Reflections of a Citizen Journalist

Author: Judy Barlow
Citizen Journalist

In 1971 John Lennon and Yoko Ono noted the passing of the old year into the new with the simple musical question,  “… And what have you done?”

On its second anniversary, it also seems natural to look back at some of Saanich Voice Online’s stories and ask, “What next?

If you imagine the SVO office teeming with a stable of staff writers churning out news, you couldn’t be more wrong. There is no office; no stable of writers; no copy boy hollering, “Hold the press!” In fact, if not for you readers, there would be no SVO. You tell the stories.

SVO started with friends sharing a vision  – a local paper, with stories written by local people, about local people. Citizen journalists would introduce you to your neighbour two streets over and four houses down; to mom and pop businesses serving your community; to corporate and political leaders affecting your daily life, for better or worse, warts and all.

In 2012, SVO told small stories, like where to get great coffee, and great stories with global implications.

In May, Stelly’s students Kai Barlow and Lexi Haggstrom asked, “How can we make a difference?”. Elizabeth May responded, urging people to “speak up and speak out, whenever, wherever, and however they can.

Though some declare only the loudest voice gets heard, sometimes a quiet voice murmured in the right ear cannot go unheard.

In November, SVO asked a simple question; “Where is Terry Siklenka?” Who knew this story would grow to be covered by mainstream print publications, as well as radio and television networks here, in the US, in the UK, and in the Cayman Islands.

After appearing in the September issue of SVO, business was booming for Evelyn Marsh of Marsh Farm. A new customer nominated Marsh Farm on CFAX as the best farm on the Peninsula to do business with and Evelyn’s cabbage won second prize in the Saanich Fair. The red ribbon hangs proudly in her sales barn, right next to the paper.

Sidney’s Pleasant Street took a European turn, where a copy of SVO led German tourists to Heather Gunning and Gord Langstrom’s art studio. “Neither Gord nor I realized how many people read SVO,” Heather enthuses. “… People even stopped me and said that they enjoyed the article…” A super-sized order from Butchart Gardens and planning cool new products like gates and windchimes, is keeping the couple extra busy.

In April, Citizen Journalist Heather Tufts drew attention to Tsawout First Nation’s efforts to rebuild their longhouse, razed in a 2009 fire. SVO’s coverage of the story helped enormously in gaining public backing.

With fundraisers like a sold-out black-tie event featuring keynote speaker, actor Adam Beach, and logs generously donated by The Pallan Group, Farrah Sylvester reports, “We are almost there … Our goal is to get Our Tsawout Long House off the ground by Spring.” Money is still urgently needed.

At the Flying Fish Winery, owners Laura and Melanie report that business was “HUGE” after appearing in the August issue of SVO, with a big run of business just before Christmas. Laura says, “…This year because of the article, we increased our fruit client base tremendously and several of those people have mentioned they will be telling their friends about us.  The Saanich Voice Online article will likely bring us business for years to come…

So there it is – just a few highlights from favourite stories of 2012. What about looking forward?

SVO needs even more contributions from its readers. Maybe you have a story to tell or an event to post on the SVO Community Events Board. This is your chance  to be heard. SVO will continue to showcase people and events on the Saanich Peninsula as long as you, the readers continue to read – and write – and be the stories.

And now, a final question. If you had a voice (and you do) and an outlet (SVO) what would you say to your friends and neighbours in 2013?

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Comments appearing in Saanich Voice Online are opinions of the writers and do not represent the official position of Saanich Voice Online. To be considered for publication, comments should be no more than 250 words. They may be condensed by Saanich Voice Online, although care is taken to preserve the core of the writer's comment. Saanich Voice Online may freely reproduce comments in print, electronic or other forms. In order to encourage open exchange of ideas Saanich Voice Online requests that all writers maintain mutual respect. Saanich Voice Online will endeavour to not publish unsubstantiated allegations, personal attacks or offensive language and reserves the right to decide whether or not to accept comments. Any letter that appears irrelevant will be submitted to the Editor-in-Chief and adviser for acceptance or rejection. Saanich Voice Online welcomes interest from those who wish to write stories as citizen journalists. We ask that you contact us by email so that we can share our guidelines for stories.

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