The last two weeks have been a blur. As a community that relies solely on tourism, we’ve had to reassess our lives and businesses in the blink of an eye, many times over, and the future remains uncertain. I’ve had moments of fear, disbelief, anger, and grief. But as I see our community respond, I’ve also had moments of gratitude, hope, relief, and love.
As is the tradition in our community, I’ve witnessed an outpouring of support, people showing up for each other, and embodying the resilient little village I know we are. And that’s why I’m coming to you today: because Sun Peaks Independent News needs your help.
Many things have been underscored to me over the course of this pandemic, one of which is the importance of trusted local news sources. I hope that many of you see journalism as we do—as an essential community service.
As the rest of the village was powering down, our small team was ramping up. As in the past during wildfires or other emergencies, we’ve been working around the clock to ensure our readers have the information they need to stay safe.
Our coverage is more than information. We are a valued part of the community, who are there to hold leadership to account, to watch out for our most vulnerable residents, and to connect the community through the power of storytelling as we navigate challenges together.
But the COVID-19 crisis is different from past emergencies. Not only is a life-and-death situation for those who fall ill; it also has created life-and-death for local newspapers. SPIN, like newspapers across Canada, is almost 100% reliant on local businesses buying advertising. As it stands, with our local businesses not currently operating, we’re unsure if continuing with our print newspaper is still viable.
We’ve already seen other local newspapers close, including the nearby Revelstoke Mountaineer. Atlantic Canada’s largest newspaper chain Saltwire laid off 40 per cent of its staff yesterday and suspended publication of many community papers. La Presse and even Buzzfeed temporarily slashed journalists salaries.
The news industry faced challenges before this crisis, and COVID-19 only accelerated our problems. Advertising revenue has been falling for years and many print newspapers have closed in the past decade. I am grateful that SPIN was sustained for so many years by the continued support of local advertisers but I also didn’t take our sustainability for granted. Before this all hit, we were laying plans to experiment with new models of community-powered journalism that would better serve Sun Peaks.
We planned to follow in the footsteps of other local media that have succeeded as reader-supported digital outlets. However, the current realities have accelerated those plans, and we’re essentially skipping the beta testing portion and going straight to the big ask.
We need your help to secure our future as a sustainable community news organization. By committing to one year of support today, you can help us ride out this storm so we can focus on providing the essential journalism Sun Peaks needs to survive and thrive through COVID-19. Even better, you’ll be creating a better model for the future.
While some of the government emergency aid will help us in the short-term, it only buys us a little more time. The reality is that the local advertising business model we relied on before COVID-19 is unlikely to return any time soon, or ever.
By pivoting from mainly print-based advertising, to digital reader-supported journalism, we stand a chance of being here in six months, 12 months and into the future. But most exciting: we think this change will make our journalism even better. By being supported directly by our readers we will be directly accountable to you. We can focus on providing the in-depth journalism our community needs and delivering that digitally, when you need it, rather than only focusing our resources on a monthly print newspaper.
And the good news is that if we can make this work in Sun Peaks, other communities will know it can work there as well, and that’s powerful stuff.
If you are unable to support us at this time, we understand. Our coverage will always be free as we believe every resident should have access to their local news, no matter their socioeconomic status. But if you are able to support Sun Peaks Independent News, and value the contributions we’ve made to this community over the past 17 years, then please consider doing so.