Online municipal news platform finds success in Burnaby
The rise of community news start-ups in B.C. has provided readers interested in small communities a different way to receive daily breaking news: Through push notifications.
Municipal-focused platforms such as the Burnaby Beacon are part of a broader shift toward non-mainstream media sources. In the past 10 years, there has been significant growth in the number of independent news outlets in B.C., from Daily Hive to Capital Daily.
But community news has quickly become one of the fastest-growing niches, with the Beacon’s 2021 launch being emblematic of the trend.
The Beacon is a weekly community newsletter run by managing editor Simran Singh, and reporters Srushti Gangdev and Dustin Godfrey. The small but capable team of three each bring unique talent to the page.
Singh is a Punjabi-Canadian journalist with several years of experience reporting in Metro Vancouver. She previously worked as the city editor at Daily Hive and is passionate about telling stories that offer a platform to diverse voices and communities.
“There’s no shortage of news,” says Singh. “There hasn’t been a day where we’re like, ‘Oh, there’s nothing to write about.’ So clearly in a city as big as Burnaby, there’s a lot going on. I think for far too long, there just hasn’t been enough attention paid to it.”
Gangdev—who began her career at CKNW and Global BC—says that Burnaby, her home of the past eight years, has a thriving multicultural community with no end of stories to tell.
“[Burnaby] has got so much of the ethnic diaspora living in this city—the Chinese, the Indians,” she says. “There’s so much happening here in terms of that multicultural identity. And those are communities that have been underserved by mainstream media.”
Godfrey rounds the newsroom out with several years’ experience at local newspapers across the Lower Mainland. He says the interest and care each of them bring to the local angle sets them apart.
“We’re trying to get people to read a story, because it’s an important story,” says Godfrey. “It’s all things that we’re really interested in personally, and I think that really kind of shines through in our reporting.”
“Dustin is such a great journalist,” says Julie MacLellan, Godfrey’s editor from his previous job at the Burnaby Now.
“Burnaby Now does see competition with the Beacon being a thing in news, but we are more focused on daily news output, unlike a community newsletter like what the Beacon is.”
Staff at the Beacon see their newsletter as a needed, distinct voice for the community. “It almost felt like Burnaby was being seen as this other corner of Vancouver where all of the news that applies to Vancouver just automatically applies to Burnaby,” Gangdev says.
The Beacon’s promise to readers is also to publish compelling stories without clickbait.
“I think the endgame goal is just to keep on telling stories that don’t get the light of day or are overlooked,” says Singh. “People in this industry are really busy chasing those hits, getting their headlines out, and who can click more. The Beacon’s goal is to keep on serving the community.”