Normally, when I read criticism of Yellowknifer, I tend to move on, gleaning whatever wisdom I may from the context. But when a journalism colleague questions Yellowknifer’s existence on CBC’s website, I must defend the 50 or so Yellowknifers at NNSL Media (Northern News Services) who do their damnedest to put out seven newspapers and two websites across 3.2 million square kilometres known as the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, every week.
I am referring to the Dave Bidini book review on CBC’s website written by reporter and book club member Sara Minogue. You can see what she wrote about Yellowknifer in the graphic above and go here for the complete column – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/midnight-light-bidini-minogue-1.5110695
Minogue’s book club may debate my use of the word irony to describe her disparaging tone on the role territorial government advertising plays in in our financial health but let the dollars speak for themselves. In 2018, the federal government gave CBC $1.2 billion and the muscle to grab another $573 million in advertising, subscription and investment dollars that may well have gone to private sector news companies had they the resources to compete, which these days most don’t. CBC does a very credible job with a budget that rivals the GNWT’s but if Yellowknifer doesn’t deserve to exist, what about the CBC?
Yellowknifers pay 75 cents each for over 3,000 copies of Yellowknifer twice a week. Over 5,000 pick up News/North for $1. As people generally share their paper before recycling, the number of readers is undoubtedly larger but let’s go with these. (On page two of this paper we have a full page ad telling advertisers about our national audit service. So they’re solid numbers.)
Who are these readers? Judging by the stories and pictures Yellowknifer reporters produce, our readers care about Yellowknife city hall and council, about Yellowknife schools, about the sports leagues their children play in, cops and courts, what the GNWT is up to and what MLAs are doing in the legislative assembly. They are people who care about their town and their neighbours. That’s the audience Yellowknifer delivers to advertisers.
And does not that irony border on tragic when the leading member of a club devoted to the written word and story telling, if not literacy, dismisses the readership of a publication devoted to the same written word, storytelling and literacy? Ouch!
The GNWT’s desire to reach our audience makes sense – well-informed readers likely vote more often than those people less informed. But the GNWT also does a great deal online and on social media, knowledge Minogue appears to be lacking. As to the charge Yellowknifer could only exist in such an ‘artificial’ economy, we are like the vast majority of businesses in town. With over 5,000 government workers (including CBC) spending both on and off the job, the GNWT is everybody’s major customer, from restaurants to corner stores to law offices.
It’s surprising too that someone who has lived in both Nunavut and the NWT should call for a shift away from Northern business (47 years, no easy feat!) in favour of multinational companies. We too offer a robust online option through the busiest exclusively Northern content website in Canada, 101,772 views in April. And it was built by a Northern company – Raven Web Services – Gabriel Powless, who is also our homegrown webmaster, and member of the Yellowknives Dene.
So Minogue packed a lot of punch in a few hastily chosen words but I want her book club to know I just finished Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq and started a non-fiction tale, Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng, about her tenuous hold on life during the bloody cultural revolution in China in the 1950s and ’60s. I recommend both books and welcome any reviews the club may feel moved to provide Yellowknifer. Like them, we love the written word.