Exclusive Interview with the Outgoing Editor of the Whistler Question

If you’ve found yourself nodding your head over the past two years at some wise, call-it-like-it-is editorial, I’m willing to bet you have a copy of the Question open in front of you. When Jennifer Miller stepped into the editor’s role in December 2010, I often found myself reading her editorials with a fist-pump, impressed by her class and candour and bold commitment to always speaking truth to power. She’s used to being the one asking the questions, but we took the opportunity as she finishes her last month with the paper, to ask the outgoing editor what it’s been like to watch Pemberton grow over the past 6 years. She’s the first Whistlerite ever featured on Choose Pemberton, so we invited her to give us the perspective on Pemberton from her vantage point, and to tell us about a brand new redesign that the Question is about to unveil.

All the best for your next adventure, Jen, and thanks for your dedication and commitment to top-notch local reporting. We’ve been lucky to have you on the beat.

When did you first come to Whistler, Jen?

I arrived during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in April 2006 – just over six years ago.

What brought you here?

I came for work. I was hired as a reporter at The Question. I’m originally from B.C. but I was living in Australia at the time. I was hired sight unseen over the phone. We didn’t even do a Skype interview.

How long were you planning to stay?

I was planning to stay for about a year. But I quickly became part of the community, made wonderful friends and met my now-husband. I ended up putting down some pretty deep roots here.

And when did you make your first trip to Pemberton? Was it social or professional?

I actually lived in Pemberton for several months when I first arrived in town. I really enjoyed living in Pemberton (and the rent was cheaper!) but the commute didn’t really fit my lifestyle and work and events schedule.

Did your view of Pemberton change in 2010 when you became editor?

I always had an appreciation for Pemberton and believed in The Question’s dedication to covering the community, so I don’t think my perspective of the community changed when I became editor. If anything, I began to evaluate our existing editorial coverage of the community to see if there were any ways we could do a better job of telling Pemberton’s stories.

What was the biggest story you covered in Pemberton over your 6 year tenure?

The Pemberton Festival and the Meager slide rank pretty high on the list – for different reasons, of course.

I feel very fortunate I got to experience the spectacle that was the festival, and how well suited Pemberton was to host such an event. I’ll never forget the feeling of watching Death Cab for Cutie perform on stage with the spectacular backdrop of Mount Currie, and marvel at the fact this was all happening 20 minutes from my home.

Though I didn’t actually come to Pemberton during the Meager slide, I was following the situation from the Whistler emergency shelter and through my fellow reporter at the time, Megan Grittani-Livingston. It was an intense situation that thankfully was not as devastating as it easily could have been.

What do you think has been the most positive development in Pemberton in that time?

It has been exciting to see the interest in Pemberton’s agricultural side grow over the years. From the exploding popularity of the Slow Food Cycle to the increasing demand for Pemberton produce at Whistler restaurants, Vancouver farmers’ markets and beyond, I think Pemberton has found a niche in agri-tourism. I see that continuing to grow, while local products such as Schramm Vodka will continue to attract widespread attention and sales.

What do you think are some of the most under-represented stories from Pemberton?

I would really like to do a better job of covering the Lil’wat Nation and Mount Currie. If The Question had the resources, I would love to hire a reporter who could be dedicated to covering only Mount Currie and could work to build relationships and trust.

How many letters to the editor does the Question get from Pemberton? Do you have a sense of how engaged this end of the corridor is?

Considering the difference in population between Whistler and Pemberton, we get a decent proportion of letters from the Spud Valley. I also often get calls from Pemberton residents to let us know about things that are happening and local issues that are often turned into articles. Many people in the Sea to Sky are actively engaged in what’s happening in their communities, and Pemberton is no exception.

It’s one of the things I love most about living here – people care and want to get involved and make a difference.

There’s a design change coming in the June 28 issue. Why isn’t Pemberton getting its own front page anymore?

We are so excited to launch a new, updated look and layout for The Question at the end of June. The new look and feel is more modern, readable and clean looking.

One of the things we wanted to do with the redesign was give The Question more of a flow for readers. For those unfamiliar with the current design, we think it can be confusing and disjointed to have two different front pages, and then with different looks to the cover of the arts section and sports section, for example, there is a lack of flow and consistency. The new design incorporates clear section breaks without disrupting the flow of the entire package.

Pemberton will still have its own, dedicated section with the same commitment to comprehensive coverage of community news, events and opinions in the various articles and columns we currently run.

The new design will also allow us to cover Pemberton more effectively by allowing for exactly the right amount of space we need. In the current design, with the separate Pemberton front page, we are tied to either a 4- or 8-page section because of printing constraints, and 4 pages is often too small, but 8 pages is too much. That was one of the major reasons we decided to move away from the separate front page.

Has there been an editorial mandate to ensure a certain percentage of coverage was focused on the Pemberton/Mt Currie area?

We have never expressed it as a certain percentage of coverage, but The Question has long made covering Pemberton/Mount Currie a priority. That hasn’t wavered and there are no plans to change that commitment.

The amount of coverage will not change, and Pemberton readers can look forward to multiple local news stories each week, plus the Farm Story (Anna Helmer), Your Pemberton (Grace Chadsey) and Lil’wat (Ruth Dick) columns on a regular basis.

Your last day at the Question is at the end of the month. Where will the summer find you?

My husband and I are about to enjoy a year abroad. I will be teaching ESL in South Korea starting in August. But the plan is definitely to come back to the Whistler area after a year or so. You haven’t seen the last of me, Pemberton!

In the meantime, starting July 3, The Question is welcoming a brand new editor. Tanya Foubert is moving to town from Canmore, Alta. and will soon be discovering all that Pemberton and Whistler have to offer.

What will you miss the most about Pemberton when you head to Korea?

Is it wrong that all the things I will miss revolve around food? Picking berries at North Arm Farm (even though I get eaten alive by mosquitoes every time), eating burgers at Mile One Eating House, the culinary delights of the FoodLovers, and all the amazing Pemberton produce at the Whistler Farmers Market. OK it’s not all food – I’ll miss lots of friends who live in Pemberton too.

Jennifer Miller collects a Ma Murray Award for Best Arts and Culture Reporting in 2009.

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