In our previous post the subject concerned what transpires in communities when news sources – traditional or online – are wiped out by corporate fiat. Journalists lose their livelihood, citizens lose their context, and communities are cut loose from their recorded history. But there’s more, and it’s devastating.
It’s not just about losing the stories that others won’t cover – social club luncheons, the doings of smaller community organizations, neighbourhood developments – but the lack of momentum for causes that are as equally important to society than any other big story.
Take poverty for instance. Sure there are the important stories currently gaining attention, like pilot projects for a Basic Income Guarantee, federal housing money for the next decade, a special benefit for children living in poverty. These are vital – not enough, but nevertheless moving the needle in the right direction. But they are news and not necessarily the narratives of those enduring the hunger, loneliness, frustration, isolation and marginalization of poverty itself. These stories usually emerged from community papers or weekly dailies and they were powerful in their effect. Poverty became about people and not just policies or economics. It is such stories that are likely to most effectively change the public mindsets regarding poverty – but only if they are published and told effectively.
Who else will tell the inspiring stories of the groundswell support for the development of urban agriculture, women coming together to consider running for politics, researchers invested in studies of subjects that will ultimately alter our quality of life as communities, or the accounts of those who have endured and triumphed in their lives despite great physical, emotional or mental obstacles, or who have endured the loss of loved ones? And what of the small startup community that, despite overwhelming odds against success, nevertheless band together, women and men of skill, to infuse community with a new sense of businesses opportunities geared more to the needs of the average citizen than the large box stores?
These constitute the historical domain of the smaller publishing houses and every one is a story that needs to be told for the sake of community optimism and economic renewal. They are exactly what citizens say they yearn for, and yet those same citizens want such privileges for free. History, community life, how we travel together as city dwellers, how we treat the land and how we fight the honourable battle against global warming – each of these costs – a lot – and to say we desire great outcomes without making great investments is a misnomer, a fallacy, and ultimately a tragedy to both community and democracy.
Some 69% of respondents in a recent poll published by Earnscliffe expressed a deep concern if the decline of news organizations like newspapers led to less local coverage. That’s not a surprise. The irony is that they don’t want to pay for it – real news or fake news, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s free. This can spell the death knell for communities unless citizens fight for their own context, their own narrative, their own objective news sources.
That’s the essence of it. We have grown used to a brand of citizenship that sees its basic needs taken care of by others – companies, governments, family. But knowledge and how we appropriate it is now ultimately our responsibility as citizens. Spending our money on materialistic abundance while starving our brains, our hearts, our aspirations of contextual knowledge lived out in community life will only lead to the disappearance of history itself and loss of our own personal power. Enlightenment isn’t merely a gift; it is an expense, and right now too many of us don’t feel inclined to pay it.