Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014: Gazette Vaudreuil-Soulanges published what would be its last print edition. Three days later, Louise and I left on a month-long jaunt through India and Bhutan where we could recalibrate our perspectives on life.
Putting out a weekly newspaper is feeling one’s life ticking away in one-week increments. Time is in short supply; the stress of deadline is relentless and addictive. Three weeks after my July 2012 heart attack I was back to working six-day weeks and 14-hour days. Louise and I continued publishing until we couldn’t. I won’t get into the whys and wherefores, but I will say this: we saw the Gazette as our community’s independent arbiter, witness and mirror, a 63- year voice of reason and passion, a journal of record, a soapbox for all. Like the hundreds of readers who continue to express their dismay, we mourn its passing.
Thanks to all for your interest and concern, especially those who don’t begin a conversation with “where’s my paper?” The Gazette was privately held; nobody is owed an explanation as to why it ceased publication. We’re not alone. Traditional media are closing or cutting across Canada, victims of mergers, skyrocketing expenses and the flight of advertising to the web. Why else would the Toronto Star buy La Presse’s successful tabloid platform? Daily print will continue its disappearing act, replaced by fat, expensive weekend papers and free web access. The Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette, along with dozens of others, are pulling down their internet paywalls in the rush to attract eyeball traffic to their sites.
What next? We spent a year pondering just that. Restoration of the 175-year building at 397 Main is almost finished, thanks to Louise’s vision, energy and sense of design. We’ll be hearing more in coming days.
Like many of you, my interests have widened. So I’m launching a couple of sites. The first, http://www.thousandlashes.ca, is a tribute to Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian human rights activist sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a fine of close to C$300,000 for insulting Islam. The Saudis are under international pressure to commute what amounts to his death sentence but thanks to mixed signals from their presumed allies in the war on Islamic extremism, they clearly feel justified in maintaining their position. This week an Amnesty International source told me Badawi has lately been moved to a remote prison inaccessible to his supporters. Out of sight, out of mind, not just in Saudi Arabia, but in states around the planet. Our silence on rights issues is tacit approval, even complicity.
Ditto the environment. When will humankind get it that we’re all in this together? COP21 has made carbon the villain in a real-time climate change cliffhanger but unless we see how we’re playing in supporting roles it’s inevitable we’ll change channels. Out of sight, out of mind.
The second picks up where the Gazette left off. http://www.jimduff.ca is my soapbox and yours for local issues. I’ve already posted my first rant.
So feel free to visit early and often. Feel free to comment or post, either here or on my Facebook page.