By: Victoria Fenner, LJI Program Manager
Of all of the places in Canada, you wouldn’t think that there is a shortage of media in the Metro Vancouver area.
If you look at the region as a whole, it might look like there is lots of media. New West Community Television reporter Susan Millar sees it differently. She’s the journalist that has been hired by New West Community Television to cover one part of the Metro Vancouver Regional District that doesn’t get the amount, or kind of coverage it needs.
NewWest.tv is an independent not for profit society that provides media access for residents of New Westminster. The platform is on-line right now, and the organization is looking ahead to establishing a cable channel with other media groups in the MVRD, much like there used to be before the closure of the local Shaw community channel in 2017.
Susan’s role with NewWest.tv is two pronged – as a trained journalist with a degree in journalism from Carleton University, she is producing stories herself. She is also working with community groups, such as the New Westminister Chamber of Commerce, to create television programs which address issues important to the community.
Community media empowers ordinary citizens to create their own media. NewWest.tv provides access to training and facilities to help residents of New Westminster create their own programming. The role of the Local Journalist is to help local citizens produce their own content. So, when Sue Millar isn’t producing her own stories standing in front of a camera or in front of her editing suite, that's what she's doing.
Here's an example. One of the accomplishments of NewWest.tv is the new program “Zooming the Pandemic”, written and hosted by local author Deni Loubert. It explores how various sectors of the community are being impacted by COVID-19. It’s both a personal take on the world that Deni sees around her, together with conversations about people involved in small business, local health, spiritual leadership, education and ordinary citizens trying to figure out how to navigate through this uncharted territory.
Stories and information related to the business community have also been a priority, and New West TV has also been organizing a series of panel discussions on Zoom with the local Chamber of Commerce. NewWest.tv director and producer Deepak Saharasrabude says “what we had was a pretty lively debate about what problems business owners were finding around opening their stores, restaurants or bars. And business owners shared solutions that they’ve come up with”.
One of the central goals of the Local Journalism Initiative is to provide quality journalism in communities underserved by the media. Deepak says it might appear that there are lots of reporters and journalists working in Vancouver, but they are spread so thin that they don’t have time to adequately cover individual areas of the city, like New West. And they don't always understand the issues.
For example, they're close to the municipality of Surrey, separated by a river. But things can look very different, depending on the community -- “When Surrey wants a bridge, they want a six lane highway … we want, maybe .. no bridge”.
That's why different municipalities need their own media -- because things can look very different from the other side of the river.