Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, revelstokemountaineer.com suspend news operations

revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine to suspend news operations March 22, 2020

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Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine February 2020 cover photo: Christina Lustenberger leads Mark Hartley and Jay Welz up the Swiss Glacier towards the pyramid-shaped peaks that bears the same name. Photo: Bruno Long.

Hi Revelstoke,

I’m writing to let you know revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine are suspending publishing operations effective immediately, meaning we will no longer providing news updates, including the COVID-19 situation here.

We will continue publishing some stories that are in development until March 31, but after that point we will be on an indefinite suspension of all publishing operations, web and print. Effective immediately, we will no longer be covering ongoing news.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine and revelstokemountaineer.com Creative Director (publisher, editor, owner) Aaron Orlando. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

At the best of times, the local news business is extremely challenging and certainly not lucrative for anyone involved. The COVID-19 outbreak has wiped out our revenue streams almost completely and we simply don’t have money to pay our overhead, writers, photographers, columnists, designers, artists and other contributors, meaning we have to cease operations. I’m sorry, I’d like to keep going, especially given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, but we simply don’t have the ability to pay people to do the work.

Our plan is to keep the website and its back catalogue online for the time being as we explore different options; however, given the gravity of world events and our fast-changing new reality, it’s unclear if or when conditions will be right to think about resuming operations. We may tackle different initiatives in the coming months, such as special publications, but we will no longer be providing timely news coverage.

For me personally, it marks the end of a nearly 12-year run working as a journalist covering the life and times of Revelstoke, B.C.

Thank you to all our supporters

While this may look like a beautiful day in the mountains, the reality of this image is that Christina Lustenberger, two filmers and I spent the night camping on the top of Ghost Peak later this evening during a particularly cold snap in Revelstoke. -30 C over night with a cold wind, frozen toes and hands, as well as ski boots that we could barely put on in the morning. The point where this image was taken was most likely the warmest we all were for the next two days, and it’s nice to think about the warmth of this image instead of the intense (or is it in tents?) cold that was slowly creeping towards us a few hours later. Photo: Bruno Long.

I’d like to thank everyone who made revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine possible, including our contributors, advertisers and supporters, many of whom supported us extensively through our entire five-year run. I thank you for your contributions and support. I’ll note that many of our supporters were local small businesses who are hurting badly now, and I encourage you to support them any way you can, so they can return to providing the many tangible and intangible services they provide to the community. Buy a gift certificate online, if you can.

Thank you to our contributors!

I’d like to thank the many contributors who made the Mountaineer possible. Your ideas, words, designs, photographs, illustrations and thoughtful columns contributed to the cultural fabric of Revelstoke in so many ways, and I want to thank you for deciding to enrich the community with your creative works. I’ll have more to say about our great contributors in a subsequent post.

A sustainable news model needed

COVER PHOTO: Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine contributing artist Benji Lowclass created the cover illustration for our special climate emergency issue. Climate disruption is already bringing many changes to the Revelstoke region, and it’s just getting started. As part of this issue, we explored how climate change will impact what we cherish most, including our ability to slide in the snow.

Yesterday, Black Press Media laid off Revelstoke Review editor Jocelyn Doll and long-serving editorial cartoonist Rob Buchanan. The newspaper is now reduced to reporter Liam Harrap and sales manager Myles Williamson. Speaking from experience, it’s not a sustainable setup and will only allow for the barest minimum of news coverage. As the former editor of the Revelstoke Review, I know that even with two full-time staff — an editor and reporter — it’s a mad scramble each week, including lots of 12-hour-plus days, to put out something that is even approaching quality work. It’s hard to see how it will work with just one editorial staff member.

New initiatives to save local news, but not a rush given the climate

In the February 2020 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, I included a Last Word column about new initiatives designed to bring sustainability and better journalism to Revelstoke. I am including that column here. I intend to continue on with the initiatives I announced in the column, but given the uncertainly of the economic climate due to this unprecedented disaster, it’s safe to say the timeline will be pushed back. Our new reality is we have so many huge problems that need urgent attention that this one will be just one of many competing for attention.

Revelstoke Mountaineer launches non-profit journalism initiatives

It’s time for the community of Revelstoke to take control of its own news media

In late 2019, local journalists and community members gathered for a non-profit journalism workshop led by Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine Creative Director Aaron Orlando, pictured standing. Photo: Louise Stanway/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

By Aaron Orlando

This column first appeared in print in the February 2020 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

It’s been five years since Revelstoke Mountaineer published its first story, bringing our independent local voice to the Revelstoke media scene.

When I started out, I knew it would be an extreme financial challenge — kind of like opening up a video rental store in 2010.

We’ve done our best to be smart, lean and creative with our resources, and, despite my perfectionist streak, I am happy with our magazine and sister news publication revelstokemountaineer.com. We haven’t published the perfect issue yet, but we’re generally getting better with each one.

Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine February 2020 cover photo: Christina Lustenberger leads Mark Hartley and Jay Welz up the Swiss Glacier towards the pyramid-shaped peaks that bears the same name. Photo: Bruno Long.

Importantly to me, we’ve had modest success as a business. Journalists want to be self-sufficient, earning their keep without subsidies from the government, whom we are tasked to monitor. So far, we’ve done it.

However, our business model isn’t without challenges. All of our revenue is from advertising and a lot of that advertising comes from the tourism sector. Obviously, a private media outlet that derives most of its income from one market sector is a problematic situation.

And there are other challenges. I have other full-time employment and contract work outside of the Mountaineer, and we have no staff, only contractors, all of whom work very part time for the Mountaineer. Simply put, it’s not really sustainable over the long term.

Over the past year, I have been working on several non-profit journalism initiatives. Late last year, I got most of the working journalists in town together for a workshop on non-profit journalism. It was a great session that generated lots of good ideas, and showed that there is a hunger to do better and create new, innovative work.

The problem, as always, is how to fund it.

From a business perspective, I feel the way forward is in the non-profit model. From the perspective of the community’s need for timely, unbiased information, even more so.

This isn’t an unveiling, but the start of a longer conversation with the community about our information environment, part of several workshops, meetings, communications and other initiatives we’ll be working on over the next six months.

Revelstoke Mountaineer non-profit journalism initiatives

We had been publishing for over a year online before we published our first print issue in May 2016. The cover of the May 2016 issue of the Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, our first issue. Photo: Agathe Bernard/Revelstoke Mountaineer Communications Ltd.

The Revelstoke Mountaineer will be reaching out to community stakeholders in the coming months, part of a drive to re-imagine our business a non-profit model that will allow us to expand and do more. Our plan is to generate subscription revenue, build partnerships with cornerstone community organizations, and generate a new, sustainable business model that puts journalistic excellence first. The focus will be on building an organization that the community trusts and controls, and one that has the resources to be responsive to community demands.

It will also put the community in control of the news mix. Our plan is to replace the top-down model with a bottom-up model, where subscribers decide the current information mix across our platforms.

A second initiative is to create a new “community journalist” position, possibly inside, possibly outside of the Revelstoke Mountaineer organization (and perhaps under an entirely different new non-profit organization). If successful, I believe will be a first in Canada: a professional journalist not tied to a particular newspaper, radio station or website, whose sole job is to respond to the diverse needs of the community, creating and disseminating work through existing platforms and new formats.

Our third initiative is to work directly with existing community organizations, especially underrepresented ones, to find ways to better partner on issues that are no longer receiving media attention due to the collapse in journalism business models, but should.

We’ll need your help

This announcement is the start of a process that will require a lot of community partnership to make it work. Nothing is set in stone; this is the start of a conversation, one that should happen soon, before local media organizations, already stripped to the bone, finally close.

It’s an opportunity to turn what has been a generally depressing situation into an opportunity to start new with fresh thinking, exciting initiatives and renewed enthusiasm — something Revelstoke is known for.

If you’re interested in participating, drop me a line at aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com. Thanks!