The Spread of Information (Edited)
Lately I’ve been thinking about starting a local newspaper and publishing it on WordPress. I’ve even created an unpublished website for the online paper and have begun developing content. I don’t know yet if this online paper is something our community would benefit from. But if local information can connect communities, I’m willing to try this out – tentatively. The publication would start small, with a narrow regional focus. It would contain no opinion and no rant section, just boring facts. To gauge interest, I’d publish only a few to start, perhaps once a week for one month.
Listen to me read this introduction:
In light of these thoughts, I’m re-posting this edited version of an earlier blog post of mine called The Spread of Information. Here it is.
Listen to me read this post:
I love local newspapers and I’m discouraged that this form of media is dying out. Newspapers have always been a part of my writing life. Perhaps that’s why I understand the important role they play in keeping us connected and in giving us common information based on facts and research. Newspapers held us together and still have that power in a media scape that seems bound to drive us apart.
In the days of my youth, the local paper for a community of 2000 residents served as a connection. We all read it and all of us formed opinions, but we all started out with the same information. We found out who was mayor, who won the hockey game, who was born, and who had died. Residents researched employment opportunities and what was on sale in the local stores. We shared the same references and a common cultural context.
As the Fairview High School press correspondent, I enjoyed writing for the newspaper so, in later years, I became a weekly columnist for the newspaper in Grande Prairie, The Daily Herald Tribune. I contributed to that newspaper until I began a full-time teaching job. My energy and headspace was mostly consumed by that work, and I gave up the weekly column. But soon I began submitting school news, local happenings, and personal narrative pieces to a regional newspaper, and I still do.
Boring facts, the kind found in local newspapers, are what bind us. They give us common ground and root us in a shared perspective. It’s not titillating to discover what bylaws have been passed, who celebrated a 60th wedding anniversary, and which grade won the pumpkin decorating contest. Real information isn’t always real riveting. Mundane facts don’t usually make our blood boil or make us feel righteous or indignant. There is no adrenaline rush to be gained from finding out what time the farmers’ market is and where to get your annual flu shot, but local information is valuable.
Speculation is tastier than dull facts, and there are many sources for gossip these days, many ways to effectively disconnect us from our family and neighbours. To hold us together, we need local information, facts and numbers, to keep us informed and to keep us connected. We need information without emotion and without spin.
How can we encourage the spread of information? Support local news sources and local journalism. Still have a print newspaper? Advertise in it. Submit news items to it. Subscribe to it. This way, you’ll find out what’s happening in your schools, in your municipal government, and with your sports teams and volunteer organizations. Is print news already dead where you live? Resurrect it by creating your own one-page newsletter about community happenings.
Gossip and opinions are exciting, but newspapers and other reliable news sources have the potential to bring us together. This spread of information benefits us all.