I needed to get some information from one of my past blogs and during a Google search turned up an essay that had been done by Assistant Professor Beth Garfrerick from the University of Alabama on how social information was distributed through the ages. I read a lot of small town newspapers from the past on a daily basis to try and get bits of information to piece local Carleton Place history together. Contrary to what some believe, it takes hours and sometimes days to get something interesting enough to entice readers. I refuse to document boring stuff; I want to do stories that are not your run of the mill.
A lot of my information comes from what Garfrerick calls “Ploggers”. Those were the local “newspaper print loggers” who played an important role in recording births, deaths and everyday happenings. If these were not online I could not write these blogs. The Almonte Gazette is online, and so are most city newspapers, but the Carleton Place Canadian/ Herald is not (there are files at our local library however). I rely a lot on the Carleton Place Herald social columns that were printed by other larger papers. This is not only the Ottawa Journal, as I also get a great deal from the Winnipeg Free Press as Carleton Place was a railroad town, and some folks moved out west.
I was pleased as punch that Professor Beth Garfrerick quoted me from a story I wrote on page 12 of her essay:
“Others disagree. Canadian blogger Linda Seccaspina, posting July 10, 2012, on the zoomers.ca blog, believes that small-town newspapers continue to publish the news that most residents of those communities want to read. In * “I’ve Got a Secret – Small Town Newspapers,” she wrote, “Who does not want to know who got arrested at the local watering-hole or whose lawn-ornaments are missing that week? Even though large newspapers are losing money the local weekly small-town newspapers still manage to survive. Why? Because the local population depends on their weekly words and supports them.”
We still do depend on weekly words, but sad to say our newspapers have grown smaller, and they are burdened with excessive, but much needed advertising for their revenue. Afternoon newspapers began to plunge as television grew and people could get their information faster watching the local news than reading a newspaper. If television was a blow then the internet was the nail in the coffin as people want their news now– not tomorrow. If I can write two stories last week that attracted close to 17,000 readers in less than 36 hours how does a newspaper compete? If you can get the news for free, there is no need to pay for a newspaper subscription any longer. Free listings on Craigslist and Kijiji also began to eat away at the want ads revenues. Instead of trying to entice readers back with new features, and columns, newspapers laid people off and got smaller.
So what happens now? We no longer keep photo albums up to date as they are all stored on our cameras and cell phones. Will Facebook keep a backlog of all our social back and forths? I can tell you I blogged for years on Open Salon (division of Salon.com) and once they closed down this year try and find anything I wrote years ago. A real prime example is the Library of Congress’s huge Twitter Archive fail.
So am I recording all this local history online for nothing? I wrote one book about Carleton Place local history and going to do another one in the next few months as I fear for words being lost. You can say what you want about the internet, but words can disappear in a moments notice. There just isn’t enough bandwith. Hopefully, somewhere down the road someone might find a copy of one of my books in some old trunk and remember. With the decline in newspaper readership and not enough bandwith how do we keep things things alive– just for history’s sake.
*The article Garfrerick spoke about that I wrote was I’ve got a Secret Newspaper – Thankfully I got the words over here fast enough before Open Salon closed- but all the pictures are lost. If you notice the last social ad- there is a mention of the Dominion Springs. That is how we put together the location. If it had not been for the social columns of the newspapers all would be lost.