The Source turns 20 -Two decades of local community reporting

Two decades ago, founding publisher and editor-in-chief Mamadou Gangué announced the publication of The Source’s first stories in a brief editorial, outlining its mission and raison d’être as a bilingual Anglo-French community newspaper.

This paper is first and foremost your newspaper,” Gangué wrote in June 1999. “We will never forget that your ideas are the driving forces behind The Source.”

Through feature stories, news articles, opinion columns and the cultural calendar, The Source realizes its role as a community newspaper reporting stories by, for and about the people of the many communities and cultures that live, work and play in Vancouver, British Columbia and its surrounds.

The first feature the paper launched – which still persists to this day – is the Verbatim column, a forum for community members, new and old, to share their impressions of life in a multicultural cosmopolitan city like Vancouver. Over the years, the Verbatim has touched on a wide variety of topics such as culture shock, ethnic identity and belonging, learning a new language, moving to Canada and celebrating differences. As a regular and well-loved part of The Source, the paper remains committed to continuing the column to shine a light on local subjects, thoughts and ideas that shape the city and its residents.

Much has changed in the world of journalism the last 20 years. The decline of print journalism and the rise of social media created seismic shifts in the world of local news reporting and small-market newspapers around the country. We, the staff of The Source, wondered whether there is still a place for a small, local, multicultural community newspaper in a time of profound change. What reasons would draw future writers, editors and reporters to a local newspaper like The Source?

To help answer that question, The Source reached out to some of its past contributors to gain some insight. Our contributors come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are born and raised Vancouverites, others are Canadian immigrants and newcomers. Some are casual writers, others are professional authors. Some continue to work in journalism and others have gone on to pursue other interests. We were thrilled to reconnect with the reporters and editors who have contributed to the success of the paper in its two decades in existence and find out what they have been doing since their time at the paper.

One of the main reasons contributors come to The Source is to try their hand with journalistic writing. The community newspaper provides a great way for people new to journalism to gain valuable experience with the journalistic process, getting all the way from an idea to a published article.

Coming with a passion for writing fiction stories, former reporter and editor-in-chief Olga Livshin joined The Source – her first writing gig – in 2007. As an immigrant speaking with an accent, she felt immensely grateful for the opportunity to work at the paper, which had helped increase her confidence with speaking and communicating with people and refine her writing abilities. Currently, she writes for the Jewish Independent paper and continues writing short stories and speculative fiction, but she’ll always cherish her experiences with our paper.

“I learned so much while working for The Source, I don’t think any official writing school could’ve compared,” says Livshin. “I learned writing with precision. I learned interviewing skills. I encountered many amazing people. And I learned a lot about myself. It changed me as a person, showed me how to be ‘more.’”

Similarly, former reporter Phoebe Yu came to The Source in 2010. During her time at the paper, she developed her time management and feature writing skills. She eventually earned her Masters in Journalism and although she currently writes as a content and social media writer in business, she credits the newspaper for opening writing as a viable career path.

“When I started writing for The Source, it was the first time I thought that writing wasn’t just a hobby,” Yu says. “Writing every article was always rewarding because I always learned something from it – especially after getting feedback from the team. Practice makes perfect, right?”

Other writers come to The Source to promote civic engagement, eager for the opportunity to interview and tell the stories of the social changemakers and cultural innovators living and working in Vancouver. Former reporter Florence Hwang, who contributed from 2013 to 2018 and currently works for CBC Saskatchewan, appreciated learning about the various stories and topics she reported on. For her, being curious and building connections help discover good stories in ethnic communities that wouldn’t normally be covered in mainstream media.

“The article I’m most proud of is the one about World Autism Day. I learned so much about this topic and I met some very friendly and helpful people who were willing to educate me about not only the condition, their experience, but also the complications in lobbying for change in legislation (to gain more funding for families),” says Hwang.

Perhaps the most important reason readers contribute to The Source is the strong sense of community it creates for newcomers to Canada and Vancouver. Former editors Andrew King and Samuel Ramos, who contributed from 2005 to 2007 and 2008 to 2013 respectively, attest to the notion that community journalism’s lasting legacy is the influence it has on a city, giving voice and belonging to those who may otherwise feel marginalized.

The Source newspaper gives you a strong sense of belonging in a city that suffers from perceptions of alienation and a lack of sociability amongst its citizens,” Ramos says. “It always served as a meeting point, something to look forward to where you can make long standing friendships with people from across the world, share in the love of writing, diversity and interculturalism.”

“Volunteer-run local papers are the lifeblood of community engagement and bring to life the cultural identity that too often lies below the surface,” King says. “The Source was so unique because it brought together such a diverse group of people. I’m so happy to see it continuing to thrive years after I was involved.”

Indeed, these reasons are why we will continue to write and report on the cultural happenings of the people of our multicultural city. It’s already been 20 years, but, at the same time, it’s only been 20 years. Thank you to all our readers and contributors; here’s to the third decade of The Source!