Part of that ritual includes a trip to the mailbox beside our front door to collect the paper. I know newspaper subscriptions aren't on my generation's priority list, but in an age when information comes at us faster and in greater volume than ever, the morning paper represents a trusted, repeatable means of putting that torrent into its proper perspective
Newspapers are no longer the first or sole deliverers of major breaking news. That's now become the domain of the cable news channels. But beyond a 15-minute news delivery cycle that tells you what's going on Right Now, accelerated delivery does little to build any sort of context for what you're seeing. If I want to understand what that news means, and how it all fits together, nothing approaches the power of a newspaper. The fact that I can pull it out of my mailbox before the sun rises and spend some quiet time absorbing it over breakfast is the icing on the media cake
London, like most fairly large cities in this day and age, is home to one daily paper. The days of two or more dailies are history in most centres. Ours is called the London Free Press, and it's owned by Quebecor's Sun Media.
The thing that irks me about it is the snideness with which it is viewed by visitors to our city. Typical comments include "It's so small-town," "It reminds me of a local paper," "I read it in six minutes flat," "Any thinner and I'd be able to see through it."
Never mind that I write for this paper. Most folks who insult the paper do so to my face, or they forget to whisper quietly enough when they're across the room. Rest assured, I hear you, and it bugs the fecal matter out of me.
My initial response is always a hot flush of frustration beneath my cheeks. I can feel my skin get red as my brain races to assemble some witty phrases to spit back at the media mavens in my midst. I never say anything, of course, because I'd only come across as rude and partisan in the process.
To put my thoughts in perspective, I'm not writing this as an unabashed cheerleader for the paper for which I am a columnist (though, to be fair, I love reading the paper for which I write…anyone who publishes will likely understand the curious mixture of pride and accomplishment associated with being a part of a major media vehicle.) Rather, it is the complete lack of understanding of how newspapers work, and the willingness with which the entire product is dismissed, that eats away at my journalistic soul. Someone who has likely never written so much as a letter to the editor feels eminently qualified to pass final judgment on a paper in a city which he/she does not call home. Everyone make way for our next journalism school professor, shall we?
My perspective is this: London is a city of some 350,000 people. The hinterland likely drives that figure above a half-million. It is an incredibly diverse population whose occupations span a wider range than you'd likely ever find in the corridors of a downtown megalopolis. We don't have countless millions of people here, and we may not be the je ne sais quoi of urban chic and leading edge. But a centre's relative size has little to do with the relevance of its media to the people who live there – something that's often lost on people who don't live here.
This particular paper is staffed – and freelanced – by some of the most gifted writers with whom I've ever worked. From a personal perspective, what I write here I likely wouldn't be able to write anywhere else. I draw from a deep well of human-focused topic areas that don't exist in the same manner outside of this region. It's a special place for a writer like me, and I'll never run out of great things to write because I'm surrounded by similarly great people and communities.
People here still care passionately about their neighborhoods. They're far more willing and able to step forward when they're not happy with the way things are. The degree of citizen participation in civic politics, media, and community organizations exceeds anything I ever witnessed in the big city where I was born. And it drives my writing in ways I could have never imagined before coming here.
So the next time someone feels compelled to comment on how my paper – "my" referring to the fact that I am a subscriber, I am a Londoner, I am a writer, and I am passionately involved in making both my medium and my community better through my writing – falls short of the lofty standards set by those in larger cities, I hope they consider the true depth of their error before they dig their feet any deeper down their esophageal tract.
I've always tried to follow the mantra of choosing to be part of the solution. If said cosmo-media-commentators are so compelled to dismiss our paper as small-town, they're always welcome to pick up a pen and try their hand at contributing.
In doing so, they may learn something profound about how lucky we are to be part of a medium that so richly contributes to the life of its community. They may never look at this paper – or indeed, any paper – the same way again.