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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

What a night!

What a night. Our cups runneth over.

Here at the Low Down, we couldn’t be any happier with our 50th anniversary event hosted by Writers Fest on Friday, May 26.

Truth be told, we weren’t sure if anyone would be interested in an event that featured a panel discussion that asked the question: “Does local journalism matter?”

But people packed the room at the Chelsea Motel and let us know loud and clear that they appreciate and support their local paper. The event was a celebration – hallelujah, we’ve made it to 50 years! – and we are so happy to mark that major milestone with our long-time readers and, dare we even say, fans.

But the milestone is marked on the backdrop of the existential crisis facing many other papers like ours: since 2008, more than 470 Canadian news outlets have shut down; 55 alone during the pandemic — and we were nearly one of them. Hence the decision to include the discussion with some minds brighter than ours about the importance of local journalism.

From the audience and the other journalists (Gary Dimmock of the Ottawa Citizen, Sean Silcoff of the Globe and Mail), we got to hear personal anecdotes about how this paper is “the connective tissue” that holds the Gatineau Hills together and keeps people not only informed but interested in and caring about their neighbours and community. Moderator Adrian Harewood masterfully navigated the discussion into the territory of controversial stories and how we treat them when we know we are going to get an earful when we’re out buying groceries or worse, lose friends forever. I won’t lie, it was a little cathartic letting the audience in on how we lose sleep

sometimes, but it was so heartening to hear that readers understand that a good paper needs to shine a light on not only the good but the bad that happens in any community. At one point, someone from the audience called us “fearless.”

If I sound like I’m bragging in this column, I am. Not so much about us, but about our readers, who showed up to let us know that they not only support their local rag, but continue to trust us to tell their stories and do the news articles that have a direct impact on their day-to-day lives. We wanted to make sure our readers and the whole community know that we do not take that trust for granted.

A weekly newspaper can often feel like a grind of unending work and unrelenting deadlines; and it is hard to find the time to sit up and take stock of the bigger picture. But that’s what we did Friday night, and to use the words “rewarding” or “validating” would not do the evening justice. We all came out feeling there was a little – nay, a lot – of love for the Low Down.

A big thank you to our readers, our community, including the good people of Writers Fest for inviting us, for an event that has buoyed our spirits and pumped so much gas into our news engine tanks.

Long live Low Down Nation.


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