The death of small town news
Jane can correct me but I think it was the birth of her daughter Paige Phillips that created an opening for a copywriter at CFOS in Owen Sound. Jane went on mat leave, I took the temporary job that ended up lasting nearly 30 years, and counting.
Prior to that, I had put my hopes in being a reporter for a new weekly newspaper in Owen Sound. I’d just quit a job as editor of of a monthly art and collectibles publication and the man heading the new paper had a pretty impressive career in journalism.
It never got off the ground.
Had it hit the streets, even for a few months or so, my career may have been dramatically different. Reminds me of Archibald “Moonlight/Doc” Graham from Field of Dreams. Never got to bat in the major leagues and quit baseball to become a doctor. When Ray Kinsella suggests it was a tragedy that young Archie was five minutes away from his dream, the older Doc says, “If I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.”
Had that paper launched, I may never have become Johnny Maraca.
And, I could be like hundreds of medium and small-town newspaper employees left unemployed after this happened.
As Dave Bidini wrote in this excellent piece, “This is also the kind of writing that holds polluters and developers accountable in small towns. In large swatches, it is no more.”
We can’t be Cher and turn back time. We can’t un-invent the internet, Facebook or Twitter. And yes, truth be told, you would not be reading this without access to social media.
But a part of me died this week after the closing of all those small-town publications, including Barrie, Collingwood and Orillia. Yes, we read our news online and few of us would agree to pay even less than we gave to our paperboys 30 or 40 years ago to keep the print versions alive. News has become Netflixed. Pay a small monthly fee, or nothing.
For the record, I do subscribe to The Washington Post. The journalism grad in me is willing to pay (a very low international fee) to read one of the world’s great newspapers. They brought Nixon down.
And, as I sympathize with those jobless writers, editors and everyone else who took pride in providing local news, I’m also betting the executives at Torstar and Post Media are still dining at Toronto’s finest restaurants and paying more for their annual country club memberships that many of their former employees earned during the past year.
Yeah, downsizing. Restructuring. Go fuck yourselves, you soulless, heartless pricks.