Editorial: Click bait vs Richmond's grassroots

Richmond News editor Eve Edmonds contends grassroots engagement is of paramount importance for a community news organization

The thing about posting stories on social media and on websites is that it’s quantifiable. One can track exactly how many people click on what — unlike the actual newspapers, where we’re never quite sure who reads what.

While generally it’s a good thing to get feedback, it can also be an unhealthy lure for higher numbers and the posting of “click bait” —  items of no value other than garnering clicks.  (Of course, reputable organizations such as the Richmond News would never stoop to such cheap tricks, although we’re not above running the odd contest.) 

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But perhaps the larger challenge is recognizing that what people read online is not always what they want to see in the hard copy of the newspaper. Police stories, for example, drive a huge amount of online traffic, yet we’re told by many readers they don’t want their community paper filled with so much “bad news.”

That said, we can’t help but notice when a story takes off on social media — as has been the case with the story we broke on facebook about the owner of Steveston Marine Hardware inquiring into a brewery licence. The story also included a rumour that the independently owned Rod’s Building Supplies is up for sale, possibly to a grocery store chain.

The story comes hard on the heels of news that the independently owned Steveston Hotel — home to the neighbourhhood’s famous/infamous watering hole, the Buck and Ear — was sold to a restaurant chain.

All of this has triggered much conversation and consternation about the fate of Steveston —  considered by many as the jewel in the crown of Richmond.

The discussion tends to vacillate between a lament for the good old days and a suck-it-up,-butterup; change-is-inevitable attitude.

Well, indeed, change is inevitable, but the direction is worth contesting. In fact, given Richmond’s current direction, the more radical change would be towards greater preservation of heritage and more independently owned businesses.

Moreover, Steveson isn’t the only neighbourhood where this kind of tussle is underway. On page 10, you’ll read about a community where a business licence is being sought that could dramatically impact a quiet, waterfront neighbourhood.

Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, apathy is the enemy. They may just be a vocal minority, they may be a thorn in the side of city planners, but we tip our hat to those who care passionately about their neighbourhoods and work to help shape their vision. Generating this kind of discussion is the antithesis of click bait; it’s grassroots engagement and it’s those roots that keep us stable in the winds of change.




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