By Greg Price
It has been years since I’ve attended Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association Awards and Symposium in which three of us from The Taber Times office made the trek to Calgary earlier this month.
The Taber Times and Vauxhall Advance were given a heads up that we were in the running for various categories both in our circulation and every weekly newspaper in Alberta. It was a strong showing for the Vauxhall Advance, who was awarded Best Front Page and Best Overall score for Class A, circulation under 1,100.
But while the first-place finishes in various categories were nice, it really opened my eyes to the quality journalism that is going on in small towns across this nation and reconfirmed to me there will always be a place at the morning breakfast table for these types of newspapers.
Indeed, yes daily newspapers who do not have an uber-aggressive stance on providing local coverage are suffering, given many of the stories that can be found among the pages can be found on the Internet the night before, you will find no such thing in small-town news cycles short of national/international news event such as the W.R. Myers School shooting or Community Standards bylaws in Taber.
Anything local that can be found on the Internet is usually reactionary blogs of decisions where no context is provided or extremely vetted press releases from the source.
No discussion of what’s going through town councillor’s minds during discussion period, no game flow of that high school football or basketball game, no in-depth tribute to the people making a difference in our community, and fewer pictures of the human condition in various events around town.
It was quite enjoyable picking the brains of various publishers, editors, reporters and ad salesmen across the province to hear the trials and triumphs they have had in their neck of the woods.
Obviously biased given my profession, but I see a free and independent press as something very important to a functioning society.
We go to the town/M.D. council meetings you are too busy to go to. We are the watchdog for others who are unable in this go-go world. We can serve as another avenue to focus a voice to raise awareness of several different good causes around town. Where a citizen may feel voiceless, they can have their voice heard through the media such as the recent local Pride Fest or protests against illegal organ harvesting in China that made its way to Taber and Vauxhall. We help inform people so they can be a better informed member of society that can help shape their town to be the best it can be.
Be it that school play, a child’s graduation, or politician debate, the news paper can be there for its citizens.
Without some sort of dedicated media in a community to serve as a sober second thought for analysis on any issue of the day, democracy is the thing that suffers.
We are becoming a world that is ever increasingly becoming one that wants instant gratification in everything that is involved in our lives. Where one gets their information that affects their everyday life should not be one of them.
Complex issues cannot be summed up in a single tweet or 10-second sound bite. Newspapers give the depth that looks to be lacking in the shallow pools ultra-right and left wing blogs, snarky memes or combative message boards that seem to be causing an even bigger divide in our nation.
And when has it ever been a bad thing to encourage reading, literacy and critical thinking skills that newspapers can deliver in both youth and adults alike.
With the number of news, feature and sports tips this Taber Times office receives on a weekly basis on top of numerous Letters to the Editors over a given year, it looks like those both in the the Town of Vauxhall and Municipal District of Taber recognize this importance of media by being engaged in their community.
One may not always agree with what is written in the pages of the Advance be it words from a politician, activist or Times’ columnist, but even in that, it encourages free speech where respectful debate is encouraged as we all likely want to get to the same place of love and prosperity, it may just be through different avenues.
In an ever changing world with some much uncertainty, the certainty of a free press and free speech is needed now more than ever.