Sooke PocketNews recently covered Canada Post’s ceasing parcel delivery service to the East Sooke general store. People who left comments on the article were outraged and frustrated that Canada Post would not pay a fairer fee for service (note, SPN was not able to interview the store owner, so we have no idea who cancelled the service, and why). It’s easy to have an opinion when you’re watching what you believe to be David and Goliath duking it out over finances, but what happens when financial fairness means reaching into your own wallet?
Cam Welch is a writer living Victoria, BC, and he currently did a deep dive into hyperlocal news with his recently published article, Will People Pay for Hyper Local News?
Welch looked at Victoria publications Concrete Garden (published by Quinn MacDonald), The Martlet (published at the University of Victoria), CFUV (community radio out of the University of Victoria), and Sooke’s own Sooke PocketNews (published by Britt Santowski). Besides the above, he also interviewed representatives from the Times Colonist and Jaigris Hodson, a media researcher and the head of the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Royal Roads in Colwood.
Bottom line, hyperlocal news may well take a distant back seat to the mega news machines like Google and Facebook. Even the CRD buys ads on Facebook, but not on SPN. In this instance, funds drawn from taxpayers will go to profit international billionaires, and leaving the passion-driven hyperlocal news providers to seek income elsewhere. These mega news machines, with their algorithms and vast array of advertisers, are the main competitors to hyperlocal news. (And, as recent news has shown, they are also infected carriers of “alternative” facts and fake news.)
It’s over to the people now, to vote with their wallets. Currently, Sooke PocketNews sustainers contribute enough on a monthly basis to cover Internet fees. Most days, there is no ad revenue income. To pay for server, software, rent and costs of living, Santowski has taken on a second job at Royal Roads University. This second job cuts into time she can dedicate to hyperlocal news. Thus, the erosion of availability to cover local news in Sooke has begun.
To whom would Santowski rather be accountable, advertisers or the readership? The answer comes with no hesitation:
“At a very core grunt level I would rather be accountable to 1,000 shareholders each paying three bucks a month than 10 businesses paying 300.” –From the article
If only half of Sooke PocketNews’ regular readership paid $3/month, Santowski could have a livable wage — though not even close to the professional pay of a publisher. At $5/month from half the regular readership, SPN could hire a part timer, eliminating the dire dependency on a staff of one (if Santowski were struck on Sooke Rd and hospital care were required, SPN would cease — and possibly decease — as well). Retaining status quo, that reality of a steady reliable income is still a distant dream, and one that appears to be fading, fast.
Sooke PocketNews strongly encourages its readers to read Cam Welch’s article, Will People Pay for Hyper Local News? and to consider the value provided to you from these many local news sources. This is not just a pitch for readership to sustain SPN but to support independent news providers in general. These include The Tyee and Castanet, the number of independents in Nanaimo, Duncan, Victoria, Langford and Colwood, and wherever else you encounter them.
If you value hyperlocal news, whoever your provider is, it’s time to buck up. Literally.