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Goodbye to SSN

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

After two and a half years with the Alberta Newspaper Group (ANG), I will be leaving the reporter position to pursue a new opportunity in communications. 

As an avid reader, writer, and generally multi-passionate person, finding employment as a working writer has always been something I wanted to pursue. With this kind of work comes unpredictability, fulfillment, and sometimes stress. Don’t get me wrong, high-stakes investigative journalism or covering international affairs in war-torn regions across the world certainly makes rural community reporting look like a cake-walk, but this work can be challenging in other ways.

As I put together my last column, it is worth noting that the opportunities and connections I made in my time with Alberta Newspaper Group have been a conduit for monumental shifts and growth in my life. I am excited for the new opportunities knocking at my door, but I will miss spending time working with so many of the incredible people in the communities served by Sunny South News.

This publication—all the weekly publications under the ANG banner– are staffed by talented, passionate, and incredibly hard-working individuals. I can’t thank you all enough for sharing your talents and insights with me. These are people who actually give a hoot about the stories they write and the community partners they build relationships with. This, fundamentally, is why local news matters. There is no alternative in many of these small communities, and the local newspaper remains the last place to find dedicated local coverage in smaller centres. There is a misconception that because of the shift away from print media over the past few decades, newspapers are obsolete. However, whether you read news on your phone or in print, community stories make it to publication because there are dedicated offices such as the Taber Times, or Sunny South News, which are propped up by community support. As a result of dedicated local coverage, small-town issues which may have otherwise flown under the radar have the potential to be escalated into mainstream news media by organizations with a broader reach; this is how we amplify the important issues and stories of small communities. 

The kindness I have observed in many of these small towns and communities has genuinely altered how I view the world. That is not to say there is not still work to be done in terms of building more tolerant and informed communities, because there is. But I would be remiss if I didn’t express gratitude for the lessons I have taken from spending time in places like Picture Butte, Coaldale, Coalhurst, Barons, Nobleford, Shaughnessy, Monarch, and all the other small villages and corners of the humble southern Alberta prairies.

I have learned a great deal both personally and professionally from the communities I have covered, but one lesson in particular sticks out: Good people are not hard to find. In fact, they are everywhere. Perhaps coming into this role as a jaded ex-retail manager/underemployed English major/ frustrated freelancer made me see the world a bit through brown-coloured glasses, but I have genuinely been transformed by the interactions and professional relationships I have built spending time in these communities. 

To all of the business leaders, volunteers, Town councils and administrators, school boards, Chambers of Commerce, athletes, artists, and everyday people I have had the privilege to speak with over the past few years: thank you for trusting me with your stories.

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