At some point at the end of June, I wrote an article about cycling safety, which I intended to use in the issue of July 6. Due to space constraints, I ended up not using it, so when I set up a folder on my computer for the stories for my July 13 issue, I dropped it in there. Waste not, want not; no sense letting it go to unused.
On the evening of July 6 I attended a belly dance recital, and made notes and took pictures, again for an article for the July 13 issue. On the morning of July 7 I did a telephone interview with Chris Mazurkewich, the CEO of Interior Health, and then spoke with a man who, with a partner, had set up a website where people could search for cancelled reservations at B.C. provincial campgrounds.
I had an interview scheduled with Global BC’s Keith Baldrey at 3:00 that afternoon. On Saturday, July 8 I had arranged to speak with the Ashcroft Art Club’s Sharon Rennie, about the banners club members had designed and painted for Railway Avenue in Ashcroft, and with Shayne Wright, about the new Buy Local! Buy Fresh! Thompson-Shuswap map. All these stories—along with the cycling one—were to be in the July 13 issue.
Keen-eyed readers of The Journal will realize that none of the stories were in that issue; nor have they appeared in the issues of July 20, July 27, August 3, or the one you hold in your hands. That is because late in the morning of July 7, the Elephant Hill wildfire blazed into renewed life south of Ashcroft, and has dominated the news—and this paper—ever since.
That is how it goes with news: expect the unexpected. No one, of course, could have expected an event of such magnitude, or that it would dominate our news for such a lengthy period of time. But beyond reporting about the actual story itself—the fire—there have been so many stories to come out of the event, all of which are worthy of reporting, that it is not surprising they have elbowed other stories to the sidelines.
Apart from the weekly “Local News Briefs” columns, and my bi-weekly history piece, I have written nothing that was not fire-related for five issues now. I would be lying if I said it has not been stressful, being so close to the fire in myriad ways; but many of the stories I have written have highlighted people and organizations at their very best. Time and again over the past weeks I have felt humbled, speaking with people who have told stories of quiet heroism and selflessness.
And that is what local news can do: shine a light on the stories that are important to know about, but stories that what I term “Big Media” will never cover. Yes, every major news outlet was in the area to report on the immediate outbreak of the fire, the destruction of homes in the area, the evacuation of Cache Creek and then Clinton. These are Big Stories, the kind that get viewers to watch the 6:00 news.
But what Big Media would deem unworthy of coverage—the experiences of the Cache Creek and Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Departments; the TELUS employee who fed the chickens; those who donated supplies to the area—deserves to be covered, every bit as much as the big, dramatic stories. I am pleased and proud that The Journal is here to do just that.