By: Kim Krause, LJI Journalist - On February 14th, 2020 the newly formed Schreiber Media Centre was awarded funding to purchase equipment and hire a journalist as part of the LJI (Local Journalism Initiative) project and the Schreiber Public Library’s media literacy program.
Kim Krause had worked in the post production industry and had recently returned home from many years living out of the country. (He was also a councillor, but resigned from that position to take on the role of LJI journalist). Donna Mikeluk, head librarian of the Schreiber Public Library, had studied journalism at Ryerson in Toronto and always envisioned a time when libraries would become a hub of the community with the implementation of digital technology as an enhancement to existing services.
Media creation seemed a natural step in the process. The two were soon to start that journey when Kim was appointed to the library board. Discussions ensued over months about the role of libraries and media in a small rural town. Quite often the accomplishments and stories that help create a town’s identity and history go undocumented and even unnoticed. Donna set out to source funding and establish the SMC as a non profit organization with the intent to provide access and education in media creation, with the added benefit of enhancing the township of Schreiber’s historical archive. Kim resigned from council to focus his energies on this new venture as he believed this project would have a huge impact on the town of Schreiber and its residents.
Everything was falling into place, with cameras purchased and a small studio and edit suite set up in the basement of the library. The next step was to invite members of the public to become involved and start a training program for those that were interested in learning the basics of video production. Once volunteers were trained they would be allowed access to the studio and it’s equipment and would start the process of creating content in accordance with the requirements of the LJI grant, namely producing civic journalism stories for distribution to the public and posting them on a national portal.
Friday March 13, 2020 seemed a fitting date in retrospect for the whole world to change. Schreiber Media Centre was about to launch and open its doors to the public when word came that all municipal buildings would be closed due to a COVID 19 outbreak! They were effectively shut down indefinitely, with no chance of training or recruiting volunteers, or so it might seem. It was decided that now the role of the media centre in producing local news stories was even more crucial. The country was heading into lockdowns and social distancing and people were becoming uncomfortable with the fact that there seemed to be no clear time frame of when this would all end.
Undaunted by the bad news of the library closure, Donna and Kim pushed forward with getting projects out the door. The first COVID 19 story was produced to get information out to the residents of Schreiber. It was immediately followed up with an awareness story where people were informed of
precautions and safety measures for staying safe during a pandemic.
During the next few months Kim would carry on as best as possible with researching, writing, directing, shooting, editing, sound post, web building, content managing and distribution, in addition to organizing and hosting zoom meetings, his spare bedroom turned into a production centre. Having made a few connections during his time on council, Kim then organized a virtual meeting with some of the mayors of neighboring communities to discuss how rural towns would be co-operating and sharing resources during this outbreak. It was well received and went on to show the important role that media provides by tying remote areas together and the sharing of information. It was also the first time that the mayors of the region appeared together
on a virtual platform.
Although it can be difficult to find stories when everything is shut down, the viewership for Schreiber Media Centre has been steadily increasing.
Engaging with the public is of course a huge priority and recently the importance of Schreiber Media Centre as not only a distributor of information, but an active component of the community was made clear. The CAO of the Township of Schreiber requested that content produced by SMC be made available on the municipalities web site, an acknowledgement of the role that media plays in the promotion and economic development of communities.
As regulations are relaxed and more services are allowed to open up, the next phase of this project can be implemented. With more community involvement there will be more stories to be told. Thanks to CACTUS and the LJI project, SMC is able to reach out to not only our own residents but other communities in the northern Lake Superior region. The Local Journalism Initiative enables rural towns to find their voice and let it be heard on a national level. The recognition of this achievement should not be understated. The township of Schreiberwill only benefit by having such a program as this made available.
Thanks to Cathy Edwards and Victoria Fenner and all the devotion and support they give to keep this valuable initiative going forward in the future. You have given us a voice where there was previously only silence!