With this issue of the NG Times, we begin our tenth year as a local community newspaper. That means that we’ve finished nine years already, more than 450 Editorials, hundreds and hundreds of articles, news items, Letters to the Editor, community events and reports, and so much more. That’s really mind-blowing, especially for those of us who remember how it was at the beginning. In fact, though, the beginning was really even further back than that. Before the Times, there was the Community Newsletter, that little monthly publication that started in 2004 and stirred up such interesting feelings in so many people, pro and con.
But, in November, 2012, the weekly version appeared for the first time, and the very first Editorial laid out the template for the future:
“During the life of the Newsletter, we learned that the people of North Grenville want to know what’s happening in and to their community. They want a newspaper that will tell them the facts, straight and plain. There is room in the Times for reporting, for opinion, for analysis, for information, for news and for fun. You don’t have to agree with everything you read in these pages: it has to reflect so many aspects of North Grenville life that it will be impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. But that is the great potential of a local and independent voice: you can join in. If you don’t like something: write about it. If you love something, if you want to publicise something, write about it. You will be published because you are part of this community and deserve to be heard. We have no party political bias. We want to see all shades of opinion free to speak through these pages, and leave it to the people of this community to make up their own minds.”
I hope that, after nine years, we have kept true to that idea for this paper. From the beginning, Maggie and I wanted the Times to be more than words, more than just a straight reporting of information, places and dates. And, thanks to a great staff, and this community which is always so eager to be involved, to have their say, to argue and discuss, the Times has never been short of content, or, I hope, soul. There have been so many major events, social and political changes, since 2012, it can be hard to remember what life was like then. It has been, as someone once said, a long and winding road. So many song titles…
There was never any guarantee that the Times would survive, and it is because of you, the readers and contributors that it has not only survived, but thrived. Our approach has always been a little different, I think. Opinion is welcomed, and there is a deep belief that trying to be objective is a myth. Once you decide what to write about, you’ve made a subjective decision, so you might as well be open about what you think. A community newspaper has to reflect all shades of community life, including politics, and, yes, even religion. Rather than newspapers not being the place to talk about such thing, we believe that a proper newspaper is the best place to talk about them.
And you, our friends and neighbours, have shown that approach to be the right one. Most have taken a break from writing letters this week, but the sheer volume (and length!) of the letters we regularly get is a clear indication that people want to see issues debated in an open forum. We’ve heard from residents who feel that the letters we publish are sometimes too long. Many times, we’ve published them as articles, instead, to give voice to varying opinions. And there is no doubt that some issues – climate change, pandemics, and prisons – do generate more words than, perhaps, people are prepared to read. But that’s who we are, isn’t it?
The Times is not at all a large organisation. Some of those involved would claim that there is no organisation at all! And this may be true; who am I to say? But I am constantly impressed and grateful for the amount of effort, time, and talent displayed by the staff of the Times: Pat Jessop, Gord Logan, Hayley Bedford, Brandon Mayer, Christine Boyer. Maggie and I are also grateful and happy to have worked with Hilary Thomson and Rachel Everett-Fry, and we hope we will work with them again soon. Thanks to Amery Boyer for much-needed editorial support, and to Peter Peers, who was so important in getting the Times up and running from the start.
We have gone head-to-head with some people on some issues. That’s to be expected, of course. But every point of view is free to express itself in these pages, as long as it is respectful, honest, and without hate or lies. You may find some letters offensive at times, but you should see the ones we can’t publish! That is a constant focus for us: where is the line between free speech and unacceptable ideas? What constitutes censorship, and when is it necessary and right? In the days in which we live, more even than nine years ago, these are pressing issues. Much has changed since the North Grenville Times first appeared in your mailbox, and not all the change has been for the good. That will remain the case as we move into the coming year. The challenges will continue to be there.
The masthead says the Times is “the voice of North Grenville” (and Merrickville-Wolford too). That has always meant that this paper is the place where the people can have a voice, can speak to each other, discuss, debate, argue even. It is your voice, or rather, your voices that matter. Nothing lasts forever; but as long as the NG Times lasts, this will be where you can give voice to your ideas, your events, your accomplishments, your sorrows and joys. Staff come and go, but this community remains and grows.