Commentary: Ok, all together now Vancouver Island: Be loud. Be proud.

Commentary: Ok, all together now Vancouver Island: Be loud. Be proud.
Jesse Roper performs for Rock for Relief on CHEK.

Ian Haysom’s coronavirus diary will appear here regularly.

You can’t always get what you want, the virtual Rolling Stones sang in the One World concert the other night, and though their performance was a bit of a shambles, it was still fun to see Mick and the Boys rocking away.

Well, mostly Mick, who unlike Paul McCartney and Elton John, still has the semblance of a voice. Keith, Ron and Charlie seemed to be in their own world. But I still loved it…..because they’re indestructible. Nothing can stop them.

One of the jokes going the rounds these days is: BREAKING NEWS. Keith Richards has just tested positive for everything except COVID-19. 

I’m biased, but I preferred CHEK’s Rock for Relief concert on Friday night, because it was authentic. Local. And a lot more music to lift our spirits. Great performances. And no bad vocals.

But as well as the music, the importance of the evening was that it truly brought the community that is Vancouver Island together. It seemed most of the island watched it, if our ratings and the emails buzzing around are anything to go by.

These were some of the comments people made while the show was running:

“Amazing concert. Thanks musicians and CHEK.”

“Awesome job  for hosting this concert!!  Bless you all.”

“I’m in tears.”

“Cowichan Bay is rocking out!”

“Excellent concert.Well done CHEK.”

“Thank you we are so proud of our island.”

“So grateful to CHEK and all the participants in this heartwarming fundraiser for those most in need. I am so proud to call this Island home – Thank you.”

Right there, in those comments, you can feel the sense of community. Of us coming together in one place – in front of our TVs and computers – to celebrate who and what we are.  As Vancouver Island.

We tend to think that we are an island of communities on Vancouver Island rather than one big community. Victoria is separate from Nanaimo, which is different than Campbell River which is not Tofino, which is a million light-years away from Oak Bay, which is not Port Hardy.

Yet the COVID crisis has shown that we are, yes, an island unto ourselves. A united island. We have more things that bind us than keep us apart. We have common geography, a love of the ocean and the outdoors, we live in natural splendour and, let’s face it, we’re at the end of not just Canada, but the world. Go farther west and we’re in the ocean.

We’re an island of individuals, from Hornby hippies to Port Alberni loggers. We are artists and writers and artisans and loggers and fishermen and hikers and bikers and sailors and kayakers and skiers and front-line workers and, yes, musicians. And, quietly, hugely proud.

But I’m not sure we’ve always manifested that pride or celebrated the island as a special place where 800,000 of us are so proud and lucky to live.

CHEK has played a role in that, not just with the concert, but with our island-wide newscasts. CHEK is dedicated to being an island station, not a Victoria-only station, and has been serious about that island-wide mandate, with  reporters around the island, and ensuring we tell our story. And all our stories. We even took our news on the road last fall, anchoring from various communities up and down the island.

People, during this pandemic, are turning to local news more than ever before for their information about what’s happening in their communities – both on-air and online.

According to a survey conducted in late March by international research and strategy firm SmithGeiger, the pandemic is fuelling a huge resurgence in viewership of local news and linear TV.

The company says the world has changed for millions of people and local news has “played a critically important role in helping audiences to find solace, feel safer and gain important insights into how to navigate past the confusion and to regain a sense of wellbeing.”

Local TV news in the US, and also Canada, has become the primary destination for news consumers between the ages of 18 and 64. Eighty-two percent of respondents report watching local news, and 91% use at least one local news platform. That’s certainly true at CHEK, where the ratings for our 5 and 6 newscasts have skyrocketed during the pandemic by as much as 75 per cent. It also puts a lie to all those who claim they’re not watching or listening or reading the COVID news. Yes, I understand it’s sometimes repetitive and upsetting.

But it is also the biggest story most of us will ever live through. And to understand it, to stay safe, we need to know whats going on.

I hope this sense of community lasts long after this is all over. That, yes, being apart brings us closer, particularly around Vancouver Island, where our job is to bring compelling stories to life for everyone.

Community has always been important. Now, more important than ever. And Rocking On throughout this crisis is what we can all do together. Loud and proud.

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Ian HaysomIan Haysom

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