On my desk and shelves, in my home office and in my office on Parliament Hill are some objects that have a certain amount of significance in my life but which are otherwise useless. It is not like I need more ornamentation or decorations after all. Each one though has a story attached to it, a memory and/or a person of significance. With your permission I would like to glance over my desk for the next few days and tell you some stories about what you can see there.
I subscribe to two daily newspapers and usually read a couple more online. I like to know what is going on in the world and find that newspapers provide the best analysis of the various news options. (Feel free to argue with me on that one, I’m feeling feisty today.)
In this electronic age I still prefer the feel of newsprint, finding it so much easier to move from section to section of a physical newspaper rather than scrolling down a computer screen. I suppose I could be a little prejudiced – I used to work for a daily newspaper so I have an idea of what goes into creating what my editor used to refer to as a “daily miracle.” Humans are tactile though, so perhaps what I am saying makes sense. That may be why I also prefer to read books on paper as opposed to my tablet.
I have a newspaper on my desk, a small Plexiglas reproduction of the front page of The National Post from October 27, 1988. That was the first day the paper published, and those of us who were subscribers received the desk ornament as a thank you.
The National Post was Canada’s second national daily newspaper, the first one being The Globe and Mail. The Post was the brainchild of media mogul Conrad Black, who spent millions getting the paper established, hiring some of the top journalists in the country. It was in many ways a vanity project, far more a public service than a money maker. It was a fresh voice and exciting to read. It felt youthful and brash, while the Globe had an aura of establishment respectability about it.
Unfortunately the excitement didn’t last, for me anyway. The original idea for The Post was that it would be completely separate from Black’s other newspapers (except I think being printed on the same presses). That didn’t last though as the financial losses continued. Content from those other papers began to appear, layoffs started to happen and Black sold the paper (and the rest of his newspaper holdings). I don’t remember the timeline, so I can’t say which happened first. I do know the chain (and The Post) has changed hands a couple of times since then. Newspapers today don’t have a terribly bright future. They probably didn’t in 1988 either, except to those of us who are naturally optimistic.
I don’t subscribe to The National Post anymore, though I do read it on occasion. I still find that there is too much overlap in content with The Ottawa Citizen for me to be willing to pay for a subscription.
I suspect the daily newspaper as I love it, on paper, will soon be a relic of the past. Technological changes have impacted many industries. It strikes me that newspapers sabotaged themselves when they made their content available online for free. Now they are setting up paywalls, but it may be too late. And certainly the industry has downsized to the point that many people will question why anyone should care. Citizen journalism is all the rage (and there is so much wrong with a lot of that concept, but I will save that rant for another day).
The Plexiglas copy of The National Post sitting on my desk is a reminder of a highlight in Canadian journalism. It has been pretty much all downhill from there.