Sharing stories to inspire and inform

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a photojournalist — to go to far- flung places and tell the stories of the people I encountered.

I loved the stories of Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer Prize› winning journalist from Bluff — yes, you read that right — who swam across the Mekong River to Thailand with rolls of film and copy to file stories of a coup in Laos.

Many times Arnett put his life on the line to make sure the world was informed.

When I was at university in Dunedin (a very short exercise many years ago) I spent many days at the museum sitting and looking at an exhibition of New Zealand photographer Brian Brake’s ‘‘Monsoon’’ photo essay.

The series for Life magazine followed the effects of the monsoon season in India, powerfully documenting the emotions and stories of the people it touched.

Those images and stories had a profound effect on me, as did many others.

Stories and images of famine, of revolutions, of earthquakes and natural disasters.

Stories of cultural festivals and celebrations, of harvests, of resilience and hope.

Each bringing to light important issues, helping people see things with a different perspective.

Community news may seem a long way from those stories — but is still just as powerful in its own way. Our region is full of stories waiting to be told, each of them important. Yarns about salt-of-the-earth characters working the land for generations, stories of innovation and technology birthed right here; of school children and their achievements, of the diverse cultures and nationalities that call Central Otago home.

But also the hard stuff.

We have a duty to keep people informed — of floods, fires, drought and broken bridges; of power that has corrupted, of the national issues impacting our daily lives locally, of the stuff that matters.

It is a duty — and a privilege — to be able to do that here at The News, to share your stories.

It is not something we take lightly.

Last Friday I was lucky enough to attend the New Zealand Community Newspaper Association Awards in Auckland.

It was awesome to get together in the room with other like›minded individuals to share our own “war stories’’ from the industry and also celebrate their successes.

I am pleased to share The News came away with two awards.

First, ‘‘Behind the Facade’’, our five-month investigation into the underbelly of drug and alcohol use in Wanaka, was joint winner of the best community involvement award.

Championed by our Wanaka team of Marjorie Cook and Aspen Bruce (I just kept them hydrated with coffee), this project exposed issues that are often seen as taboo in a small town.

It was important and compelling storytelling.

I was also named runner›up in the best photographer category which was very humbling — maybe there’s hope for my photojournalism dreams yet.