Happy Birthday to The Source: celebrating 15 years of bilingual reporting

Aging beautifully – The Source then and now. | Photo by Laura R. Copes

Aging beautifully – The Source then and now. | Photo by Laura R. Copes

Fifteen years ago, on this month, Mamadou Gangué introduced Vancouver to The Source in the paper’s first editorial. The four-paragraph missive set the tone for a decade and a half of local journalism that continues to pry open the city’s steel and concrete shell to further reveal its radiating heart of diversity.

“[The community] newspaper plays an essential role,” Gangue wrote back in June 1999. “It is an integral part of a social circle, it helps anchor us and provides direction in a great metropolis.”

He envisioned The Source as a new beacon for cultural and ethnic masses at a community level. He saw his brainchild – a bilingual Anglo-French newspaper – as a complementary addition to other community papers that cement together the city’s multicultural mosaic.

The modest endeavour that began one summer nearly 20 years ago has since blossomed into a thriving publication that captured the 2011 Cultural Harmony Award and the Baldwin-LaFontaine Award in 2013 for the paper’s commitment to bilingualism. As The Source’s editorial staff steadily expanded over the years, so, too, did the opportunities to wax lyrical about Vancouver’s inclusive, international soul. The first issue, dated June 2, 1999, totaled 12 combined pages of English and French content. Current issues feature anywhere from 20 to 30 pages of reporting that dig deep into issues that plague or inspire.

In the course of its life so far, The Source has continued its tradition of covering everything from community festivals to local reactions to international events under its diversity mandate. A look back at some of the highlights from the June 1999 issue shows the paper’s commitment to sharing the perspectives of Vancouver’s multitude of communities has not flagged in the
intervening years.

Dominic Brown’s – and The Source’s – first cover story revisited the up-hill battle fought by Canadian minorities for the right to vote. Brown’s incisive submission traced the struggle for enfranchisement in a telling recount of one of the roads Canada had to take as it evolved into a modern democracy with universal suffrage.

Leah Mintha gave readers a glimpse into the views and opinions of Vancouver’s Indonesian community on page two, set against the backdrop of East Timor’s 1999 independence referendum. Mintha interviewed students and dissidents to illustrate how events taking place half a world away can still impact the lives of local people.

Ayelet Tsabari’s whimsical piece about a local group at the Vancouver Multicultural Society and its take on cultural understanding through roleplaying was a light-hearted peek at the dynamics of multicultural exchanges and how getting new immigrants to “be Canadian” is not as simple as it sounds. Tsabari’s colourful narration underscored that even multicultural societies can sometimes be mired in fear and intolerance.

Suzanna Starcevic’s story on Mexican journalist and documentarian Rocco Trigueros examined one man’s drive to change the Latin community’s profile in Canada. Starcevic’s intimate interview with Trigueros brought to light his desire to rehabilitate an ethnic community defined and, according to him, vilified by popular media.

Beatriz Garcia-Arteaga wrote the first submission for the Verbatim column – now a regular and well-loved part of The Source – that documents the thoughts and feelings of contributors who have experienced the apprehension and elation of stepping outside familiar boundaries. Garcia-Arteaga’s laid bare for readers her journey from new arrival to proud Canadian.

Like any great metropolis, Vancouver is in a constant state of flux as the fortunes of its communities rise, stagnate and fall, only to repeat the cycle anew. In the 15 years since The Source made its debut, the paper has made a conscious effort of keeping a finger on the city’s communal pulse and reporting on people, places and events that shape the city.

“We will never forget that your ideas are the driving forces behind The Source,” Gangue wrote back in 1999. That sentiment continues to hold true in 2014 and will, no doubt, continue to dictate the paper’s course in the years and decades to come.