Editorial: A place in history

Trent Ernst, Editor


Last Friday was the last official day for the Chetwynd Echo. As a celebration of what they have done for the community, the Chetwynd Public Library had a going away bash, where folks from the community could come and say fare-the-well to the paper’s now-former employees, browse through the archives, and enjoy a snack or two.

First things first: the blonde rocky road squares they had? Were awesome. I probably ate the entire tray by myself. Um, don’t tell Charles.

Second, I was reminded once again of the importance of the newspaper in a community.

I often say that what I write for the newspaper has a shelf life of a week. While the idea behind the story may live on, the story itself is read, then goes on to its next life lining the bottom of a bird cage.

But, flipping back through the stacks of back issues of the Chetwynd Echo dating back more than 50 years, I am reminded that, while most people read and then forget (if they even read at all), that these words are also etched in time. And, zombie apocalypses not withstanding, the words written here will shape the future’s understanding about what Tumbler Ridge was like back in the days of the great shutdown. For one thing, we didn’t call it the great shutdown, so stop trying to give it catchy monikers, future dweller.

Right now, it is news, but in a dozen years, it will be olds. In another couple dozen after that, it will be history.

It was fascinating to go back through the archives and look at the Northeast Coal project and the founding of Tumbler Ridge through the eyes of our nearest neighbour. A community that is our closest friend and sometimes, a frenemy.

And there will be (check that, should be) other surviving documents and artifacts from this era that will help shape  people’s understanding of who we were back now. Letters, videos, and the detritus we shed as a society that may somehow survive until then.

Things change. Over the course of the years, the Chetwynd Echo was more than just the Echo. I didn’t count, but I saw at least three other names on the stacks of archives.

Even here, the Tumbler Ridge News has not always told the news of Tumbler Ridge. Before we were us, we were Community Connections. And before that, there was a handful of other papers, too.

With the Echo closing its doors, it is no longer writing about what will become, given time, history, but has become a piece of history itself.

Who knows what the future holds. Maybe in five years, people will have given up newsprint in favour of having the news beamed straight into their cerebral cortex using a wireless implant, and the Tumbler Ridge News will join the many that have fallen by the wayside. Or maybe newsprint will suddenly be retro and all the cool kids will be doing it, and the Tumbler Ridge News will be the hot new old thing.

What we do here in the newspaper business is tell stories, which, taken as a whole are a part of the story of the community that gave us birth. To document current events knowing that in less time than it takes to blink, those events will be only a vague memory.

So here’s to the future, whatever it may hold, and here’s to the past, in all its glory and shame, triumph and failings.

What you hold in your hands is not just a device for punishing Fido for peeing on the floor (and that sort of thing went out back when the paper was still called the Community Connections; get with the present), but a document cast into the future, a footprint in the sands of time, showing our path from there to here.