Last week the Westender newspaper announced they were ceasing publication of their print edition. While they will continue to have a web presence, hard copies will no longer find their way to your doorstep or local business.
I still have fond memories of the time in the late 1980s when I began to run ads in local newspapers for my law practice. The Westender was the local community newspaper I went to first. Maurice Goldberg, the ad salesman at the time, was a remarkable fellow. He was in his 70s with no retirement on the horizon and took public transit everywhere. He showed a keen interest in me and my law firm. Selling an ad to me was almost secondary. He truly represented what set local newspapers apart from all other forms of media. The Westender in those days was chock-a-block with interesting articles about local events in the West End, especially art and cultural happenings, as well as municipal politics — all in all, things you would never learn from the big dailies.
What does the demise of the Westender print edition mean? Besides the loss of excellent jobs for some of its personnel, I’m sad to say it also signals another nail in the coffin of community newspapers. For us readers, when these types of smaller, community papers close, it’s a loss not just from a pleasure perspective — the pleasure we gain by reading them.
More importantly, it’s also the loss of some of our understanding of both local culture and local politics along with the ability to keep local politicians accountable. Slowly but surely, we’re losing critical information about our community’s culture along with the bright lights shining into all the nooks and crannies at 12th and Cambie. In the case of the latter, it means we will inevitably end up with much poorer government.
Fingers crossed that the Vancouver Courier and the Georgia Straight remain healthy and vibrant. While they have both shrunk a fair amount over the past few years, they still play a vital role in keeping the fifth estate alive.
On that hopeful note, I want to tell you that this is my last blog for the year. My next one will be in early January. In the meantime, Penny and I wish you and your family the very best of the season and a Happy New Year!