The Simple Raven’s Post.
I think that community Newspapers are important and that expressing opinions in them is vital. This is what is meant by saying Grassroots. It is the base of Democracy. If you follow the Mass Media, you see huge numbers of people bunched together made to look like one unit. I remember hearing someone on the CBC stating that Southern Alberta is the Wildrose bastion. Yet when you read individual little town papers, you see that many people in southern Alberta are not supporting the political Right for very explicit reasons. It is not in their best interest.
Last week I was having tea with a friend at Stone Throws Cafe and entered a conversation with two intelligent looking local teen girls less than a third my age. Most people would say, kids, and expect them to talk about hair and makeup. Not these two. One of them told me that she is going to spend this summer doing an internship at Premier Notley’s office. That is the Premier of our Province! Here we have a situation where none of our local politicians are able to get any attention from the Provincial Government, since we are viewed as a bastion of the right, by a government that is slightly on the Left, and this teenage girl is going to be chatting with the premier every day. How much would the rich lobbyists pay for an opportunity like that?
Years ago before the internet, I wanted to know about the community my wife comes from, which is situated seven hours north of Calgary. I subscribed to the local paper, Smoky River News, and kept the subscription up for some years. Eventually, I was getting the paper in the mail but rarely read any of it, and I stopped. They had news about kids baseball games and High School Grads, talked about local businesses and honey production, but there was no content that was interesting to read. The events were too ordinary for this century. People like to know about community happenings but seek information about how the community fits into the big picture. A paper that is truly non-political is like a dish that got all the major food groups but cooked without spices, salt and pepper.
A community newspaper is an asset, but it faces a challenge. The job is to report, accurately at all times, local news that interests the community. Unfortunately, a lot of little communities don’t have much news. The advertisers pay for the operation since the people in the community assumingly read the paper… Stop the press… here is a problem. If the paper is not interesting, it starts competing with advertising pamphlets and brochures, and it is going to lose. The local paper doesn’t have the resources that the big marketing firms do. Brochures have more pictures, better color and expensive paper. The only edge of a local newspaper is that people read it for local news and often to get a glimpse of what others in the community think. All people in our community are not extreme right unquestioning sheep, they have their own beliefs and look for expression in the community newspaper. Since I have been writing this column, I have been getting a lot of comments, and all but one were complimentary.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, many little communities don’t have much news, to report and Council meetings are often not interesting enough to many residents. People want to know what is happening in their community but expect more than just that. The expectation is that the Paper will report and the columnists will offer opinions. Controversy can be good if it stimulates discussion.
Years ago, when I was looking for a place to eventually retire to, I noted that the Crowsnest Pass had two local papers. I met an old guy who was driving a green SUV with the word “Press” on it and inquired about his function. He was such a professional Reporter that I placed a check mark by Blairmore as a potential place to spend my later years at. The Pass was a place that had a tradition of free thinking and rebellion in its blood, and old Buddy proudly pointed it out. I went to the Frank Slide Interpretive Center and saw an old movie highlighting the women of the Pass singing, “I will stand right beside you,” on a picket line. I moved to the Pass. This was a community that historically rebelled if things went wrong. It was like moving amongst my people.
When I was here to stay, I assumed that the population would be engaged in local affairs. I talked with neighbors and others and discovered that it was no longer the case. My neighbor said, ”we don’t get the local papers since there is nothing there.” If there is an issue, we buy the paper but not otherwise. What about your political affiliations I asked, and he answered, we are Conservative like all Southern Albertans and there is no-one questioning it. Humm… The town that broke prohibition, that harbored Tim Buck and had strikes that shook the nation became uninterested in politics? I wonder.
Now I am witnessing a unique phenomenon. Some of the people who remember the long and painful struggle of mine workers to feed their families are still around. The people who sang, “I am the working man I am, and I been there underground,” are passing a rich tradition to the new people, the millennials, and the young ones are ready and willing to take the torch. Girls with their cell phones are taking the tradition of fighting for the middle class, and the word is spreading through the Social Media and Community Papers, like this one. We have what Calgary and Edmonton don’t, an independent Newspaper that supports real journalism. Thanks, Buddy. Your portrait should be hanging in the Civic Hall.