Opinion: A New Beginning

Grahame Woods
Grahame Woods

And then it was gone. Just like that. In some spacious boardroom in one of Toronto’s claustrophobic towers, with the stroke of a few pens by some anonymous business people, no doubt followed by toasts with their beverage of choice, Northumberland Today, reduced to a few pages of legalese, was killed by people in suits from the Toronto Star and Postmedia, a newspaper itself on life support. As those pens scrawled across the contract, the history of Cobourg newspapers from as far back as 1831 was wiped out. In those few seconds, employees of Northumberland Today were cruelly and without any consideration tossed out onto the street. No job. No income. As the suits, without a care, raised their glasses. After all, nothing must get in the way of big business.

With the paper’s demise went The Passing Scene, a column that I had been writing for 15 years, first for the Cobourg Star and then for Northumberland Today. I wasn’t on staff but, instead, an itinerant scribe who, over the years, has written for several Northumberland newspapers, starting in 1979 with the no-longer-with-us Warkworth Journal. Ironically, just last year I wrote a column celebrating those 15 years, recalling how, during  a casual meeting with then editor Mandy Martin, I suggested the idea of a bi-weekly column observing the local passing scene. Some 350-plus iterations later it was all over with the receipt of an ‘Did you hear about ..?’ email from a friend.

Over the years I have written about Cobourg and the Northumberland County scene; about personal experiences and observations not necessarily related to local life but, hopefully, interesting to readers. From time to time I’ve commented on the various Cobourg councils, their actions and responses to the town’s business, an important part of journalism, but not always generating a positive response from the elected officials. I’ve celebrated the lives of members of our community, of those no longer with us and their contribution to our town, as well as celebrating my country 60 years after I stepped ashore at Quebec City. I’ve observed how Cobourg is a feel-good town for foraging crows and how I’m a klutz when it comes to things high-tech – like computers – and Cobourg Council not wanting a citizen’s question period at the end of council meetings. Now, there’s an issue for the candidates in the up-coming election. Oh, and my life as newspaper junkie.

But, with the demise of Northumberland Today, that junkie has been going through withdrawal – which finds me now writing for John Draper’s Blog, a brand new medium for this non-techie which, at my stage of life, is an exciting new prospect. Who says you can’t teach an old guy new tricks? In the meantime, with Cobourg’s east pier in a shocking state of disrepair and an undetermined future, what a wonderful opportunity for the departing Council to leave a lasting legacy. More about that later …..   

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Walter L. Luedtke

Welcome indeed Mr. Woods.
Back in the day I too did some scribbling for ‘The Star’ when it was owned by public spirited citizens like Foster Meharry Russell who thought of himself as a ‘Community Publisher’. Dr. Johnson, his successor, was cast from the same mold.
Alas, the ‘suits’ who took over are hard-nosed bottom line folks and community does not mean a thing.
I am certain that a good community newspaper is as essential to Cobourg’s cultural quality of life as the library, the Art Gallery, Victoria Hall etc.
Even more so, staffed with professional journalists, such a paper is vital to the’peace, order and good government’ of Cobourg as are the Fire and Police Departments.
When the private sphere fails to deliver, the public sphere should step in.
If there is any possibility of reviving ‘The Star’, there should be a generous public subsidy to help the paper back on its feet.
BTW Foster Russell’s autobiography is available on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.ca/FOSTER-MEHARRY-RUSSELL-Community-Publisher/dp/B000R2NRTW

Dubious

Far better “hard-nosed bottom line folks” than those beholden to the politicians of the day. What is the point of paying even more for regurgitated fake news from politicians? We already get enough of that from tax payer funded radio and TV adverts.

Wally Keeler

I have the same volume. I was a stringer for Foster in the late 60s. He was sole proprietor of the Cobourg Sentinal Star. I was in his office at the time he won the Parrish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism, the only Canuck to win that prize. I really appreciated his dictatorial ways. One mistake — you’re fired. No severance pay. Get out. He had no respect for the old fogey busy-body tut-tuts chronically moaning and groaning about users of Victoria Park, especially about the hippies, outrageous skinny-dipping, blah-blah-blah. He thumbed his nose loudly at such grumpy geriatrics, and did so with impunity. I liked that. He took all the risk. The same with Dr Johnson, converting from lino to offset. These men were a profound influence on young man. It’s a great and informative book to have. It would be beneficial to many of the city immigrants to Cobourg, especially members of the CTA, to learn something in depth about the history of this Town.

Dubious

Are you active in the Cobourg and District Historical Society (https://cdhs.ca/)? Just curious regarding the depth of your interest in the actual history of Cobourg rather than stories of skinny dipping and other illegal activities in your youth.

Wally Keeler

I lived it all, right here in this community. More than I can say for you. You have no stories about this community worth sharing.

Tim

Wally’s memories of teenagers in the sixties enjoying Victoria Park and our great lake are as relevant to the history of this town as any contribution by the Cobourg and District Historical Society that spents much of its time discussing topics like the American Summer Colony or the Cobourg-Rochester ferry, which have already been well-documented. If part of your mission is to encourage the preservation of historical, archaeological and architectural heritage you should be taking notes instead of undermining his personal account of historical events.

Rusty Brown

I do agree. I lived the same history starting on Albert Street behind the town hall back when George VI was king and Truman was president. I remember the Pav at the park and the American tourists and Shriners coming here by ferry, Hod Pierce as Police Chief and old black steam engines up and down Spring St. at all hours, blocking our path to Central School sometimes. We who lived it have a different and special perception of the real history of this place and deserve to get our recollections on record as well as anyone.

What'sUpDoc

Welcome back Grahame! Now that Northumberland Today has closed down, those of us who advertised our Events, many non-profit, have lost the paper’s free advertising, along with their window space where posters could be posted. Metro has also removed their board. To all the merchants along King Street and Division who help us bring fun stuff to the attention of passersby, a BIG THANK YOU!

Tom Holden

Glad to see your voice appearing on John’s public service platform. Your NT column was always an enjoyable read.

gerinator

Ditto Tom. Oh and if you Grahame get sufficiently ‘tech’d up’ you might want to consider a complementary blog of your own. Maybe – Blog From the Woods or Out of the Woods. Thoughts?

Bill Prawecki

It would be great to see all the news for Northumberland in one place and not have to go to a number of blogs …..

gerinator

Somewhat agree but then you might get a narrow slice of opinions.

Rusty Brown

Alvin Toffler predicted it years ago in “Future Shock”: thousands of communications channels serving special interests instead of “one size fits all” news. It’s just more unintended consequences of our new technologies.

gailr97

Great news , Grahame. And thank you to John for adding you to the roster.

Ken

Welcome back Grahame! It was always your article in the Northumberland Today ‘rag’, that I enjoyed reading the most. I can now look forward to more of your thoughts, here, on John’s blog! Please keep up the great work!
Cheers!

Cycling citizen

Love JD’s blog which I read daily.

Jennifer

Sensitive and so “bang on” observations about the “business decisions” that led to the demise of newspapers. I look fwd to reading Grahame’s commentaries in John’s blogs.

Rusty Brown

But business is not a charity. It fills a need such that people support it with their dollars or it dies. With the interned and blogs, newspapers become obsolete and must disappear to free up resources for other uses. They cannot and must not linger on as subsidised charities with no other purpose than to keep people employed and downtowns viable.

Tim

It’s wonderful that you’ll be writing a regular column for this blog and I look forward to reading it. Your description of the demise of Northumberland Today by people who cared nothing for our history, our community and the journalists who worked so hard to keep us informed was very well written and only proves that everything we value and everything worth valuing can be brushed away in an instant. We owe so much to John Draper and Pete Fisher for continuing to work tirelessly to keep us up to date with the news. I don’t think most people realize just how unusual and special their dedication is. Of course the Cobourg Council doesn’t want a citizens’ question period after their meetings – they would have to justify their actions and that would not be easy. We voted them in and we pay them, which is something they’d sooner forget since they don’t always vote in the interest of the people of Cobourg any more than the suits you described had our interests at heart when they signed our newspaper into oblivion. The Cobourg Council should realize that the people of Cobourg are their employers, not the other way around.… Read more »

Bill Thompson

Welcome Grahame .
Great to see that your Opinion column will be a regular item