The outpouring of support, concern and encouragement - not just in Prince George but from around the province and even across the country - on Thursday was deeply humbling and so appreciated.
After our announcement that we were ceasing publication of our paid daily newspaper next weekend in favour of a free Thursday weekly newspaper starting in October, we held our breath. We really didn't know what to expect but we were also not surprised at the amount of love and caring we received in the form of phone calls, e-mails, texts and even a handwritten card from a certain MLA well-known for the personal touch.
That's Prince George right there.
Along with MLAs and MPs, we heard from former Citizen staffers and former residents scattered across Canada, congratulating us on the job we've done to date, wishing all of the employees their best and imploring us to keep it up as we move forward.
The most gratifying words came from local residents and readers that make reading The Citizen part of their daily ritual. They wanted to tell us how much the newspaper means to them and how long it has been part of their lives. They told us stories of bonding with children and grandchildren as they headed out together to deliver the paper. They told us about news stories that had made a huge difference in their lives.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
There really aren't the words - both in quantity or quality - to adequately express how much your caring meant to us. That's the Prince George way, of course. Even people who have had plenty of reason to be upset with our stories and opinions over the years reached out with kind words because The Citizen is Prince George's newspaper and they care about all things Prince George, including its newspaper and the people who work here.
"Many have been my grouses about Neil's perspective and even editorial choices but I have never doubted his dedication to community journalism or his sincere efforts to keep this paper's head above water," one reader posted beneath our letter to readers and the community on our website. "Good luck to him and the rest of the Citizen team as this inevitable downsizing and transformation proceeds!"
"Very sad to hear this," added Art Betke (he goes by his real name on our website). "Reading the Citizen over breakfast five days a week has become the highlight of (most of) my mornings. (Monday mornings always felt somewhat empty without it.) You will be greatly missed. October 3 being a Thursday, I assume that's the day of the week it will be out in print form."
"Slim" made a fantastic suggestion. He wondered if The Citizen could offer something like the famous Friday Free For All that Ben and Elaine Meisner had on 250News, where residents could share their views on any issue they like and debate amongst each other.
Yes, we most certainly can.
As of this morning and every Friday going forward, website readers can find the Citizens Corner (thanks, "PG_Resident" for the name) and can dive in. Looking forward to reading those views. We just ask that everyone be polite and respectful - yell the expletives and insults at your screen then play nice in the sandbox with the others, please.
One last note. Sorry, but not sorry, to the reporters at the local news outlets for not returning your calls asking for comment about our changes. Our sole focus was on our employees, our readers and our customers, which is where it will remain. Thank you for offering the opportunity to speak to your audience but we wanted to say what we had to say in our own words and in our own pages and on our website.
It's our job to report on the news and to be the news as little as possible. Our letter was pushed down the website quickly on Thursday as we shared news about John Brink's amazing donation to the College of New Caledonia, the reaction of local federal candidates to the Justin Trudeau brownface scandal and the sentencing of an elderly man for sexually abusing his daughters.
Bad news, hard news, good news - that's what we do.
We just couldn't let the kindness and consideration we received Thursday from so many of you pass without us publicly expressing our gratitude once more. We're going to do everything we can to keep earning the respect and appreciation you have for who we are and what we do.
-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout