Dawn Green – Writer

Weaving words worldwide


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Never a dull moment

 

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Credit: Wayne S. Grazio, Flickr

The moaning cries of, “Mum, Dad… I’m bored!” are rarely, if ever, uttered by kids in Whistler. Why is that, you ask? Well, it can be broken down to one word, F-U-N. For kids, Whistler is an ultimate playground, bursting with opportunities for nature play and sensory amusement.

One memorable way to spend a day in classic Whistler-style is to get the kids on bikes on the 40-kilometre Whistler Valley trail system that links all the neighbourhoods in town. The best way to experience the trail is to pack a picnic lunch and head off with no set plan, and be pleasantly surprised by what lies around the corner. Alta Lake sparkles in the sun and invites sand castle building contests at Rainbow Park and the ice cream cone at Whistler Creekside to top off the day is completely satisfying.

The Adventure Group (TAG) offers up a fantastic nature experience on their aerial tree course (aptly called The Treetop Adventure) that features a mind boggling 70 different obstacles from balance beams to rope swings. This is a natural team building adventure and a great experience to share with family.

And why not try out the art of ziplining while you’re in Whistler? Ziptrek’s Bear Tour involves zipping down five ziplines, all the while enjoying aerial vistas above Fitzsimmons Creek and laughing with your kids. And if you’re not quite ready for ziplining, there’s the Tree Trek Tour which takes you on a canopy walk over treetop bridges and suspended stairways in amongst the lush old-growth forest.

The Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre is also a must-see for families where interactive displays and guided tours tell the rich stories of the First Nations people of the region.

Even long after you’ve left town, be warned: a phrase that you are guaranteed to hear often and repeatedly from your kids will start off with, “Remember that time in Whistler when we…”

 

~This is an excerpt from an article published in The Province and the Vancouver Sun in August 2016


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The backcountry beckons

Photo creditTucker Sherman

Photo credit: Tucker Sherman, Flickr

I am at a loss for words. This is how I feel, faced with the daunting task of attempting to describe what lies before me, as I peer out from the top of Whistler Mountain into the vast backcountry of Fitzsimmons Valley and beyond. The backcountry has this effect on people. It’s almost mystic in its strength, enticing you to explore, yet keeping its secrets close to its heart.

And so I turn to an expert for help with unravelling its spell. Keith Reid, a professional mountain guide with Extremely Canadian Backcountry Adventures and a twenty-year veteran of the mountains, describes how its aloneness is so appealing.

“The terrain here is big, breathtaking and world-class,” he explains. “On a given day of backcountry skiing, we might traverse half a dozen glaciers and numerous high alpine peaks without crossing the path of another skier.”

Guided tours are recommended in this out-of-bounds play area— and for good reason— whether your passion is ski touring, ice climbing, heli-skiing or splitboarding. Local guiding companies, such as Whistler Alpine Guides and Extremely Canadian, can show you secret stashes of powder and most importantly, safety. The backcountry is also avalanche country and it’s reassuring to have safety experts by your side while you explore.

And what’s the best thing of all? That it’s possible to spend epic days in the backcountry then snuggle up warm and cozy in a chalet in Whistler each night.

“What differentiates the Whistler backcountry is the ability to get on a lift from the Village in the morning, backcountry ski all day, then ski back into the resort at the end of the day,” says Reid. “There is nowhere else in North America where you can access this level of terrain on a daily basis without a helicopter.”

The backcountry changes people, he adds, and maybe this is its secret, revealed.

“We introduce them to an environment which, for many, is a ski of a lifetime. Seldom does a day go by that we don’t see that twinkle in our guests’ eyes that says they have been to a magic place and accomplished something very special.”

Find out more at www.whistler.com/activities/backcountry/

By Dawn Green

~This article was published in The Vancouver Sun and The Province on 3 May 2016:

www.theprovince.com/travel/Advertisement+backcountry+beckons+Whistler/11754790/story.html


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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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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.