OPINION: The column Sun Media didn’t want you to read

After four years of working as a freelancer in Sarnia, I recently decided to focus on another project. Primarily my articles appeared here and in the community weekly paper, Sarnia-Lambton This Week. I enjoyed the opportunity of working for Sun Media and was pleased to share stories that weren’t always being told in other venues and sharing my opinions through a weekly column. And I had a lot of positive feedback from the people whom I came into contact. So when I decided to leave, I wrote my final column as a goodbye to the community of Sarnia. It’s a great place for a journalist to work and I wanted to say that. In doing that, I also outlined my take on the state of the media industry in the region. It’s my educated guess that that opinion was the reason editors pulled the column. They never ran it. So today, I’ll say my goodbye to Sarnia here. This is the column which was supposed to run in the August 1st edition of Sarnia Lambton This Week, unedited and uncensored.

Heather Wright, journalist

Sarnia: one of Ontario’s greatest news town

 

Sarnia is a great new town.

I feel I can say that after over 25 years in the business even though I can’t believe it has been 25 years since I came to the city for my first job as a journalist.

I had survived what I thought was a thorough and exhaustive Broadcast Journalism course, I realize now I knew nothing about journalism or what a good news town was. Thankfully, God blessed me with a natural sense of curiosity and a keen eye for details and what I’m sure was a completely annoying trait of asking lots of questions which saved my butt in many cases. Of course there was a lot of good news people whom I worked with who also saved my butt.

They also stoked another character trait I didn’t even know that I had – my competitive nature. We worked hard in those days, uncovering every detail of every story no matter how small, rejoicing when we had it first and rejoicing when we had the story second but did it better.

I learned a lot in that radio newsroom. But the time came to move on and I did. It was only after I started moving to different communities in southern Ontario did I realize that Sarnia was a great news town – that is a town where there is always something interesting going on be it in politics or business, sports or emergency events.

Eventually, I made my way back to Sarnia, freelancing and rediscovering the job of being a journalist in a town that always seems to make news.

It would be cliché to say the media has changed since those days.  There really are only two major players who own most of the newsrooms in a market which once had at least seven by my count. Newsrooms have shrunk dramatically – some don’t even have editors – unheard of even five years ago. Those newsrooms won’t get any bigger and chances are some disappear completely. And frankly, it has and will left gaps in coverage.

Technology has helped bridge some of the gaps but not all of them. In a town with as much going on as Sarnia, some of those events will be under reported or missed outright. There are simply not enough people and frankly not enough competition to catch everything.

That worries me a little. We don’t have to look very far to find communities where government runs amok and taxpayers’ dollars are abused; without a strong media presence, who knows if these things will be reported.

But, as I pack up my notebook and camera and prepare for a new career outside of the city limits, I won’t be completely disheartened. I know a lot of the reporters in town and they still make their best effort to find the stories you need to know even in a market where there are few resources and fewer competitors.

I will miss the great news town which is Sarnia but I’m convinced that wherever I look, there are great stories about interesting people; you just have to be curious enough to find them.

 

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