EDITORIAL Why 250 News was important
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