Grey and cloudy – with a rainbow and blue skies at the end. It’s an analogy for my week!
Visibility-wise, it’s been my slowest since The Phoenix launched. I’ve been busy behind the scenes of course, but if you look at my website and Facebook, it’s been pretty quiet lately. Original stories take research, interview planning and then, more research – I don’t jump on what the other guys are covering, and this week’s moose on the loose in our lake is an example of in-depth local reporting vs clickbait information designed to get out first.
I have a couple friends who live on Beach Ave, and their pictures from Tuesday morning are pretty cool. How often do you see a moose swimming in the lake? (I just looked this up: Did you know moose are considered excellent swimmers and can stay underwater for more than 30 seconds?) Anyway, it’s unusual, and there’s art, so a couple outlets in the Valley wrote a story. “Aquatic Moose Entertains,” one headline read. Things changed Thursday morning. Several media outlets published that the RCMP said the moose was actually scared off by people crowding the shore trying to see it. You can cue the predictable result in the comments section: People are idiots, that poor moose, etc, etc.
So why the change in narrative? Because the RCMP issued a press release, and media who responded then based their story on that information. But other important information emerged: A couple people who were there spoke up on Facebook. They say there wasn’t a crowd, and by their account, the moose was not in distress.
So, was the moose in distress? Was there an expert at the scene who determined this? Were people crowding around? Is there even enough people on Beach Ave to form a crowd at that time of the morning? Unless you were there and saw for yourself, you don’t know. Ideally, reporters are there to see for themselves, but it’s not always going to happen. So, it’s absolutely essential – and should go without saying – that you try and find an expert, another point of view or perspective because you don’t want something that’s single-sourced. I understand completely why this wasn’t done though: Most media outlets are monetized for clicks – you’re usually not getting the full story because often, reporters just don’t have time. There’s another story to do, and probably a few more after that. They’re also filing video and posting on social media, and you have to do it fast. And if you don’t live in Peachland, you probably don’t think about the impact: Are we really a bunch of wildlife-disrespecting idiots? Don’t think so.
I’m well aware you can choose to read local news for free. And I’ll stress there’s talented journalists in our Valley’s papers, and in our industry in general. I have dear friends who still work at a daily and they are amazing, dedicated and hardworking. I’ve been there. The business model they’re working in just doesn’t support deep investigation of stories.
Going it alone is tough. I don’t have the automatic credibility that comes with working for a bigger outlet, and I know there’s people in town who wouldn’t mind if The Phoenix went away. That makes me work even harder. I have at least two (probably three) good features for you at different stages of research, there’s some website improvements coming up, and someone whose work and approach I admire approached me late last week: There’s others like me, and this slow journalism approach is becoming an emerging thing. That’s the rainbow.