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I’m going to leave the health and hockey beat for a few minutes and talk about journalism and more specifically, local news. Local news coverage is dying in Canada and you should care.

Canadians read, watch and listen to more news in all its formats than ever before and they can find it more easily than ever. The problem is, few people are willing to pay for it via online subscriptions and the advertiser-supported models generally don’t come close to creating a sustainable revenue stream to support journalism.

So media companies – and I’m not going to apply “old media” and “new media” labels because, honestly, Yahoo! has been around for two decades so, when do they and MSN and Google become traditional vs. new? – cut costs by laying off people, including reporters.

And that means there are fewer different news sources covering city hall, or provincial court, or paying attention to your school board. And that’s when bad things start to happen.

My friends are well familiar with me saying things as I head to work, like, “just another day protecting our democracy.” Yes, I said stuff like that tongue in cheek. And yes, it’s actually true.

Strong local news coverage is the bedrock of democracy and journalism. Reporters in small towns create accountability in the system by reporting on town council and school boards and courts and chambers of commerce.

It’s like that old saying that integrity is what you do when you think no one is watching. It’s a good rule of thumb for assessing someone’s real character – and how much we need local reporting.

If you are comfortable with leaders who are lying and cheating and behaving badly because they think no one is watching, you will love where local reporting is headed right now. When they find out their bad behaviour was actually known? Sputtering indignation.

A collapse in local coverage means no one is there to ask questions about why some streets get paved or plowed and some don’t. Or why some neighbourhoods have French immersion schools pushed upon them when an actual majority of residents don’t want it. Or why someone’s assault case was dismissed in provincial court, or perhaps a local politician facing a DUI while preaching morality at town council. Or why a fat city contract wasn’t tendered and went to a politician’s wife’s company.

Regional stories percolate up from local news and from there in some cases become national news. A fresh water crisis on a native reserve in northern Ontario starts as local news; it only gets to the floor of the House of Commons because someone tells the story. Sexism at a volunteer fire department in rural Newfoundland is local news and then regional and then national.

It happens again and again and again. Big national stories often start as local news. But only if they’re reported.

In the last week or so Postmedia has laid off 90 journalists, Torstar closed the Guelph Mercury daily newspaper, the Nanaimo Daily News is closing, Rogers laid off 200 people . . . and these are on top of more than a decade of convulsions and contraction and closures in the Canadian news media that have reshaped what media is able to cover and how we do our jobs and ultimately, how well we inform the electorate.

I don’t have a brilliant solution but I think about it every day. But there is something you can do, if you care.

Pay for some news. Subscribe to a local news provider. Find a voice you trust and buy a digital subscription, or two. Patronize the advertisers who support local news. Educate yourself on what you’re missing.

We have more information and technology at our fingertips than ever. The barriers to access for people to blog, comment and self-publish are too many to count – Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, WordPress, Blogger . . . There’s lots of noise, lots of uninformed opinion, lots of factually incorrect information and stupid assumptions passed off as information.

Professional, curated, thoughtful outlets – old and new – basically edit the internet and make sense of the noise for you. Find those sources and support them.

Trust me, you’re going to miss them when they’re gone.

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, to raise awareness of the importance of mental health. It’s a worthy cause and one I’ve made a point of learning more about over the last year while trying to address the many shortcomings in my physical well being. We all can learn things.

If you saw a person bleeding profusely on the street in front of your house, you would be concerned and hopefully, you’d try to get them help.

Mental health issues only surface like that in severe cases. Anxiety and depression in a person next to me on the train, for example, are invisible to me. That does not mean they are not painful and debilitating.

Be kind and patient, folks. Lots of people are struggling in ways you can’t see. Curb judgment. Engage with them positively. Listen. Everyone matters. Everyone deserves love. Anyone can make a difference.

I hit a new personal best for my weight this week at the gym. Yay me. But my tendinitis in my left elbow means my aspirations to be a pushup champ are on hold for now.

But we had a great turnout today – Wednesday is dead lift day – and I did a new best there, too. Sure, it’s only about half of what Patrick does – he lifts Volkswagens I think – but he’s not even half my age. I’ll take my feeble progress.

March 2 is my one-year anniversary of trying to get fit. The ATC challenge goes until April 1. And lunch is coming soon.

I like to build manageable goals.

 

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