In a recent column, her last, Montreal Gazette city editor Peggy Curran announced that she was leaving the paper. After 36 years she felt it was time to call it quits. She is going to spend some time looking at the world from a yellow kayak, once things thaw I assume. Although I have only met her on a few occasions, Ms Curran lives in my neighbourhood. In addition my brother taught her when she was in high school. But enough for disclosure.
Ms Curran is a second generation newspaper person, her father was a longtime Gazette sports reporter, spending many years covering the Montreal Canadiens during some of their most glorious days.
Newspapers, like department stores and railways, used to be hirers. Takers-on of talented dedicated young minds. They ran in the family, or perhaps families ran in them. Ink flowed in veins as the old saying went. They were newspaper people, they understood deadlines and honed their writing skills to provide concise, accurate reports under pressure. Reports that brought all the pertinent information to readers and left out fluff. Of course given time they could also create more elegant prose.
Gazette editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher AKA Aislin sums up Ms Curran’s departure in his Facebook posting.
Now we have the Internet and freelance journalists; many of whom are in fact real journalists, but I fear many more deem themselves journalists because they push out a blog. Newspapers can pick up their work on a piecemeal basis and not have to hire them and pay salaries, benefits, etc. But they are not necessarily local, they can write from anywhere in the world. Much like a radio morning show, what makes newspapers special is the local flavor.
It’s great to read syndicated columnists, I enjoy Dave Barry’s humor and Gwynne Dyer’s take on world hotspots, but newspapers’ bread and butter is, or at least was, readers’ backyards. Events in my world. Good bad or otherwise that’s why I subscribe to a local newspaper. But will we lose this important quality as papers everywhere scale back and go online? Will Ms Curran be one of the last Montreal “city” journalists?
As Mr. Mosher alludes to, newspapers used to have heart, they played vital roles in communities. Not only did papers bring news to readers, but they provided employment for many, from delivery kids to pressmen, journalists and photographers. These people often stayed through until retirement. Sadly I fear those days are just about gone.
For now let me wish Ms. Curran the very best of luck in here future endeavors. And a big thank you!