To Learn

By Paula Goldrup, Dryden, ON


For Derek and Sarah every story published in The Sounder, one of Gabriola’s two weekly community newspapers, must first answer two non-negotiable questions: “What good does it do for the community” and “why do 4500 people need to know?” Guided by these principles, they hunt, gather, and are gifted worthy information, which they share each week with the residents of Gabriola Island.

In small communities, the day the paper comes out is eagerly anticipated. Weeklies are often relied upon as the singular source of information chronicling the goings-on of the area. And, as anyone who has lived in a small town knows, it is also a great source of entertainment and generator of sometimes fiery debate, which is played out week by week in its pages. But, at its most basic, a weekly paper is the way by which residents learn about their community. This is a multi-dimensional role, one that Derek as editor and Sarah as publisher take quite seriously and were kind enough to discuss with me.

As I entered The Sounder’s office a gentleman, who had come in to check on the status of his letter to the editor, was just leaving. He had a view and was sure it was important enough to be printed. It is human nature to believe what you have to say is essential and relevant to all, but it is up to Derek and Sarah to carefully determine what ultimately is important for all people in Gabriola to know.

When choosing the contents of the paper, they strive for impartial balance, ensuring they give fair representation to all groups in the community over the 52 weeks in the year. They believe in talking to everyone and actively listening to the people who come in to lean across the counter and share a story because they never know when a kernel of newsworthy information is going to be discovered. Integrity is foremost in their reporting, never printing anything other than verified fact, mindful of respecting people’s character, but committed to telling the truth as long as it serves the community. Through The Sounder, Sarah and Derek share this myriad of collected information with the community. While Derek does share his opinion through his editorial, what he and Sarah will not do though is think for their audience.

All newspapers gather facts, but a community paper with integrity allows its readership to synthesize the information contained within. What residents do with the stories is entirely up to them. It is Sarah’s and Derek’s hope that The Sounder motivates people to become engaged in their community, to attend meetings, and learn first-hand about the issues that affect them, seeing the paper as a tool of empowerment. Ideally, they would like Gabriolans to use the paper as a conduit for community members to become engaged in, and learn about, each other’s lives.

As a visitor to Gabriola, the weekly newspaper has also given me insight into the essence of the community and the nature of their priorities. Through Sarah, Derek and The Sounder I have learned a wee bit about the people who call this island home.

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