Reporting from Saskatchewan’s bread basket

There’s a feeling that anything is possible here.

In a place like Meadow Lake, communities are coming together to enjoy a level of prosperity the rest of Canada can only dream of. First Nations groups like Flying Dust, a reserve anchored against the city of Meadow Lake, are working with the local and provincial governments to build a brighter tomorrow that includes long-term care facilities for the elderly, schools, recreational centres and a truly unique sharing of prosperity through cooperation.

While residents of Saskatchewan are united in the bounty that this spirit of cooperation seems to offer, there is also a fermenting culture of modernity, as a province once defined by a spirit of reaction comes to grips with its new role as a pro-active player.

Farmers in the northwest recently sowed the seeds of their annual prosperity, ahead of the rest of the province which, gripped by the heavy spring rains, found themselves unusually behind. Unfortunately a recent frost served as a reminder that the force of nature can quickly turn on you, destroying a great deal of the early seeding accomplished by the area's wheat growers.

Moving from the hustle-and-bustle of Vancouver, where one hockey team stands poised to once again solidify Vancouver as the Canadian Paris, my transition to an electronically quiet life in Saskatchewan hasn’t been without its challenges.

But like every entrepreneurial spirit in Canada’s rectangle, the room for growth is considerable.

Saskatchewan's teachers march in Meadow Lake to demand a share of their province's prosperity. After requesting a 16.3 per cent raise, mediation was adopted in hopes of finding a middle ground between the union's demands and the government's offer.

Our media, a bulwark of respectability against the Bill O’Reillys of the world, is standing on the cusp of a regretful foray into the world of sensationalism. As it becomes ever more difficult to charge a dollar for truth in the information age, we risk falling towards a journalism that reeks more of gossip than a worthwhile contribution to national discourse.

But in a province such as this, the pathway to modernity smells a little nicer.

I consider myself quite fortunate to be in the employ of not only a profitable newspaper, but one that is independent as well. The corporate scramble to find a raison d’etre in the form of capital that seems to be sucking the life out of media across Canada and the world is less pronounced when working within the confines of an independent and successful media form – one that continues to hold hands with the wants and interests of its public.

There is no fear here, no need to reconcile flowery language with the journalistic need to print an integral story that hits hard against the issues that matter. No photo galleries of cheerleaders smacked on the front page to ‘content farm’ our way to a steady stream of web traffic, no need to copy-and-paste keywords trending in social media and conquer the battlefield of Google’s search rankings.

The city recently dealt with a forest fire larger than the one that claimed Slave Lake, AB. Fortunately, it sparked some 12km outside of town, sparing the destruction and despair of its Alberta counterpart. Interestingly enough, an Albertan helicopter company was contracted to fight the fire, with one of their helicopters crashing during the escapade.

The pathway to success here seems to be that of simply speaking the language of the reader. Where an area of grey space on a page may be filled by a wire story from somewhere else in the country, or a story plucked for its popularity from some other far-flung corporately-allied news source, a media truly in touch with its readership is not afraid to print the stories of little national consequence in favour of an honest loyalty to its public.

The room for growth is high. I recently began building a web presence for my newspaper. On our first day of going live, I noticed 200 hits and four comments on an editorial I wrote regarding an initiative to begin burying Canada’s nuclear waste in Saskatchewan’s north.

In addition to the comments came nods from as far as Egypt and Germany, proving that local news can have an international context no matter what language we speak.

Did I mention this city’s population is a massive 5,000?

At the end of the day, it would seem the most important thing in media at this point is to remain unique, to speak a language which other outlets have seemingly missed. All the while, we must remain loyal to our fundamental readership. What brings Germans to a small city in Saskatchewan is interest in a local German-context – that of moving away from nuclear power – that we share in common.

In a funny way, it seems Saskatchewan’s legacy of playing catch-up could play a role in demonstrating the next step for media.

Take the old and blend it with the new.