Vancouver's evolution into a city-state requires more expansive definition of local news

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      In Canada, there's traditionally been a dichotomy between what's considered local news and what's thought of as national and international news.

      Here in Metro Vancouver, "local" journalists tend to focus on issues that directly affect people in the region, like transit, housing, municipal governments, police, and the courts.

      The term "community paper" indicates that a publication is hyperlocal.

      The same type of message is sent by the broadcast media: CTV Vancouver, for instance, claims to be the "#1 source for local, breaking news". Global News B.C. is all about—you guessed it—British Columbia.

      National and international reporters devote their attention to matters of interest across the country or around the world.

      Unfortunately, newsroom cutbacks have led to reductions in foreign and local reporting by Canadian journalists.

      Call it the Facebook Effect—giant U.S. platforms like Facebook, Google, and Amazon are gobbling up advertising dollars that pay for this coverage.

      Then there are local news events related to global events.

      Quite often, these stories are overlooked by local newsrooms because they're not deemed to be of sufficient interest to a broadly local audience.

      That's because local news assignment editors are understandably focused on what's traditionally been considered local news.

      A gang murder takes precedence over the reaction of local Pakistani Canadians to the election of Imran Khan as prime minister.

      An otter munching on koi in the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is deemed more newsworthy than a gathering of local Kurds traumatized by Donald Trump's decision to let their relatives be slaughtered by Turkish forces.

      The prevailing attitude is that issues relating to Kurds or Imran Khan are in the bailiwick of the national and international reporters.

      Carlito Pablo

      There are exceptions, of course, like when a dictator falls in another country. On those occasions, local reporters will speak to people from these countries.

      If there are angry words between pro-Hong Kong democracy protesters and pro-China loyalists in a local community, that too will make the cut.

      But generally speaking, it has to meet the standard of "water-cooler talk" to get covered.  

      From a business standpoint, this approach makes sense for media outlets selling local audiences to advertisers.

      But I also suspect that it's leaving some residents feeling shortchanged by their media.

      The reality is Metro Vancouver is evolving into an international region.

      More than 40 percent of the population in the central metropolitan area traces their roots back to Asia, according to the last Canadian census.

      That's not to say that every third-generation person of Indian or Chinese ancestry is clinging on to what's happening in their ancestors' countries of origin.

      But it does speak to the need for a less parochial approach.

      The reality is that most Vancouverites don't feel that connected to Ottawa, home to a national government more than 3,500 kilometres away.

      Sad to say, but we're also becoming increasingly disconnected from the rest of B.C. as the city becomes more international.

      Vancouver is evolving into more of a city-state mindset—a local community that sometimes feels more connected to the rest of the world than the rest of the province or the rest of the country.

      I suspect that a fair number of people living in Vancouver nowadays have never gone to Vancouver Island, Prince George, Prince Rupert, or the Okanagan.

      I believe that this "city-state" sentiment is more pronounced among the young than the old, and particularly among the growing number of international students on local college and university campuses.

      The climate-justice group is an example of an organization that has embraced an international approach.

      It attaches as much significance to what's happening in Bangladesh or Australia or Spain as to what's occurring in North America. And it has forged strong connections with young people who share that perspective.

      This weekend, there were two local events in Vancouver that reflect some residents' passions for what's happening in other countries.

      Local Chilean Canadians and their friends gathered outside the CBC building in downtown Vancouver to show support for those seeking greater equality in Chile.

      The regime of Sebastián Piñera has killed around 20 demonstrators and arrested thousands in the worst crackdown in Chile since the country was ruled by fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet.

      The friends of Chile plan to hold another event next Saturday (November 9). It will take place on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery in what's now known as šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl'e7énḵ Square (in honour of the region's Indigenous history).

      This is a local story about an international event.

      Because Canadian media outlets don't have foreign correspondents based in Santiago, Chile, most Canadians are unaware of the repression taking place in that country. 

      Some local coverage might help increase their understanding.

      At the same time as this weekend's Chilean demonstration was held, the UBC Centre for India and South Asian Research was screening two films on the Point Grey campus about majoritarian violence in India directed against Sikhs and Muslims.

      This was followed by a panel discussion attended by the two Indian filmmakers, Teenaa Kaur Pasricha and Nakul Singh Sawhney, along with Indian investigative journalist Neha Dixit.

      Sawhney bluntly declared that India is drifting into a fascist state and it will take at least 20 years to have a chance of reversing this trend.

      Dixit documented how poor children from northeastern India were taken from their parents by Hindu fanatics.

      These kids were shipped to residential schools in the western part of the country to be brainwashed into embracing far-right Hindu nationalist ideology.

      Two others on the panel, local scholar Kamal Arora and local journalist Gurpreet Singh, connected the discussion to Canada.

      Arora emphasized the importance of young people in the diaspora becoming truly informed about traumatic events that may have affected their parents or grandparents in their home country.

      Singh highlighted how the kidnapping of Indian children paralleled and differed from what happened to Indigenous children who were sent to Canadian residential schools.

      The audience at UBC was clearly moved by what they were hearing.

      But because it was a local event about an international issue—and it hasn't yet risen to the level of becoming water-cooler conversation in Vancouver—it didn't generate coverage on mainstream local radio or television stations.

      Don't get me wrong. Local media are facing major challenges.

      While it's easy to cast aspersions, these outlets are coping with some devastating cutbacks. And there may be no tougher job in journalism than being a TV reporter.

      At the same time, it's not too much to ask assignment editors and local journalism professors to rethink their definition of "local news".

      Particularly in light of Vancouver's evolving position in the world.