One night in the late fall of 2000, a call came in the Citizen newsroom from the Vancouver Sun.
Their photo desk was wondering when the Citizen would be sending pictures from the oil spill on the Pine River near Chetwynd.
The Sun staffer was disappointed to find out the Citizen didn't have photos and then was amazed to learn that Chetwynd is 300 kilometres north of Prince George.
Every Northern B.C. resident has a story about the ignorance of Lower Mainland dwellers when it comes to this region of the province.
So it was novelty for Fazil Mihlar, the Vancouver Sun's associate editor, to come to Prince George on Friday as a guest of Initiatives Prince George, to tell a crowd of local business leaders how wonderful Northern B.C. is.
The content of his speech is common knowledge in these parts but unheard of in the Lower Mainland. Economic activity in Northern B.C. makes up 70 per cent of provincial government revenues. Tens of thousands of jobs in the Lower Mainland are either directly or indirectly dependent upon Northern B.C., which seems like a million miles away from the sophisticated confines of the Starbucks at the corner of Robson and Thurlow.
After Mihlar beat the drum about how B.C.'s economic future is dependent upon the continued growth and health of the Northern B.C. economy in general and resource extraction in particular, he implored the audience to do more to get the word out in the Lower Mainland about what Northern B.C. has to offer.
Mihlar at least started his talk by admitting that the first time he met IPG's Heather Oland, he made the mistake of calling Prince George a town. As he told it, Oland rightfully got up in his grille and set the record straight.
But just because Mihlar suddenly gets it doesn't mean his colleagues in the Vancouver media do, too.
Mihlar admitted in response to a question from MLA Pat Bell that both he and the Sun weren't always cheerleaders for Prince George and Northern B.C. but he insisted he's on board now and the Sun is busy spreading the word through its B.C. 2035 series of special features that will continue to roll out this year, talking about B.C.'s economic prospects now and over the next 22 years.
In other words, Mihlar was here, along with two Vancouver Sun colleagues, to sell ads to northern companies in these Vancouver Sun supplements by telling northern business leaders what they already know (but what he thinks they want to hear) and how the Vancouver Sun has been converted to the side of sweetness and light.
Mihlar informed the crowd that a group of northern mayors has never come to the Vancouver Sun to be interviewed by the paper's editorial board in the 11 years he's been there, as if it's somehow the fault of this region's political leaders for not getting the word out.
That equation needs to be turned around. How come in Mihlar's 11 years at the Sun has his newspaper only dispatched reporters to Prince George to cover deadly sawmill explosions, the Judge Ramsay trial, the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings, suspected serial killers and the Highway of Tears?
How come the Sun refers to Highway 16 as a "lonely stretch of highway?" How come the Vancouver media perpetuate stereotypes of Prince George as a crime-infested town of unwashed redneck hooligans?
Mihlar even had the gall to suggest Northern B.C. residents should protest in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery like everyone else with a bone to pick.
"We don't have time to protest," a member of the audience angrily texted Citizen publisher Colleen Sparrow, "BECAUSE WE'RE TOO BUSY WORKING!!!"
While the positive press in recent days is appreciated, it's going to take more than a couple of patronizing stories to change the Lower Mainland's view of us yokels up here in the frozen hinterland and it's going to take more than a sales pitch and a pat on the head to convince northerners that Vancouver residents are suddenly educated about the merits of Northern. B.C.