a professional journalist and apply it to the job of publishing the news of Old Ottawa East? For the most part, I like to believe I did.

Be current. Be provocative. Be elucidative. And be fast. Those were my watchwords. You judge whether I – and the rest of the Streeter team – succeeded.

And yet, this spring, I learned why a community paper can’t always be a small version of the big brands. It had to do with a story you won’t see in this issue.

We were readying to publish. Our writer had done her research. She had spoken to the actors, the people at the centre of the story. She was ready to break the news of the arrival of another cool, hip new business in Old Ottawa East.

She had a story that would influence conversations, not only in this part of the city, perhaps in others.
Our Old Ottawa South neighbours would look on in envy. Our cross-canal friends in the Glebe would have to pay the ferry man so they could come try this place out.

My glee was palpable. The Citizen hadn’t written about it. The Community Activities Group E-Update, with its growing number of subscribers, didn’t have it. We were going to be the bearers of the news.

Then, like a roller coaster at its apogee of expectation, everything went into cascading freefall.

The subjects of the story demurred. They weren’t ready to go public. Our writer, honorable woman that she was, hesitated. She showed understanding for the plight of the people she had interviewed. What if their venture fell apart, she asked me. Poor them, I scoffed, imploring her to send me her words. Better a story of dashed hopes than no story at all.

Ah, but that is where I learned I was wrong.

My writer had interviewed her neighbours. They were friends. For all I knew, their children played together. I couldn’t simply impose my journalistic lust into that scenario. Wait until June, everyone urged me. We would have a story to tell then.

Wait. It’s not a word a journalist likes to hear. And yet, in a community newspaper, where lines between story subjects and reporters sometimes blur, the people we write about are those we see every day. Waiting, showing grace, can go a long way towards building that very community we chronicle, adding to its quality of life.

Wait, they said. I did. And so will you, dear reader. But tell the ferry man not to refund any tickets he cut. This place is going to be good.

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