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Mourning the golden age of journalism and the magic of random encounters

Tribute: Ward Perrin Before media outlets became boutiques for different brands of thought and billionaires seeking ego affirmation, newsrooms were a place where friendships were born from shared professional purpose, and a gut need to get the story. Katherine Monk looks back on a newsroom shift when the world changed overnight, and a friendship was born from the tatters of the Iron Curtain. By Katherine Monk It’s mourning. In America. Again. I’m not just referring to the most recent mass shootings that left shell casings and broken lives in Nevada, or the broad swath of destruction left by apocalyptic weather patterns in the Midwest. I speak of the profound sense of loss that seems to define the collective psyche right now — not just in America, but everywhere. Take a moment to process the prevailing winds of popular culture. Listen to the lyrics seeking absolute escapism, emotional oblivion and spiritual retribution. Then look at the cankered face of global politics, ...

Small town news captures life at a granular level: rescued animals, obits

On Journalism: Small Town Newspapers, Touring the Kootenays, Part Two From the Arrowlakes News to the Lumby Valley Times, small town papers provide the human mortar that builds communities and keep locals connected. And they need your help, writes Rod Mickleburgh. By Rod Mickleburgh I’M BACK! Just to recap. I recently spent two weeks travelling through BC’s fascinating West Kootenays, in those halcyon days before the election call and the second wave of COVID-19. As I always do when somewhere else, I sought out local newspapers, just as the New York Times’ brilliant media reporter David Carr used to do. It was sad to see how diminished they were. The good news, however, is that they still exist, still employ reporters and continue to serve their communities. Let us return to those thrilling times of yester-month and sample a few of the tasty tidbits I gleaned from the region’s remaining newspapers. I hope you like them as much as I did. What’s for sale at the Lumby ...

Touring small town journalism and finding the Koots

Journalism: The Decline of Local Newspapers Big city papers are nowhere to be found in B.C.'s Kootenays, but you can still find a local weekly with birthday announcements, the lost and found, and reader mail damning CBC Radio for just about anything. By Rod Mickleburgh The first of two parts. (Be be still your beating heart.) I spent two rewarding weeks last month travelling the highways and communities of BC’s historic West Kootenays. As I always do when on the road, I looked for local newspapers to give me a sense of what was happening in the places where my squeaky sneakers touched down. At the same time, I still wanted to keep up with events in the rest of the province. Unfortunately, and I’m not sure I should have been surprised, I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan.  No Sun, no Province, no National Post (yay! oops….), no Globe and Mail. I could not find a single, big-city daily east of the Okanagan.  No Sun, no Province, no National ...

Another Citizen amputates daily editions to survive

Journalism: The Slow Death of Newspapers The Prince George Citizen goes weekly, prompting a  former staffer to remember the days of a $1.49 steak at Mr. Jake’s, the big story of a hotel fire that left him burnt, and the long-gone giddiness of daily newspapering.

Remembering Michael Kesterton: An Oasis of Old-Fashioned Civility

Tribute: Michael Kesterton Though he made his name in journalism with the collection of arcane facts that became the Globe's beloved Social Studies column, Rod Mickleburgh remembers the young, and somewhat awkward, Varsity staffer who shared a quirky sense of humour. By Rod Mickleburgh The unexpected can hit you in the solar plexus. Such was my feeling late December, when I received an email from a former colleague at the Globe and Mail giving me the sad news that the one-of-a-kind Michael Kesterton had died. He was best known to Globe readers as the genius behind the assemblage of arcane facts, news, trivia, miscellanea, humour and occasional bits of string that made up the paper’s beloved daily feature, Social Studies, which ran for 23 years. In the midst of all the superb journalism and writing that filled the Globe in those days when I was on the paper (smile), many readers turned first to Social Studies. A hit from the beginning, his unique creation – Twitter before its ...

The Orillia Packet & Times: A Love Story

Newspaper Obituary: The Orillia Packet & Times They're closing the newspaper where I made my start, and where I learned about journalism. I guess I'm still learning. By Jay Stone (Ottawa, ON -- Nov. 27, 2017) I’ve been in love with several newspapers in my life — journalism tends to be a promiscuous passion — but none more deeply than I was in my first affair with the Orillia Packet & Times. It was the place where I started in the business, and now they’re going to close it down, another victim of Google or smart phones or whatever it is that has driven the wayward press to the fringes of our attention. I went there in 1968 from Toronto, where I was a 22-year-old university dropout driving a cab for a living while I plotted how to become a writer. My father, who brooked no such nonsense, sent me a note — I was living in a hippie house on St. Joseph Street, near Bloor and Yonge, with my longhaired hoodlum friends — saying that he had heard there was an ...

Typewriters, newspapers now retro cool

Column: Mickleburgh An old scribe ventures back to the future on a recent trip to Seattle where old-fashioned print media and analog typing contraptions still have a place and a meaningful, if sentimental, sense of purpose By Rod Mickleburgh Hey, kids! Montreal Expos caps and vinyl aren’t the only hip retro around. Be the first in your group to read a print newspaper. Take time out from your busy online life, relax and turn the pages. Impress your friends. You never know what unexpected treasures of information and features might lurk deep within. As the late, great David Carr (sigh) did during all his visits outside New York, I still peruse the local newspapers whenever I venture beyond Van, man. Here are some print gleanings from a recent weekend baseball venture to Seattle. You, too, can be a newspaper explorer. 1. Let’s start with a joke. You’re probably one of those who think Boise, Idaho is no laughing matter. Well, you’d be wrong. The lede of an enticing ...

A reporter on the run

The Sick Days: Part 20 - Into the Frying Pan When I was a young reporter, there were no “self-help” books about how to manage your workload, ask for support from your employer, or even disclose an illness. By Shelley Page I’d like to torque my personal narrative and claim that I left my ‘dream job’ because I’d had an epiphany: journalism would never be a cure for lupus. Except, I wasn’t that clever. These days, there are many books written for the chronically ill about how to scale back your dreams and still find career success: Despite Lupus, written by a former NBC producer who quit her job to control the constant flares of her illness, which eventually attacked her kidneys, arguably the most serious manifestation of lupus (a stage I didn’t yet have to worry about). The writer encouraged readers to work smart, or in bite-sized chunks, and sometimes not at all. Fabulupus (yes, that’s really the title), is filled with similar advice. When I was a ...

The joy of general assignment lost on next generation

Journal: The Sick Days, Part 19 The Death Knock is among one of the most unpleasant tasks in any newsroom, but the uncomfortable face-to-face with a grief-stricken relative has now been replaced by social media trolling and scalping Tweets By Shelley Page It’s called a “pick up” or a “death knock,” and it’s among the most unpleasant tasks a general assignment reporter on the city desk can draw. The most experienced of our breed can get a grieving mother to unchain her door, make a pot of tea, and unspool woeful stories of her lost love, usually urged on by an invitation to “set the record straight” about son Jimmy the Bank Robber or make sure Little Emily the Heroin Addict isn’t misremembered. The most tenacious of us leave the widow’s home with an entire photo album under our arm so there are no pictures left for media outlets late to the tea party. This is another one of those tasks that journalism school can’t prepare you for. So many years ago, ...

Searching for newspapers and the soul of David Carr

By Rod Mickleburgh The late, great David Carr, media reporter for the New York Times, continued to value newspapers, even as he covered the rapidly-changing online media world that is threatening their existence with free, easily-accessible, short-attention span hits. Carr read two or three papers every morning before heading into work, and whenever he was in a new city, he relished reading the local newspaper. He said it gave him a sense of the buzz and mood of the place that no travel guide or web site provided. I, too, always buy the local paper when I’m travelling. There is never a dearth of stories offering a glimpse of life outside one’s own navel-gazing metropolis (vote ‘Yes’). So it was recently, as I passed through LA’s International Airport and the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. At both terminals, I seemed to be the only person reading a newspaper. The LA Times, a slimmed-down sylph of its former bulky self, cost a buck. The ...