Next week I’ll be writing about my annual retrospective where I look back on the year that was and underline the milestones, analyze the decisions made by local officials, and extrapolate what the future might bring. This week however, I want to take the time to highlight what is perhaps one of the most important lessons of 2020, the importance of community news.
The COVID-19 pandemic laid down a challenge for community newspapers everywhere, and all at once, in a way that hasn’t been seen I think since the Second World War. Again, and again this pandemic challenged local papers like Cornwall Seaway News to take a global event and bring it back to a local level.
For example, national news outlets like the CBC could tell the nation when the pandemic arrived on Canadian shores, but the first case in Cornwall was reported by local media. National news could tell the nation that the U.S. border was being closed, but only local news in Cornwall could tell readers how that affected their neighbours. National news reported on the day I am writing this that the first COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial in Canada was delivered to a Personal Support Worker in Toronto, but only local news will tell our readers when it is available to them.
Our work is not just to parrot a press release sent out from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), but to challenge them on the decisions they’ve made during the pandemic, both on the restrictions they’ve imposed and the information they’ve chosen to share.
It is because of being pushed by local media that the EOHU began to breakdown COVID cases by municipality so that we could better track where the virus was. Local media has pushed the Health Unit on the restrictions put on businesses asking that they justify those decisions.
Most recently, I have seen or have been sent some comments regarding the belief that the COVID-19 virus is only in long-term care facilities and is only a risk to those residents. While it is true that there are four long-term care facilities in Cornwall that are experiencing outbreaks, none of the residents at those facilities have contracted COVID-19, at least as of time of writing.
This is information that we at Seaway News had to ask the Health unit for directly and it is important to know. COVID-19 is in our community. As of Monday, there are 76 active cases in the city and 340 across the EOHU overall. We need to be careful. Even though I am a member of a low risk population, I would hate to think that I might spread COVID to someone, even a stranger who happens to be in the same room as me, and that they might die because of me. It seems like a reasonable and responsible thing to be concerned about.
In addition to our role of keeping our readers informed of what is going on in their local area during the pandemic, we are also, as always, providing the best platform possible to support local business during a year that has been difficult, but especially so for businesses.
Out now is our Christmas magazine Christmas at Home which features a range of recipes and gift ideas, as well as some fun carols and activities for kids. The theme and goal of this magazine is to promote local businesses.
Like I said, Seaway News is the best place for readers to go when they want to know what is going on with the pandemic locally, and that is our strength and our value that we offer to advertisers. Businesses can come to us and know, their neighbours read Seaway News.
The need and importance of community newspapers has been highlighted by the events of this year, and pandemic or not, we will continue to be here to fill that all-important role.
We also want to hear from you, the community we serve so if you have any comments you would like to share, please email them to email@example.com for them to appear as a Letter to the Editor or in Scuttlebutt.