The Bird’s Eye, Quadra Island’s only weekly newspaper has a new owner.
“It was an 11th hour saving of the local paper that was about to close the doors. Had been trying to find a new publisher for several months with no luck and Amanda Smith, who has been the publisher editor for several years was posting the final edition when ICAN approached her to ask was it possible to save the paper and could a deal be worked out?” said Ramona Boyle, Coordinator of Quadra ICAN.
“So literally 24 hours before the final edition went to press, a deal was worked out and she was able to publish in her final edition that a new publisher had been found. The last of Amanda’s issues was the 24th of December. It’s been accustomed to take a little bit of a break over the holiday. We had our first edition published on the 11th of January. One came out on Wednesday the 18th, and our next one is Wednesday the 25th.”
Cortes Currents: Who is going to be the editor?
Ramona Boyle: “I was hired as the coordinator for ICAN in November and it’s now part of my job to edit the ICAN’s new paper. So I’m it.”
“A lot of people are really happy that the Bird’s Eye is not going to disappear. Amanda Smith and her husband Peter did absolutely amazing work in bringing this paper to the community, for years, off their kitchen table. Both of them having been employed by the Calgary Sun, they brought years of professional journalistic experiences. They really knew what they were doing.”
“Everywhere I go, people I talk to are happy that we still have it, but they’re going to have to be patient with me as I learn the ropes, particularly with the online component of the paper. I’m quite comfortable with the editing part, but the production part – it’s a lot to learn.”
“I’m so excited. It’s going back to my roots. After I graduated from university with a master’s degree in London, in the UK, I was hired as editor for a nonprofit monthly magazine and I did that for several years as well as publishing a quarterly children’s magazine.”
“It’s something that I have done before, but not for many, many years. We’re talking laying out with waxing the back of paper, exacto knives and Letraset. So I have had a pretty steep learning curve to Adobe InDesign online publishing software. Fortunately it’s not too far off from stuff that I used as a teacher, which was my second career.”
“ICAN has been scrambling because the impetus for buying the paper was really to save it from disappearing, because it’s such an important tool for keeping the community connected.”
“Once they had arranged for the sale, we began to talk about what we wanted the paper to be and we’ve settled on very much using the paper as it has been in the past. It has a long history of keeping the community connected and promoting sustainability. So community and sustainability are what we’re focusing on, but the idea is to give a forum for as many groups, and particularly volunteer efforts on the island, as possible.”
Cortes Currents: What about your relationship with surrounding islands like Cortes, Reid, Maurelle and Sonora.
Ramona Boyle: “For the last few years at least, it has focused on Quadra, but I see absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t give a forum for stories and activities that are taking place on Read, Cortes and the surrounding islands. We are all a community. Everybody passes through Quadra. We shop in, we travel and spend recreation time on the Outer Islands. Our businesses are closely connected. It doesn’t really make sense to draw an invisible line around Quadra and to exclude our neighbouring communities.”
“The goal is to continue with the connections that the Bird’s Eye has had in the past and to expand them. Some people view the island as being isolated by the water, but it’s not. It’s connected by the ocean and our interests are very similar. We are rural communities with a very independent and very self-directed ethos and that makes us a natural family.”
Cortes Currents: The Bird’s Eye is a weekly newspaper, which publishes its weekly editions on the web. Do you have any plans to expand your web presence, so that stories go up immediately and could later appear in the weekly print edition?
Ramona Boyle: “We’ve been talking about ways that we can be more accessible to more people and we’re very conscious that while the web is definitely an important way to connect with lots of people that are isolated, there are also a large number of people who live in the islands who don’t have accessible internet that would make that possible. So we will continue to publish a paper edition in tandem.”
“We generally put the online edition up on a Tuesday evening and it’s distributed to several locations for pickup. At one point the Bird’s Eye was being delivered to mailboxes, and that is simply not financially a possibility right now. The mail costs are just exorbitant and impossible. We are considering the subscription in tandem with online publication to allow people to have it delivered to their mailboxes or to their online email addresses regularly so that they don’t have to access the website and they don’t have to go and pick it up from a central location.”
“The goal is to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible in as many different situations as possible.”
“We’re very interested in getting submissions from people or ideas for stories that they would like us to follow up on. They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll connect with them and figure out how to get these stories told.”
“We’re in the process of looking at different funding sources. One of the things that we are in the process of negotiating right now is an internship program with students, particularly island students who would be interested in learning about local reporting and photography as part of their studies and their volunteer requirements for the Dogwood certificate.”
“As a former teacher, that’s something that I’m very interested in. How do you give young people a chance to see what different careers might look like and give them a chance to dip their toes in the water, so to speak.”
Top image credit: taken from screenshot of the Bird’s Eye’s masthead.
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