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SPIN engages with readers to prioritize storytelling

The importance of community, development, print and location
 | March 2, 2022
Photo: Kayla interviewing a member of the community. Photo Zuzy Rocka.

This past week, I took a break from the regular newscycle to connect with some of our readers. Through short phone conversations, I asked questions about the community and what stories readers like to see us publish.

There were a few reasons I wanted to do this. Firstly, at SPIN we always want to know what’s important to readers. After all, they are who we write our stories for. 

It was also a way to gather story ideas. Our team is always on the hunt for stories through social media, but there are still events or cool people we won’t know about unless someone tells us directly. 

Finally, I wanted the chance to get to know some of our readers. Having only been with SPIN for a few months, I haven’t been able to chat with a lot of the community yet. I value getting to know the people who I’m writing stories for, and receiving feedback so I can continue to grow alongside the newspaper.

With all that being said, I wanted to share some of the highlights of what I learned in these discussions.

Community is most important

The great sense of community and family-oriented lifestyle in Sun Peaks was a value I heard about in nearly every interview. When asked what makes Sun Peaks a great place, several answers included the fact that the community is made up of such friendly and supportive people. 

This sense of community was reflected in other answers as well: the people I talked with said they enjoy stories that feature local people, organizations or businesses.

I knew community was important, but hearing that theme repeated so many times will impact how I go about reporting, knowing that community-centred stories are the ones with most interest.

Our readership is geographically diverse

Sun Peaks is unique because it draws in people from all over, especially due to the seasonal nature of the area. According to a recent census report from Statistics Canada, there are 1,506 dwellings in Sun Peaks, but only 622 of them house usual residents.

There is also the large tourism aspect to consider as a potential audience base for our news. This means our stories need to bridge the needs between full-time residents, part-time residents and visitors.

This is a testament I had in the back of my mind that was reinforced during my conversations. I spoke to quite a few readers who only live here part-time, or live in Kamloops and visit on the weekends. I even spoke to someone who is moving to the area soon and reads our newspaper to gain an understanding of where they are headed to. 

Because readers might consume our news for various reasons, there are differing opinions on exactly what they want to see. Full-time residents might want to know about what is happening with council, whereas a visitor likely wouldn’t pay as much attention to those stories. Moving forward, I hope to think more consciously about who exactly our audience is and try to strike a balance.

An aspect of this conversation is also to consider those who live in the surrounding communities, such as Whitecroft or Heffley Creek. Many of those people are still invested in what’s going on in Sun Peaks or consider themselves community members. However, they want to hear stories about what is going on in their neck of the woods as well. I will make it a priority to find stories to cover in surrounding areas, even if it takes a bit more digging!

Print is not dead

This conclusion is the one I am most excited about. As a journalist, I still see the value in producing print news, but worry it’s for nothing when all the same content can be found online. 

After asking readers how they consume SPIN, I discovered many people still like to grab a print issue. Turns out reading the newspaper with your coffee is still very much alive, at least in Sun Peaks! Print is also a good way for us to reach visitors who don’t actively subscribe to our newsletters or catch up with us on social media, but still want to know what’s happening.

SPIN has also moved away from the old fashioned newspaper style into more of a magazine format, because who doesn’t love pretty visuals?

Readers care about development

When it comes to the types of stories readers want to see in the future, some people said they want to hear about the upcoming municipal election later this year, the affordable housing problem or more about local businesses. But the topic I heard about more frequently was how Sun Peaks will continue to develop and what infrastructure is planned.

Development in Sun Peaks is of interest not only because it provides new facilities for community members, but it also helps draw more people to the area. With the rising population, readers also want to see how the municipality will keep up with the demand in terms of facilities like the school and health centre.

This is especially relevant since Sun Peaks Resort LLP will soon reveal its Master Plan for development, which will be followed by Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s Official Community Plan. I look forward to continuing to work with the resort and municipality to get these stories out to the community.

Other conclusions 

Overall, the question readers had the hardest time answering was which events they would like to see SPIN host in the future. The conclusion seems to be that community members are ready to gather together in person again, but aren’t too sure how to make it happen. 

I also noticed quite a few readers compared Sun Peaks to other ski resort communities, namely Whistler, SilverStar and Big White. This could be a helpful tactic for stories when looking at an issue in Sun Peaks to see how other areas are dealing with similar problems, to propose a solution moving forward.

If you didn’t get the opportunity to chat, or if you have more ideas and feedback that come up over time, I’m still always open to more discussions. Feel free to reach out whenever you have any input or questions at [email protected].

Correction: Please note the original version of this story contained the phrase ‘part time property owners’. This has been updated to ‘part time residents’.

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