The ink was barely dry on the last issue of the Prince George Free Press when Elaine Macdonald-Meisner was on the phone to me asking if I’d be interested in writing a column for 250News.
I jumped at the opportunity to keep writing my column and kept writing for 250News until I started developing my own online project.
News last week that Elaine is pulling the plug on 250News certainly came as a shock.
Through tenacity and sheer determination Elaine, and her late husband Ben Meisner, turned 250News into the go-to news medium in Prince George.
It wasn’t easy.
I arrived in Prince George in 2006, just a year or so after 250News got off the ground. We found that the Free Press, where I was editor, and 250News had some commonalities … we were both fighting for legitimacy in a media market where the old traditional media dominated so we teamed up from time to time.
There were a lot of people in the city and in local and provincial bureaucracies who didn’t take either of us seriously. We were a bi-weekly newspaper that many thought was just a shopper and 250News was an upstart internet start-up (to use today’s vernacular).
We often had to fight just to get people to return our calls. Shari Green refused to grant interviews to 250News when she was mayor although that probably had more to do with the fact 250News did a great job of shining a light into Green’s tenure as mayor than the fact it is an online-only news source.
Being online-only, 250News didn’t have to grapple with the ongoing issue that plagued other media (particularly newspapers), namely whether they should post stories online immediately. Some traditional media outlets still don’t because they don’t want to ‘scoop’ their print or broadcast product. It’s proved to be a mistake.
It opened the door for 250News, which barged right through. While we in the newspaper industry were dithering about what to post and when, 250News was beating us, and everyone else, to the punch every time. Even with a staff half that of ours at the Free Press and a fifth of that at the Prince George Citizen, 250News was beating everyone to the story.
In addition, Elaine and Ben truly had their fingers on the pulse of the community. They knew what was going on, it seemed, before even those involved did. While the rest of us were regurgitating press releases, 250News was getting stories no one else was getting. Throw in Ben Meisner’s commentary and they had a winning formula.
The community quickly noticed, and responded.
250News, which was originally Opinion250, became the go-to news source not only here in Prince George, but northern B.C.
It’s a northern success story that, surprisingly, is rarely recognized, or even mentioned, during business award season. But then again, it was never about the accolades, it was always about the story.
Elaine’s story is now moving in a different direction. Here’s hoping it’s a wonderful one.