Thursday, April 26, 2012

News from the Black Holes

I learned a couple of interesting things about my country and its people this week.

The New York Times told me about interesting developments on Fogo Island, a small piece of Newfoundland sitting in the North Atlantic. It is an isolated place, geographically and historically; population 2,700 with little work since the cod fishery collapsed.

Zita Cobb, a local who made a name and money for herself as a corporate executive in the U.S., returned to Fogo and began putting thought and much money into reviving the island. She formed the Shorefast Foundation, which is trying to revitalize the economy with a variety of projects, including art studios and a five-star inn.

From the Muskoka Weekender I learned about one man's inspiring late-life campaign against illiteracy. Clarence Brazier, who died April 15 at age 105, was 93 before he learned to read. When he did, he became a powerful advocate for adult literacy, taking his inspirational message to many, especially young people.

He won several awards for his work, including the Governor-General’s Caring Canadian Award and the Canada Post Literacy Award.

Brazier worked bush and mine jobs in which it was easier to keep secret his inability to read and write. His wife Angela covered for him, writing and reading on his behalf.

Stories like these - which tell us who we are and how we live our lives - are becoming fewer. Outside the major population centres there are expanding black holes from which we hear or read little about people and their lives. News media coverage has shrunk as smaller budgets mean fewer news staff and increased focus on news close by and cheaper to cover. More and more news coverage is of government and politics because it is pretty much spoon-fed news, quick and easy to report.

Thankfully there are some news people around, certainly at the New York Times and Muskoka Weekender, still telling us important stories about people.

Government does not a nation make. Nations are created by people living their lives, and reporting their stories should be a priority of any news organization.

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