This may come as a surprise to some readers, but 2021 could just have been my most enjoyable year as editor of Georgia Straight. Despite the pandemic. Despite the terrible heat wave that hit BC last summer. And despite the growing evidence that climate problems – which we have been covering a lot since the 1990s – became even worse than many scientists had expected.
So how on earth could anyone consider this a good year? First of all, the newspaper survived. We managed to avoid a newspaper cemetery that was already populated by the deceased Vancouver Courier, StarMetro Vancouver, 24 hours, Xtra! west, West Ender, Asia Pacific Post, North Shore Outlook, Richmond review, Head of Burnaby Newsand other local newspapers throughout the region.
I used to tell the founder of Georgia Straight, Dan McLeod, that he survived his share of publishing magnates – including Southams, Aspers, Conrad Black and David Radler – on his way to becoming the longest-running publisher of a single newspaper in Canadian history.
But our current team, led by company president Kirk MacDonald and backed by senior editor Martin Dunphy, continued to publish Georgia Straight through the first 20 months of a pandemic, which was an equally daunting task.
For that, I personally want to thank all the organizations that have put their trust in us by placing ads in our print edition or on our website and other platforms. I would also like to thank the Liberal Government for introducing a wage subsidy program that enabled us to do what we love through the greatest economic downturn in my life.
As a result Just maintained its tradition of nurturing the arts. We delivered groundbreaking journalism on the climate crisis. We shed light on the anti-vaccine movement while not letting the provincial government get away with underplaying the airborne nature of COVID-19.
Through the pandemic, Mike Usinger delivered the liveliest liquor store in the province at a time when more people were looking for some fluid courage to get through hard times. I felt we had an outstanding issue with Golden Plates where we celebrated them in the hospitality sector that has shown such resilience to advertising.
The Best of Vancouver edition was a blast, and the editors did a fantastic job with the Pride edition. And thanks to Steve Newton, we continued to be at the forefront of event coverage.
I am particularly pleased with how we have given a voice to a diversity of identities that make up Vancouver. Our front pages, designed so well by Miguel Hernandez, demonstrated the city’s diversity in ways no other mainstream media can match. We are not perfect – no one is – but rest assured that this remains a priority.
From the black community in Canada, we showed Giller Award winner Ian Williams, visual artist Êmilie Régnier, anti-racism activist Markiel Simpson and opera star Measha Brueggergosman on separate covers in 2021, as well as another cover story about a health project led by Hogan’s Alley Society.
One of my favorite covers this year was an inspiring David Cooper image of the Heart of the City Festival artist in residential and residential school “thrives” Kat Zu’comulwat Norris. Another cover story featured Snotty Nose Rez Kids and another featured Squamish Nation councilor Orene Askew, who is of mixed African and Squamish descent.
Additionally, our Canada Day cover story examined why many in the community, including native public policy expert Ginger Gosnell-Myers (Skusgluums), thought this was a time for reflection rather than fireworks.
Then there was Miguel Fernandez’s beautiful LunarFest cover, featuring native Taiwanese artist Reretan Pavavaljung, whose family was involved in the Coastal Lanterns project with members of the Point-Cannell family from Musqueam.
Filmmakers are dropping the drawers
This year’s chef on our golden plate cover, Nutcha Phanthoupeng from Baan Lao Fine Thai Cuisine, comes from northeastern Thailand.
Others of East Asian ancestry in 2021 Georgia Straight covers included actress Amanda Sum as the mad hatter this year East Van Panto, members of Onibana Taiko, violinist Chloe Kim, MP Jenny Kwan, filmmakers Ryan Mah and Danny Berish (they actually appeared naked on the cover!), actress Valerie Tian and executive director of the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association Charlie Wu.
From the South Asian community, we introduced NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, UBC AMS vice president Eshana Bhangu, actor-singer-dancer Krystal Kiran, cultural navigator and branding expert Mo Dhaliwal and author and broadcaster Riaz Meghi on Georgia Straight covers in 2021.
Justin Trudeau (who also appeared on a cover) likes to say that diversity is Canada’s strength. Judging from the breadth of talented and inspiring people who performed on Just‘s front pages in 2021, it’s hard to argue with that.
But we did not ignore the problems that Just have covered for many years. The climate, including fire smoke, was the subject of five front-page stories in 2021, LGBT + issues were featured in three of the five front-page stories in July, and even the city’s beloved crows justified a front page.
I am also glad that the pandemic showed that the race-baiters who almost exclusively owed rising real estate prices on foreign money were wrong.
At the beginning of the pandemic, immigration emerged. Foreign buyers accounted for an insignificant share of the housing market. Yet there was still not nearly enough housing to meet local demand. Our coverage has stood the test of time.
I appreciate the efforts of real estate reporter Carlito Pablo and one of our contributors, Ng Weng Hoong, for having the courage to go against conventional wisdom.
I also appreciate other contributors who continued to submit thoughtful and often provocative columns to our website, such as Gurpreet Singh, Sarah Leamon, Eric Doherty, Shauna Sylvester, Tim Louis, Martyn Brown, Jean Swanson, and David Suzuki. Patti Bacchus was also a major contributor in the past.
Have I regretted the past year? Of course. I would have liked to have provided a more in-depth coverage of Vancouver’s social policy and the ongoing toxic drug crisis. However, the pandemic, a blazing real estate market, the discovery of unmarked native graves at former housing schools, a federal election and the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions also required attention.
We plan to increase local political coverage in 2022, which is a municipal election year, and this year’s end of year is an indication of that. Rest assured that you have not forgotten civil affairs, even though it often played the second violin for COVID-19 in 2021.