Our work reflects the potential of an excellent community

We’re rolling into 2022 and it seems like people were just complaining about the horror show 2020 was for them just yesterday. I hope for those folks, 2021 was an improvement and 2022 is even better.

I’m one of those rare people who is well suited to the pandemic lifestyle. Even though I’ve spent a fair share of the past 30 years on stages across Canada and the United States being the centre of attention, that’s not where I am most comfortable. I’d prefer to be on the sidelines or in the shadows. I think this job suits that introverted personality well.

One of the things that we at Midwestern Newspapers were able to enjoy this year were accolades. We were recognized with six awards by the Ontario Community Newspapers Association for excellence in community journalism.

In a recent email conversation with our editorial staff, Mike Wilson, our intrepid editor wished us all “a great 2022 – one full of awards and hopefully absent of COVID.”

I was thinking about that as the new year rolled in, and although I appreciate the recognition, I think the work we are doing reflects the community we live in – for better or worse. A lot of what we do as journalists is make observations and then try our best to convey those observations back to the community. Often, in my opinion, the best of what gets published under my byline is contained in the quotes of what some of you have said.

So what I think I am saying, and my wife might be dumbstruck to hear me say this, because sometimes she hears me mutter things like, “I can’t believe so and so actually said that,” or “why would they do that,” as I type out these articles.

What I am saying is that the work we do is really a reflection of the community and I think as often, or perhaps more often, as I type I exclaim things like, “that is great for the community” or “this person is inspiring.”

Indeed, we often have to write articles about some of the aspects of the community that may be looking particularly grave at the moment. Homelessness has found its way into our communities. It’s been here for many years but it’s just becoming more apparent. Also, the cost of housing, something that has got the whole country in a bind, is now being talked about often at the local level. Some tough issues are crashing into our rural community and there are also some local ideas emerging to help people in need.

So, when we are writing or photographing or creating potentially award-winning sections of the newspaper – you are the people who provide the fodder, good or bad – that we fill these papers with. We’ve heard a lot of praise over the past few years that the papers which are owned by Midwestern Newspapers have improved a lot, and I’d like to think that our improvement reflects improvements in the community.

Some might argue that these communities were always a great place to live but some of us would beg to differ. That is not to say that these towns we live in are horrible places to live, they are not, but there is room for new ideas and improvements and I believe that we, the workers at our small-town newspapers are being allowed to capture that change, as if we were cameras taking snapshots in time, and presenting those photos in words, headlines and well, photos.

So when you take the time to give us a positive letter or drop by the office with some encouraging words about the work we are doing, keep in mind that we would not be able to do that work without the community support you give us and each other.

Sure, we have to write about the bad times as well as the good, but quite often when we do write about those times, the community gets off their duff and attempts to make the best of the situation, and sometimes, you allow us to write, photograph, and lay out newspapers that are full of promise and positivity.

As we roll into 2022, I would like to think that the positive ideas will outweigh the negative in the newspapers we put together for you this year. We may not all agree on what we think is positive or negative, but I have a good feeling that the good times will roll for our communities and our local newspapers will reflect that in one way or another.


Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Midwestern Newspapers based out of Listowel.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter