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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Two Cowboys on a Journey: Small Town Newspaper - Rocky Mountain Outlook, Canmore, Alberta

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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In the autumn of 2000, Larry Marshall, Bob Schott, and Carol Picard began planning for a new publication in the Canmore-Banff corridor. It will be a community newspaper that would cover all communities from Lake Louise to Kananaskis. It is the place we call home. The Bow Valley.

"For as little as $1/month you will get the inside track on content like this and follow the travels of the Two Cowboys & A Camera. Join here."

They had a novel idea for the day, of a free weekly newspaper. It would put the news, entertainment, and sports updates from the community into the hands of residents and the area's millions of tourists. It will also offer advertisers another vehicle to reach those visitors. 

The paper saw the light September 1, 2001. Today the paper is in its 15th year fulfilling its mandate. It is an institution in the Bow Valley. A must read for everyone and anyone that has an interest in this bucket list location.

Enjoy with us the video as we get to know a bit more about the people behind the Rocky Mountain Outlook and the history of the paper as we also take a closer look at why a newspaper remains an important part of, and plays a critical role in the health of a community.

Local News

The world is a much smaller place today thanks to an online connected and digital world. An all too familiar message is that newspapers are under threat.

The Internet reaches into all the corners of our daily lives. We do our banking, shopping, learning, and get our entertainment online. Social media ensures we remain connected through mobile phones. We have the opportunity to know more than we ever did about elections in foreign countries and interact with people we are unlikely ever to meet.

The Internet has made information and news more accessible. It has also added equal access to information by allowing any and all perspectives to have access to, publish and interpret information online.

"When we go online", writes columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, "each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper." Where once the ability to disseminate information was restricted to those with printing presses or broadcast mechanisms, the Internet has enabled thousands of individuals to communicate directly with others through sites, blogs, instant message, and social media services.

It is no mystery then that the "classic" role of newspapers are under threat. Wikipedia even devotes an entry to the subject. They refer to it as "The Decline of Newspapers". Is there then still a place for a community newspaper (emphasis on "paper") in a world like this?

Can a small town newspaper still play a role and flourish in today's digital age?

According to the folks at the Rocky Mountain Outlook, there is still a huge role for a community newspaper. Once you set aside the format conversation (paper versus digital), there is a significant opportunity and content responsibility that remains. Let's take a closer look.

For the Community

I've referred to a common recent social condition as "the connectedness fallacy." Because of ubiquitous access to information, we sometimes confuse access with relevancy. The urgency of social media and astonishing volume of Internet "news" bombards us all the time. It creates an illusion of involvement. Information confronts us every day that is unlikely to be relevant or to have an impact on our day-to-day lives.

While Putin's and the Canadian Prime Minister's shirtless antics may be comical, it has nothing to contribute to our morning coffee (except some entertainment). Donald Trump's latest gaffe may help with keeping bowel movements regular and be concerning to the free world (of America).

Instead, local news has an impact on our day-to-day lives. Our Mayor's most recent opinion on wastewater management may be a much bigger issue for us today. His mood has the potential to affect your pocket. We should know more about that. Our local newspaper will probably be the source to tell us about it, long before the Mayor does himself.

The value of the community newspaper is in identifying and highlighting relevant content to the members of the community. The paper has a role as a mirror and as a conscience. People get to read about and see themselves. We get information that may affect us and our families. It is a channel where the overall mood of the people is reflected, where stupidity is called out, and where people lodge concerns. Above all, it is also a way for local businesses to connect with their customers.

The local newspaper is therefore not just necessary; it has an immense role to play and a responsibility to the community.

While the Rocky Mountain Outlook has been telling our stories for fifteen years now, we are proud to return the favour. Thank you for the opportunity to tell your story, Rocky Mountain Outlook.

Hendrik van Wyk
Producer - Rocky Mountain Outlook Reader

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