Editor's column: Richmond News readers giving us great ideas

Last week we ran a story in which our publisher talked about his vision for the paper in 2020. When we posted the story on our Facebook page we posed the question: What would you like to see more or less of in the Richmond News in 2020?

We got back a lot of great answers, many of which we are looking for ways to implement. Here’s one example.

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“More coverage of local issues that are being discussed in the non-English speaking community, especially through media publishing and broadcasting in languages other than English. As a unilingual person in a community where many other languages are the daily languages of large numbers of people, I would like to hear other voices.”

This is a great point and something I’ve thought a lot about myself.

A few years back, the issue of Chinese-only signs was huge, at least it was in the Richmond News. I could almost fill the entire paper with letters to the editor complaining about the unilingual signs. The trouble was, although many of our readers made thoughtful and insightful arguments, the debate was seriously imbalanced. While the occasional letter opposed implementing a bylaw for fear of ushering in the “language police,” I don’t recall a single letter that actually defended the practice. It was only when we went around to a few of these businesses (with an interpreter) did we learn some of the rationales for Chinese-only signs. Agree with them or not, there were legitimate business reasons. For example, if you have a bilingual sign, you need bilingual staff and bilingual product information — all significant investments for what may be very little return. 

But while we could do a story that, we hoped, would help create some balance, I thought even better would be a venue where there was an actual conversation between communities. So, I talked to the editors of the two Chinese dailies based in Richmond and asked them about exchanging letters. They could see what our readers were saying and we could see what their readers were saying (in translation, of course). Unfortunately, those papers don’t run letters. So I talked about exchanging editor’s columns, but that didn’t work either. My next idea was to find a columnist who could reflect some of the perceptions from the Chinese community, but then we ran the risk of tokenism or expecting one person to speak for a large, diverse group.

What we have now is a couple of Chinese-speaking journalists who help us reach into that community to bring us those stories. But after reading the above Facebook comment, we’ve come up with another idea – a Chinese news round-up. The reporters will keep track of what’s making news in the Chinese media and on WeChat (they already do that anyway) then summarize the top stories for our readers. Watch for that feature in upcoming issues.

That’s just one of a number of great ideas that was posted on our Facebook page. There are others we will also be implementing but I don’t have space to talk about here. Point being, we’re listening. We can’t please everyone all the time — and, believe me, we don’t — but we do take seriously good ideas and thoughtful feedback.

This is your paper as much as mine, let’s make it great.

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