Embedded in the Robson Valley
Hi, Im Laura. I may have knocked on your door this week. If I didnt, I likely will in the coming months. Dont worry. I wont try to sell you anything. I may ask your opinion though, on anything from forests to trains to prisons topics that have Robson Valley residents talking.
Im looking for guides. I moved to Valemount in May, after finishing my Masters in Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa. I grew up in Saskatoon where I did my first degree in English, Economics and German. Last month I moved here to start this newspaper with my business partner, Joe Nusse. Wed never met, but we decided to collaborate. Im a young journalist hes a young entrepreneur. Out of many discussions and hard work The Goat was born.
Our goal is to cover local news in the Robson Valley and area, with a multimedia website and entertaining weekly features. I think the web has untold potential most papers – even big ones – dont harness, due to lack of staff, training or initiative. As co-owner of this paper, I plan to make our site more than just print on a screen by having videos, audio, slideshows and galleries.
My great-uncle Erwin worked in Valemount as a logger in the 1950s. The village was a very different place back then. It is amazing how much it has evolved since the first settlers arrived more than 100 years ago.
Im still guessing my way around, but Im hoping that if I end up knocking on your door, maybe we could chat for a while. A journalist has to be embedded for journalism to be relevant. Much like reporters embed themselves in the military, I am embedding myself in the Valley minus the camouflage and tactical vest. Instead, Im making good use of my flannel.
There are so many stories here, I can hardly believe it. Joe and I feel so lucky to be where we are. Im optimistic about the Robson Valley as a superb place to work, live and chat on doorsteps.
What are you talking about these days? Let us know. In any case, hope to talk to you soon.
Laura Keil, Editor
The Rocky Mountain Goat
To Charge or not to Charge
In a magical utopian world where money is not an issue and individuals happily go about their daily tasks with no need for reward, it seems like a free newspaper would make a lot of sense. So when a person looks at Jasper and wonders how in the world anybody can give away a great 20-page colour newspaper for free, one could easily make the assumption that journalists can live on nothing, and stories all but print themselves. But wait, lets sit down with a ruler and analyze just how much print space is filled with little square boxes that seem to be trying to sell something. Daydream over. Looks like newspapers are bound within the money circle after all. So the question is, how do they do it? We know how they pay for it, but how do the staff at The Fitzhugh manage to convince local businesses that those little square boxes are worth money? The formula is simple. Free equals more readers. More readers equals more ad exposure, which translates into sales. So, is the Robson Valley ready to take this step?
Of course the readers are. Truth be told, paying pocket change for a weekly paper is more of an annoyance than a financial burden. Twenty years ago a coffee cost about a dollar, as did a newspaper. Today a newspaper still costs a dollar and some spend up to four dollars every morning on a coffee. So, why dont I charge four dollars for a newspaper? It would make a newspapers finances much easier. The content would be great and instead of fitting articles around ads, we could lay out each article based on photos and what we are covering. This seems like a journalists dream. As long as the content was good, I doubt many people would hesitate to pay four dollars for a paper either.
But what about the businesses? If I want to find the hours of a business, I turn to… the business directory. If I want to buy or sell a dirt bike, I turn to the classified ads. So my question is what do the businesses want? In a tourist town like Jasper a free paper makes sense. Tourists are not engaged in local affairs nearly enough to pay four dollars, or even bother to find one dollar. But if its free, the newsstand will be empty by the end of the week. In the modern market where news is available online for free, a free print makes sense too. In a world where individuals are on the move more than ever, a subscription to a local paper doesnt seem as important. But its important to have a paper to figure out the best place to eat, where to buy building supplies, and to learn who your neighbours are.
Printing does cost money, but the real costs are elsewhere. Any guesses on how much software for one computer costs a newspaper? Thousands per machine. There is no way around these costs because the printers are set up to the industry standard and the standard is high. Commercial real estate is not free, even if its your own house, and then there is gas for running around. Add to this a journalists time. How much is a journalist worth? All I will say is, like anything in life, you get what you pay for.
But before I boldly raise my youthful voice and yell turn and face the change, I will give a moments consideration to local businesses. In a recession is it fair to ask business to pay big bucks for ad space? Surprisingly marketers will say that businesses should spend more on advertising when times are hard. When times are good, people do not bother shopping around because they are too busy trying to capitalize on the boom. When times are hard, people take more time to maximize their spending.
As long as the ad space is booked, our paper will accommodate. So why not do some targeted marketing?
I think there is a market for a free paper in the Valley. The final question will be, are local businesses ready to market aggressively like businesses in larger centers? If not, I know that locals will have no problem paying for a good paper many will even buy two a week. After all, this has worked before. Let the printing presses role. There is a new paper in town.
Joseph Nusse, Publisher/Sales
The Rocky Mountain Goat