A reporter from the New York Times spent a couple of days in Nelson this week, researching an article about the city.
Dan Levin’s interest in Nelson was first sparked by the history of draft dodgers coming to Nelson in the 70s, but after some research he decided he wanted to “do justice to the town today as a contemporary place, and not just for what it means in the context of 40 years ago.”
He said his interest in why the draft dodgers came here translated to a curiosity about why people come here now.
He read the Star’s recent story on people living all summer in the campground, realized that we have housing issues here, and saw a global issue being played out in Nelson.
“I wanted to see how this town is being buffeted by these kind of external forces, to see how Nelson is dealing with these issues.”
Levin’s presence here is part of a recent New York Times decision to cover Canada for both American and Canadian readers. He is now on the Canadian beat full-time while still living in New York, and there are two other reporters, one living in Ottawa and the other in the US.
“Canada is one of our most important sources of readers outside the United States and we want to serve it better,” he said. “Canada is an important part of our strategy, announced early this year, to build readership around the world. The country is a natural fit for The Times, as it has an educated, reading population with a deep interest in the United States and the world, along with a huge number of fascinating stories that will appeal not just to Canadians but all our readers and viewers.’
Asked “Why Nelson,” Levin replied, “Why not Nelson?”
After having been here for only a few hours, Levin said he was not sure yet what direction his article will take, but “it will be about much more than draft dodgers and weed.”
He had a long list of Nelsonites to interview, from various walks of life.
“Coming to Nelson fulfills my goal of wanting to get out of urban Canada, wanting to see the rest of the vast, stunning, incredibly complex nation.
“It is not just about Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Other parts of Canada tell just as much of the story as the cities do.”
Levin recently spent seven years reporting for the New York Times in China.
“After China, Canada is a literal and figurative breath of fresh air as a reporter. But what is interesting is that China is increasingly a part of the Canadian story especially under Trudeau, so I get to meld these two beats in a way.”
He said the New York Times is not trying to compete with Canadian media.
“We are trying to report on Canada in a way that is relevant and interesting for Canadians but also for the world.
“A lot of Canadian readers have voiced displeasure with what they perceive to be the lack of awareness and understanding of Canada by Americans, so we are hoping to give Americans a deeper perspective on Canada.”
He said Canadian reporting about Canada often assumes the reader knows a lot about Canada.
“There is very little context ever given in articles. Like First Nations issues, if you are an outsider you have no idea what any of this means. Treaty Eight land, what does that mean?”
He said there is a lot of international interest in Canada since the election of the Trudeau Liberals, and he thinks New York Times coverage of the country will be welcomed.
“With Canada re-engaging with the world more than the previous government, there is a lot of interest in seeing how Canada operates politically.”