Dig­i­tal age has had big im­pact on Van­guard

Tri-County Vanguard - - OPINION - ERIC BOURQUE THE­VAN­GUARD.CA

We’ve de­voted much of this week’s edi­tion of the Van­guard to “then and now,” look­ing at how things are dif­fer­ent to­day com­pared to the past.

And we didn’t have to look far to see ev­i­dence of change, given the trans­for­ma­tion that’s taken place right here in the Van­guard of­fice, in­clud­ing the emer­gence of com­put­ers and, of course, the In­ter­net.

Tina Comeau, the Tri-County Van­guard’s lead ed­i­tor, says it’s hard to think back to the time when our com­mu­nity news­pa­pers were ex­clu­sively a printed prod­uct that came out once a week.

While the Van­guard (which be­came the Tri-County Van­guard fol­low­ing the merger of news­pa­pers in Shel­burne, Yar­mouth and Digby coun­ties in 2016) con­tin­ues to pub­lish its print edi­tion once a week, Comeau notes there is also a daily pres­ence on­line for post­ing sto­ries, re­port­ing break­ing news, pro­vid­ing story up­dates and other bring­ing read­ers other new that hap­pens in be­tween the printed edi­tions. Re­call­ing the pre-web­site days, she said it could at times be frus­trat­ing hav­ing to wait a whole week be­fore be­ing able to share more news with read­ers.

“Our web­sites in Shel­burne, Digby and Yar­mouth coun­ties also al­low us to present the news and cov­er­age of our com­mu­ni­ties in a mul­ti­me­dia fash­ion with slideshows, videos, so­cial me­dia em­beds and links to pre­vi­ous or re­lated sto­ries – and also other web­sites,” Comeau says.

With sto­ries posted and shared on Face­book, read­ers have a chance to share com­ments and en­gage in di­a­logue about the is­sues of the day in a more im­me­di­ate way than they could in the pre-In­ter­net age.

“Be­fore so­cial me­dia and the web­site, if read­ers wanted to en­gage in a dis­cus­sion, they’d send a let­ter to the ed­i­tor and then the fol­low­ing week some­one might send a let­ter in re­sponse,” Comeau says. “So in­stead of a con­ver­sa­tion that takes sec­onds or min­utes on­line, it took two or more weeks. Twit­ter is an­other way we have of shar­ing the news. Be­ing on­line and us­ing so­cial me­dia is also a great way that peo­ple from away can stay con­nected to the news­pa­per. And it also helps us to be con­nected with our read­ers.”

If she had to list the three big­gest changes that have hap­pened since she joined the Van­guard in May 1990, Comeau – who was hired by Fred A. Hat­field, the long­est serv­ing ed­i­tor of the Yar­mouth Van­guard and who would have seen even more changes in the news­pa­per in­dus­try – says they would be the move to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy, the pa­per’s on­line pres­ence and the fact that vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing is done by com­puter now, from writ­ing sto­ries to com­pil­ing the pages.

And peo­ple’s read­ing habits have changed too. Not ev­ery­one gets their news from a print edi­tion. Many are search­ing for it on their Smart­phones.

Grace Fen­ton, who works in cus­tomer sales, is the longest­serv­ing mem­ber of the Van­guard’s present-day work­force.

She had just com­pleted a sec­re­tar­ial course in Hal­i­fax when she joined the pa­per in the sum­mer of 1974. In her 44 years at the Van­guard she has done var­i­ous jobs and held dif­fer­ent re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

“I came in as a typ­ist,” she said, re­call­ing her first Van­guard job. “I was work­ing up in the com­pos­ing room, where we put to­gether the ads, so I would type most of the copy for the ads.”

Over the years, Fen­ton was part of the lay­out team and later be­came leader of the pro­duc­tion depart­ment be­fore even­tu­ally set­tling into her cur­rent role.

Re­flect­ing on her time at the pa­per, she says she has been struck by the tech­no­log­i­cal changes. While tech­nol­ogy was great in terms of mak­ing things faster and more ef­fi­cient, she says, it also could re­place peo­ple.

“It’s kind of sad in a way,” she said.

Re­cep­tion­ist Judy Bel­liveau, an­other long­time fa­mil­iar face at 2 Se­cond St., came to the Van­guard 37-and-a-half years ago and, like Fen­ton, she speaks of how things changed with tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments.

“I started in the cir­cu­la­tion depart­ment,” she re­called. “We had to save the info on floppy disks, which were huge. Then I went to the ac­count­ing depart­ment. We had big ma­chines where we would type the in­voices and print them out. Three copies would come out.”

Says Bel­liveau: “What a dif­fer­ence from those ma­chines to the com­put­ers we have now.”

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