Time to say goodbye to the printed page. Again


There I was on page 12. Not me, exactly: I’m talking about my print column that ran last week in the Saint Croix Courier. The piece took up half a page, the other half was advertising. I’m used to seeing my column on the editorial page surrounded by other opinions, but with the reformatting of the newspaper I’ve been shuffled, along with a few others.

A newspaper is many things, among them a published record of news, events, celebrations and opinions. In many ways, the interplay of the information gives us, the readers, a sense of the immediate world around us. Whether it’s big city Canada or small town New Brunswick, I think the printed newspaper has a very important role in the community. Like a book, the newspaper is a tangible record. Evidence that we exist, historically speaking.

The old Courier banner before the redo

Yes, electronic publications are also archived, and preserve history, I suppose. But those ones and zeros are tricky. Unlike a newspaper which is printed once, an online piece can be manipulated at will, updated, edited, rewritten and so on, whenever the copyright-holder chooses. It’s a bit like Photoshopped images. It’s hard to trust what we see. “Is this real or airbrushed?”

All of this is a way of saying goodbye to the print version of this column. I’ve been writing it on an off since 2005, and have been handled by five newspaper editors—Chuck Brown, Jim Cornall, Kent Walker, Vern Faulkner and now Krisi Marples. If you’re reading this, thank you all, you’ve been great. It’s been a good run, but I’m running out of inspiring things to say. Or maybe I feel that there are just too many of us saying too many things at once—with diminishing effect.

I’ve written about some important things. Poverty and inequality here in Charlotte County, New Brunswick. The perils of running a province on resource extraction. The problem with living under the shadow of the Irving elephant. The weakness of our provincial government, and its inability to stand independent of big business interests. And on a larger scale the unsustainability of our present economic system, our addiction to fossil fuels, the risks of monocultural agriculture—including aquaculture, and the seemingly endless resource wars around the world, tacitly supported by our own Canadian government.

I’ve written about Harper and Trudeau and Trump. I’ve invited ‘real men’—business leaders—to drink Monsanto milk, and written about global business is now farming and harvesting human beings. I’ve spoken a lot about climate change, and our inability to collectively do something about it. Along the way I’ve documented some of my own life: family travels, a few challenges, and a lot of personal observations.

There is always more to say, of course. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to talk about exactly. As I said, it’s more about influencing positive change. In the early days of this column I felt that it was possible to draw attention to problems, to provide insight into solutions. I feel less certain about that today. I don’t actually think that anything I say or write will affect any modest change at all. But more personally, I feel I may not be changing enough, either.

I have to admit I’ll miss the discipline that comes from turning out a regular print column with a rigid deadline. Each one takes about 4 hours to write, and I’ve probably written around 500 of them. I started collecting and posting them here on this blog back in 2010, and have over 270 posted. Feel free to check a few of them out. Quite a few of them seem to remain topical.

So, where does that leave me? The little Courier newspaper is not the same. I’m not the same, nor are any of us. The only constant is change. That said, Charlotte County does seem to change at a much slower pace than many other places on the planet—and that is both good and bad.

What would I wish for my local region? One good politician with some backbone would be good. A lot less generational poverty. A lot more job opportunities, and a more robust local economy that relies less on box stores and big business, and more on innovative thinking. And perhaps the rise of a sharing economy where services can be traded instead of bought. Overall, I’d like to see a culture of trust building here. But trust takes time, and more often than not depends on first having financial security.

As for me, I’ll take some time to reflect. And, yes, to keep posting here, even if a little less frequently.   


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