In praise of the community paper

With the departure of What’s Up Yukon founding editor Darrell Hookey, last week (may he live

out his retirement never again checking for typos), it falls to your guest editor to hold down the fort. You may remember me from my last stint here in June, when I filled in while Darrell was away on honeymoon. During the three weeks I was given the keys to this column, I wrote about the pros and cons of social media and online publishing and then, like a fool, promised to run my first full marathon in Mayo.

I’m pleased to report that, though I did manage to drag my body across the finish line at Mayo, the rest of my summer was spent on wiser pursuits, like lying in a hammock and developing my right bicep muscle through repetitive lifting of 12-liquid-ounce weights.

I’ve come around on the Internet issue, as well. When last we spoke, I confessed that, like most Canadians, I’ve offloaded a great deal of my life onto Google. My work files, my friendships and my interaction with my community all transpire online. But in the face of Darrell’s departure, and Beese Entertainment Publishing’s hunt for a new editor, I’m compelled to re-evaluate the role of the community newspaper.

Let’s face it: no matter who eventually takes up the challenge of helming this paper, they’re never going to be able to compete with the Internet for speed and agility. Will What’s Up Yukon ever beat the Twitterverse with the verdict on the Jersey Shore finale? Not likely.

But what What’s Up Yukon offers that online information-sharing cannot is a sense of place and a sense of shared experience. This may not matter in larger centres, where there are myriad subcultures and places for people to meet and coalesce into their own social groups. But in the Yukon, it can be hard to find your people — your tribe, if you will — without a little guidance.

When I look at the contributors for What’s Up Yukon as it stands now, I’m amazed at the diversity of interests thriving in this tiny population. Oenophiles write alongside stargazers, gardeners, artists, fitness freaks, cooks, musicians and, my personal favourite, people just fascinated by the dribs and drabs of everyday life. It makes me look at the community in a different way. Who knows what sort of experts dwell among us?

In the past few months, just by asking, “what else do you love?”, I’ve discovered a bureaucrat who was once a beekeeper (with helpful advice for this year’s wasp epidemic), a bank teller who shared my passion for architecture and a restaurateur fascinated by the same obscure collection of Jamaican-Canadian soul music recordings that I had written about three years ago.

The “Colourful Five Per Cent” may grab headlines and form the bulk of the Yukon’s mystique, but in fact, the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed collectively by all Yukoners is astounding.

With that in mind, I hope What’s Up Yukon‘s new editor endeavours to pull these people into the paper’s chorus and to lure some of our citizens away from their Flickrs, blogs and Twitter accounts to share their gifts and experiences with the community at large. To allow the paper to leave the up-to-the-minute business to the Web and grow even more into something measuring the heartbeat of the Yukon. Lord knows we’re too spread out, and often too cold, to have a real town square where we connect and find common ground — What’s Up Yukon is perfectly positioned to fill that role.

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