ED­I­TO­RIAL Why 250 News was im­por­tant

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The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE -

ood luck, Elaine, and thank you for your de­vo­tion to com­mu­nity jour­nal­ism and to Prince Ge­orge.

250 News co-founder Elaine Macdonald-Meis­ner an­nounced Friday that she would be clos­ing 250 News at the end of the month, af­ter 12 years in business.

To work as a jour­nal­ist in the 21st cen­tury is noth­ing less than a labour of love. There’s way more money to be made as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer or a me­dia spokesper­son in the pri­vate or pub­lic sec­tor at an eas­ier, less stress­ful job with more long-term se­cu­rity.

Macdonald-Meis­ner’s labour of love was even more per­sonal be­cause she not only re­ported for 250 News, she owned it. Like all of life’s great ad­ven­tures, it’s great when you’ve got a part­ner rid­ing shot­gun and Elaine had her hus­band, Ben, un­til his sud­den and un­timely death two-and-a-half years ago.

“It just hasn’t been the same (with­out him),” she said in her state­ment Friday. She was de­scrib­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning the news out­let with­out him but she could just as eas­ily have been de­scrib­ing the web­site it­self. Ben Meis­ner was a unique and pow­er­ful voice in Prince Ge­orge and peo­ple headed over to Opinion 250, the name it started with, just to read who and/or what was un­der Ben’s skin that day.

If Ben brought the siz­zle, Elaine served the meat and pota­toes in the form of solid and thor­ough re­port­ing, par­tic­u­larly on pol­i­tics and break­ing news. 250 News hasn’t been the same with­out Ben but it has con­tin­ued to be a solid, de­pend­able lo­cal news out­let.

That’s why it was im­por­tant. That’s why it will be missed.

To be blunt in the Meis­ner fashion, 250 News would have been lit­tle more than a well-fol­lowed cur­mud­geonly blog with­out Elaine. It was her un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to cov­er­ing the com­mu­nity, not just kick­ing asses and tak­ing names, that gave 250 News its cred­i­bil­ity. It’s rel­a­tively easy to do a bit of re­search, form an opinion and raise some hell (trust me, I know!) but it’s hard work to cover meet­ings and events, in­ter­view sources, fight with the spin doc­tors and get out a de­cent story.

And some­times, no mat­ter how hard you work, it’s still not enough.

Elaine and I took part in a panel dis­cus­sion with Trent Ernst of the Tum­bler Ridge News back in Fe­bru­ary of last year on CBC Day­break North about the fu­ture of lo­cal jour­nal­ism.

The Tum­bler Ridge News closed its doors this past April. And now 250 News is shut­ting down, too.

The fu­ture of lo­cal jour­nal­ism is pre­car­i­ous, in­deed.

Dur­ing the panel, all three of us made the case for lo­cal sto­ries and voices, both from an ad­ver­tiser and a reader stand­point. Read­ers don’t pay the bills, the ad­ver­tis­ers do. Ad­ver­tis­ers only go where there are read­ers but jour­nal­ists can’t get paid to write sto­ries for read­ers with­out ad­ver­tis­ing. Read­ers want choice and di­ver­sity in the news mar­ket­place and jour­nal­ists like Elaine, Trent and I want to pro­vide that but lo­cal sup­port in terms of au­di­ence and rev­enue is es­sen­tial.

That strug­gle, both for money com­ing in the door and to do the sto­ries, is ex­haust­ing work and no one can ever say Elaine didn’t – both be­fore and af­ter Ben died – fight the no­ble fight as long and as hard as she could.

Elaine, like the rest of the dwin­dling num­ber of jour­nal­ists re­main­ing in Prince Ge­orge, knows this jour­nal­ism thing is far more than just a job. The com­mu­nity ser­vice as­pect of our work keeps our pas­sion alive, helps us own our stupid mis­takes and over­come the haters and the cyn­ics, the com­plain­ers and the crit­ics. We want to give peo­ple the in­for­ma­tion they need to be en­gaged cit­i­zens about their com­mu­nity and the is­sues it faces. We know our hon­esty and per­se­ver­ance makes us en­e­mies but we sol­dier on.

We want to play our own small role in the his­tory of the com­mu­nity by telling the his­tory of the com­mu­nity, both in the mo­ment but for those look­ing into the past long af­ter we’re gone.

So, thanks again, Elaine, for help­ing me be­rate the PR folks in this town (more and more of them but less and less of us) for too of­ten get­ting in our way. Thanks for keep­ing The Cit­i­zen on its toes. I know it will warm your heart to know how much pride we took over the years when we beat you on­line with some­thing and how mad we were at our­selves when you got there first.

Go walk your dog and be Elaine for a while. You’ve earned it. All the best.

– Ed­i­tor-in-chief Neil God­bout

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