January 19, 2020

By RYAN HORNE

In a day and age where it seems as if the World Wide Web has taken over our lives, the idea of “small town news” is a thing of the past.  Conestoga’s student-run online newscast, 519onlinenews, put that statement to the test and passed with flying colours.
The 519onlinenews site receives 18,000 to 20,000 hits from 35 countries every month, with approximately 45 per cent of those web hits coming from Canada.  Professor Steve Parr oversees the weekly broadcasts of the videography-broadcast journalism/documentary (post-graduate) program. He said in an era where Facebook, Twitter and blogs are so prevalent, it’s no surprise that so many people are able to tune in.
“If you live in Latvia or Moldova or any other country, it’s the Internet and news channels available on the Internet that give you an idea of what’s going on in Canada,  this is the nature of the Internet, what’s local to you is suddenly on the world stage,” said Parr.  “It’s a very interesting audience to consider when you are doing a news show.”
Chris Metzger, a student in the program, said people are drawn to the unique style of storytelling 519onlinenews offers.
“We try to get more in the community, to get off the campus and get things out of our little comfort zone here,” he said. “It’s a unique kind of news, the stories you see on our show you won’t typically see on different news stations like CTV.”
In January, almost six per cent of web hits came from Russia, Norway, Ukraine and Belgium.  Other countries include France, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden, Seychelles, Latvia, British Indian Territory, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Finland, Argentina, Indonesia, India, Moldova, Mexico, Armenia, Brazil and Ivory Coast.
“I think we’ve covered every continent except Antarctica,” said Parr.
When Parr lived and worked in east Africa, he was always surprised with how much people knew about Canada and how their thirst for more knowledge was abundant. Parr says people from across the pond revere and truly respect how we live in Canada, and the 519onlinenews casts acts as a small window into our lives.
“What better way to observe a society than to take a look at what they consider to be relevant?   A newscast is a window on how people think and what’s important to them,” he said. “That’s got to be interesting if you are living in another part of the world.  We are very fortunate to live here, and to be able to tell our stories freely and openly, without censorship.”
519onlinenews produces two newscasts every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and strives to put together four stories as well as various segments in each episode.  The class rotates between the roles of producer, reporter, camera operator, host and editor every week.
“It can be kind of hectic in here when everyone’s running around and editing,” said Metzger.
Every newscast is shot in front of a green screen which is just one technical skill Metzger has learned during his time with 519.
“We’re trying to replicate as much of a real news environment as we can,” he said.  “The program helps you get connections and meet people that you might need in the future.”
To check out their website, go to www.519onlinenews.com