Opinion Column

The importance of newspapers

By Ryan Stelter, Camrose Canadian

Fans reading the Camrose Canadian at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alta. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian

Fans reading the Camrose Canadian at Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alta. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian

This past weekend I was reminded of the importance of newspapers to communities. In today's day and age, there seems to be a changing of the guard, with more emphasis placed on online content. I know it is important to recognize this, and newspapers will continue to provide local news to cities and towns across the world. Call me old fashioned, but I still like a physical newspaper to read.

 

I know I am young, but my house still had dial up when I was a child, I had all my movies on VHS, and Blockbuster was alive and well in my youth. Social media never crept into my life until I was in middle school, and even then, it was just Facebook, not the hundreds of online profiles kids today seem to have.

To get to my point, I still religiously read the newspaper every day, yes, the actual newspaper. Every morning my mother would hand me the sports section of the Winnipeg Free Press and I gobbled it up along with my Lucky Charms. On Saturdays, when I wasn't rushed off to school, I even attempted to read some of the arts and culture, and the always complicated city and business section. This religious reading of the newspaper helped spurn my passion for reading, and my mediocre writing.

Recently, with the release of "Dunkirk" we were looking through old issues of the Canadian to see if the editorial staff in 1940 wrote anything on the evacuation.

It was in that moment as we were flipping through the pages that I realized I was looking at a moment frozen in time. They indeed have a small blurb on the Dunkirk evacuation and as I skimmed through, I saw some of the ads for food, astonished at how cheap it was, as well as what else was going in Camrose in May of 1940.

There is something so surreal about seeing the news that made headlines some 70 odd years ago. Not quite the same as scrolling through the Canadian archives online.

Newspapers offer a unique perspective into history, they are physical artifacts of historical events. The paper you're looking at is however old that article is, you can also see the style of language they used back then. You're reading and holding the same thing someone did long before you, which is amazing to me, but that could be my history buff coming out.

Reading an article from the Cold War can somehow transport you back into time, as if you were living then and worrying about what crazy thing the Russians were going to do next. I know many parents keep the front page of the newspaper on the day their child was born. It's a memento to keep and cherish and see what was happening in the world the very day you came into being.

When I was at the Camrose Centennial Museum this past weekend, I of course took a gander in the old Canadian office. Plastered over the walls are old articles from the Canadian, which fascinated me to no end, and also made me feel a jolt of pride, knowing I was working for such a storied establishment. It's newspapers like this one that really make it cool, the lifeblood of any smaller community, and it's cool to be a part of.

As an aspiring journalist, there is also something about seeing your name associated with a newspaper. I remember when I wrote my first article for the Manitoban, the student newspaper at the University of Manitoba, I grabbed a fresh copy off the stands and opened it to the sports section. Now it may not be the Free Press from back in my early days, but there was that excitement. There was my name, for the whole six people who would maybe read it. It was a preview on the Women's World Cup being held that summer, by the way. I had that article framed, and I'll probably have my first article from the Canadian framed.

All of a sudden, I was separated from the millions of voices that can be heard on the internet. I could say I was, "Ryan Stelter, from the Manitoban or from the Canadian." My voice holds some sort of clout, and even though it was online where my thoughts and words can be found amongst a mass of other bloggers, my name comes with a byline attached to it.

Despite having that byline, there is just something about having your name appear in print that feels so much more satisfying than I ever thought it was going it be.

This all seems like a romantic view on newspapers, but I know a lot of people probably feel the same way. Just not that many in my age category. I know the medium of news is changing, and for the better, but newspapers themselves will always find a way to live on.

 

rstelter@postmedia.com

 



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