Dawn Green – Writer

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The changing face of the community newspaper

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As audiences demand more access to online content, community newspapers across the globe struggle with finding a delicate balance between the old and new. Photo by Colette Cassinelli, Flickr.

When news of the massive mudslide reached editor Nicole Trigg on her day off in July 2012, she didn’t hesitate. She dropped everything, jumped in her car and sped down to the scene. Mesmerized by the incredible force of nature at work, Trigg got to work at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, gathering shots of the damage to the resort using her personal camera and conducting interviews with eyewitnesses who were clearly still reeling from the experience of witnessing such formidable destruction. The resulting video of the breaking news aftermath, as well as a breaking news article, was posted by Trigg on the Columbia Valley Pioneer newspaper’s website and not long after, the video was picked up by national media, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As Trigg noted, herein is an example of the power of online journalism, which, as she says, is “great and far reaching.”

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Debris from the mudslide that swept through the Columbia Valley, BC on July 15, 2012. Photo by Nicole Trigg.

This is a tale occurring across the land as not only media giants but the humble community newspaper struggles to shift and adapt in the changing seas of digital media. Where in the past a journalist would snap a couple of photos that would appear in print later that week, this video was posted online within hours of the event and quickly spread across the country.

It’s obvious that adapting is the key to survival in these uncertain times of descending subscription rates and changing needs of audiences.

The evolution of the audience

And audiences are indeed changing.

Jay Rosen, media critic, writer and professor of journalism, captures the essence of this shift in his blog, The People Formerly Known as the Audience, wherein he explores the new expectations of the audience in a mock letter to media people.

He describes the new audience as the writing readers, the viewers who use video, the formerly atomised listeners who now have the power to connect with each other and speak to the world.

Formerly on the receiving end of the highly-centralised old media system that was top-down, that had high entry fees and a few companies in competition to talk loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation, in the past audiences had little power to influence the media other than to write letters to the editor and phone in to their local radio station.

My, how times have changed.

Rosen describes how the invention of the blog has delivered freedom of the press to the people; once the editors of the news, now citizen journalists can edit the news and choose front page material; while shooting and distributing video was once the realm of Big Media, nowadays users can make and share videos in a way never seen before, thanks to YouTube and other social media outlets.

The champion of the citizen journalist, Dan Gillmor writes in his book, We the Media, that we stand at a time where people can bring strong alternatives to mainstream media.

“…the grassroots are transcending the pallid consumerism that has characterized news coverage and consumption in the past half-century or more. For the first time in modern history, the user is truly in charge, as a consumer and as a producer.”

This shift in power is tangible in the way that users engage with media, as Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press points out, “The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place.”

The former audience is now the active audience that is very much involved with the media and wants to share, discuss and create, which means the press is now divided into pro and amateur zones that have a degree of overlapping and interacting.

As Rosen says in his blog, “The people formerly known as the audience are simply the public made realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable.”

Community newspaper dilemmas

So let’s turn our attention now to the humble community newspaper existing outside the parameters of the big smoke, yet working with this new audience just described. How are they coping? Are times changing for them as well or are they operating in a time warp compared to modern fast-paced city newspapers?

Trigg, the editor of The Columbia Valley Pioneer, whom we alluded to at the start of this story, has a lot to say about this topic.

Located in the small mountain town of Invermere, in BC, Canada, the Pioneer publishes 6,400 print newspapers to locals and visitors to the valley each week. Trigg says that while she has seen an increase in regional sharing between sister papers due to easy access to online stories and an increase in the newspaper’s social media presence on sites such as Facebook, the print newspaper still rules.

“Print is still king for my area and print ads are still the main economic driver,” she explains. “This is likely due to the tabloid full-colour format of the free paper I publish as well as this being a tourist destination with lots of visitors who like to pick up the paper to have something in their hands while they’re here. The paper is also a coffee table favourite among locals. It’s actually company policy not to let online draw attention away from the money-making print product. Online access to the subscription-based paper I put out is protected by a paywall.”

So apart from breaking news posts, photo galleries and teasing stories on Facebook and Twitter, time and policy constraints don’t leave much room for online activity, laments Trigg.

She describes her dilemma as her bosses started pushing for more of an online presence but then cut her staff which, she says, keeps her scrambling to stay on top of the newspaper print edition.

“I think one point to make is how difficult the transition to online can be when a news team is already swamped working on the paper product, which actually makes the money because advertisers are preferring to see their ads in print rather than online. Online sales here are negligible. Ideally I would hire someone who could make online their main focus, something I have yet to see materialise despite my many requests.”

Clare Ogilvie, editor of the Pique Newsmagazine in Whistler, BC echoes Trigg’s sentiments.

When she took over as editor of the community newspaper five years ago, the first thing she did was re-launch the digital website and move to a seven-day-a-week staffing model.

“With such a tiny staff it is really impossible to do justice to the news that is happening daily but we try,” she said in an email, adding that reporters struggle as they are being asked to do more for less money than they have ever been asked to do before.

Ogilvie notes that they have a reporter on staff who makes amazing videos (an example can be found here) which they try to use, but the reality is there often isn’t enough time to post videos.

“We don’t make any money from it… so it is pretty far down the list of priorities,” she said.

So once again we see how the role of the community newspaper has changed dramatically over the past decade. Ogilvie says that there are several factors contributing to this. One reason lies in the staff cutbacks at large papers, so the daily newspapers (dailies), such as the Vancouver Sun, now frequently take stories from the weekly newspapers (weeklies), such as the Pique, rather than do their own research. Dailies and weeklies often “share” content, which is another strong solution, she adds.

She is quick to point out that at the root of these changes is the fact that the world has gone digital.

“People want information now,” she notes. “And they don’t want to pay for it either — and since they can mostly get it for free, the digital side of media has not been able to figure out a way to monetize it. Dailies have been forced to go digital in a big way, but they are not making any money from it.”

The move to digital has also forced community newspapers to keep up.

At the Pique newsmagazine, this has led to the seven-day-a-week staffing situation, constant updating of the website, as well as social media postings throughout the working day. Her staff are active on Pique’s Facebook and Twitter sites and there is an expectation that reporters will post to social media when they are at events, even if they are not working.

So it seems that our community newspapers are facing some unique challenges in this new digital era, ones which are ultimately attached to the newspaper business model.

But there is optimism in amongst the grim facts of overworked and underpaid staff labouring away at community newspapers all across the country.

Ogilvie says that as a result of all these changes, communities now rely more and more on their local newspapers for information, and this should be seen as the silver lining in an otherwise challenging situation.

“This gives local news organisations a unique opportunity to become indispensable, and is one we should all embrace.”

 

By Dawn Green

~ Originally posted on the COMM5602 blog for the unit Online Journalism at UWA. November 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Screen-time versus nature-time

There’s a sad trend unfolding in households all around us – while many of us adults can remember vividly the hustle and bustle of neighbourhood games on the street before shouts from mums came floating over kids’ laughter, announcing it was dinnertime, today this can often be a dramatically different scene. The streets instead are empty and silent. Where are the kids? They are indoors, hunched over their various technology, engrossed in screen-time.

Photo by Paul Rogers

Photo by Paul Rogers

Addiction to screens is certainly not a new concept but the research continues to pile up and should not be ignored. Evidence backing its nasty side-effects all point to the fact that too much screen-time can be detrimental to your health on many levels.

It’s gotten so bad in places like China that doctors there now consider screen addiction to be a clinical disorder. The documentary “Web Junkie,”  illustrates the tragic effects on teens who become utterly addicted to video games, playing non-stop for dozens of hours at a time. Many come to view the real world as fake.

As a result, special rehab centres in China have been established where affected teens are confined for months at a time, completely isolated from all media.

Internet addiction. Source: YouTube

Internet addiction. Source: YouTube

While this may seem to be an extreme measure, there’s no denying that youth all over the world are similarly affected by Internet addiction, where they are plugged in for far more hours of the day than experts consider health for normal development.

The American Academy of Paediatrics advises for children under two years to have no exposure to electronic media.

“A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens,” the Academy said in its policy statement.

It also recommends that teenagers should spend no more than two hours a day looking at screens.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, agrees.

“We’re throwing screens at children all day long, giving them distractions rather than teaching them how to self-soothe, to calm themselves down,” she said.

“Kids need time to daydream, deal with anxieties, process their thoughts and share them with parents, who can provide reassurance.”

Ms Steiner-Adair added that parents must act before their kids get an unrealistic take on reality.

“Children have to know that life is fine off the screen,” she said.

“It’s interesting and good to be curious about other people, to learn how to listen. It teaches them social and emotional intelligence, which is critical for success in life.”

My gut feeling is that as this information becomes more and more mainstream, parents will react and do their best to help their kids by limiting their screen time despite the lure of using TV as an ‘electronic babysitter.’

Only time will tell but it is my greatest hope that instead, kids will get used to getting home from school and getting shooed out the back door to play outdoors before dinner, just like we did when we were their age. And that’s when nature-time as opposed to screen-time will develop into a far greater influence in their lives and time tumbling in the sand and climbing up limbs of trees will create long lasting positive effects in their lives.

So I’m backing nature-time over screen-time.

What do you think?

Imagination Grove. Source: www.slate.com

Imagination Grove. Source: http://www.slate.com


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Risky parenting – the debate

My friend and I debated this the other day, as we meandered in a wetlands, collecting rubbish at the insistence of her four-year-old. While her two daughters and mine galloped around, touched pricky bushes, tripped over and dusted themselves off again, we pondered what exactly risky parenting meant to each of us.

While it’s easy to talk about allowing kids to jump off rocks, take risks and be responsible, it’s  also so true that when you are actually a parent, and you’re actually talking about your own daughter or son, it’s a whole different ballgame compared to sitting on the sidelines and judging other parents for the decisions they make.

So while I do feel strongly that kids need to have more freedom to roam (think Free-Range kids) and not be faced with ‘helicopter parents’ always hovering close by, the thought of one day letting Jarrah hurl down a mountain bike track on her own or walk home from the library without me turns my blood to ice. That crazy strong protective instinct kicks in and I just want to shelter her from the world.

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Photo: justinjensen/Flickr

Yet, as Katie Arnold writes so eloquently in a recent article in Outside Magazine, at the end of the day it’s all about making responsible decisions for our children’s safety while allowing them to expand and grow.

“But we can’t slow our children down. Not really. Their whole purpose in life is to grow and change and need us less until they hardly need us at all. We can urge caution in the moment and good judgment over time, but we can’t arrest their development. At times we cheer their progress, at others we’re heartbroken by how quickly they are changing. Either way, it’s our job to help them grow so we can let them go. The hardest thing about being a parent is knowing where to draw the line between reasonable, healthy risk and careless negligence, between hands-on guidance and helicopter parenting.” (Katie Arnold, 2015)

And my friend and I agreed. We don’t sweat when our kids trip and fall, and getting dirty is cherished and promoted, so we feel we are on the right track. Will I still fret when Jarrah goes off on her first crazy wilderness experience on her own? You betcha, but the important thing is that I will be there to hug her when she gets back and share in her excitement, after all, that’s what parenthood is all about.


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New year, new perspective – update

creative-writing1Some of you may be wondering just what was that dream I alluded to which has since been dusted off and given a new life? Well, let me begin by saying that January feels like a lifetime ago given the remarkable and breathtaking changes which have become my new life. Besides re-visiting some old, incomplete writing projects and breathing new life into them, which is exciting enough by itself, I have also embarked on a new academic journey of sorts.

My focus this year is also on completing a one-year Masters program in Communications. It was a big decision and one that came up out of nowhere but one which also makes a lot of sense. I thought to myself, why not capitalise on my existing writing skills and explore this new avenue? It’s one which will hopefully lead to a role working with a non-profit organisation, managing their communications, both internally and externally. It’s an exciting field and I am thoroughly embracing the program, its teachings and all the possibilities that are unfolding along the way.

I won’t lie – it was a tough decision to make and there have been moments of adjustment for all of us in my family, but besides my new study, I feel extremely blessed to have found a sweet balance, where I can be at home with my one-and-a-half-year-old for two days a week, enabling us to continue our trend of nature walks in the bush, at the beach and at home in the back yard.

I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

 

 


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Toy revolution – eliminate plastic and allow nature to be the playground

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Rocks, gum nuts, feathers, sticks, sea shells….these are the toys my one-year-old cherishes most and there’s no doubt, I can literally see her ears perk up whenever she hears the word, “outside.”

The funny thing is, although most households, day care centres and toy libraries are bursting with plastic toys, in my experience kids really gravitate towards natural objects when given the opportunity. And studies do show that unstructured outdoor play is one of the best things for children’s development.

To name just a few of these benefits (thanks to the Nature Play WA):

  • Builds resilience – to fall down and get back up again, to experiment and learn from mistakes develops problem solving and creativity by being persistent to try things a different way.
  • Risk taking and reasonable risk assessment – children can reflect on their actions and feelings related to nature experiences and gain confidence to make their own decisions from self-directed and self-controlled play.
  • Calming – our natural attraction and trust of nature can calm behaviours, focus attention and increase ability to concentrate and learn.
  • Develops the use of senses – exploring  the textures, sounds, tastes, colours and smells in any weather develops learning skills, expands sensory use and strengthens muscles for gross and fine motor skills.
  • Develops respect and care of other living things – good adult role models show appropriate ways to care for the natural environment.
  • To be observant and focus their attention – how to observe, investigate, imagine  and question develops critical thinking.
  • Develops language and communication skills – to participate in conversations and observations about ideas or experiences develops speaking, listening and social communication skills.

– See more at: http://www.natureplaywa.org.au/early-years-for-parents#sthash.qWayPaNt.dpuf

It was just a way of life back in the late 70s when I was growing up, but my sister and I spent countless hours playing outdoors, climbing trees and making up imaginary stories and the like, and it’s my heart’s desire to give my own daughter the same experiences.

In our household we’ve made the conscious decision to reduce plastic, which includes toys, of course. It really does take some concerted effort but the results are amazing. A few baskets, gum nuts, wooden toys and an avid collector (aka my daughter) and you’ve got a plastic-free toy collection to entertain and educate children for hours.

For more inspiration check out this blog I discovered today, which led to this post:

http://www.letthechildrenplay.net

It’s bursting with great info and photos on how to make play spaces more green.

Well, I’d better get back to some more nature time with my daughter….nothing beats exploring the natural world through the eyes of a youngster.


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New year, new perspective

It’s funny, in the past I didn’t place much importance on the end of the year and how the New Year signaled new beginnings. That is, until this morning, on the first day of 2015 when I woke up and realised I was another year older (my birthday is in December) but somehow not feeling another year wiser.

Then my thoughts drifted back to the family BBQ we attended last night and flickers of conversations made with people throughout the night. One lively conversation with a cousin whom I know very little, which may have been fueled by some alcohol on his part, involved some very frank honesty. He opened up to me and said he was happy with his life and felt blessed his kids were healthy, but… yes, there was a but. Indeed, he admitted there were some things he wished were different in his life, some unfulfilled dreams and hopes. I never found out what they were exactly but judging by the wistful look on his face, they were significant and important to him.

So this led me to think about my own life.

I’ve had the pleasure of plunging into the magic and madness of parenthood in the past year and what an incredible journey it has been, with its trials and tribulations….BUT, yes, there is a but. I will admit that there is more I am longing for in my life in addition to the joys of parenthood, some unfulfilled dream tapping me on the shoulder and saying softly, “Hey, remember me?”

This quote helps to sum it up for me:

‘Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so.’
~ Belva Davis

And so I am bravely re-visiting dreams, hopes and goals I have shelved, and after brushing off the dust, I am going to tackle them head-on. It won’t be easy, I know that, but I also know I don’t wish to be taking my last breath on this Earth and thinking those dreaded words…”If only…”

So here’s to making dreams come true and all the hard work and sweat and tears that goes along with it. Join me on the ride, if you like, and see what you really want to create in your life, starting on this first day of a new year.

Happy New Year!

~Dawn

‘Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off. But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.’
~ Amelia Earhart

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Poetry

I am blessed to have a Nan who is wonderfully talented in writing poetry and upon reflection after writing my last post, wherein I described my experiences growing up in a rural homestead, I realised (with some gentle prodding from the poet herself) that it would be important to share an excerpt from a poem she wrote about me.

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DAWN SMILING THROUGH
BY THELMA THOMPSON

As her mind wanders back to a fairy story of once upon a time,
There lived a family in Nova Scotia, Canada, it was so divine,
When a son and two daughters were born, who grew up together with love,
For the wonderful country, the mountains, the forests, the heavens above,
The snow in the winter, the ice they could skate on, the amazing wild life,
There were lots of cats who followed them into the forest, with delight,
They would run, they would frolic, they would play hide and seek,
Pretending there were tigers, or black wolves chasing them to the creek,
Where ducks used to swim, this froze in the winter, turning it into a lake,
They used to skate on this lake to their heart’s content, no mistake,
The highest trees Dawn would climb, she always got the best view,
Miles and miles of magnificent scenery, as only Nova Scotia knew.

If you’re like me and in awe of this poetic masterpiece, this is simply the icing on the cake.  Have a look for more of her inspiring and amusing poems on Facebook – The Poetry of Thelma Thompson.


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Let ’em out – a case for more down and dirty time for little ones

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I know it’s likely due to the fact I am a new mum, but I can’t help being amazed at the sheer number of articles out there preaching the benefits of good ole time in nature for our kids.

I couldn’t agree more.

For me, growing up on a rural property meant a full slather of nature at my door step – a duck pond complete with ducks and better yet, tadpoles to catch, a bubbling brook to sit by and ponder life,  a swamp to sink my feet into, and best of all, a forest filled with trees beckoning to be climbed and explored. There were days where my sister and I would literally be outdoors for the entire day, lost in our imaginative games, only resurfacing when our mum called out to us to come in for meals.

These experiences in nature molded me into who I am today and I so wish to create the same for my own daughter. We might not be living on a rural property (yet) but I have discovered how easy it is to make nature available through daily walks in nature reserves nearby where we pat trees, collect leaves and marvel at butterflies and ants, and playing in our back yard in the grass and getting her involved in our veggie garden and worm farm.

It’s all little stuff but it makes a huge difference in the lives of our children. They’ll get screen time as they grow up, I know I can’t hide my daughter from it, but I know that I also want her exposed to real life experiences in nature.

Speaking of which, we’re taking her for her first camping trip in a few week’s time. Stay posted for the after-camping update.

🙂

Read more here on the magic of outdoor kindergartens:

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/07/let-em-out-the-many-benefits-of-outdoor-play-in-kindergarten/


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On the run in Whistler

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The pure essence of running can be summed up in a few words- rhythm, breathing and a sense of connection. And whether that be a connection with oneself, where the kilometres disappear under your feet as you work out the world’s problems in complete solitude, or a connection with a partner who’s there to encourage you to push it that little bit further, running is truly a sport for any personality type.

And if you’re in the hunt for a runner’s heaven, Whistler is it, namely due to the abundant selection of routes to suit any preference- from the flat 40-kilometre paved Valley Trail where you can turn on the power or jog with a companion, to the aptly named Comfortably Numb, a 25-kilometre rugged single-track trail run from Wedgemount Lake to Lost Lake, with an elevation change of more than 1,000 metres.

Does the thought of competitive running get you chomping at the bit? Whistler hosts a plethora of running events each year, with the Terry Fox Run (September14), the Whistler Spirit Run, and the Rubble Creek Classic (both on September 28) on the cards this autumn. The races create the perfect excuse to get to the mountains for the sublime combination of sport followed by a mandatory unwinding session afterwards.

In addition to these races, on October 18 the Whistler 50 Relay and Ultra Marathon challenges eight-person teams to an 80-kilometre relay race or solo stars to an ultimate ultra-marathon. Commencing in the early morning darkness, the ultra-marathoners face a staggering 80.5 kilometre run, where the perks clearly outweigh the discomforts.

Just ask Margreet Dietz, a three-hour marathoner who has been running in the Sea to Sky Corridor for six years.

“I absolutely loved the Whistler 50 experience,” she says, “It is a beautiful four-lap course along the lovely Valley Trail… it is flat to undulating and not technical at all-it is a good course to run your fastest 50-miler, or to try your first ultra without having to worry too much about logistics.”

And what keeps her going? “There is always a good view of the surrounding mountains around the corner.”

This article was published in The Vancouver Sun and The Province on Sept 9, 2014.


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Licence to Play

kids-playingWhistler has long been revered as a place people flock to in order to escape the rigours of everyday life, where frolicking in the snow and sun is not only encouraged, it’s a staple of life in the town. So it’s not surprising then that Whistler’s longest running festival is one where children, play and imagination reign supreme.

Dreamed up by a gathering of parents who bemoaned the fact there was no event in town catering for children, thirty-one years on the Whistler Children’s Festival continues to engage, entertain and educate our youth and the young at heart.

“What makes it unique is that it was born out of the history of Whistler,” says Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, adding that when compared to other children’s festivals, its focus on art-making workshops, on equal par to entertainment, allow it to stand out from the crowd.

“Kids get to be active not passive,” she notes, “And they become completely engaged and immersed in the activities.”

From soap stone carving to patio lanterns, to backyard birdhouses, tin can robots and circus skills, the Whistler Children’s Festival comes alive on July 12 and 13 with a roster bursting with dozens of art workshops that encourage youngsters’ inner artists to be unleashed and imaginations to go riot.

 

This article was published in The Vancouver Sun and The Province on June 24, 2014.

Read more here:

www.vancouversun.com/travel/Whistler+Children+Festival/9969016/story.html