Journalism is key to any community. Whether it’s to let everyone know what is happening, what is coming up, or what is going wrong, the news keeps people connected. Throughout the years, reporting the news has come in many different forms. From print to digital, while the format has changed the impact remains.
I sat down with the owner of Energeticcity.ca and Moose FM Adam Reaburn to talk about the history of journalism in Northeast B.C. and how it may look in the future. Adam has over 20 years of experience in broadcasting and has seen local news change in many ways.
You can watch and listen to the interview above or read a transcript below.
Question 1: What was news reporting like 20 years ago when you first moved to the region?
When I first moved to Fort St. John in 2004, there was actually a lot of media here covering the community and the peace region. We had three weekly newspapers, we had a daily newspaper, we had the TV station and then we had the radio stations, Moose FM and then the other radio stations owned by Bell Media.
There were actually a lot of reporters in the region working to cover the stories that happened here in our community. Compare that to today where we’re down to one weekly newspaper, the TV station, the radio stations and Energeticcity.ca. And so the number of reporters has dramatically shrunk over the last 20 years.
Question 2: Why have so many news organizations closed down or merged with bigger corporations?
The biggest reason has been the shift in online news. Originally, the newspaper was the place to go. You’d read the newspaper on a daily basis with your breakfast. Then you might hear news on the radio or watch TV news.
That’s completely changed with the internet. Newspapers in particular have really struggled to find a footing. They have struggled to maintain their advertising revenue, which is why they have had to reduce the number of reporters working in any given community.
All media for the most part is funded by advertising revenue. Those dollars have shifted into Facebook, Google, and other online options. So that revenue has disappeared. The first thing that’s cut is the staff. For a community that is a big hit as those are the people helping to tell the stories of the region and the community.
Question 3: Why did you start Energeticcity.ca and what was it like transitioning to digital-only?
So we started Energeticcity.ca in 2008 because we saw a need for an online news source. I think at the very beginning, the newspaper might have had a website. It was only updated now and then, or when they would publish a new edition of the paper. But outside of that, there really wasn’t anything online.
We were kind of still in that early phase of, you know, Facebook’s just started. Twitter’s just started. All those things have just started. And so it was a way for us to share the news content that we were creating on the radio station and make it accessible to more people in the area. It was easy for us to start because we already had the radio station and the staff writing the stories.
Since then we’ve been able to grow the staff because we started small and expanded as we were able to generate new advertising revenue.
Question 4: What have been some trials and tribulations over the years and how have you remained local and independent?
The economy is always a struggle. We live in Fort St. John. There are times when things are good, there are times when things are bad and so advertising tends to be the first thing that is cut whenever we go through some kind of economic downturn.
That is how we generate our income to pay our staff. So when the economy changes and we see a drop in revenue, it has been tough. I’m very proud that we have been to keep all of our staff over the years. We’ve never had to lay anyone off because of a change in revenue.
It’s also a pride thing too because we believe in the idea of being locally owned and operated, I believe fully in having independent sources of information. That’s just something we want to see happen and continue to see happen in our community and the peace region as a whole.
So Fort St. John by its nature is a smaller community; a little over 20,000 people plus the surrounding area. It’s really amazing to see how many local media we actually have in a community of our size and that’s only been because of local businesses. Local businesses buying ads, that’s really what has funded us.
That’s why you’re seeing us shift as well too, we can’t rely on just one source of revenue anymore. We have to go and find different ways to find revenue so that we can keep local, independently owned operations alive and not have them get bought up by some corporate entity who then removes staff from the area.
That’s happened time and time again with local media that a larger corporation buys out, they cut staff. Then that means those people who are working in the community aren’t here to cover the stories of the region.
Question 5: Where do you see Energeticcity.ca going in the future?
We’ve seen a lot of growth in the last two years at Energeticcity.ca and I think that’s going to continue. For us, we need to get better at sharing how journalism works with our readers. There are reasons we might cover a story a certain way or what journalistic standards we follow. I think we have to get better at being more transparent and sharing that information and communicating.
You know, most people don’t really know who I am and that’s one aspect of transparency to make sure readers know the people behind Energeticcity. That way we can all develop relationships and can have a better understanding of what goes into the work we do. And explain why it’s so important to continue to have an organization like us here to cover local news.
You know, look at the fires just recently in Hudson’s Hope, right? We were posting at 11 o’clock at night, that there is an evacuation alert being issued for the community. And without local media being here to do that, you wouldn’t have that same access to information as you do today.
Thanks to Adam for taking the time to discuss and thanks to you for reading! If you want to ensure that local news is covered and remains independent in Northeast B.C., you can support us directly.
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