Wednesday, June 7, 2023

November is Lucky 13 For This Newspaper

The month of November is upon us, and this month is always a special month in the Meaford Independent office as it is our anniversary, and this year we are celebrating lucky 13.

On November 10, 2009, The Meaford Independent was launched. First as an online only newspaper, and then a few years later we expanded to include our weekly print newspaper.

When this newspaper launched 13 years ago, Francis Richardson was Meaford’s mayor, Larry Miller was our Member of Parliament, and ‘Wild’ Bill Murdoch was our representative at Queen’s Park.

The recent municipal election was the third since this newspaper was born, and though the faces around the council horseshoe have changed over the years, one member of council, Harley Greenfield, was a member of council before this newspaper was born, and he will continue to be a member of council for at least the next four years.

Our newly elected mayor, Ross Kentner was still on the radio when this newspaper got off the ground, and he was always supportive of our little newspaper. When we opened our first office, a little hole in the wall on Boucher Street, Kentner attended the official opening and spoke some kind words about the work we had done to that point in building this community newspaper. I would never have imagined as we were cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of our first office, that the Owen Sound radio guy would one day become our mayor.

During the first year of this newspaper’s existence in late 2009 and early 2010, one of the hot button issues was wind turbines. Many feared wind turbines being erected in our rural areas, and meetings were held to raise awareness, placards were held high, and ultimately after months of lobbying council, this municipality declared itself an unwilling host for wind turbines.

A year later the issue outraging the community was a proposed trash incinerator that would burn our garbage in order to generate electricity. The proposed facility was to have been constructed on the same municipally-owned land that houses our roads crew and council chamber, with residential neighbours on all sides.

All of these years later many in this community are fearful of a hydro-electric pumped storage facility being constructed on our local military base. No matter the time in history, there are always issues, there are always fears, there is always something for us to gripe about, though it is interesting, to me at least, that over the 13 years since this newspaper launched, the issues that seem to most agitate residents have been related to the generation of electricity. Wind turbines, a trash incinerator, and now a pumped storage facility.

One major difference I have noticed between our early days and the past couple of years is that people were generally nicer in 2009 than they are today. A dozen years ago people would become outraged over issues of course, but they typically avoided dabbling in intimidation, and threats were extremely rare. These days however, when some folks are outraged they lash out, they call names, they make baseless accusations, and they can even toss out a threat or two, subtle or otherwise simply because they don’t like your position on an issue.

We can blame the pandemic of course, but we had been becoming gradually nastier as a society before the pandemic struck, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the movement of nastiness and entitlement, and raised it to a new level.

Issues and outrage aside, over the 13 years since this newspaper launched there has been much to celebrate from annual events like the Scarecrow Invasion and the Santa Claus parade, to the long awaited opening of the new library, to the establishment of the LGBTQ+ and Indigenous crosswalks.

There might always be issues to gripe about, but there are also always many things to celebrate.

For any community newspaper people are the driving force. Sharing the stories of this community for the past 13 years has been an honour.

I often think of sitting in a living room of someone’s home more than five years ago, interviewing a couple of wonderful ladies who were celebrating their former jobs, or more specifically the people they worked with. The women had been switchboard operators for Bell Canada, a position that no longer exists. Since losing their jobs to technology in 1966, for the next 50 years the women I interviewed in 2016 had gathered each year with their former coworkers to catch up and reminisce.

For me it was fascinating to listen to these women talk about the jobs they loved and lost four years before I was born. They had fun stories to tell, and it was a joy to share their story, as it is to share so many stories.

To our readers I’d like to offer thanks for supporting this little newspaper for the past 13 years, and with any luck we will have 13 more years to share the stories of this community.

I would also like to thank the folks most intimately involved in helping to make this newspaper what it is. Our Publisher, Susanne Wussow, my partner in the newspaper, is a workhorse who puts up with me, and manages the business that is our newspaper. Earl Helland, Susanne’s husband, who is always helping out whether by driving to Mississauga each week to pick up our newspapers from the printer, to creating Scarecrow Invasion displays, Earl is always ready and willing to help out. Katharine Peat, our advertising salesperson, works hard to bring in the revenue that supports this paper. Sorche Paterson is a young aspiring writer who has been helping out in our office for the past couple of years. And Helen Solmes, our freelance community news reporter: Helen has a fantastic touch when it comes to community news, and I certainly appreciate having her on the team to cover interesting stories in this community. Karen Gibson, our graphic design and print paper layout person, who takes all of what I send her each week and turns it into a fantastic print newspaper. Bob Jerome, who delivers the papers to store locations every week. I am no doubt forgetting some folks, but all who contribute to making this newspaper work are very much appreciated.

We are a small but mighty team, and our passion is sharing the stories of this community, along with bringing important information to our readers.

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