Over the past two weeks the community has been flooded…with media.
Princeton quickly became a focus for journalists across Canada and around the globe, following the devastating events that started Sunday, Nov. 14, when the Tulameen River breached its banks.
Last Thursday, correspondents working for The New York Times were trekking through muck on Fenchurch Avenue, interviewing residents who were starting the process of cleaning out their homes.
“In the town of Princeton, which was uncomfortably close to this summer’s wildfires and was hit by record heat, bands of volunteers of all ages were roving the streets and helping out,” wrote Ian Austen. “There are a lot of tears in Princeton and other communities right now, but they’re not all from grief over what’s lost. When flood victims described the kindness of those volunteers to me, some broke out in tears of gratitude.”
The U.K. based Guardian also reached out to area homeowners.
Ed Staples, from Coalmont, was interviewed.
“After a summer of staying indoors to shield his lungs from thick smoke, Staples said he’s sad to see the loss in his community so soon after the fires,” The Guardian wrote. ‘It’s heartbreaking, I get choked up thinking about it,’ said Staples. ‘These are real people who have lost everything and it’ll take months or years to get their lives in order.’”
Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne has fielded hundreds of requests for interviews, and granted many.
“I’ve done so many interviews,” he told the Spotlight, “I don’t know who all I’ve interviewed with. It’s kind of been a blur to be honest…I was doing, by lunch time, about eight interviews a day at one point.”
Coyne said this has given him the opportunity to keep Princeton’s needs top-of-mind for government officials, who hold the purse strings for emergency aid. “If I’m not out there, Abbotsford is going to be the story…It’s getting us the attention we need.”
Coyne appeared live on the CBC’s The National, and on the television program Power and Politics. He’s spoken frequently with regional affiliates of all the major networks.
While he doesn’t particularly relish the limelight, Coyne is uniquely qualified to take on the press. “At one time I was a small town reporter. I worked for Black Press, I worked for (The Similkameen News Leader.)”
Recently a journalist writing for the Globe and Mail followed the mayor for an entire day, as he made the rounds of the community.
“Shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Mr. Coyne jumped in his yellow Nissan Xterra and began driving around town, checking on crew progress and speaking to residents about their needs. His cellphone rang constantly. He made a stop at the one-runway airport where the small lounge was crammed with people bringing in dogs and cats in animal carriers,” wrote Anthony Davis.
There’s been absurdity, attached to some of Coyne’s experiences.
“One interview, I won’t say what network and what show, they began telling me what I should be wearing in the interview and what the backdrop should be…like a bookshelf.”
Coyne eventually gave that interview, via his phone, wearing a high-visibility vest, while inside the Princeton fire hall.
During an interview with the BBC, he was asked about local temperatures. When the mayor reported the temperature was hovering at about minus 3 degrees Celsius, he was asked, “And why is that?”
After requesting the question be repeated, Coyne responded, “Well, it’s November. This is when we start to turn into winter.”
Coyne said he often prefers to communicate with local media.
“Local media has been invaluable, absolutely invaluable,” he stated. “I really appreciate the efforts of the Spotlight in order to keep accurate information going out.”
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