Parnell: Proud of your community and the community newspaper

Lake Country Calendar reporter Kevin Parnell on the media coverage on the CN Corridor purchase

During the past month or so, covering the issues surrounding the potential purchase of the CN Rail corridor in Lake Country, one thing has become pretty evident: The Kelowna media is supporting the efforts of the inter-jurisdictional team to purchase the corridor.

There have been repeated columns in the daily newspaper in these parts urging residents to have vision and see the benefits of the purchase. There have been editorials in any number of other Kelowna publications—online or in print—that have done the same. There has been one-sided commentary on

Kelowna radio, including the host hanging up on one of the organizers of a no campaign when his opinion differed from the host.

Wherever it’s been coming from it hasn’t been hard to figure where the media falls on the potential purchase of the rail corridor: They love it.

The big question for me is what gives reporters who live and reside outside of Lake Country the right to stick their nose in the air and look down on Lake Country residents’ legitimate concerns when it comes to the purchase?

This is a disturbing trend in the media today. Reporters as the story. Reporters are supposed to tell the story, and yes, they can become part of the story. But the basics of journalism are to tell both sides of the story, whether you like it or not. The answer is almost always somewhere in the middle. Your opinion isn’t supposed to matter.

The editorials aren’t the only question. An opinion piece—just like this one—is part of what we as media get to do. We’re not experts. We’re just people. Telling stories. And as a bonus we get to write opinion pieces.

But in the past month, as yes and no campaigns took place in Lake Country, the no side had more and more trouble being heard by the media. When the issue first rose up reporters ran out to see Guy Bissonette as a resident who was opposed. Soon they didn’t want to talk to him or hear from him or publish his letters.

Same for some others who were concerned. At fist the media listened but soon they stopped returning calls and instead opted to write opinion pieces on how great the CN corridor would be.

Who cares who is against it or what the implications are for a small town like Lake Country?

This kind of new-age reporting, where reporters let their opinions rule the way they cover things, is what makes me proud to work for the Lake Country Calendar, now owned by Black Press, a company that owns community papers across B.C.

We are the voice of the community and we have tried to be that in this debate.

I can tell you those of us who work for the Calendar also live and work in Kelowna. So I won’t be voting in your referendum. But we are the community paper. We take pride in being the only media in the Okanagan Valley to truly be involved in the Lake Country community. Aside from SHAW’s mandated coverage of Lake Country council, we are the only media to cover council meetings.

During the past month we have been swamped by both sides of this issue and have truly attempted to tell each side and keep our opinions to ourself. We stood on the porch with Mrs. Day to truly understand her concerns and see where the rail corridor is in relation to her house. We sat in Ron Volk’s kitchen and heard from a group of concerned citizens including the former owner of this very paper, Mr. Jack McCarthy.

We attended yes rally’s and talked to those running the no side.

We tried to report fairly and accurately as you Lake Country residents get set to vote on what could be the biggest decision in the short history of your municipality. We met many great people along the way, from both sides.

We’re not perfect and we have made mistakes along the way. But we’re proud to be your community paper and we will continue to be there as your voice, good or bad.

Thank you for all the letters and phone calls and please get out to vote in this referendum.

Everyone’s opinion and vote matters.

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