In defence of local media.

It came as a surprise the other evening to learn that for the past two years, NDP activist Gerry Caplan has also been a resident of Barrie, Ontario. He had been invited to participate on a panel of mourners for the late, and frankly unlamented, Barrie Examiner newspaper. By the time Torstar wrote fini on the Examiner saga, it had been through more hands than a Dunlop Street hooker on a busy night.

I congratulated Dr. Caplan later for bringing a bit of humour to the discussion. I was less than pleased with the performance of the moderator Robyn Doolittle, a working journalist from the Toronto Globe and Mail. She offered clear evidence that she had no idea of what a community might be or how you hold it together.

The other two panelists were walking wounded from the demise of the late community newspapers in Barrie and Orillia. One was the former editor from the venerable Orillia Packet and Times and is obviously struggling with his new career as a reporter for an Internet-only newspaper.

As a one-time managing editor, I could have easily told them the realities of Torstar killing the Examiner and keeping its weekly grocery flyer wrap called the Barrie Advance. The editorial content of the Advance is only there as a form of bilge balancing but it is the only print media in a city of over 140,000.

Regrettably Barrie is not a community in itself. As a Barrie matron explained to us when we came here, you have to have three generations in a local cemetery before you can say you are from Barrie. It is a city of 30,000 with 110,000 interlopers who just live here. It is the fastest growing city in Canada. City council tries to please the 30,000 real Barriites and ignores the rest of us.

I tend to look at Barrie as a challenge in communication. As a former political activist, I look at the problem of reaching people in two electoral districts that split the city in half and add rigidly conservative rural areas to each half. The federal conservatives gerrymandered it that way to keep the area voting conservative. The local liberals had no clue they were being shafted.

While I found the panel discussion interesting, the lack of understanding of how to pull the community together was the panel’s problem. Nothing accomplished; we went home.

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Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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